The one thing you learn pretty quickly when you become a parent is how expensive children can be and you quickly learn about the need to survive on a budget.
It starts before they’re even born with cots and cot-beds, moses baskets, car seats, travel systems, travel cots… and the list goes on. If you and your partner work, there’s the biggie – childcare – not to mention the endless buying of clothes, shoes, toys, gadgets etc.
My husband and I had an idea of the level of expense associated with having a child (we did our research before we decided to go for it), but it still caught us a little by surprise. We both have good jobs and a decent standard of living but we still live within a budget. The scary thing is how often we come close to breaking through that budget. I mean, everything just seems to be getting more expensive nowadays; mortgage; gas and electricity; food; petrol *sigh*.
Thankfully there are a few thrifty things we do to try and keep costs down. If you find it hard sometimes to keep track of your expenses, here are 5 ways that my husband and i have found that helps when you have to survive on a budget.
Vouchers and discount codes
My husband and I are big fans of money-saving coupons, either in print or online. Keep your eyes peeled for any money-off vouchers in the national or your local newspapers – even one for a free chocolate bar is a bonus. Meanwhile, before you make any purchase online, always open a separate browser and do an internet search for any discount codes for that product or company. We’ve managed to make some good savings that way (eg. 50% off my web hosting for one year).
Resist the urge to impulse buy. Always go, compare
Seen something in the shops that has taken your fancy? Before you reach for your purse or wallet, do some research. Head online and see if any of the big retailers are selling the same product and how much for. This is much quicker and easier to do nowadays with the advent of smartphones and you might find the same item for a bargain price elsewhere.
Going online and comparing prices is always a useful exercise for almost everything. Product comparison websites can be good but, if you use one of these sites and find a good offer (for example, car insurance) always double check that offer directly on the company’s own website. It’s been our experience to find a good offer on a comparison website but discover it’s not an accurate price when you add on your more detailed specifications.
Collect tokens for free days out or cheap holidays
Every year you can rely on the main national newspapers to do a variety of holiday or days out promotions. Collect those tokens! There’s normally some small-print attached (e.g. you might get sent tickets for a day out that are only valid on one specific day) but, it’s totally worth doing if you can.
Buy or sell items through auctions, sites like Freecycle and car boot sales
You can buy so many good things at auction…and I’m not just talking about online ones. My husband and I bought our first home at auction and for a very good price. Online auctions are good for picking up bits and pieces although again, head online and compare prices on products first. Sometimes I see items selling for more money on eBay than they cost in the shops!
Also, sites like Freecycle and Gumtree are great for getting things on the cheap (or free). It’s easy to think that only tat gets advertised on sites like those but one person’s tat is another person’s treasure. I haven’t personally used them but I know people who have and have picked up some good quality furniture and other items. Car boot sales can also be useful for picking up good deals, if you have an eye for them. And don’t forget to use these to sell your items that you no longer need.
Get loyal with store cards
Boots does it. Tesco does it. Superdrug, Sainsbury’s and Toys R Us all do it. Have loyalty cards schemes that is. And they’re not the only ones. Collect points when you buy in store and receive money-off items – it’s a nice idea. It may seem like overkill to join every single scheme going but it’s worth doing; they cost nothing to get and, even if you end up never using them, you’ll be able to benefit from the vouchers most of these stores send to their loyalty card owners at regular intervals throughout the year.
It’s also worth considering getting store cards but only if you can pay them off in full each month (you could face a fairly hefty interest rate otherwise). By signing up as a new customer, you tend to get money off your first purchase as well as access to other discounts at other times.
Of course, there are bound to be times when our bank balances may get the better of us. My advice would be to make sure you have an agreed overdraft limit with your bank. You may never use it but it’s there as a safety net. If you’re already in debt then speaking to an iva company could be useful. ‘Iva’ stands for individual voluntary arrangement (when you agree to pay a set amount to your creditors every month until the debt is re-paid) and these companies can give you advice on how to do that. Much better than opting for one of those awful pay-day loans.
So, those are my 5 of my tips to survive on a budget. What are yours?
Please note: This is a sponsored post.