For an early post in this blog I just want to share some of what I feel are the most important things to consider when managing family finances. I plan to get into more specifics in other posts, but this should be enough to get you thinking.
#1: Take every moment you can get to think about how you might save
Family life is challenging. Kids are intense, require tons of work and attention, and you never know what is lurking right around the corner (trips to doctors, the dreaded revolving door of nursery plague etc.).
With this in mind my advice to take any random moments you can get to consider how you might save money. This might seem obvious, or some reading this might think its not the most helpful, but by taking moments to THINK about how you spend, you are already do more than most others out there.
For me, this normally takes the form of breaks or lunch at work, when my other half is watching something on TV I have no interest in (Hello Vampire Diaries) or even toilet trips (aren’t smartphones wonderful). But it really can be any time, and the odd slots will take different forms for everyone.
#2: Budget Budget Budget
This one is a little harder to get into at first, but I cant stress how this should be one of the cornerstones of any frugal families finances. Take the time to build a budget. It doesn’t have to be perfect, no one need understand it but you, and it can take any form. The logic here is really as simple as, how can you know where you might save unless you know where your money is and what it’s doing?
I actually started out with a ballpoint pen on the back of an old envelope (more on this later), and now I have migrated into more fancy excel spreadsheets.
The nice thing about this one these days is that there are tons of tools and apps out there to help you do this. Some good ones I can recommend to get you started are MoneySavingExpert’s budget spreadsheet (Link) , and on the app front, I have found Yolt useful (Link).
I will definitely write a huge blog post on this at some near point in the future.
#3: Save what you can afford to
Family life is full of unknowns and there are suprises around every corner. It is also massively variable. One month your only outgoing might be food and nappies, and then the following month you might need to find cash for a new carseat, new shoes and clothes etc.
As such, I recommend you attempt to save wherever possible. This can be done in a bunch of ways, regular saving by direct debit or standing order, scooping up everything you have left over at the end of a month and dumping it into savings, or even more fancy automatic savings such as those offered by Moneybox (Link) (Note I don’t actually use this myself but hear good things from others).
Without a bucket of cash that you can dip into when these unforeseeable events occur, you run the risk of putting yourself in serious financial difficult, or worse DEBT. On that note…..
#4: Avoid Debt at all costs
I cant stress this enough, Debt is the enemy. It is a creeping, toxic, infectious evil that grows and consumes as it does. It is an incredible trap that is engineered to suck in day to day working people and then never let go.
There will be times in your life when you need to go into debt of some form, and these can be unavoidable, such as a mortgage on a family home, or even a new car if it is absolutely required, but for everything else, debt should really be an absolute last resort. More on avoiding debt later, and when you have to use debt, how to do it better.
#5: Challenge yourself to do less costly things with the kids
The temptation is always there to take the kids to a toy shop, or to go to some all singing all dancing swimming lessons, or to go for a day out to Peppa Pig World. But genuinely, kids often don’t know the difference between fun that costs absolutely nothing, and fun that costs an arm and a leg.
So rather than taking the easy way out and just going to the theme park and buying tickets on the door, or driving down to the toy shop, think for a moment and challenge yourself to do something cheaper. It can be eye opening.
Some great examples are taking the kids with trikes or pushchairs to the park, play gardening (if you have one), going for a picnic, going to pet shops or garden centres to see plants and animals, or even free museums (there is a great one in our immediate area called Cliffe Castle for anyone looking for a day out in Yorkshire). And for god sake take toys, games, food, drinks etc with you from home so you aren’t tempted to buy when you are out.
It is amazing seeing them having a ton of fun and knowing it cost you absolutely nothing.
#6: Allow yourself some luxury
This one might seem counter intuitive, but hear me out.
If you are unhappy whilst saving money, or the pressures of being a parent are getting on top of you, you wont be an effective money saver, and more importantly wont be an effective parent or partner.
So it is totally OK to allow yourself the occasional luxury to keep you happy and contented, so that you can be more effective the rest of the time.
I am a man of many vices including trainers (love a new shoe), KFC and video games. Rest assured I find ways to do these at less cost too but more on that another time.
That about rounds it up. If you can manage to consider these 6 things, I’m confident you are already doing a ton better than most of your peers, and your well on your way to getting more from your money.