Tips to cut your family’s living expenses

Tips to cut your family's living expenses - Ever-changing Life of a MumSo you’ve set up your family budget … but it’s in deficit. How do you cut it back to ensure you live within your means but still enjoy a nice lifestyle?

I was in this exact position the first time I set up our family budget about two years ago. After more than 10 years as a working mum, I was about to leave work to spend some much needed time at home with my family. But that meant dropping one whole income, so obviously our budget wasn’t looking particularly good and our family was spending more money than we were making.

Our family budget allowed me to see where all of our money was going and made it much easier to find areas where we could cut back to make up some of the loss.

Here are a few tips to help get your budget back on track and hopefully looking a little healthier.

Grocery shop online – I really dislike supermarket shopping and have been a long time user of online grocery shopping. While in most instances you need to pay a delivery charge, I still find shopping online helps me to stick to my family’s budget. I know for sure that I often spend more when shopping in store by throwing unnecessary items into the trolley. By shopping online, when I complete my shopping I can simply take a look over my cart and delete any unnecessary if I find that I have gone over budget. However, if you do prefer to shop in store – use a discount grocery story and make sure you stick to your list!

Meal planBefore shopping for groceries, write out a meal plan for the week ahead. Check your calendar and consider your family’s schedule when planning meals to make sure you’ll have enough time to prepare and cook them. Also, be flexible with a few of the meals so you can swap them around during the week in case something else comes up or you don’t feel like eating a certain meal on a particular night.

Make your own household cleaners– Not only is it better for the environment but it’s also a great budget saver. I haven’t bought any household, kitchen or bathroom cleaners for almost two years now, saving me possibly hundreds of dollars. By simply using water, vinegar, essential oils and bicarb soda you can create some fabulous cleaning sprays for around the house. Check out this post for more details.

Consider growing some of your most used herbs and vegetables at home – While it may not be practical or even economical to grow all of your vegetables at home, consider growing a few of your family’s favourites each season. Many vegetables such as tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber and lettuce can all be grown in pots. In particular, I find buying a punnet of parsley seedlings and growing them in a hanging basket on my back deck so useful. They last much longer than store bought herbs and saves me a lot of money when a recipe I use calls for fresh herbs. Take a look at this book review for some more hints.

Lose your subscription TV service – It hurts at first, but we soon realised how little we actually watched and how much contented was often repeated. If you find that you still in need that movie or TV show fix, a cheaper option may be a streaming movie or TV service as these tend to have lower subscription costs, however be aware that it does use your internet data allowance so ensure you have enough to cover this.

Hair and beautyConsider reducing the number of times you go to the hairdresser each year or what services you have done while you are there. I still love a trip to the hairdresser, but I have decided to grow my hair a little longer which helps extend the length of time between cuts. A monthly trip to the beautician is still a must, but these days it’s more for a quick eyebrow wax than anything else and I take care of the rest. I also learned how to cut my husband’s hair – YouTube tutorials are amazing and I was surprised by how easy it was!

BudgetCreate a family budget to see exactly where your money is being spent and where cuts can be made. It can be a bit of a chore to list all of your income and expenses but well worth it in the long run.

Set spending limits – Set aside an amount of money to use for personal purchases each month (I base this on the surplus we have remaining in our budget). Use cash for these purchases or if purchasing on your card use a money tracker app to keep an eye on your purchases to ensure you don’t go over the monthly limit. Whatever is left over at the end of the month gets added to our savings account or as an additional payment on our home loan.

Look around for better deals Call around or search the internet for a better deal on your home, contents, health and car insurance policies. Even if it’s only a quick call to your current provider, you might be surprised by what they can offer. If you have more time then shop around for a better deal with other companies. The same goes with utilities, such as electricity and gas – at the very least they usually have plans offering a pay on time discount. We went for several years paying our regular gas and electricity bills until I realised there was another plan we could easily switch over to, saving us around 25% of the cost of our monthly bill. All it took was a few clicks on the internet to change our existing policy! If I hadn’t of checked, we would still be paying that the extra money today.

Create homemade giftsI really love making gifts from my friends and family. It’s not hard to find a tutorial online to help make something crafty for a loved one. Plus, it means so much more to know someone has handmade these items just for you. Recently, I found a couple of infinity scarves on Etsy that I really wanted to buy as gifts, but for the money I would have spent on two scarves I realised it would be so much cheaper to purchase some fabric and make these scarves myself. So that’s exactly what I did!

It’s ok to say no Let’s face it, heading out to dinner with the whole family can be rather expensive. Plus living on one income means eating out is not always in the budget. If you don’t have the money to head out to dinner, try to arrange for friends to visit you at home instead for an easy going barbecue dinner or if you really don’t feel like cooking, takeout may be a cheaper option. My family treats itself to a simple takeaway meal once a week, or we can choose to save this up for a dinner out at a local family friendly bistro once a month. Whatever you choose to do, remember to be firm and stick to your budgeting goal.

Finally, it’s all about perspective – What you are satisfied with is not what someone else will be satisfied with. Sometimes you need to change your ideals and realise that it’s all OK. For instance, it doesn’t make you any less of a person to be driving around in that 10-year-old car as opposed to the latest fully fitted out SUV. We all arrive at the same destination in the end. Remember that it’s more important to enjoy who you have around you, not what you have around you.

Do you have a family budget? I’m interested to hear about your budgeting tips. Please share them below.

20 thoughts on “Tips to cut your family’s living expenses

  1. So many good and commonsense ideas here Erika. We are needing to budget like never before as we are on part pensions and have a limited income stream. Currently waiting for to buy a house for our retirement years gives me the motivation to keep each dollar in mind before I spend it. It IS very different to when I used to have an income from work that is for sure. I also try not to grocery shop when I am hungry.. I still don’t mind the actual shop itself. Cheers, Denyse #teamIBOT

  2. Oh I so totally agree with the online grocery shopping tip! I do lots of other things to keep our family budget under control but I really wanted to get the grocery bill down. Doing it online means I can ‘go nuts’ then shave off non-essential items at the ‘checkout’ until I get down to my budget. It’s definitely something you can’t do at the actual grocery store!

  3. Great list Erika. Back when my hubby and I first moved in together and we were saving to buy a house we wrote out our budget…just an estimate of what we thought we’d spend on different things. Then we had an exercise book (this was before electronic spreadsheets…oh man I’m showing my age) in which we recorded absolutely everything we spent money on for a year. Then we’d adjust our budget for the following year accordingly. By being ‘mindful’ in this way about what we spent we were amazed by how much money we saved. It was more than what we estimated because it became the norm to question every dollar we spent. We did it for three years and by then it had become such a habit to be ‘mindful’ and prioritise our spending that we did away with the record keeping. Didn’t need it and haven’t written out a budget since. But I know I should do it again because everything is different now with kids and though we still are conscious not to overspend because of that experience way back then, ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ if you ‘know’ what I mean. Hehe. As you say, there’s nothing like a budget to keep track of where your money’s going. It really is worth the effort. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Shopping at a discount supermarket (Aldi) has been a game changer for us. We save anywhere from $50-100 a week on our groceries compared to what we would spend at another supermarket! We also buy a whole cow from a farm and share it among the family – bulk grass fed beef at a ridiculously cheap price, just make sure you have a big freezer. 80kg is a lot of beef! I’m also a huge op shop fan for clothes.

    • I agree, Aldi is pretty good … except I need to force myself to avoid that centre aisle of special buys! I’ve considered several times over the past few weeks to shop at Aldi again but right now online grocery shopping fits better with our lifestyle. I don’t really enjoy grocery shopping so doing so with my one-year-old isn’t very enticing 🙂 And WOW that is a lot of beef, but I’m sure cheaper in the long run and most likely better quality too!

  5. A meal plan shopping online has been the best thing for is to save time and money. Wish we could have herbs but the cats dig them up. Great tips! Visiting from #ibot

  6. Some good little reminders here Erica. I agree with shopping around, I recently save $600 on our car insurance premium and it also included road side assist! Huge save and timely as it turned out. While we were camping last holidays one of the kids left the car lights on and flattened the battery, so effectively switching saved us even more 😉

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