Its no secret that the household finances get a little tighter with the addition of tiny people. Not only do they take up a lot of space, time , and energy, but they are a bit of a drain on the old bank balance too. Ways to save money on a tight budget becomes a serious talking point between most new parents (and old ones!)
Add to this the inevitability that either Mum or Dad will probably have to cut their working hours or give up work altogether, and it can be easy to spend more time in the red each month than you do in the black.
It might even be the case, as it was for us, that Mum is the main breadwinner, so cutting out at least a portion of that money each month hits home pretty hard, even if it’s only during maternity leave.
Financially, if you earn more than your partner, people might wonder what on Earth went through your mind if you decided to cut your working hours or give up work altogether. The reality is that for a lot of us, we simply want to be there. Being a parent is knackering whether you’re a Mum or a Dad, but the unfortunate reality is that the physical repercussions of creating actual human people hit Mums the hardest.
Breastfeeding is knackering, the ‘I don’t want Daddy’ stage most kids seem to go through is knackering, on top of everything else. No woman should ever be in a position where she is forced to give up her career (as is the case for so many) but many women choose to, breadwinner or not.
When I left my career behind, it was kind of a combination of having to and wanting to. Childcare had become unmanageable and difficult to negotiate with the strange hours both our jobs demanded, but to be honest I was a bit relieved. I was happy to be at home more. I wasn’t quite as happy walking away from the lifestyle that my salary allowed us, though.
Of course certain sacrifices had to be made, but it wasn’t long before I started to work out ways that we could enjoy the good life without maxing out the credit card every month. Once I started making changes, it amazed me how much money we’d been wasting before!
1. Sort your energy out
This is old news really, but how many of us can actually say we’ve looked into our energy bills properly (moaning about how big they are doesn’t count!) Even if you don’t want to switch energy supplier, the chances are your existing supplier will have a cheaper tariff you can switch to.
Most of the big suppliers bring out new tariffs fairly often, and most allow you to switch as much as you want. Be on the lookout for tariff exit fees (go for one without a fee, that way you can switch again whenever you want), and make sure you have your energy suppliers app on your phone if they have one.
Make it a habit to send regular meter readings (use the app!) and you should find your energy bill goes down. Since keeping on top of our energy tariff, I’ve reduced our monthly direct debit by £24. That’s lunch out for me & the kids.
2. Swap supermarkets
I bang on about this a lot when I talk to people about ways to save money on a tight budget, but I usually focus on the cost savings available and don’t mention the quality of the food. Making sure the whole family eats good quality, healthy food is very important to me. Almost as important as saving a few quid ;-P
When we switched to Aldi, I was nervous that our food just wouldn’t be as nice. We have shopped with Aldi now since July, and I haven’t had a problem with their food yet. We’ve had steaks from Aldi that have been big, juicy, delicious, and cheap. Their fruit and veg has been great 99% of the time, and tbh I’m happy with 99%… it’s not like I never had a bad batch of strawberries from Tesco or Sainsbury’s either!
Their nappies are award winning, and we’ve never had a leak. Their beans and pasta taste like… well, beans and pasta! I had all the misconceptions of budget supermarkets rolling around in my head as lots of us do, but I’m more than happy with the quality of their food and won’t go anywhere else now.
Our weekly food shop is never more than £60 (including my precious smoked salmon supply)… what more do I need to say?! That’s between £20-£40 extra a week for Starbucks! Even I can’t drink that much coffee… well, I mean I’ve never tried and I’m always up for a challenge! ;-P
3. Apps & loyalty cards.
Most of the places you’ve always used have a loyalty scheme. You might not know about it, but it’s there.
If you’re an indie coffee shop kinda girl, they probs have a stamp card. A free coffee very couple of weeks is a great way to save. The bigger chains have their own loyalty systems and I thoroughly recommend both Costa’s and Starbucks.
Costa’s loyalty points rack up really quickly, and you can spend them on anything in store. Starbucks star system gives you a star every time you make a purchase, and once you have 15 you get a free drink. 15 used to seem like a lot me until I realised that you can increase how many stars you get if you’re savvy.
Amelia ALWAYS requests a chocolate coin when we go for coffee. If I purchase a coffee and a chocolate coin, that’s 1 transaction and 1 Star. If I purchase a coffee and then let Amelia go back and order her own coin, giving her my app to pay with, that’s 2 purchases, 2 stars (with the second only costing me 60p), and a happy nearly 4-year-old who got to practise her big confident voice.
Yours or your partners employer might have loyalty schemes too. Mine had a huge online database of places we could get discount and cash back with, everything from clothes and groceries to meals out and holidays. Mr C’s new job offers huge discounts on anything to do with his car; MOT, servicing, repairs etc. If you’re paying for childcare, make sure to check if you can get childcare vouchers too.
4. Shop the sales
It might sound obvious, but there are always sales on, especially when it comes to clothing your tiny people.
Do your shoe shopping when Clark’s or Mothercare has a sale on; I recently got all Wills’ summer shoes for £1 each in Mothercare. I bought them a couple of sizes up to allow for growth, obvs.
A friend of mine gets all her kids clothes in the Next sales. She goes to every single sale with a budget in mind, and buys a size or 2 up for the next year. So in their winter sale she buys all of next years winter gear, spring for next spring, and summer too. It takes a bit of forward planning, but it means she always has the next seasons wardrobe ready to go when the time comes.
5. Take a picnic. Everywhere.
. Anytime we leave the house, we do so armed with at least one snack. My two are used to a morning snack around 10am, lunch at 12, and an afternoon snack around 2:30pm too. If I know we’re going to be out of the house at these times, I make sure I have plenty of food with me to cover it.
Without our trusty picnic, we inevitably end up in Greggs. Or M&S. I’ll let you decide which is worse for my waistline, but neither is good for my purse!
Just because your household income has reduced doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice every luxury. You just might need to be a bit more savvy about it.
These are just some of the ways that we’ve carried on living the good life since losing a salary. If you want even more, you can grab my free download; 50 ways to live the good life when you lose a salary.
Pop your name and email address in, and I’ll whizz it over to you.
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