I am a busy mum, much like most, I imagine. I work 30 hours a week with overtime plus 2 hours a day commuting. This means there isn’t much time for me. Usually, this translates to me doing no housework in the week and leaving everything non-essential to the weekend. By Friday the house is definitely suffering. One area that can lapse very easily is budgeting. Both Mr Mumsy and I are skinflints – him more so than me. However, when you’re in a rush and you’re tired, who has the energy to be really savvy with your cash? Here are my 5 money-saving tips for busy parents.
1. Meal planning
I’m very guilty of not practising what I preach with this tip. I always have such good intentions with the dinners at the start of the week, I always plan that they’ll all be home cooked or from the freezer, but then by Wednesday I’m thoroughly fed up and reach for the takeaway menus. If I am disciplined and spend some time at the weekend actually planning meals I’m fine. But I always forget to do it. I also need a very strong grasp on timings and picking suitable meals for the days I’m at work late, or when Isabelle isn’t at nursery so will be eating with us.
My slow cooker is my friend and I use it a couple of times a week. I will get up 10 minutes earlier in the morning and put a meal in, set the temp to low and when we get back at 6 pm it’ll be cooked and ready to serve in minutes. My favourite meals are beef stew and dumplings, butter chicken curry and corn beef stew. I also regularly just plop a whole chicken in and cover it in herbs or pesto and let the slow cooker work its magic during working hours. I love All Recipes for slow cooker meal ideas If you plan you can save so much money, buying mid-week takeaways will cost from £10-£30 a pop, and when your weekly food budget may only be £100 or less, that is a big chunk extra to pay.
2. Plan your food shopping
We are all guilty or running into the local mini Tesco and grabbing bits as the days go by. But this can do you out of a lot of cash. Typically the prices are more expensive in corner shops and you end up adding little bits extra into your basket as you’re probably hungry and racing around on the way to or from work. I now shop at 3 supermarkets on a regular basis: Asda, Aldi and Iceland.
Asda is my go-to for the branded items like fizzy drinks etc, but the bulk of my shopping comes from Aldi. I am used to their brands now and what they do and don’t sell, usually save up to £20 on my weekly shop by going here. Which adds up quickly. Their best items are their meats, fruit and veg and laundry products – a personal favourite are their packet mixes, you know the ones you use to make up a casserole etc. They’re 29p with a recipe on the back and all you usually need to do is add a bit of veg and some meat to make the meal from scratch.
Iceland is my final staple. I always bulk buy here and go maybe once a month. Their best products are their frozen veg and frozen meats. I love their frozen diced chicken breasts as they can just be chucked in the oven without having to be defrosted first. Just make sure you give them plenty of time to cook. They are so cheap and really convenient when you’re planning your dinners, you don’t need much preparation ahead of time and they last for months in the freezer so won’t go to waste like fresh meat might.
3. Buy a chest freezer
This is a bit of a spend money to save money tip. Batch cooking and bulk buying freezer items can be really great at helping with the cost of food. It means you can make big portions of meals and freeze the spares for future teas, rather than throwing it away. Sometimes buying bigger quantities of food – like joints of meat – is actually cheaper in the long run. The reason is most don’t usually have the space to store large freezer items.
4. Be clever with your direct debits
We’re going in a different direction now away from food. Direct debits are usually the most expensive and consistent payout you make each month after meals. They are predictable and roll over month on month. These payments can do you a disservice if you aren’t clever about them and if you let them tick away, you’ll start paying more for your bills than you really have to. Make sure you use comparison websites regularly and check you’re getting the best deal for your money. Places like USwitch, GoCompare and ComparetheMarket are great at checking utility bill tariffs, car insurance and home insurance etc. and some even compare phone contracts. If you have Virgin or Sky it is always worth ringing them ever so often to see if they’ve got any additional discounts for you – usually they’ll knock off a few quid to keep you sweet.
5. Be clever with your debt
This can be so important if you have loans and credit cards looming over you. Mortgages are a staple debt but one you can research occasionally, as the market changes the deals usually change as well and you might find a lower interest rate somewhere else. When it comes to personal loans and credit cards, do your homework. Depending on the numbers you may find it cheaper to do a balance transfer on your card to another credit card with 0% interest, or consolidate your personal loans into a single loan (usually with a lower interest rate overall). Sometimes agreed overdrafts are cheaper, but it is always important to make sure you can keep up with monthly repayments. If you default on your loans and credit cards, you will end up with a bad credit rating and can make lending and mortgages in the future more difficult. It is also easy to get sucked into bad credit payday loans. These can seem good initially but with high interest rates and the ease at which the debt spirals it can get you into really hot water, very fast. Just be careful, read everything twice and talk to those around you that you can confide in for advice.
It is hard to save money as a parent, childcare, tax and the increasing cost of living against a lack of inflation in wages makes life so much harder as a busy parent. Sometimes you don’t have the time to do the in-depth research and planning each week. For me I feel like I just about keep my head above water most of the time. But you can make little changes to have the pennies here and there. Do you have any big tips on saving money you would like to share?
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