From the outside, it must appear as if we are pretty well off. Hey we can afford for me to be a SAHM so surely we must have enough cash. The truth is, we work hard to live frugally in some aspects of our life so we can be more frivolous in others. Stu’s salary doesn’t cover our outgoings and so with a combination of savings and a helping hand from family, we have a finite amount of money that is not being replenished. When the pot gets too low, I’ll have to go back to work. If that isn’t motivation to be thrifty, I don’t know what is.
I’d like to think if you scrolled my Instagram, you’d think we all look pretty well dressed. In no way are our girls disadvantaged by our careful spending. We have just learnt to watch the wallet and found ways to minimise outgoings. Here are some of the ways we spend less in our day to day life.
Ditch supermarket superstores
As tempting and convenient as it can be to have a huge grocery delivery, shopping in smaller supermarkets has definitely made one of the biggest impacts on our savings. I’m a total Aldi fan. The cheap fresh produce, good quality meat and smaller selection mean we spend between £30-60 a week. I just know if we were to head to one of the bigger stores, I’d be convinced to buy much more than we needed and likely on unhealthy stuff too. Those huge superstores also have masses of other goodies like clothes and candles that would fall into my trolley each week racking up the bill unnecessarily.
Buy second hand
We buy a lot of second hand clothes. I just love to get a bargain and so when I spot a practically unworn Next dress for £1, I get a little giddy. Mostly this is for the girls as I really don’t buy many clothes for myself. I’d like to think I only buy items for myself when I haven’t got something similar. But if it’s very cheap, I see it as a treat and it satisfies a certain shopping craving. EBay, carboots and charity shops are my favourite as you can pick up individual bits but Facebook selling sites also offer bundles dirt cheap and are great for essentials.
Shop around for everything
From car insurance to energy, car seats to furniture we always shop around and check we are on the best deals. It is a hassle to compare utilities and is time I’d rather spend binging a boxset but it can be really fruitful. Honestly, if I’m only going to save fifty quid, I probably wouldn’t bother as often switching can be a real pain but anything higher and I’m definitely moving on. If we need or want something expensive and it’s not urgent (like a washing machine for example) we will keep an eye on selling sites and just wait it out. Almost always what we want comes up. Failing that, we wait for the sales.
This might seem obvious but when you have twins or even just two children who are constantly growing, it is pretty ridiculous to spend a fortune on items that will only last the season. Think about what you dress them in regularly and what type of footwear they are going to need and just buy that. I’ve worked out my girls only need about 12 outfits. Because they mostly wear dresses and tights, maybe I’ll get 6-8 then buy some jeans, a couple of skirts and a few tops. They have got wellies and shoes that still fit but I will gets some boots too. That’s it. No more.
Use Birthdays and Xmas
Some might think this is really mean but I don’t. My girls’ birthday is coming up and they need new pyjamas. One of their gifts will be pyjamas. We are actually contemplating buying car seats as gifts. Before you shoot me down for being the tightest parent ever, bare in mind they are still rear facing at 3. The prospect of turning would probably be the best birthday gift ever. For Xmas we also really limit gifts. They get so many from family and I just don want an overwhelming stack of gifts to be the only focus of Christmas. There will be a stocking from Santa, a few gifts from a Mummy and Daddy and a budget of less than £50 each. They will be three and couldn’t care less how much is spent.
Ask for experiences rather than possessions
Following on, instead of overloading our girls with lots of plastic rubbish, it’s great to get experiences or passes. These can be enjoyed for much longer than the day. This year my parents have bought us Peppa Pig theatre tickets for Xmas which the girls will lose their little minds over. This was something that we wouldn’t have bought as I thought the £60 price tag was too steep. However, I know it will be a fantastic day that’s the girls will remember.
Take advantage of trials
Lots of toddler groups offer free trial sessions to see if you like the group. These are great to get an idea of what your little one gets on with and enjoys and what just doesn’t fit. I’ve done quite a few trials. Some of which I’ve then signed up to a block of and others which I haven’t. You might find a new group you love or it might just be a chance to get out the house. Sometimes I even when I’ve really liked a group, I just couldn’t justify the cost especially when you are required to bulk buy sessions.
Select one premium group per term
After doing lots of trials and listening to lots of ideas from other mums, I just book onto one premium group per term. This term we are trying forest school which is an absolute bargain as the lady offers the second twin free! The rest of our week is filled with local play groups, the library and sometimes a gym session or swimming with Nannie. I’ve come to terms with the fact we can’t afford to do lots of the expensive groups. Maybe later in the year we’ll have a swap around and try something new.
Avoid food waste by meal planning
In our kitchen, we have a chalk board where we write our weekly meals. Now I know this isn’t for everyone but maybe it’s something to try if you find yourself binning a lot of food or spending too much time wondering what to cook for dinner. Each week we choose the meals we will have and buy the ingredients for each meal. We can use up anything we’ve got left over or frozen and plan around events in the week. Often we’ll have a chicken meal, a pasta meal, something with rice, something quick like pizza, a pie and a roast. Maybe it’s a bit boring but you don’t have to stick to it rigidly. As long as you check the use by dates you can swap meals around as stuff crops up.
Finally, if at all possible, avoid buying anything on finance or credit cards that are not paid off in full each month. We have a credit card and use it a lot more than we used to as we get cash back on purchases. Our Santander 123 account gives us money back on petrol, utilities, council tax and loads of other things. It’s free money and so it’s why we use our credit card more than our debit. If you need/want a new sofa. Save for it. Every time you buy something on credit, it chips away at your monthly income before you even see it. This is probably one of the biggest reason we can afford for me to continue to stay at home. When the money comes in, only the essentials go out. There are no bills for clothes, cars, holidays or TV packages.
How do you keep family costs down?
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If you want more ways to help with budgeting, check out Frugal Financial Freedom for five more tips.