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Tips to save money – a budget for ‘tough times’

Man and woman sitting on coach discussing their money problemsWhat tougher times in life are there than the time when our family is young?

We’ve all been there – the bills are stacking up, the income is low and the unexpected costs hit us hard, one after another. We look over our accounts as the week/fortnight or month goes by, and shake our heads at the diminishing funds before us.

Luckily, even during the hardest of times, there are ways households can save on their overall budgets until the skies clear again, just by making small, easy adjustments here and there.

So if you find yourself struggling and are looking for some ways to save while you get back on your feet, here are some easy, practical tips that can help you hold on to some of those precious $$$.

Saving money on food

Shop at markets and fruit shops

Not only can you save money by shopping at your local markets and fruit stores, but you can also walk away knowing you’ve supported the little guy. Two birds, one stone.

Eat before you shop

If you’ve ever been shopping on an empty stomach, you”ll have noticed you walked away with a little more than you bargained for (and a little more than you could afford!) Shopping when you’re hungry will make everything edible in sight feel like a necessity. Having a quick meal before you go can ensure you don’t pick up any stomach-grumbling impulse buys.

Don’t buy the brand

Remember, brandname foods and products have spent anywhere from thousands to millions of dollars on making their brand look shiny, colorful and appealing. In most cases, they have little to no difference to their cheaper counterpart. The only way to know for sure is to try out the cheaper brand! If it isn’t disgusting/inferior in some way, why pay more?

Meal plans

Designing a meal plan not only helps you keep the weight off, but it also stops you spending unnecessary amounts of money on meals you may not even make! It may seem daunting, but spending just a little time each week preparing a plan for each meal ahead can save a lot of money on foods you may not have even used.

Bulk buy

Bread, milk, meat! Buying in bulk is often a cheaper way of getting things that you can freeze and use over time.

Grow your own vegetable and herb garden

If you have the time and space, a vegetable and/or herb garden can save a lot of money! Not only this, but you’ll have something fun and educational to do with the kids, and the satisfaction of seeing your own food grow and ripen to success! This need only take a small amount of your time a few times a week (probably best in the late afternoons when the sun is no longer scorching overhead).

Cook and freeze baby food

Making up big batches of different baby foods, dividing them into small containers and freezing them can save a lot of money when compared to buying the pre-made stuff! Not only is this good for your pocket, but you also get complete control over everything that’s going in your baby’s stomach! When baby is very little, it can be as easy as freezing portions in ice trays. Then as they get older, small BPA-free plastic containers will do the trick.

Pre-pack “brown bag” work lunches

For our working hubbers, buying lunch at work may seem like a small, cheap thing to brush off. However, if done every day it can really add up! If you keep track of every purchase made at the coffee shop and bakeries surrounding the workplace, you might be more than a little surprised. Think of all the money you’ll save by packing and taking with you a pre-packed lunch. If you already have children in school, this can be as simple as adding your box to the pre-night packing.

Take a coffee urn to work

To supplement the pre-packed lunch idea. Just another way around spending $5-$7 a day on that lunch time pick-me-up. Coffee can be a less-expensive necessity.

Occasionally use powdered milk

If your kids are anything like mine, they go through milk like there’s no tomorow! It may not cost much, but the $3 per bottle (and that’s for the cheap stuff) adds up fast! Using powdered milk to get you through once the fresh stuff is gone for the week can really help to keep those extra dollars for when they’re needed most.

Leftover nights

Don’t throw out those leftover sausages, veggies and stir fry. Save them all in the fridge or freezer for a pick your own leftovers night once a week. At roughly $3-$4 per meal per child (and that’s being modest) you’re looking at saving a little bit more than you’d think each week.

Meat-free Mondays

Meat is certainly one of those things that pushes the shopping budget up by a fair bit each week. Why not relax the finances a bit by having a Meat-free Monday? Not only does this put some money back in your pocket, but it is also an easy, healthy way to cut back on saturated fats.

Make your own cakes and biscuits

Put down that cake mix and instead make your own cakes and cookies with some simple self-raising flour, eggs, sugar and butter!

Shopping

Online auction and second-hand sites

Shop online for a second-hand bargain rather than purchasing everything new. You never know what you might find!

Sleep on it purchases

I’m talking to you, shopaholics! Don’t worry, I feel you …

Have you ever walked past a pair of shoes worth $79 and just thought to yourself, “I must have them, NOW!”.

Impulse buying (particularly with that little piece of plastic) is a one-way ticket to bad credit and poor finances. Next time you see something that you “MUST HAVE NOW” don’t tell yourself “no”, but just go home for the night, sleep on it and see how you feel in the morning.

The thing is, for most impulse buys if you had just allowed yourself some time to think it through, you’d realise you don’t actually need another pair of shoes to add to your 39 pair collection (Or your baby’s 40 pair collection). Even if you do, you can probably pick up an identical pair somewhere else for a least half the price!

Invest in cloth nappies

I can feel the crunchy ears prick up as the rest of our readers roll their eyes in groaning dissatisfaction of this utterly terrible idea. But hear me out!

Cloth nappies today are actually about 100 times easier and more convenient to use than their old-school terry towel counterparts. With just a little extra effort, you could be saving yourself (and yes, sorry, but the environment) a huge amount of money each week.

Cut the luxuries

Get your hair done often? Have your lawn mowed by a gardener or house cleaned by a cleaner? Pay a silly amount for pay TV or something else equally categorized into “luxury” spending? When times are tough, as much as we feel we “need” these kind of things, we often really don’t. Cut back where you feel you can and keep the extra money to make ends meet. Don’t worry, times won’t be tough forever!

Income

Family Tax Benefit and other Centrelink entitlements

It may be worth checking if you’re entitled to a supplementary income from Centrelink. Most families (who are struggling) are entitled to some sort of Family Tax Benefit and possibly even a small parenting payment through Parenting Payment Partnered. You may not already be getting everything you’re entitled to or perhaps you haven’t even thought of it at all. Every family is assessed a little differently so the best way to know is to go in to your local Centrelink Office or call them on 13 61 50 to work this all out.

Have a garage sale

What an awesome way to declutter your house of all those things you never use – by having a sale and getting some extra cash! Make sure to mark all your items with a price and grab some spare change from the bank before you begin. Remember, most people will turn up in the mornings on a weekend, so make sure to start nice and early on a Saturday or Sunday.

Sell your stuff online

It is easy and free to pop an add up online and sell off some unnecessary assets for cash. Perhaps for a double whammy, you could sell off the dryer and replace it with some indoor hangers for those rainy/stormy days, saving electricity while gaining a couple hundred in the pocket.

Home and entertainment

Free family outings

For fun free family outings, check out your local council for the best parks, playgrounds and entertainment. Heading to fun free family events can get your kids out of house for the day without breaking the bank! There are tons of things to do in every state; you’d be surprised how fun our communities can be for free!

Turn your electricity off at wall

Yes, I know bending down and flicking of switches is “sooo much effort!” But just imagine the savings, that’s “sooo much money!” Seriously.

Luck and advantage

Collect vouchers

STOP! Before you throw all that unwanted junk mail in the bin, have a look through and see if there are any promotional offers on something you regularly buy. Cut out and collect vouchers to use while you are out shopping. It may sound stingy, but sometimes we just gotta be stingy!

Take free samples

Make-up, shampoos and conditioners, skin creams, perfumes, even the local butcher’s new sausage delights. Free samples may not seem like much, but hey, they’re free! Remember to support the ones you love once you’re back on your feet.

Enter free competitions

There are about a billion competitions you could enter every week – especially on social media with simple “like and share” prompts. They’re in the local malls, supermarkets, they even come in the mail! You never know how lucky you are until you try. Those who never try, never get lucky! Not to be confused with paid competitions – when you have to pay to enter, it kind of takes away from the “savings” notion given the chances of winning.

Finances

Consolidate your debts

Got loans, credit card debt and finance all over the place? To help keep track of where you are at, it may be worth getting a good debt consolidation loan to put it all in one place and pay off your debts more easily! Don’t forget to cut up the credit cards (or at least lower the balance) once you’re finally debt free. Do your research and talk to a professional before you make a decision on who would suit your debt consolidation needs best.

Write up a spreadsheet budget – track ingoings and outgoings

If you can see it in writing week by week, you will be much better able to track we’re you’re at versus where you need to be and put a reliable plan in place to get there. Watching your progress as you go is also a great motivator to keep at it!

Shop around for better mortgage deal

How do you know you’ve got the best interest rate and repayment method unless you weigh up all the competitors? This one takes a lot of research and searching so play it safe and get the best advice! With smart searching and careful research, this one can really pay off.

Shop around for better gas and electricity companies

No longer do we all have the same one electricity and gas company. There are now several who sometimes offer discounts to struggling families and pensioners. Ring around and find out who might be best for you. You may surprise yourself with what you find.

Shop around for best credit card

Don’t just get the first piece of plastic that is shoved down your throat by a cheesy salesperson. Make sure you talk to all the banks and finance companies. Some can offer you things others won’t. Make sure to learn a little about finance and talk to someone professional before making any big decisions.

Put a small amount each week into a high interest savings account

One great way to save dollars is to open a high interest savings account and dedicate a small amount to it each week. Try for an amount that will add up without being missed from the household budget. Make sure not to overcommit, as these accounts usually cross out gaining interest if they are withdrawn from too much.

Keep smiling

Try to remember that tough times come and go. It may seem awful in the moment, but you’re not alone. Many young families and families of all different situations struggle at some point in our lives with money troubles, debts and keeping that food on the table. No matter how hard things can become, children are only young once and things can certainly improve.

 

Image credit: bialasiewicz/123RF Stock Photo

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