Best family budget tips for tight times

November 30, 2012, 11:11 ampracticalparenting

If your family budget is suffering its own financial crisis, try some of Justine Davies’ easy cost-cutting tips to put you back in the black

PP - family budget tips
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Spend time, save money

File your paperwork

Nobody enjoys doing their tax, but keeping all your paperwork in the one place makes it much easier and less stressful. Whether it’s a shoebox, folder or filing tray, keeping everything in the one place also means you are less likely to miss out on claiming deductions.

Have a system for paying bills

It’s no good ignoring bills, because overdue payment fees can be expensive. Keep them somewhere safe, in order of their due date, to potentially save a few hundred dollars in overdue charges.

Review your bank accounts

Products change and so does your situation. It’s worth reviewing your mortgage, credit cards and savings accounts now and then to ensure what you have still suits you. Try Rate City as a great place to start.

Research one bill each month

Choose one bill each month, for example your health insurance, electricity or car insurance, and spend a few hours on the phone or online making sure it is as cost-effective as possible. That bit of research could potentially save you hundreds of dollars.

Write up a proper budget

It’s boring, but a written budget is the single most important thing you can do to cut back your expenses. A budget can show you exactly how much you spend – and you may get a shock! There is a great template on the government’s Understanding Money Understanding Money website.

Savvy shopping

Make a list

It’s easy to get distracted at the shops, particularly if the kids are with you. Spend 10 minutes before you leave home making a list of everything you need to save both time and money.

Mix ’n’ match

If clothes are on your shopping list, check what you already have in the wardrobe before you head out. A few new accessories, rather than a few new outfits, can be really cost effective.

Change your habits

It’s amazing what you can find outside the usual retail outlets. Look for bargains online and also at garage sales, op shops, craft markets, fetes and farmers’ markets.

Plan in advance

Birthday gifts can kill your budget, especially those bought at the last minute. Check your calendar a few months in advance so you can snap up any bargains at sale time.

Cash is king

If you need added incentive to save money, try taking cash to the shops instead of your credit card. This can be an excellent way to help you prioritise your purchases.

Out and about

Play smart

Your local playgroup can be a wonderful source of entertainment for your child and friendship for you. As they’re community based, they are usually inexpensive as well. Check the Playgroup Australia website for groups in your area.

Visit the library

Kids love new books and toys, but they often have the attention span of, well, a kid! Joining your local book and toy library is a great way to give your kids a high turnover of new toys and books, at minimal cost and with no storage issues.

Walk, walk, walk

It’s enjoyable, good for your health and cheaper than joining the gym.

Picnic instead of cafe

Meeting up with friends is great, but a thermos and picnic at the playground is better than a cafe. There’s fresh air, no money spent and lots of fun for the kids.

Go surfing

Online, that is, to check out your local council website. There are usually plenty of low-cost or free activities to enjoy, from concerts to family fun days, markets, fitness classes and a whole lot more.

Domestic goddess

Go natural

There are plenty of ways to save money around the home and cleaning is one of them. Detergents and disinfectants can be expensive, so a little know-how about natural products can save you heaps. Cath Armstrong, creator of Cheapskates.com.auestimates the average family could save at least $600 per year by using simple ingredients such as white vinegar and bicarb soda to clean.

Bulk up

There are plenty of meals, such as bolognese sauce, curries and casseroles, that can be cooked in bulk. Having some ready-to-heat meals in the freezer is a great way to avoid spending money on take-away. And it’s healthier, too!

Wash your car (and dog)

Turn household chores that you might otherwise outsource, such as washing the car, into fun and free activities with the kids.

Swap babysitting with friends

It’s wonderful to have child-free time now and then, but babysitting can make it really expensive. Consider setting up a reciprocal babysitting arrangement with friends. It gives you affordable child-free time and your kids will enjoy it, too.

Grow herbs
Fresh herbs are a great boost to many meals, but at two or three dollars a pop they are expensive. Give your kids a herb-growing project as fun outdoor activity.

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