Living on a Budget: Less Money & Happier

We have gone from the income of two full time workers, to one.

I can’t quite say it’s been split in half because I earnt a bit less than my husband, but it’s still significant.

Any house with two full-time working parents will tell you that it is a balancing act unknown even to the most feted Cirque du Soleil acrobat. It is nigh on impossible. Especially without help. When I was going to return to work, I was planning on having a nanny, so that the kids would be fed, and the cleaning and washing and ironing would be done when I got home. For me, it would have been the only way to make it worthwhile.

But when my request for flexible working was declined (unjustified, and I did get it overturned, but I’d thrown my toys out of the pram by then), I needed a Plan B. Which was give-up work and be happier.

So, how do we do it?

Well…let me share what I have learnt…

  1. Account for all your bills and ensure that money is in the account.  Sounds obvious, but you need to know EXACTLY how much ‘disposable income’ you have each week so you can plan accordingly.
  2. Plan, Plan, Plan.  You need to know what your outgoings will be for the next couple of months so you can budget your weekly money accordingly.  Things like birthdays may need to be saved up for over the course of several months.  Likewise, if you’re having friends over for dinner one week, it’s likely you’ll need more money for the extra food and drinks.
  3. Have a contingency fund of £50 or so.  There will always be times when the unexpected gets thrust upon you, a school trip, an impromptu night out, or just a need for wine when there’s none in the fridge.  Much better to have it there to spend, rather than using the credit card.  Always re-work your plan to re-pay any money back to the fund.
  4. Cut your costs.  Again, obvious and fundamental.  We had our home revalued when our mortgage deal ended and managed to shave £200 off our monthly repayments.  We didn’t use the landline at all, and as our mobiles have unlimited 3G we cut the Sky package.  We don’t watch TV and it was money that was wasted.  Our phones also didn’t have an upgrade when it was due.  By doing these three things we saved ourselves over £300 a month.
  5. Accept you have less money.  For me, this was getting over my snobbery and shopping at Lidl.  Best thing ever.  Our shopping bills now come in at around £40 a week, for a family of four and I assure you we don’t starve! We also don’t snack; we never have done.  This is a combination of a healthy eating/teeth-saving strategy on my behalf, but it also saves a vast amount of money.  No crisps, no fizzy drinks, no sweets or chocolate; dead money on big calories.  Also, when planning family activities we always take a picnic, and there are so many things to do that cost very little, there’s really no reason to pay lots of money for days out.  I doubt very much it’s only my children who get their rocks off jumping in muddy puddles at country parks or getting covered from top to toe in sand at the beach.
  6. Plan to treat yourself.  Don’t be frugal all the time!  You need to have those little treats every now and again or you’ll just be miserable.
  7. Think of the value.  If it’s worth it, go for it! I picked up £300 of winter clothes for the kids in a store closing down sale for £60.  They’re sorted for winter and I had it all at bargain prices.  Totally worth annihilating my contingency fund for.  However, stopping at the pub for lunch on the way home….is that £60 really worth no washing up?  Not for me.  Not now I know that is the equivalent to a WHOLE WEEK of food shopping and petrol.

I’m aware I sound incredibly boring, but I hand on heart promise that we are LOVING our life with more family-time, less stress and fewer pennies, a compromise worth making for the things that money can’t buy.

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