Managing your budget when you have a busy family life can be a challenge. Believe me I know this! With three young boys aged 10, 8 and 5, life is a constant balancing act of the budgets. Just this week an unexpected £250 football tour has arrived in my inbox to be paid by the end of October. It can be tough, but I have lots of tried and tested ways that can save you lots of money so you can afford those family extras. Here are my top 10 ways to save money on your family finances.
1. Write it all down and cancel what you don’t need
The very first thing I always recommend to anyone needing to save money is to write a long list of everything that you spend each month. Firstly, your regular direct debits and cash drawn out of the bank. Next, think about all those less regular events. Things like haircuts, the dentist and vets; how much do these cost over a year? Take that value and divide by 12 to add in a monthly cost. Think about the big one-off events throughout the year, Christmas, birthdays and holidays, and again add in a monthly allocation for those.
Write a long list of everything that you spend each month
This is going to give you a complete list of everything that you spend each month. Go through the list of bills and spending and think do you really need all these things or services? Do you go to the gym enough to justify that gym membership? Or do you really need Sky TV, Netflix and Amazon Prime? Maybe there is an old direct debit that you had forgotten about. Get cancelling, be ruthless and strip out anything that you don’t need.
2. Get the best deal on your energy bills
Energy is one of the biggest monthly bills and most people in the UK are paying too much for it. If you’ve been with your current provider for more than a year you’re most likely not getting the best price and deal. Get a copy of your latest bill and hop on over to an energy comparison site such as uSwitch. It’s going to take you five minutes and I promise it’s worth it! Pop in your current tariff details, provider and spend and uSwitch will show you the other providers you can switch to and how much you can save.
3. Save on your broadband and TV packages
A few months ago, I went through step 1. and I realised that the Sky TV and broadband package had gone up to a huge £80 per month. We took a good look at what we were paying for and decided to cancel Sky Sports and Sky Movies. Can you do the same? Or, could you get by with just Freeview TV?
When it comes to broadband, if you’re out of contract do a comparison of the big providers and switch to a cheaper provider for your internet.
4. Your mobile phone
Most of us have the latest iPhones and Android phones, and these are often on two-year contracts. A way to save lots each month is to keep your phone at the end of your contract and move over to a SIM-only contract. When your initial contract ends you’ll stop paying for the phone, so switch as soon as you can to SIM-only and you’ll just pay for your data and calls.
5. Car and home insurance
This is a cost that I switch every year without fail. The renewal price an insurance company offers you will rarely be the best deal around so it’s worth using a comparison site when switching your insurance to switch and save. Insurance companies always offer the best deals to their new customers so take action and move to new provider and take advantage of those offers.
6. Weekly grocery shop
I can highly recommend making the switch from one of the bigger supermarkets over to Aldi or Lidl. Our £120 per week shopping bill reduced to £80 per week, saving us a huge £40 per week. Yes, there is less choice and the shops are certainly no frills, but the food is amazing; the meat and fresh fruit and vegetables are great quality. Plus, they work hard to reproduce your favourite brands under their own name, so they look and taste the same at a much lower price.
7. Discounted family fun
The boys love days out, cinema trips and trampoline parks and I always find a way to save money. My KidsPass is a great way to save money on all these things. I pay £3 per month to be a member which then gives me discounts across many fun activities with the boys. Our favourite is the cinema where the KidsPass give us 40% off the ticket prices. It also gives us money off meals out with children and a great discount at our local trampoline park.
8. Second-hand clothes and toys
I’m a big fan of second-hand clothes, particularly school uniforms for the boys. We are very fortunate to have a friend with an older boy who passes on clothes once he has grown out of them, this saves us so much money. School uniforms can be a huge expense every September but with the purchase of second-hand emblemed blazers you can save money.
I also love to buy second-hand toys or electronics for the boys from places like Facebook. You can get incredible bargains from a local Facebook ‘for sale’ page.
9. Make some extra money
A brilliant way to top-up your budgets is to declutter and sell some unwanted items. This is by far the simplest and easiest way to make some extra money. Sell your unwanted clothes, toys, furniture on sites like Facebook, eBay or Gumtree. I personally love using the local Facebook sites as it feels like giving back to the local community. Selling toys and clothes to people who will save money themselves.
10. Have a ‘no spend’ week or month
A ‘no-spend’ week or month is a great way save a big chunk of money in a limited period of time. The regular bills, grocery shopping and commuting to work are all allowed, but everything else is ‘no-spend’. So, no coffees, lunchtime snacks, drinks with your friends, takeaways, cinema trips or days out. Put a hold on it for a set period of time and see how much you can save.
I’ve managed to do two ‘no-spend’ months and it’s tough, but it meant I saved an extra £300 across those months! And it makes you realise how much money you spend on all those unnecessary extras.
Lynn James is a PensionBee customer and CEO/Founder of Mrs Mummypenny, a personal finance blog and winner of the Best Parenting and Money blog 2017.