Money Saving Mums - Cash Control

Beating the budget

As the cost of living continues to rise faster than the increase in salaries, rising childcare costs and soring family bills has put huge pressure on families up and down the country.

Unavoidable costs aside, then you’ve got the school trips, clothing, outings, holidays, birthdays and other special occasions to consider too. How on earth are you going to pay for it all? You seem to be haemorrhaging money each month, it is a miracle that you’re still in one piece to tell the tale. Then of course, there is that little devil hanging around in the detail. Debt. It creeps up out of the depths and before you know it, you’ve been swallowed whole and you’re paddling madly just to keep your head above water each month.

No one likes to talk about debt and it can be a touchy subject when you’re trying to navigate your way through the parent jungle, providing this and that for your little darlings and trying hopelessly to keep up with the bits and bobs that your child’s friends are raving about. This is not an easy life for some!

This guide aims to provide some clever budgeting tips, some savvy debt dodging advice and a bit of creative thinking to get your own creative streak into gear. Money worries needn’t be a constant headache. Consider some of the following ideas and see how you can apply some of these tips to your own budget.

Firstly, create a budget. It can seem pointless sitting down with your last few bank statements and going through exactly what you’re spending on what, where and when. You may however, be surprised at the outcome. There are plenty of areas where you can cut costs and find or make conscious efforts to opt for cheaper alternatives. Create a monthly budget noting the expense, the money allocated for each area and the date the money is paid out. You can also use your mobile phone calendar or one of the fantastic Apps available to help remind you daily or as required, about when payments are due to be taken and so on.

A budget is a tool designed to help you manage your finances on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. You are then in a better position to siphon off a little here and there, stashing it away for debt repayment, a holiday or whatever you’ve got your eye on.

Budget know how

By keeping tabs on your daily outgoings, you will slowly start to build a weekly and monthly picture of your financial reality. So many of us believe we know where our money goes and how much we have or owe, yet when it’s all laid out bare to the bone, it can be a very, very different story.

Why not consider some of the following ideas when looking at ways of implementing your own budget busting plan. Saving money is at the heart of the budget as whatever you save, you are then able to put towards the things that you’re going without currently, without having to get into further debt in the process.

✔ As mentioned above, collect up your last three months bank statements and go through each one, jot down the amount under a category (or little cost centre if you like!) listed on a separate sheet of paper.

✔ Look at your paper once you’re finished and see where the majority of your money is being spent each month. Total each column up to see the reality of your spending

✔ Begin deciding, ruthlessly, where you’ll cut costs. Luxuries and non-essentials should be the first to go. Remember, this is just the short term goal, once your finances are back in check, you will be in a better position to decide whether or no they were worth your hard earned money

✔ Decide on a budget goal. This could be six or twelve months, setting a time limit will give you focus and will also reassure you that this is not forever and that the end is in sight. Chances are, you’ll relish the control you’ve created and you’ll want to set your next goal when you achieve your first one!

✔ Many families are entitled to more benefits than they know about. It can be worth talking to your local council about what you may be able to claim. Even a small extra can add up over time. If for example, you are a student, you may be able to get a reduction in your council tax.

✔ Most people look at the smallest payments and see what they can cut out. That’s not a bad option but if you take a look at the larger payments you have going out, rack your brain for ways to reduce those payments or ways that you may help to create a little extra money each month to help take the pressure off your payments.

✔ Food and fuel bills are a constant source of money munching. Look at ways of reducing your food bill by cooking in batches, restricting take away meals, extra’s at the till when popping down to the shop, buying reduced price items and so on.

✔ It may seem painfully obvious but taking a look at your monthly gas, electricity and other household bills may be another way of saving. Your own providers may not even have you on their lowest rate. Give meter readings and discuss more cost effective rates before suggesting that you’re looking to move elsewhere.

✔ Consider looking for a bulk buy warehouse (eg. Costco or Makro) and if you or someone you know are in business, you may be able to get a business card allowing you reduced prices on cash and carry items. Getting together with a friend or family members means that you can buy in bulk, split the cost and save even more.

✔ Ensure that you are making the most of your loyalty cards. Some of the larger supermarket chains have fantastic offers that you can redeem against points earned. Try saving them up for use at a more expensive time of year such as Christmas or birthday, helping to reduce costs.

✔ Set a policy of one new thing in, one old thing out. This will help you not only to de-clutter your space at home but it will also help to keep costs down if you can sell used items on to others who need them. Social media sites have not got lots of buying and selling pages set up in local areas. Take a look in your area and you’ll be surprised how you can turn all of those unwanted items into cold hard cash.

✔ Is your mortgage provider giving you the best rate? Discuss your rate with your bank and see if they can perhaps provide a payment holiday if you really need cash to get past a big, essential expense. You may also want to use a mortgage broker, one who claims their fee from the lender, not you. There are some fantastic deals out there that are not available through high street banks.

✔ Car boot sales are a great place to pick up more expensive items for a fraction of the cost, the same goes for online auction sites where you may be able to buy an essential item for a drastically reduced price. Shop smart and you’re money will last longer.

✔ If you are serious about saving, then open a high interest savings account and start putting little amounts away each week. This can seem less painful than larger monthly amounts. Be sure to choose an account that does not allow easy access to funds. You will then be able to plan a family holiday or whatever you’re dreaming of. Little and often is the key.

✔ The internet has a plethora of useful budgeting tools from budget sheets to apps and money advice websites.

✔ Search online for voucher codes that can be redeemed against cut price items such as meals out, hair services or outings. There are huge savings to be had.

Keeping an eye on childcare costs

There is no escaping it. The cost of childcare is rising steadily, and for some, faster than the rise in pay! If you have young children or need to pay for afterschool care while you’re at work, then consider the alternatives to traditional childcare and the associated costs. If you plan on hiring a nanny, it can be worth it to offer a little extra for help with cooking or light cleaning, this will free up your time for more money saving work and will save on additional high costs for cleaning services too.

Do you have a friend or neighbour working alternative days or shifts to you? Would you consider sharing the care of your children on alternate days or arrange play dates once a week to help cushion the cost. A nanny share may be another option if you know someone with similar requirements who would be happy to split the cost with you.

Make sure that you’re using all available funding options open to you, tax credits and childcare vouchers will add up over time.

Tax credits can help to cover the cost of childcare for families who are working on low income. Your employer may also be involved in the childcare voucher offer which is available to all working parents who meet the income criteria. It is worth asking your employer about what sort of flexible working schemes they have in place too, there may be an opportunity to work from home once a week for example, saving further on costs if you are able to juggle your commitments.

What about the future?

When you’re caught up in the day to day drill of family life, it can be difficult to imagine what the future will be like. If you think for a moment, today is the future of yesterday and are you any better off now than you were then? Time will go by in the blink of any eye so it is very important to consider how your current actions will impact on your future. Money won’t just appear as if by magic, unless you’re very lucky! You need to start planning now so that your current money worries will be a thing of the past in years to come. Small, consistent changes now will mean long term benefits for you and your family.

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