Living on a typical family budget can be hard and we all need ways to make it stretch to the end of the month.
Using a monthly budget can really help. It will give you more control over where you spend your money each month.
You can use it to help you make savings - and very penny can be put away for emergencies or to fund little treats like days out, cinema trips and even holidays.
Here are a few cost-saving tips that may help.
Create a spending plan!
Make the effort to draw up on paper or your computer, a basic household spending plan or sample budget. This lists what money you have coming in and those things you need to spend money on. It will also tell you how much spare money you have available.
You’ll be amazed at how different things start to look when they’re written down and you’re tracking exactly where your money is going.
Remember though, your family budget isn’t just something you use to write down “what’s happened”. After a month or two of using it, you may be able to spot opportunities for spending reductions.
Do more home cooking
Pre-prepared convenience food is often very expensive compared to food that you have cooked yourself. Also, if you cook more and follow budget cooking ideas, you’ll have the opportunity to benefit from bulk buying discounts.
For example, that special 2-for-1 offer may be far too much for your family tonight but if you cook it yourself you may be able to make 3-4 meals in one go and freeze them in smaller portions for later.
The cost per meal will be much cheaper and it’ll probably be better for your health.
Be realistic though. There’s no point buying fresh ingredients to cook yourself unless you make the time to cook them. If you don’t have time through the week to cook, try to allocate a couple of hours at the weekend and prepare some meals in advance.
Co-operate with neighbours and families
If you and your friends and neighbours form a pooled purchasing association, you may be able to put the squeeze on various suppliers and drive down their prices.
As an individual family, your purchasing clout is probably limited. You are never going to be able to negotiate with a supermarket to reduce their price of a kilo of potatoes.
However, if you and several other local families, neighbours and friends, all order your vegetables in bulk together, then it may be different. You may find suppliers queuing up to deliver directly to you at heavily discounted prices.
This technique can be applied to food, clothes, fuel oil and just about anything else. It takes a little organisation and compromise on convenience but it can work wonders in helping to bring prices down.
Reduce 'on demand' children spending
Most of us try to be great parents and often find it very difficult to say 'no' when our children ask for that new toy, trip out somewhere expensive or money for their latest project.
If you don't control it, such spending can blow that carefully prepared monthly family budget!
Education and diversion can really help - particularly with younger children. Take them to places that are free or very low cost and try to find time in your schedule for engaging them in joint activities that don't involve buying a toy.
For slightly older children that understand the concept of money, try getting them used to the idea of having set spending limits and pocket money they manage themselves. This may reduce the constant demands and encourage them to save for things they really want.
Today, thanks to the Internet, it's become far easier to shop around for the best deals on family budget items.
Many suppliers tend to offer great deals to get customers - then they become casual and complacent, assuming that you’re not going to take the trouble of looking around.
Don’t help them! Try setting a date each calendar quarter to look around to compare your current deals against what is now available on the market. Whether it’s your telephone, mobile, broadband, electricity, gas, insurance or anything else – make sure you’re still getting a great deal.
If you’re not, then tell your supplier and ask them to at least match the deal you’ve found. If they can’t, don’t be afraid to change.
As part of this, it’s worth keeping in mind that avoiding lengthy tie-in contracts may be a smart move. It may be a great deal now – but will it still be in 18 months time?
Your family budget is important. Using money saving tips carefully and in a tightly controlled fashion will help you put more money in our pocket and achieve a better quality of life.
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Family budgeting & days out
Creating a household budget to suit your family
Ideas for budget cooking
What your household budget should include
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