Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Scrimping without scrimping on life

I don't think it is any secret that money is currently very tight in the James household. The unexpected arrival of our second child coupled with atrocious money management over the years have led to us being in a bit of a financial pickle.

Instead of wallowing in my own self pity, and waiting for the baliffs to arrive, I have decided to seize control. This has actually been quite positive as I feel like I am in control of my life again, and this has been really empowering! I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel now.

This is my top 5 tips for seizing control of your finances;

  1. BUDGETING. In my past life, the monthly wage used to go into my bank and the feeling of wealth meant the next two weeks were spent high living. This inevitably meant by the last two weeks of the month, we were absolutely broke. This in turn led to spending on credit cards which just compounded the issue. This has now stopped, maily because I knew we couldn't continue to spend more than what we had coming in. I now know exactly what I have to spend each week on food, fuel, childcare etc, and everything is recorded on a spreadsheet. This is really liberating, and I know don't have to hope for the best to know that all the bills will be covered each month.
  2. GENERATING EXTRA CASH. We can just about to cover the bills on our wages, but every month there seems that there is something else to pay for. Our MOT, new tyres, School uniform etc Instead of reaching for the Credit Card again, we have found a variety of ways to generate extra cash to pay for these additional costs. I have been taking all the overtime I can. This is a big help but the trade off means I don't get to spend as much time with the kids, and I don't get many days off. The way I see it is that, this overtime may not always be available so I should grab it when I can. I don't really think the kids miss out as I always make a point of spending quality time with them when I am not working. We also regularly have clear outs, and sell items on Ebay and Car boot sales. This is a great way of a quick cash injection. I also used to do a bit of freelance writing for a website which helped but alas this has come to an end!
  3. CHANGING MY SHOPPING HABITS- My old shopping habits would be to do a big monthly shop in one of the main supermarket chains. I would invariably run out of things all the time, and this used to lead to me to doing multiple top up shops each week. This meant that I often spent more than I needed too, and it was difficult to make sure I had enough provisions in the house before I ran out of money at the end of the month. I now do a weekly shop with a list and a strict budget. I have also changed my shop to Lidl, which I have found much cheaper than the main supermarket chains. They don't have as many special offers but the prices of goods are consistently lower.  I find that I am able to do my weekly shop for the four of us for between £50 and £60. There is also a weekly offer on the Lidl facebook page where I can get £5 off a £30 shop. If I split my £60 shop into 2 seperate shops, I can get £10 off. This is a massive help when your on a tight budget. I also plan my meals for the week so I know exactly what I need to buy and don't generate food waste. 
  4. BUDGET FAMILY ACTIVITIES-Everyone knows that taking a family out for a day can be an expensive business. By the time you have paid petrol, shelled out for entry tickets, food and goodies from the gift shop, you need to take out a mortgage! I have found that there are plenty of places that you can take your kids for free or very cheaply, where they can have just as much fun. For a few hours out, a trip down the local park, combined with feeding the local chickens, can be great fun, although you are reliant on the British weather. There are also lots of nature reserves and forestry very close to where I live. The kids love exploring and just letting off steam.  In the rain, a trip to the childrens section at the Library can be great fun, and my children always love a visit to the swimming pool. The natural History Museum in Cardiff is also not too far away, and is a great place too see Dinosaurs! 
  5. ENTERING COMPETITIONS-Since I had my first child in 2009, I have found a great new hobby and that's entering competitions. In fact this blog post is going to be entered into a competition. The chances of me getting rich through entering competitions is slim, but it has really helped us when we have been on a tight budget. Last year I won two midweek breaks in the UK for our family. This was a godsend as it meant that we could have a couple of holidays last year that we would never have been able to afford otherwise. Every month I seem to win a few things, and it just gives us little luxuries that we wouldn't have had otherwise. Yesterday the husband and I were able to go out for a meal with vouchers that I had one. Normally we just couldn't afford the eat out. Once the kids are in bed each night, I spend an hour or so entering competitions, and it really does reap rewards!

These are my tips, but there are plenty of other tips contained on www.pinching-pennies.com and also on the Pinching Pennies Facebook page aswell as the Penny Pinching Twitter Page

This is my entry in the Penny Pinching Blogging competition. Details on entering can be found here http://www.pinching-pennies.com/2013/04/win-a-100-amazon-gift-card/