Reviewing Our Finances And How To Spend Less Money As A Family

Having a family is expensive in so many ways: there are more mouths to feed, more clothes to buy, more expenses and you don’t feel you can make sacrifices in the same way as when it was just you because you aren’t the only one to suffer. Every month at the moment seems to be tight with unexpected expenses cropping up. Over the last year or so I have been reviewing our finances, to save money where we can and to make the money we have go further.

A baby boy in a Sainsburys shopping trolley about to go into the supermarket for a frugal family shop
Heading to the supermarket to spend less on the family shop


How We Are Make Our Money Go Further As A Family


Review Your Annual Outgoings


Review Contracts and Bills


Look at what you have coming out of your bank account, not just every month, but annually to see if you can save money. Generally as a nation we can’t be bothered with the hassle of change and companies rely on that to make money. Everything from insurance to the people we bank with offer good deals initially and then stop being so competitive over time. It really is worth looking at shopping around when your contracts end to see what better deals are out there. 

I dread to think how much money I wasted on my mobile phone bill before I switched to a sim only deal. My sim is with a company that is an off shoot of one of the bigger phone networks, I can cancel my contract at anytime and I get money taken off my bill for any data I don’t use. I basically have as much data and phone use as I want and pay less than £8 a month. There was no way my previous provider could match that and I got to take my mobile number with me. 

Plan Ahead


When we renewed our insurance recently I was surprised to see that most companies charge extra if you want to pay monthly rather than in one lump sum. I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me as it’s effectively a loan, but there you go. We now put aside money each month (where we can) so we have money for the car and house insurance. This will save us over £100 a year for exactly the same insurance cover. That’s huge!

My eldest daughter has been at school 4 years now and still in November last year I was caught out by just how expensive the pre-Christmas period is at school. It worked out as about £50 extra and when money is tight (and when is tighter than Christmas?) that makes things pretty hard work. As much as possible now we look at money on an annual basis knowing that at some point in the year we will have various outgoings whether they can be planned for a particular month (like the Christmas spend) or not (like an appliance breaking, because lets face it you are very lucky if at least one major appliance doesn’t break).

Look For Offers and Cash Back

When you do need to spend money on anything beyond your normal household shop then it’s worth seeing what discounts you can get online: from sign up offers to cash back it’s surprising the range of products and services that you can save money on. It makes me reluctant to ever pay full price for anything. 

Saving Money On Going Out

There are a huge number of free places to go with children from museums to parks, but if you want to go somewhere a bit special then booking in advance online will nearly always save you money. For more ideas I have a whole post on how to save money when going out with the family.

Saving Money on Food


When I was single and money was tight I could get by until pay day eating pretty basic, cheap food. This isn’t really an option as a mum of 3. It’s important to me that my children have good nutrition to support their development and to be honest they get pretty grumpy about having “pasta? again?, ” but I still need to save money on food.

Meal Planning


There is no doubt that meal planning is a great way to save money because you have less waste. I have always struggled with meal planning though because I never know what I will fancy eating several days ahead or how much time I will have to cook (an unexpectedly fussy baby makes things like veg prep hard work). 

Buying The Deals


Before I go shopping I think about how many dinners we will need and who will be there for each one then when I am at the shops I look at which meats and vegetables are on offer and their use by dates. I make sure I have a suitable base for each dinner I am shopping for (eg mince, potatoes, chicken) and a good selection of vegetables. I then tend to work out what meals I will make. This works for me because I love to cook and don’t often use recipes. If you prefer to work to recipes I would suggest having 20 or so recipe ideas on your phone so if mince for instance is on offer then you can check your mince recipes and buy the rest of the ingredients you will need.

Remember a deal is only a deal if the product is going to get used and it's something you would buy anyway, otherwise it's a treat or a waste. Most meat can get frozen, store cupboard supplies will have a long shelf life and you know that every roll in that 24 pack of toilet paper will get used eventually, but there is a limit to how many fresh fruits and vegetables you will realistically eat.

An Aldi trolley full of bargains to feed and look after the family. Includes cereal, crisps, soap, baby pouches, beans, porridge and more
Stocking up on the cheap products at each supermarket can help to save money

Shop Around

I go to a different supermarket each week. I know they don’t all stock the products I want and some are considerably cheaper for certain items. I go to Aldi about once a month because (out of my local supermarkets) it is the cheapest for cereal, baby pouches and various staples like ketchup. I also know that the Aldi versions of many products taste great (they are very good at copying and also sell some branded products in different packaging). Morrisons sells the non-dairy milks I buy at a good price and biscuits plus it is reasonable value for meat and veg and my other nearest supermarket currently in Sainsburys which I go to sometimes for variety. 

So when I went to Aldi this morning I bought 8 boxes of cereal! I know that my family will eat it all in the next month and it probably saved me about £3 on similar items in other supermarkets (it all adds up).

Avoid The £20 Carrot


I think the biggest way we save money on food though is by avoiding the £20 carrot. We have all done it before: you head to the supermarket to buy some bread, milk or a missing recipe ingredient and somehow you come out with 2 bags full of items you hadn’t planned on. Yes some times you will be making savings on products you would have bought a few days later, but often it’s stuff you would have just done without and unnecessary spend. I try and only go to the supermarket once a week and do a big shop, if we need something I tend to send my partner with very clear instructions because he is better at not getting distracted.

Saving Money On Clothes


In the past my children have ended up with more pairs of tights or t-shirts than they need because I see them on offer and buy them. Now I keep a much closer eye on what clothes we have so if I do see a great offer I will only get what we actually need. I can get away with wearing clothes I have had for years, but my children keep growing so they need new things. I have been very lucky to be given second hand clothes for my son and I will pass on as much as I can to others, but there are ways I save money on buying items too. The absolute key when it comes to children's clothes is to know what you already have.

Buy Second Hand

Children seem to either barely wear items or wear them until they are ruined, this fortunately means you can get a lot of great quality second hand items. I regularly browse charity shops, but find that other than for coats and shoes they can actually work out expensive for children's clothes, especially compared to supermarkets. Nearly New Sales can work out much better especially if you are in luck and a seller has a slightly older child with the same tastes. Local Facebook groups and school second hand uniform stalls are brilliant too.

Buy In The Sales

The challenge with sales shopping is trying to predict your children's tastes and making sure you buy the right size clothes for the time of year they will fit, but buying a year in advance can provide great savings.

Compromise

I love ethical fashion, I love small businesses and I hate the thought of people working in squalid conditions to produce products for my family. The most eco conscious choice when it comes to clothes is to reuse clothes, whether that's clothes past on from friends and family or purchased second hand. I might buy a few special items a year, but the rest of my children's wardrobe comes from supermarkets and cheap shops (think Primark). This isn't ideal, but it has been years since I was able to splurge on Frugi etc. The best alternative for me is to try and only buy what we need and to make sure it is used well: mend small holes and pass items on.

We have found it has taken time to adjust to having less money coming in. We have had to change how we think and really control over impulse buys. Where as before we might head to a shopping centre for an afternoon I can't remember the last time I went to one. Avoiding temptation definitely works well for me.

***Disclosure: This is a collaborative post***

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