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Counting the Pennies – 18 tips on how we’re saving

countingpennies - evaFor the first time in my life I’ve had to really start counting my pennies.

Before we had our son, now 2 years old, we were doing pretty well. My husband and I both worked full time in well-paid jobs, we built a new home in a nice suburb, and were able to save quite a bit of money for me to be on maternity leave – my employer didn’t pay maternity leave and so I only got the government parental pay.

It came to a point, a year and a half after going on maternity leave, where we realised that we simply couldn’t maintain our lifestyle on one income; we’d stretched our savings as far as they could go. I had attempted running my own business from home to get some extra income, however, Post Natal Depression got the better of me and being a Stay at Home Mum ended up being better for me and my family. We also made the decision to do a considerable downsize into a home that was much more affordable on one income.

When we realised that we were going to have to leave the beautiful house we’d built, it was scary, but in the end it was the best decision we made and I’ve never looked back nor had any regrets. But 10 months in, the penny counting has started again and not because we’re spend thrifts, we’re actually quite the opposite, it’s simply because living expenses are increasing and it’s getting tougher!

As the person responsible for finance in our house (lucky me), I went through our bank statements with a fine tooth comb to find some explanation for our expenditure and diminishing savings. There was nothing that rang any alarm bells; they were every day expenditures which all added up.  And don’t get me started on the letters that seem to frequent my mail box from the electricity and insurance companies “As of X date, your premium/tariff will be increasing to…” When will it stop?

It has passed my mind a number of times that perhaps I should go and get a part-time job, but I still can’t comprehend the cost of day care and how much this would eat into my hard earned money, let alone the time I’d lose with my son. I think to myself ‘is it really worth it or should we just tighten the purse strings a little bit more?’ I was shocked to hear that my friend who sends both her boys to day care full time, spends about $35 000 per year – it doesn’t seem worth it but I understand some people have no choice, it seems like a catch twenty-two to me.

We’ve always been pretty frugal, but now we have to pick it up a couple of notches. Here are a few things we already do or will need to start to free up some cash:

  • No more eating out (we didn’t really do this often, but now it’s not an option).
  • No more takeaway
  • $1 loaf of bread instead of the $4 ‘gourmet’ stuff
  • House brands instead of name brands
  • I’m going back to making my own detergent
  • I’m going to get my green thumb on and grow my own veggies
  • I’m going to become a regular at Lifeline stores (you can get some good stuff there)
  • I’m going to dedicate a morning to getting insurance quotes to make sure we have the best deals.
  • All of our bills are set up as weekly automatic direct debits from our bank account. It’s great to get a bill in the mail to see we are in credit!
  • I’ve reverted back to using cash; once it’s gone it’s gone. No pulling out the cards – you lose track that way.
  • I have to remember to use my FlyBuys card when I buy the groceries. It paid for a 6 month subscription to my favourite magazine last time. Score!
  • I’m going to start baking more often. A box of muesli bars these days are a rip off, it’s a quarter of the price to make my own (and healthier).
  • The dishwasher is to go on in the evenings as well as the washing machine. The load can wait till the next morning to be hung up.
  • Candles. When used safely, not left unattended, and out of reach of little hands, these will take the place of lights.
  • Catching water in a bucket in the shower to water the plants. Our excess water bill sky rocketed because we were always watering the grass and gardens – we just weren’t getting rain. This has become an expensive exercise.  I think a water tank is on the cards.
  • Use vouchers.  I’ve never really looked at the vouchers on the back of the grocery docket until now. I’m going to start taking more notice as well as signing up to coupon/voucher sites.
  • I love the feel of a new book but have started to rely on the library instead.
  • Instead of buying new toys, I’m going to start arranging a toy swap with friends.

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