So 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 plan – Before 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 beauty – Consider 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!
Budget – Create 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 gifts – I 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.