No matter how much we plan, few can dispute that having a family will always put extra strain on the budget, and there are often costs that seem to crop up that you haven’t factored in. More mouths to feed, more bodies to clothe, more medicines to buy, more keen minds to keep entertained – and less and less financial assistance from our elected heads of state to do so!
It all means that squirreling money away each month becomes an increasingly challenging objective. But that doesn’t make it any less important, and in these uncertain times that we live in, doing our bit to secure the long-term financial future of our family is underpinned by good saving habits.
It doesn’t mean you need to reel in the fun altogether, or suddenly put any less food on the table. Merely that by taking advantage of a few easy wins, and showing a bit of restraint, you can make your pounds go a lot further. Here are five to get you started…
Become a master budgeter
Epic spreadsheets, reams of paper and calculators everywhere! It’s the scene most would associate with budgeting, but it need not be such a stressful operation. Start by simply keeping a note of all your outgoings each day for a month. Then collate it all into one page, and have a look and see where you can cut down. Perhaps the daily (or twice daily) £2 coffee from Costa? Packing a lunch instead of buying food out? Buying cheaper brands? Then set yourself a target each month, and try stick to it. And even reward yourself if you do – provided the reward doesn’t negate the saving, of course!
More energy for less
One of the easiest ways to start saving is to switch energy suppliers; or at least look into alternatives. These behemoth suppliers have a very simple trick – they assume we’ll think it’s too much hassle to change (and sadly, they’re often correct!), and after you’ve been with them for a while, will steadily increase your bills and lock you into inferior plans. Instead of falling into their trap, you could instead sign up to things like the Cheap Energy Club, and make quick price comparisons. Chances are, you could be saving hundreds of pounds each year by changing; which, in itself, is nowhere near the amount of hassle it’s made out to be.
Limit the cost of debt
Saving is one thing, but it’s a pretty widely known fact that servicing any debt should be a priority, as the cost of interest on debt will always exceed interest earned on savings. Credit card debt is one of the most common types of debt for UK families, and also one of the more expensive. But with almost no effort at all, you can cut these repayments with a 0% balance transfer credit card (which gives you up to three years to pay it off before being charged interest). Alternatively, you could consolidate your credit card debt with a cheaper personal loan, thus also reducing interest owed almost immediately.
Review your leisure bill
Not to be the fun police, but ask yourself this: Is there any fat in the leisure budget which could be trimmed? As a parent, it’s important to encourage your kids to get out and about, be active and engage in enriching things. But that doesn’t mean you can’t save. There are hundreds of free activities out there to keep your kids occupied. However, if none of these fit the bill, always be on the lookout for discounts and deals. Whether it’s going to theme parks, cinema tickets, guided tours, or going out for a meal, chances are there will be some excellent coupons and offers out there which can mean the same amount of fun for half the price.
Make your money work for you
Growing your money isn’t all about sacrificing – sometimes it’s also about being savvy. The shocking rates of return offered by banks mean that you could be doing yourself a disservice by simply sticking your money into a savings or current account. Cash ISAs tend to be marginally better, although rates for these have also been on a bit of a spiral. Another option is peer-to-peer lending, which already offers returns of up to 6 per cent per year, and now has its own ISA making it tax efficient.
It would be great to live life and not have to worry about keeping a lid on spending. That’s what the lottery is for, you might say! But for the rest of us who don’t strike it lucky, saving is seldom the sacrifice it’s made out to be. All it takes is a bit of will power, discipline and even cunning, and you’ll likely be well on your way to bloating your piggy bank.
*This is a collaborative post