Us Brits find money a tricky topic to talk about and no matter how much money we have coming in, for a lot of us it never seems to be enough.
My husband works full time as a chef. He works a lot of hours, sometimes as much as sixty in a week and brings home a fairly decent amount of money. I am self-employed with an income that can vary massively month to month. Neither of us are particularly great with money and with Christmas on the horizon, we are making some changes that we hope will stay with us for a long time to come.
Here are some of the things we are doing.
We are starting to track our spending. With the rise of the use of contactless spending and apps on our smartphones, it’s so easy to lose track of how much you spend and on what. Going through bank statements hasn’t really helped us as they just show where we spent some money, not on what we bought. Keeping a note of what we spent, where and what was purchased will help us to see where we can cut back that bit more.
Set a Budget
Once you’ve tracked your spending for a few weeks, it should be easier to set a budget. There may be some obvious areas where you can make some cut backs. A £3 lunch time meal deal from a supermarket might not sound a lot but it can all add up, especially if we are both doing it on a regular basis. Don’t forget to include that £3.50 a week for Cubs or the £4 a week for BMX club (something I have done several times before!).
We do our main shop at a budget supermarket but have always bought the mid-range or premium selections. Recently, I have started buying the more ‘basic’ ranges, particularly for things like tinned tomatoes, oil and pasta. These changes have made a small difference to the amount we’re spending but very little difference to the taste. I have found is a case of trial and error though. For example, I recently bought a cheaper version of ham for Cheeky Chap’s packed lunches. I noticed that he had stopped eating his sandwiches and then tried them myself. I really wasn’t keen on the ham, so we switched back to the more expensive packet. The cheaper mince beef produces a lot more fat and didn’t seem to taste as flavoursome. I tried it again, drained the fat and added a beef stock cube which made the world of difference!
If you have a car and time, it may be worth shopping around for things. We don’t like the toiletries or cleaning products at the supermarket we use and find them quite expensive in other supermarkets. Now I shop at discount stores such as B&M or Home Bargains once a month for cleaning and toiletries. They always have special offers. But it is well worth checking the supermarket aisles first, there have been a few times when I’ve found a few items cheaper in the supermarkets!
I hate meal planning with a passion and really need to do it more. I struggle to come up with ideas that are budget friendly, that Cheeky Chap will eat and that can be easily reheated for the husband when he gets home from work. That said, meal planning is by far one of the best and quickest ways to reign in your spending. Whilst it feels like it takes a long time to do, in reality I know it saves time. When I don’t meal plan, I will usually have to try and decide what to cook, often putting it off until quite late in the day, then I will have to drag my eight-year-old around a shop after school and it all feels a bit rushed. Often I will pick up things I don’t need or didn’t go in to the shop for and spend more money than I needed to.
Bring in Some Extra Money
There are many ways you can bring in a bit of extra cash. I am a member of several survey sites and it is surprisingly how quickly they add up. I have previously done some matched betting which I not only enjoyed but also made a fair amount of money from. With Christmas coming up and Cheeky Chap wanting a rather expensive Nintendo Switch, we have had a de-clutter of his room and have a whole load of toys that we plan to sell, including a huge train track, Paw Patrol and Fireman Sam toys. If you own your own, you could see if the value has increased here.
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.