So many choices out there it can be rather confusing… Here's what I've found out so far…

If you have been a reader of my blog you will know that I had to go back to work when my wee boy was 6 months old…. The bills were calling….

This has been fantastic for our bank balance and to catch up on bills etc but it’s also been very hard for us as we have had to miss out on quite a bit of Jack’s life, especially Dad who was working 12 hours a day 6 days a week.

Well it’s now just over 1 year and we’re back down to a single income. Dad’s staying at home for the moment! It’s great, I only have to get myself up and ready in the mornings, house work is done, tea is cooked and lots more Dad and son bonding time! We hope to keep dad at home for as long as possible (11 weeks and counting so far) or for as long as he can handle it!

Now this is all great but it still doesn’t curb the bills flowing though the door, mortgage still needs to be paid, we all need to be fed (we have two big dogs as well) so I’ve had to come up with some money-saving ideas and tighten the purse strings once again. I would love to hear what others recommend and what they do for their household… It all helps the cause!

1. Power

Now that somebody is home again all day we’ve noticed a slight increase in our power bill. So I’ve become a bit of a nag about this unfortunately but got to do what we got to do.

– Turn off electronics at the wall… Did you know that if you leave your PC on all day and night it costs about $0.21 per day to run! This might not sound like much but $75 per year is quite a bit… Imagine what else you could spend this money on when you only have one income coming in!

– Lighting makes up about 10% of your home’s energy costs so it’s makes sense to change from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs potentially saving 75% of that energy used! Plus these bulbs also last longer too. Another easy tip when it comes to lighting is turn the lights your are not using off… Could possibly save a further $274 per year!

– Wash in cold water (approx $152P.A) and turn your water heating down

– Check to see if your provider has lower rates at night… If so do the washing then, the dishes etc

– Compare your provider with another at Electric Rate

If you would like further information on how to save money and to see where I got the figures from, I’ve found a really fantastic website called Saving Electricity really worth a look and I’ll be visiting this site often.

2. Flyers

I have become a bit of a hoarder for flyers and deals. We get ours delivered every Wednesday and Saturday and I always read them. Not only do you get to compare supermarket prices but you can also find some really good bargains and coupons. I’ve recently saved $20 on a Christmas bike for Jack by looking in the good old Junk mail now I just have to curb my excitement and hold out to Christmas before giving it to him.

3. Bills

Create a budget template.

I currently use one that comes with Microsoft Word. It’s great, it allows me to type in all our income, bills and what we owe each payday. I use this spreadsheet on payday and though out the week to keep us on track. I have also set up automatic payments for all of our bills that way I know everything is paid on payday and what we have left over is ours to spend.

Another tip I would highly recommend is cash… We were a family of plastic and to be honest this is a very hard way to keep track of what little spare funds you do have. A small stop at the shop here.. couple of bucks there and before you know it you still have a week to go before your next income and you’ve run out of cash.

So now I take everything out (other than the bill money). I split it all up eg grocery, spending, fuel etc and that way seeing the money in cash makes you more accountable, you know you only have so much left… Do you really need that $2 item?

4. Stretch

Stretch out your dinners by adding lentils and beans. I’ve yet to try this out myself but will be trying over the next couple of weeks so stay tuned for some dinner stretching recipes.

5. Home baking and cooking

Try baking instead of store brought items, generally works out cheaper, you have control in what goes in the baking, family will love it (I promise) and there is truly nothing that is more satisfying and tasty as home baking. There are plenty of websites you can have a look at to do home baking. Just remember if it seems quicker and easier to buy that packet of biscuits in the shopping, it is but at what cost?

Takeaway nights are now extremely rare in this house. Instead I now do my own fish and chip night, started buying herbs and spices and making curries and it’s so much cheaper. This is one thing I will continue to do even when we do go back to a two income family.

6. Vege patch

For a couple of dollars for some seedlings, just the basics, you can create a very small vege garden that can save you money on fresh produce. I’ve got a very small garden that’s planted out with Lettuce, tomato’s, strawberries and cucumbers that’s it and this creates just a small saving on the grocery bills each week. Plus it’s great at teaching my little one about eating well, gives us both something to do and it’s awesome to be able to go out to the garden to pick lettuce leaves for dinner!

If you have very limited space you could even use planter boxes on your window sills and even if it was just lettuce then it’s one less grocery item needed.

7. Leftovers

Simple, no brought lunches any more. Instead every night I make extra of what ever it is I’m making for dinner that night and take it for lunch to work the next day.

8. Parks and Recreation

Read the paper, look at the flyers in shop windows, keep an eye out on the t.v, listen to the radio for free or nearly free family events that you can go to on the weekends. Visit parks, go for walks think and do things as a family that doesn’t cost. We’ve recently made a pact to walk one tree hill (a big hill with one tree at the top close to where we live) each week for one free family time and two to get fit.

9. Fuel Savings –

This is one area that like taxes you know are steadily increasing. I’ve done a bit of research on how to make my gas guzzler of a car more fuel-efficient and am finding it seems to be making a bit of an impact on how much I spend on fuel. I’ve got my information from a few websites but have a look at this site if your interested as contains loads of fuel saving ideas – 66 Ways to save money on Gasoline

Here are the ones I’ve put into practice –

• I make sure I (well I make my other half check it) regularly check  my Tyre pressure and make sure they are at the correct pressure, this saves less drag on the car and the fuel!

• I’ve pulled all unnecessary items out of my car, removed everything from my boot and only have what I need in the car each day. This saves by making your car lighter therefore less effort is needed to accelerate.

• I also have about 5 petrol stations all very close to one another… I shop around via the net first to compare them all then shop at the cheapest.

• I use coupon and shopping vouchers to get discounts as long as it’s one of the five that are closer together, I don’t go out of my way to get fuel otherwise that defeats the purpose of saving money by spending more money-getting to an out-of-the-way station.

• When the weather allows it I turn off the air-con when driving around town, crack the window slightly and when out on the highway I turn on the air-con if needed and keep the windows up, it’s meant to stop the drag.

10. Markets/thrift stores

Shop at your local market for food and produce if you have one close to you as you will generally find this cheaper and fresher than a supermarket plus it gives you a family outing for the day.

And it may seem really budget but try shopping for clothing at a thrift shop. I recently brought a nearly brand new jumpsuit for the little man for $3 can’t beat that plus thrift shops have other great household items at a fraction of the price it would cost you to buy new. “One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure” or something along those lines.

Good luck with the money-saving and budgeting and again I would love people to comment on how they save and budget for their families.

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