Balancing a budget can feel overwhelming. With the cost of living increasing, it’s becoming more and more difficult to make ends meet, especially if you’re expecting or raising a family. The Resolution Foundation predicts that 1.3 million people, including 500,000 children, will fall into absolute poverty by 2023. Money is at the front of many minds right now, so we’ve compiled some tips to help you better organise and use your money.
How can I keep track of my spending?
The first step to saving money is knowing where your money goes. A good way to do this is to keep a method of tracking your money, such as with budgeting apps, spreadsheets, or even a notebook.
Think about what you need from a money tracker and experiment with whatever is easiest for you to access. Perhaps a notebook works to quickly jot down what you’ve just spent in the shops or an app on your phone if you use your phone regularly.
Sorting your spending into categories like ‘Groceries’, ‘Monthly Payments’, and ‘Transport’ will also make it easier to see where most of your money goes and allow you to assess those costs.
How can I spend less money?
Once you’ve identified the areas where you spend the most, you can make changes to reduce these costs. For example, a big issue for many people nowadays is rising petrol prices. Ways to reduce petrol costs include inflating your tyres and sticking to the speed limits. Energy bills are another big one; you can save money on rising energy bills by switching off plugs that aren’t in use and taking shorter showers.
Another way to stretch your money is to change the way you buy your groceries. It’s common to buy most of your groceries at once from one shop, but why not go to many different ones? Sticking to one shop can make you miss out on better deals in other places.
Make your food go further by being conscious about the food you buy and the recipes you use. Prioritise essential items and make meal plans that use similar ingredients, so you don't have any excess food waste at the end of the week.
You can also switch meal components to cheaper options. For example, rather than making a chicken breast with vegetables and potatoes on the side, you can try a chicken noodle soup with vegetables to fill you up and hydrate you.
Buy fruits and vegetables with a longer shelf life, freeze foods wherever you can, and remember that you can still use food after a ‘best before’ date, but not after a ‘use by’ date. Lentils and beans are cheap, healthy, and filling options that are particularly tasty when used in Indian dishes. You can also incorporate canned and frozen fish into meals to make affordable and nutritious meals.
You don’t have to swear off things that make your family happy just because you’re saving. You can borrow books from the library and find films that you can watch for a movie night-in. You can save on holiday presents using games like ‘Secret Santa’, so everyone can get a gift, buy a gift, and still get the excitement of keeping a secret.
If you can, set aside as much as you can into a savings account each month. This way, you’ll have a little bit of money as back up if your finances run out.
How can I save when I have a baby?
When you’re expecting a baby, saving money is a difficult task, but still possible. Bulk buying items before your baby arrives, like nappies, is common and can save a lot of money in the long run.
However, bulk buying isn’t always the best option. For example, you may bulk buy a type of bottle, only for your baby to not like how the bottle feels. Or maybe you bulk buy formula, only for them to be allergic to cow’s milk.
Where it makes sense, buy an item in a small quantity and later buy it in bulk after you’ve successfully introduced it to your baby. It’s also not always possible to bulk buy when money is tight. Smaller brands have to pass the same requirements as bigger ones, but they’re generally less expensive.
Another way of keeping to your budget is buying second-hand and asking other parent friends and family if they have any leftover baby items they can pass on to you. The cost of raising a baby is high, but with these small changes, you can hopefully start to reduce these costs.
How can I save as a single parent?
Navigating money as a single parent can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to face it all by yourself. If possible, having a conversation with your child’s other parent about splitting finances can be beneficial. The government provides Child Maintenance services to help you figure out funds and keep everyone accountable.
Creating a Parenting Plan (a written plan between parents outlining parenting expectations after separation) is another effective method. There are also options for additional financial support if you need it.
You can speak to your employer for support if you’re a working parent.
Final thoughts from Kami
Keeping track of both your family and your finances is a demanding task, so it’s okay to feel overwhelmed by it sometimes. A key thing to remember is that you don’t have to do it alone. Difficult times can bring up unwanted emotions, so make sure to take care of your mental health and wellbeing. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and reach out to friends, family, and organisations for help.