Many years ago, in our parents’ generation, it was common – if not standard practice – for there to be only one breadwinner in the house. It’s hard to shake the feeling that living standards have since been squeezed. For many working families, having only one person earning an income just wouldn’t be sustainable. And the future is looking even more pessimistic for millennials and future generations.
There are two ways to change all of that. The first is to simply earn more money. But seeing as getting a pay rise isn’t really within our control, option two can be a much easier – to cut down on living costs and expenditure.
Obviously cutting costs to the point of obsession can be unhealthy, and certainly one doesn’t want to negatively affect quality of life. But the good news is that there are actually some pretty painless ways of freeing up more funds in the budget.
One area in which UK families often end up paying far more than they should is for energy and gas. Although oil prices have moved upwards recently, they have been unusually low for the last couple of years. Yet energy firms failed to pass this benefit on adequately to their existing customers. Indeed, to avoid being ripped off, the best thing to do is switch supplier, which, on average, can save households around £393 a year. And with price hikes on the horizon, according to industry experts, the time to change supplier and secure a good-value, fixed energy rate is now.
If your kids are under the age of 15, you could save up to £1,000 per year with the childcare vouchers scheme. If your total household income is less than £46,000 a year, and your employer(s) offer the scheme, then it is definitely worth checking into eligibility. The key advantage comes in that you will essentially be able to pay for childcare out of your pre-tax and NI income – similar to salary sacrifice. The only other caveat is that the childcare provider will need to be registered – most of them are, thankfully.
Spend within your means.
Try to spend within your means. It’s often easier said than done, especially when there is the temptation to put treats on a credit card, and worry about it another time. By all means, don’t live like a hermit – just try to make sure you can afford the fun things in life. If something does crop up and it can’t wait – perhaps consider a payday loan if you don’t have savings to raid. Just ensure you borrow what you can afford.
Free family excursions
Keeping kids entertained and stimulated is often considered an expensive exercise, but it need not be. There are actually plenty of activities which don’t cost a penny, particularly when it comes to museums and galleries. So whether you child is interested in Roman forts, art, forensic science, railways or sport, there will be plenty there to keep them interested.
Be a shrewd budgeter
At the end of the day, there is no substitute for sound financial planning. So whether pen and paper or spreadsheets are your bag, documenting your daily or weekly expenditure is a very worthwhile exercise. It’s a good habit to get into, and you’ll almost certainly be surprised to learn where all of your money goes – and, more importantly, find ways to make cutbacks. Whether it’s that daily coffee from Costa or over-inflated shopping bills, chances are you’ll discover some easy wins to ensure the family’s books become better balanced.
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