I’ve never been particularly that brilliant at managing money, but as I’ve never really had that much of it (teachers don’t earn huge amounts after all!) but have always kept my head above water, I guess I’ve done ok! When you have kids, what you do with your money takes on a whole different meaning. Living from pay day to pay day is frightening when you think of the responsibility you have to make sure little people are clothed, warm, fed and safe. So, with a few years experience under my belt, here are my five top tips for managing the household budget.
Use a banking app and on-line tools
To keep an eye on what comes in and what goes out, I use banking apps on my phone, and on-line tools on the laptop. I find it so much easier to be able to check balances there and then- at the checkout of the supermarket in some cases!- so that I can move money if I need to. Online tools such as TSB’s mortgage repayment calculator help you to keep track of what you owe so that you can manage your budget more effectively too.
Apps are also a great way to keep an eye on what’s left to spend through the week- in the past I’ve been guilty of using my card to pay for things, without ever checking my balance to make sure the money is actually there. Which leads me on to my next tip…
Try to always have cash in your purse
Not always possible when a trip to the ATM involves dressing four kids and getting them all out of the house without incident, but I do try to have at least £10 in my purse for bits and bobs through the week. It’s easier to keep a track of actual money when you’re buying small things, and taking £10 from your account rather than small bits here and there helps you to keep an eye on your account balance too. Its so easy to just put everything on your card when you need to pay for things, but when it’s odd amounts I find I lose track easily. And, of course, there are still some places that charge for using your card if it’s under a certain amount so having cash works around this too.
Shop on-line for groceries
I find this helps me to stay on top of the main expense for the week, in more ways than one. When I shop on-line I tend to buy only what I need for the week (I write a menu of meals for the week and make sure I only get the ingredients that we need) and there’s minimum waste this way too. I always price check on-line to get the best deals, and shopping on-line means that you’re rarely tempted by things you don’t need either. On-line shopping also means we eliminate the stress of the weekly shop with four kids in tow too!
Have a buffer
We always try to have a buffer of cash that we can use for things that don’t crop up every month- such as school trips, dishwasher repairs and birthdays. When such things come along, we use the money in the buffer account to pay for them without dipping into the main account, which is used for bills etc.
Don’t stress about savings
In an ideal world, we would have a nice healthy savings account that we can turn to for holidays and treats etc. But in the real world, we rarely manage to save much each month. For now, we don’t stress about this because while the kids are so young and money is not exactly free flowing, we have had to come to terms with the fact that the savings account can wait. We do have accounts for the kids where birthday money is deposited regularly, and we do have small amounts of savings but we don’t stress about putting in certain amounts each month. We save what we can, making sure we always have enough to cover our outgoings every month. We also hold some back for treats for the kids such as days out etc, because life is for living. Yes, savings are important, but not at the expense of going without in the here and now. We’re not frivolous, but we do think a balance is a good idea.
What are your top tops for managing the household budget?
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