Due to awaiting a major back operation, I have not be able to start my career as soon as I would have hoped( I graduated with a 2:1 last month) Therefore we are currently relying on the one wage which while is not the minimum wage, my partner is certainly not a high wage earner. We do receive some financial help in the form of child tax credit and child benefit, however there is no doubt in our household things are tighter than they have ever been. I have always been careful with money but the need to save money has certainly been more essential. Here are therefore some of the top things I do in order to save money:
1. Shop around! As evident by my Christmas challenge, I like to shop at lots of different shops to take advantage of the best offers. With things like gifts, big ticket items, household items etc. the prices from one shop to another can be amazing. A gift I recently bought for Michael for example was the Now That's What I Call Disney CD. It was priced at £13 in Tesco but only £8 on Amazon. If every item has a price difference like this, you could be paying a lot more money out needlessly.
2. Do some research online before you head out shopping. Before you head out to the mall have a look online. A great Facebook site I have joined up to is "Bargain Buys for Busy Mums". Members post deals they have found, likewise forums like Netmums and Mumsnet often have bargain threads where people share store sales, bargains they have found, the best place to shop for certain items etc. Take advantage of these! A Christmas craft box I bought from Argos, £20 reduced to £5 I never would have found without Bargain Buys. Likewise sign up to your favourite store newsletters. I am not at my local large shopping areas often so it can be easy to miss out on store sales. With online newsletters the store now emails me a notification to tell me a store is coming up.
1. Do online food shopping I think most of us are guilty of going into a supermarket with a budget and then blow it when we pick up offers we don't really need or things because we are hungry and overbuy. As a former supermarket assistant, I can honestly tell you supermarkets do indeed have their tricks to get you to buy more food. We were told to ask every customer if they wanted various treats that were sat by the till that were only £1(their price all the time!). Just avoid all of it and shop online if you can, most supermarkets do have an online shop and deliver system now. This makes it a lot harder to add things needlessly and you are more likely to only buy what you need and to your budget.
2. Meal Plan We are now more wasteful than ever and throw out lots of food out because it has gone out of date or we have bought too much needlessly. As a result I stick to a precise meal plan. I base it on product sell by dates so I know there are not those sausages in the fridge out of date because we forgot about them. Do your meal plan before you start your online shop and base your shopping around your meal plan. That way you can ensure you are only buying what you need that week.
1. Take advantage of free activities. Michael is undoubtedly the biggest thing to change our household outgoings. Children can be very expensive, one thing I find expensive is children's activities. Soft play, swimming, the cinema, the zoo, attractions etc. can all add up. I just cannot afford to take Michael to these places all the time, yet we hate staying in. As a result we make a lot of advantage of free activities. Children's centres put on many free group fun sessions, the library, the park etc. are all free. We are also very fortunate in that we live in outer London. For the price of the journey on my oyster card, and a packed lunch we can spend a happy day in the free museums, the wonderful parks and even casually exploring South-bank. Have a look on-line to fine some free activities and save the costly activities to treats now and again.
2. Make use of second hand stuff. Not everyone likes to have second hand stuff for their child and that is absolutely fine. However consider it. Facebook now have many local selling sites, there are nearly new sales, ebay and charity stores where you could pick up decent stuff at the fraction of the price. When it comes to babies especially, the stuff is used for such a short amount of time that it is usually in great condition. I luckily have a young cousin who is 18 months older than Michael so we were given lots of hand-me-downs. Charity shops again are great for books, toys and DVDs to keep your child amused at home. Michael has the Fisher Price Bounce and Spin Zebra, in Argos it is £60! I picked up one in great condition at a local charity store for just £3. Just gave it a good old wash and Michael plays with it daily. No way would I pay £60 for a toy for a toddler!
Well here are some of the top ways I use to save money, there are more but I was conscious not to make the blog post too long so look out for more blog posts on saving money.
If you have any other great ideas on how to save families money then I would love to hear about them!