Raising a family is expensive. Even if you’re already adept at managing your finances, ensuring the needs of your children are met usually means that most of your income is earmarked for essentials like food, clothing, utility bills, hobbies and educational tools – and that’s before you even consider occasional treats like days out or trips to the museum.
Many families feel the pinch on a regular basis, and it’s no surprise that most of us are constantly looking for ways to save money while still maintaining a good quality of family life. Thankfully, there are ways and means to save money – and while eliminating a single expense is unlikely to help you regain control over your finances, cutting back slightly from several different sources should help you have more leftover at the end of each month.
To get to grips with your spending, why not try some of these money-saving tips for families?
1) Work Out Your Budget
The first step to having a better handle on your finances is to budget. This way, you’ll find it easier to ensure you can afford the things your family needs and wants. To do so, take a look at your recent bank statements to figure out how much money is coming in and (crucially) how much is going out.
From here, you should identify your essential spending – rent, utility bills, food and nappies, for example – and then look for areas where you could make cutbacks. For example, something as simple as preparing a packed lunch for work every day instead of purchasing a high-street meal deal could save you as much as £1,000 per year.
2) Apply for Support and Benefits
Are you claiming all the financial support you are entitled to? There are lots of benefits available to help with the cost of looking after children and newborn babies. For example, if you’re pregnant, you can avail of free NHS prescriptions and dental care for up to a year after your child is born.
You should also be eligible for child benefit, a monthly payment for every child you have. In the 2020/21 tax year, child benefit pays £21.05 per week for your oldest child and £13.95 per week for each additional child. There is no limit on the number of children you are eligible to claim for.
It may be worthwhile looking further into what benefits you may be entitled to – some, such as child tax credits, are dependent on your income, while other benefits are available to all parents.
3) Buy Off-brand
If you have babies or young children in your family, you might be surprised to find how much you could save by purchasing non-brand formula and nappies. You might also be surprised to find that there’s usually little difference between branded and non-branded products.
Buying off-brand doesn’t have to stop at baby products – generic medicines are generally available at a fraction of the cost of branded ones, and it’s possible to make huge savings on things like toiletries, too.
4) Keep an Eye Out for Voucher Codes
Discount codes and money-off vouchers are great ways to save on everything from essential items to days out. If you shop online, do a quick search for voucher codes before placing an order. Some sites will provide you with a discount on your first purchase, whereas others may run offers on specific products from time to time. Either way, it’s a sure-fire way to save money on the things your family needs and wants.
5) Don’t Overspend on Toys
It’s a cliché, but babies and toddlers are often just as happy to play with the box or wrapping paper of a toy as they are to play with the toy itself. So if you’re struggling financially, toys should be one of the first things you cut back on.
This doesn’t mean you have to be a curmudgeon and force your kids to go without toys – it just means being more selective about what you purchase. Young children especially will be happy playing with everyday items like empty kitchen roll tubes and spatulas, so don’t feel guilty for not purchasing the latest heavily marketed toddler toys.
6) Reduce Your Household Bills
Switching to a cheaper energy, broadband, or mobile phone provider could help save you hundreds of pounds per year. If you or your partner are currently on parental leave, getting the best energy deal should be one of your priorities. This is because you’ll be doing much more washing and using more electricity, heating and hot water at home, which could see your bills rise drastically.
Try using a comparison site to switch to the best deal – and remember to repeat the process every year. Energy suppliers tend to offer new customers better rates than existing ones, so don’t be afraid to take your custom elsewhere. If you’ve got the time, you could even try playing the utility companies against one another to achieve even further savings.
7) Sign up for Loyalty Schemes
Lots of supermarkets issue loyalty cards which reward you for your repeat custom. Every quarter, you’ll receive rewards in the form of money-off vouchers, which can be used to reduce the cost of your weekly shop.
Restaurants and other retailers offer loyalty schemes, too – high street coffee chains, for example, will provide you with a free coffee now and then for regularly making purchases. Sure, it makes sense to avoid paying for high street coffee altogether when you’re on a strict budget, but when you combine one or more of these financial tips, you should be allowed to treat yourself now and then with the money you save.
8) Be Environmentally Conscious: Buy Second-hand Items
Baby products tend to be durable, which is ironic as they typically aren’t used for long. It’s therefore easy to find bargains by making second-hand purchases – and you’ll also be doing your bit for the environment, too.
Check local selling pages on social media for items you could use – be certain to do some research and check the item for any potential hazards before purchasing. Certain items should never be purchased second-hand – car seats, for example. It’s impossible to tell if a car seat has been involved in an accident that could weaken the seat. Other items, such as toys, should be fine.
9) Tell Friends and Family What You Need
If you’ve just had a new addition to the family, friends and relatives will likely rally around to bring gifts for your new baby. Don’t let them shop blindly – let them know what you would find most useful, what you already have and what you don’t want. Some sites, like Amazon, offer free gifts and discounts when you set up a “wish list” for your new baby, from which friends and family can make purchases on your behalf.
10) Holiday Out of Season
This can prove tricky for families with older children, as school attendance laws mean that taking children out of class without a reasonable excuse could result in a fine. However, if your children are yet to start school, you could save hundreds of pounds by holidaying out of season. It’s possible to find great deals on weekday excursions during term-time, and if you keep an eye on the weather forecast, you can still enjoy great weather out of season.
11) Reduce Your Food Costs
If you’re the sort of family that enjoys takeaways more than once a week, cutting down on the amount of fast food could be great for your wallet – and your waistline.
It can also be beneficial to create a grocery list before you head to the supermarket – and stick to it. This way, you won’t be tempted to make frivolous purchases on perishable goods that will end up going unused.
If possible, avoid going to the supermarket as a family – stores are great at placing items at key junctures. When these items (usually junk food, toys or computer games) capture the attention of your children, it can be difficult to say no.
12) Look for Cheap Family Activities
Not every family day out has to involve an expensive trip to a theme park. There are lots of family-friendly activities which you can do for free. For example, nature walks, wild camping or a simple trip to the local public play park can all be great bonding experiences that don’t come with an entrance fee.
13) Sell Items You No Longer Need
When your children outgrow toys, clothes or other items, it can be easy to get sentimental. Don’t turn into a hoarder – list those items on auction sites or local social media selling pages, and put the money raised towards any essential items your family needs.
14) Open a Savings Account
This may sound overly simplistic, but putting away a nest egg for a rainy day could reduce your reliance on payday loans, emergency loans, credit cards and overdrafts in the future. This way, you won’t fall into the debt trap and will spend less on interest.
It’s important to remember that saving money as a family requires effort and small sacrifices. It’s also a long process – more of a marathon than a sprint. However, with a little bit of perseverance and smart shopping, you should soon begin to see the benefits of saving.