Raising a family isn’t cheap, and just about all of us have to find ways to manage on a more frugal budget when little ones come along.
Living on a Budget
While you don’t need tons of money to raise happy kids and live a life you’re proud of, you do need to manage the financial situation you have to make things as stress free as possible.
Whether you’re on a single income or you and your partner both work, whether you earn a little or a lot, it’s all about finding ways to make ends meet in a way that works for you. Here are a few ways for going about it.
Look for fun free/ cheap family days out
Some of the biggest expenses for families at this time of year are going out and doing things to make family memories and keep kids occupied. When school is out, it doesn’t take long for everyone to get bored- so having plenty of things planned is the best way to keep you and your kids sane.
However, trips to the zoo, theme parks, vacations and more can all quickly add up. If you can’t afford to be doing these sorts of things every day (who can?) then consider what cheap options are out there.
For example, farms are often free or very inexpensive and children can have fun seeing lots of different animals. Museums and galleries can be really educational, they don’t usually cost anything to go in and many have exhibits just for kids to grab their attention.
You could go on family hikes and bike rides or head to the beach, taking a picnic to make a day of it. Parks and gardens again don’t usually cost anything other than car parking fees.
Over the summer, community centers and libraries often have free activities for kids from craft to computer sessions, story telling and more which are designed to help parents ease the burden of keeping their little ones occupied!
Spend some time before the schools break up for the summer writing an extensive list of all of the places you can go, along with any costs. That way it makes it really easy to plan your summer, whether it’s a day out here or just a morning or afternoon there- without breaking the bank.
Sites like Groupon can be good for finding deals, and can also give you ideas for things you might not have thought to do- from go-karting to alpaca walking!
Save money on your groceries
Feeding a family is expensive, and one of the biggest costs in your budget will be your food shopping bill. However, if you go about things in the right way, it’s genuinely possible to save hundreds- if not thousands over the course of the year.
Ditch the big brands and start trying supermarket own products, you wont love everything but if you can make some swaps that will save you money right away.
Instead of winging it with dinners, get into the habit of writing out a weekly menu- scour Pinterests for cheap, easy and healthy family meal ideas to keep things interesting.
Once you know what you’re eating, you can create a list based on what you need and not end up walking aimlessly around the supermarket where you can be easily swayed by deals (which actually cause you to spend more).
Meal prepping lunches instead of buying them while you’re out is another way to save a fortune, if you make a big batch of pasta or rice salad for example and keep it in the fridge, everyone can grab a portion in a lunchbox and take it with them to work, school or on a day out without needing to buy pricey restaurant food.
Planning and preparation are key, spend a little time each week deciding what you’ll eat, shopping accordingly and prepping what you can and the savings will all add up.
Reduce your monthly bills
When it comes to paying bills, there’s no way to get out of them completely- unfortunately! We all have to pay rent or a mortgage, gas and electricity, internet costs and other things that give us a decent quality of life.
However, unless you’re savvy and keep an eye on this, chances are you’re paying over the odds. Once a year it’s worth running some quotes through comparison sites, making sure you’re getting the best prices for everything from insurances to fuel.
As companies are competitive, switching each time you’re out of contract and taking a new customer deal elsewhere is likely to save you money. If you’re a car owner, your vehicle is likely to be one of the biggest costs in your budget, and so it’s worth exploring ways to reduce this where possible.
In some cases, switching to a different insurer (rather than just accepting your renewal quote) can save you hundreds. In other cases, getting a completely new car might be your best bet.
If you choose something that’s cheap on tax, has good fuel economy and low insurance then you can save yourself a small fortune.
For the most part, it’s slightly newer cars that will fit the bill, but although you’ll pay more up front you’ll also save yourself on things like repair costs.
Use your current car as a deposit, get the most money for your trade by ensuring it’s clean and tidy and you shop around for prices. Most families absolutely rely on their car to get kids to school and ferry them around, take them on days out, run errands as well as get to work as parents.
So giving it up completely probably isn’t an option, but there are lots of ways you can save money.
Encourage teens to get a part-time job
Teens are expensive, as they get older they start taking an interest in things like designer clothes, expensive things to do with their friends, technology and more.
As parents, we want to give our kids all that we can- but keeping them in their luxuries isn’t always possible on a family budget.
Encouraging them to get a job so they can buy the extra things they want can be really beneficial. Talk to them about budgeting and give them an easy budget worksheet to use. Not only will they earn their own weekend spending money, but having a job teaches valuable life lessons that will come in useful as they get older.
If, for example, they want to learn to drive, money from their part time wage could go towards driving lessons- chances are you’ll still need to help them out but it can ease the financial burden.
If they already drive, their wages can cover things like their fuel. At the very least, they’ll have a little bit of their own money to spend on what they want, since you’ll be providing them with a place to live, food and bills, they have the freedom to spend the money they earn on what they like.
Get onto family plans
Things like Netflix and Spotify for example are always going to work out cheaper when you’re on a family plan- rather than each household member paying for their own account.
Things like phone plans can also work out a lot cheaper when you’re paying as a family bundle. You can even share things like Amazon Prime benefits with others living in the same household, so it’s all things to look into.
Search for deals and discounts
The internet makes finding the best deals really easy, a quick Google search and you could save yourself a chunk of cash with very little effort.
Before buying anything, whether it’s tickets to an attraction or a new appliance for the home, see if there’s any deals or discounts you can find first.
Even something as simple as free shipping isn’t to be sniffed at, you might find what you want with 20% off, or just in the sale on another website. If you go through cashback websites, each time you make a purchase you’ll make a small amount.
Perhaps you could withdraw this every December and use it towards your Christmas shopping?
Finally, coupons are a great way to save money and can be a lifesaver on a family budget. As well as money on groceries, you can find coupons to save you money on fuel for your car, days out and so much more.
You can find coupons in magazines and newspapers, even online. If you’ve ever watched the show ‘extreme couponing’ you’ll know how much you can save with lots of people managing to buy items worth hundreds for just a few pence!
But even the odd voucher here and there can save you cash and it all adds up.