Money used to slip through our fingers before we started budgeting. We had no clue how much all of the little extras added up. When we finally sat down and wrote out a family budget it was so, so clear to see. A coffee here, a magazine there, the odd sandwich for lunch. It was costing us a small fortune each month. That’s when we decided that we needed to cut certain things out in order keep more of our money. and doing this has saved us thousands over the course of the year.
1 Expensive coffees
My husband and I both love our Starbucks coffees. We’ve been drinking them since we met and I have such fond memories of us finishing work and uni for the day and meeting up in a cosy Starbucks, ordering our cappuccinos and discussing what happened during our day. This continued right into our relationship and up until recently, despite both WORKING TOGETHER running our business we would still pop into Starbucks and spend a small fortune. When we finally sat down and added up what we spent in Starbucks in just one month we were astounded. £120 on coffee and snacks!! That is a huge amount an
d clearly not something that we could afford to be doing on a monthly basis. In fact, that amount was enough to cover our council tax bill. So we made a vow to stop completely while paying down our debt. It hurt for a week or two but then we actually got used to it and really didn’t miss it. Now that we’re debt free we do allow ourselves the odd treat but it’s always within budget and we never make a habit out of going.
2 Fast food
Another big spend area for us was take-aways and eating out. This was often a result of being utterly exhausted after a hard day at work and not being able to summon the energy to figure out what to cook for dinner. There is nothing worse than being tired and hungry yourself at 6pm and having your kids asking over and over ‘Mum…. what’s for dinner? I’m huuuuungrrrrrrryyyyyy’. The result would often be to bundle everyone into the car and drive to the nearest restaurant to grab a bite to eat. It came with the added bonus of having no washing-up to deal with! But of course, this isn’t a sustainable way of living and it means that it no longer becomes a treat. I have found that meal planning has been invaluable in stopping behaviour. My stress levels around dinners have reduced hugely because I know exactly what I’m cooking for dinner that night and I know I have all of the ingredients in too. I think I’ll always hate cooking but meal planning definitely helps me out. Just by taking these simple steps we are saving around £250 each month. Take a look at how I meal plan weekly here.
3 Treats for the kids
I suffer so badly with mummy guilt. I always have done and I think I will always be the same. I feel so guilty that I work so much. My husband and I are both self employed and run our own pet care business. Being self-employed I find it very hard to switch off. To make matters worse I also work on my side hustles in the evening to bring in extra money. To make up for this I used to spend money on things that I thought they’d like. Different toys every week, games for their gadgets, meals out. They never used to really play with these things and it was usually a total waste of money. I’ve now realised that it’s not ‘things’ my children need – it’s family time. They enjoy doing things with us. And that needn’t cost a penny! So we ditched ‘things‘ and started ‘doing‘. We will often go on walks as a family. We are lucky that there are many lovely green spaces where we live, despite being in the middle of London. Greenwich Park and Oxleas Woods are firm favourites and are totally free. I also take time to play board games and card games with them. This can while away a few hours. Other things we like are having craft time, baking, watching movies together and having water fights. Of course I haven’t stopped buying them things completely but I am more mindful of what I buy and will always try to buy second hand first. I find ebay and Facebook marketplace are brilliant for second hand buys.
4 Mobile phone contract
You can save so much money here if you don’t always upgrade to the latest handset. All of my adult life I upgraded as soon as my contract ran out. I did it without a second thought. My husband did the same. For years and years we each paid £40-£50 per month. EACH! When we started to take more interest in our finances we realised that we could simply keep our perfectly fine current handsets and and just switch to a SIM only contract. So that’s exactly what we did and we are each saving £42 per month each. That’s £84 that we can now use for savings or to pay off a bill. There are so many great SIM only deals. We are both currently with Vodafone. Our bill is £20pm and we get unlimited texts and minutes and a whopping 60GB of data. It’s a cashback offer so after claiming the cashback our monthly bill is just £8pm each. Having to claim cashback puts a lot of people off but it is so, so easy. You simply print off certain bills and upload them. Your cheque then arrives in the post shortly afterwards.
5 TV subscriptions
I’m not gonna lie – our whole family LOVES TV and there is nothing better for us than dragging our duvets downstairs, dishing up some snacks and popping on a movie. But we were spending a fortune on various TV packages. We had a Virgin broadband and TV package, costing us £65 each month. Then we had NOW TV, costing around £30pm, Amazon at £7.99 monthly and Netflix, also £7.99 each month. That was over £110 every single month on TV!! Absolute madness. I mean, yes, we loved watching TV but we didn’t love spending that much doing it! So we stripped it right back. We cut our Virgin package to just cover our broadband usage, saving us £40 each month. We cut out Amazon, saving £7.99 each month and we cut back on some of our Now TV channels with a saving of £15 per month. We kept Netflix though as we couldn’t bear to be parted! So, overall we are saving £63 each month and we still have more than enough movies and TV programmes to watch!