I like to think I am just good with money, after all, I bought my first shares in the Commonwealth Bank at age 15 after I started my first casual job. Seriously, what kind of 15 year old girl buys shares? The kind that knows they will be an investment for her future. I have worked since I was 14. I got my first full time job two months after finishing Uni and have worked ever since.
When I had my baby, however, this all changed! We suddenly dropped from a two income family, to a one income family. We had all these extra expense and our savings slowed. Due to complications during my pregnancy I was forced to finish work at 34 weeks. As I was on a contract (thanks to our PM for firing all the public servants), I also lost my job. This wouldn't have been a big deal, except it meant the 8 years of long service I built up vanished, and that maternity leave I'd been banking on disappeared!
Like I said, I've always been good with my budget, but with our new single income status I found new ways to cut the fat.
Here are my Top 9 family friendly budget tips you can start implementing straight away.
1. Plan your meals and ALWAYS write a shopping list
Have you ever walked the aisles of the supermarket and seen something you never usually buy on special and thought, wow I'm going to get this! One of the easiest ways to save money is to write a shopping list and stick to it. When you go to the supermarket, only buy whats on the list. No more impulse purchase of those chia seeds you actually have no idea how to cook. But if you see something you regularly buy on special, like nappies, stock up!
Want to take it one step further? Plan your meals. Have an hour to spare one evening? browse your recipe books or check out the quick and easy recipes on Taste and plan a menu for the week. Write down ingredients you need on your list. Better still if you can plan meals that use some of the same ingredients. For example, minestrone soup one night? Why not use the rest of that celery in your bolognese the next day and hide extra veggies for the kids!
While were on the food shopping tips, avoid shopping when you're hungry. You always seem to end up buying twice as much!
2. Review your phone and internet plans
There are some really good and cheap plans out there now. Do your research using tools like Whistle Out or You Compare to compare internet and mobile phone plans to come up with a better deal! There are so many companies out there with great plans now, if you talk to your current company and say you're going to jump ship, they may even do you a better deal.
3. Get utility discounts
If you don't ask, you will never receive. Well, this is true for your utility companies. Chances are if you call them and ask for a discount, they'll give you one. If not, threaten to change companies, if they don't bite at that, you need to stick to your word and call other companies. Ask them if they will give you a discount if you join. You could save up to 15 percent. I got an 11 percent discount last time I did this on top of a previous 3 percent discount for paying my bills early. With the price of electricity still going up, it makes sense. You can save a packet!
4. Cut bad habits
Whether its smoking or excessive chocolate consumption. Cutting down on these habits will save you money!
When I was working, I would buy myself a coffee everyday. Sometimes twice a day! At $4 a pop, if I cut down just 3 of those coffees a week, I saved $12 a week. That's an extra $624 a year! Think of it this way, you could have those extra 3 bought coffees a week or 6 new pairs of shoes! Don't get me wrong, I love my coffee. But instead of buying an expensive coffee everyday (which to be honest, was not great coffee). I bought a $50 coffee machine and started making my own. It took no longer that 5 minutes to make and saved me at least $20 a week!
5. Stop using credit cards
I never use my credit card. It's too easy when using a credit card to just think 'I'll put it on the card and pay it off later'. Using a debit card, or preferably Efpos or cash, is the way to go. I switched to a debit card so I'm using my own money. Knowing I'm spending my savings makes me think twice about making a purchase. Using your own money rather than credit will stop you paying that interest, which can be as high as 20 percent! That dress on sale for 20 percent off is not really on sale when you put it on your card. If you don't pay it off straight away, it could end up costing you another 20 percent or 30 percent or more!
According to Money Smart, the average Aussie has $4.200 in credit card debt and is paying $750 in interest a year! Start paying that debt down! A lot of banks and credit unions will transfer your balance from your old provider and offer 0 percent interest for the first year. That might allow you to start paying that debt down and get out of the credit trap!
6. Be energy wise - Review your electricity and gas use
While I was growing up, my father always taught me to turn off the light when I left a room. Electricity prices keep going up, so cut down on how much you use! Turn of lights when you leave the room and stop leaving your appliances on standby when you aren't using them. They are constantly chewing up power when you do this! Turn the TV and microwave off at the wall. Over the year this could save you a pretty penny.
Looking up when peak and off-peak times are for your gas and electricity. If for example your gas is off-peak between 9pm and 7am. Try having a shower before you go to bed instead of earlier in the evening.
7. Sell and buy used goods
When you're buying things for a baby who might only use a product for a month before they outgrow it. I see people on Facebook buy/swap/sell sites constantly selling products like a Bumbo because their bubs are either now too big or didn't like it. Some great things to buy second hand include playpens, clothes and all those large toys that babies only use for such brief periods.
Likewise, sell your unwanted goods on Facebook or Gumtree. You'll be surprised at what people will buy! We recently moved and sold all sorts of unwanted furniture on Gumtree! Not only did we not have to pack and move it, but made a little extra cash. You can sell anything on line these days, there's always someone looking for what you're selling!
8. Beg, borrow, steal?
Ok, maybe not steal, but think of all the entertainment you can get out of the local library! They have a range of movies and tv shows on DVD you can borrow for yourself and the kids. Get yourself a library and head over for a family outing! There's also free book reading session for the kids at many libraries which are lots of fun and a range of other events.
While we are on the borrowing topic, why not arrange a swap meet with friends? Instead of buying new clothes, you might find some great pieces in your friends wardrobes.
Don't buy something you'll only use once or twice, ask around and chances are your friends might be willing to lend theirs. My husband recently trimmed the edges of our lawn when selling our house. He wanted to buy an edge trimmer, but we asked around it turned out a friend had one he was happy to lend us.
9. Look for free and cheap outings for the kids
Not every outing has to be an expensive one! There are plenty of activities that are free or quite cheap. Every kid loves the zoo or movies or aquarium, but these can be some pretty pricey outings! Every city or town has something you can do for free. A picnic in the park, walking by the lake or some time at the beach are all great free activities. Check out Kidspot for some free things to do with the kids!
My friends over at Family Beat recently put together an article on how to save money on family outings which can be found here! Rachel at Toilets aren't for turtles also came up with some great ideas here!
Sometimes entertaining at home can even be more fun than going out! Think movie nights, scavenger hunts in the garden and camping in the backyard!
Do your research and you can certainly so save money and have fun with your family!
Being a family in today's world is tough! Even if you have two incomes, once kids come along, so do lots of added expenses. Doing a little leg work though can save you big money!
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