Raising children usually means a season of household expenditure going up, and income inconveniently going down. Try our tips to make the family budget stretch that little bit further.
1. Keep an eye on your electricity bill and watch out for power gobblers like electric heaters and ovens, using them as efficiently as possible. The website energywise.govt.nz has lots of helpful tips on ways to keep your home healthy, warm and energy-efficient - thus lowering your power bill. Savings can be made all around the house, such as boiling only the water you need in the kettle, washing your laundry in cold water, and not drying clothes in unventilated areas. Make sure your kids are wearing enough clothing and heat the living area first, shutting off the rooms you’re not using. Invest in a heat pump if possible – they’re widely considered the most efficient way to heat your home
2.Save petrol by walking/scooting/riding where possible, and keep activities local. Look into your local walking school bus, and keep an ear out for carpooling opportunities. Free family activities are easier to find than we often first think. A Saturday afternoon trip to the movies could set you back more than $60. A family bike ride along one of the many cycle tracks recently developed throughout the country = no charge!
3. Menu plan. Plan the week’s menu before you shop, so you only buy what you need. Menu plans ensure you always have what you need to cook dinner, avoiding emergency trips to the dairy, extra supermarket ‘dashes’ and expensive takeaways
4.Shop online. Online shopping means you can keep an eye on your running total, so there are no frights at the checkout, and you can discreetly remove non-essential items from your trolley if you’re going over budget. If you’re prone to impulse buying, consider shopping online for non-grocery items as well, avoiding potential temptations at the mall
5.Set up a separate account for birthday, Christmas and holiday expenses and allocate money to it each payday. Spreading the cost of special occasions over the whole year avoids the need to resort to credit cards to make ends meet during expensive seasons like Christmas
6. Give resourcefully. Buy toys, books, fun T-shirts and craft supplies on sale and stash them away for presents. Encourage homemade gifts for friends and family (especially adults). Homemade baking, jams and preserves, or bath salts (see page 120 for some great recipes for bath treats) make lovely presents, and let’s be honest - we’ve all got far more stuff than we need anyway. Make your own greeting cards, or better still, set your kids up to make them - everyone loves children’s art. Which reminds us, kindy paintings make great gift wrap!
7.Host a clothes swap party. Hand-me-downs aren’t only for kids! Gather your favourite people along with their pre-loved clothing and accessories, and let the free-for-all begin. One (wo)man’s junk is another (wo)man’s treasure
8.Plan a low-cost but high-fun holiday by doing a house swap with a family in another town or city. This not only keeps a lid on your holiday spending, it also saves you the need of a house-sitter/pet-feeder. All going well, it could become an annual arrangement
9. Invest in cloth nappies and reusable wipes. Although the original outlay can seem high, cloth nappies offer a huge saving over your child’s nappy-wearing years. And the benefits are also environmental - clean bottoms and clean consciences!
10. Beg, borrow and trade. Babies don’t need all their gear to be brand new - you can save hundreds of dollars by setting up your nursery with pre-loved equipment. Just be sure to buy a new mattress for a secondhand bassinet or cot, and check carseat use-by dates if borrowing from a friend