Life isn’t something you can plan for. No matter how hard you try, unexpected things can crop up at the drop of a hat and money can seemingly just leak away; school trips you hadn’t anticipated, an extra food shop needed this week, births and birthdays, growing feet, slate off the roof? Family life throws unexpected money curve balls all the time.
So how can you manage your money and manage family life?
I think the key to staying on budget within a family is good planning. Let me explain.
A clear meal plan will mean you can budget your weekly shop and nothing else will need to be bought. It will also mean food is not wasted as it will all be eaten in time as planned, and you won’t need to pop out for any annoying top-up shops when you realise you’re running low on something.
‘…costs the average household £470 a year, rising to £700 for a family with children, the equivalent of around £60 a month.’
So starting to make a change with your weekly food plans can have a massive impact on your savings – and leave you with some spare change for those unexpected costs.
Also build up a collection of good leftover recipes to have up your sleeve to ensure you get the absolute most out of the food you buy. For example, a Sunday roast can be stretched out into chicken sandwiches for lunchboxes, chicken soups and a chicken curry. Look to herbs and spices to jazz up your meals and you won’t even notice you’re using the same base ingredient.
The £720 a year you don’t spend on wasting food is a great amount to put in a savings pot for emergency household repairs. If you don’t tackle repairs quickly, you may end up risking longer term damage with more of a cost, but equally don’t rush into paying anyone and everyone to fix your broken washer, TV or radiator. Check things like your insurance before you pay out, as well as warranties on individual items. If you still need to get someone in to repair your item, ring around different companies to see who can give you the best deal (but still check online to read reviews, or better yet, go for someone who comes recommended by a friend).
In terms of school I actually include school costs in my budget. It is perfectly okay to ask the school office at the start of the year for anticipated trips and costs across the coming year so you will have an idea of when you may have extra expenses and can budget accordingly. Factor in anticipated new shoes, bags and uniform changes and create a monthly budget for school expenses so they don’t shock you when they come.
I write my kids names on everything from drink bottles to coats to pencil cases (sharpies are great!) Missing items increase school expenses unnecessarily and dramatically.
Special occasions don’t tend to factor in our budgets either and even Easter can work out pricey if you wait till the last minute to buy your stash of Easter eggs. Plan into your diary to scoop up £1 eggs at least 3 weeks prior to Easter. Buy your cards and paper for Christmas in the January sales and snap up bargains where you see them for your gift drawer, throughout the year.
Another great idea is to get crafty – get the kids involved in a sweet DIY for family members who will appreciate the thought much more than an expensive present. Also try to reduce expenses on birthday parties – while it’s more work, a homemade cake will be a lot cheaper than one emblazoned with cartoons from the supermarket, and you can personalise it to the birthday boy or girl’s tastes with their favourite flavours.
Use your diary well to make sure you are not caught out with last minute, usually more expensive, last minute gift buying.
Planned family holidays can save you a lot of money. Booking a great camp site well in advance, arranging to stay with friends who live by the sea (before everyone else does) can also save you a packet. Sometimes, however, last minute bargains are best. Whatever you decide to do, do plan in a holiday if you can and save throughout the year as part of your monthly budget so it doesn‘t cause a huge dent in your budget when it comes around.
Planning can save us money and it can also ensure money is there when we need it. Planning your finances is time well spent and even unexpected expenses can be managed this way. How do you go about creating your budget to avoid unexpected costs creeping up on you?