Not returning to work…
When we made the decision that I wouldn’t return to work it wasn’t taken lightly. We understood that by cutting out a wage we would need to make changes to our lifestyle but we knew that having a parent at home was what we wanted for our child. When we began to calculate costs we actually discovered that if I went back to work after maternity leave I would be doing it to pay for childcare. Due to my career change, I had already dropped my yearly income quite considerably and my new wages would have only covered petrol, car maintenance, childcare and work clothes etc. After that, I would probably be down to nothing. For us, this made the decision clear and it made sense for me to stay at home and look after Jake rather than working to pay somebody else to do the same job.
It’s not that easy for everyone…
I completely understand that every situation is different and if I had still been a retail manager I would have returned to work due to many reasons, including maternity pay and a good wage. In this situation deciding whether to stay at home is a much harder decision to make as is choosing whether to go part-time but I think that if being at home more is what you really want there are ways you can make this happen. I’m not saying that your lifestyle will be exactly the same or that it will be easy but if you can make it work why not try?
Simple ways to save…
Free baby classes
I have always steered clear of the pricey classes because more often than not you can do similar if not the same at a Children’s Centre. Baby massage and sensory both required payments BUT these were nowhere near what you pay for the private classes and they follow the same basic methods. Drop in classes, stay and play at the weigh in’s and classes for first time parents are all free. You will still have fun, still make friends and your baby will still benefit.
I have also held off on swimming lessons. I know these are extremely popular but I have always made sure that I have taken him almost every week since about 10 weeks of age. As long as he has confidence whilst in the water, I am happy to save money on lessons until he is 4/5.
Free days out
There are so many places local to you that are free to visit and some may surprise you. Obviously, there are the simple ones such as your local park, a walk in the woods, visiting the beach etc. but if you want to find more there is a fab website called Kids Days Out where you can easily search for family friendly attractions and check prices, opening hours and directions.
Shop around for offers on nappies/wipes/baby food. If I ever found a fab offer on nappies I would get a batch load- watch out because there is usually a limit in place by the store- and return for more later in the week. Stocking up may seem like a pain if you don’t have much space but if it saves you money it is worth it. Keep your eyes peeled for the baby and toddler events in the supermarkets, this is a great time of year to get savings across the product selections.
Also, keep an eye out on the regular clothing offers that take place in supermarkets and the annual sales. Buy clothes for the next stages in these sales. You will not only be prepared but also saving money in the long run.
This is one area I wish I had looked into after I had Jake. I didn’t realise how easily you can now source washable nappies, breast pads and wipes and looking back I reckon I could have saved a pretty penny had I done a little more research whilst I was pregnant.
These may look expensive but when you stop and work out how much you would spend if you keep visiting on the normal daily fee you will be paying through the nose when you don’t have to. I have saved Jake’s Christmas money each year to purchase my annual pass for our local country park when it re-opens after the winter closure in February. Most of these attractions don’t charge for a child up until the ages of 2/3 so all you will need to do is pay out for yourself. Having a pass means that we can get out as often as we like, meet up with friends and make memories. We were visiting the park 3 times a week before he started pre-school which meant that after a month I’d already had my money’s worth and the rest of the year was technically free!
pin me for later:
Hair, nails, facials… whatever you were getting pre-child you will probably be reigning in now. I have never been one for going to a salon for things but I do get my hair highlighted. This now costs quite a lot of money but I discovered a little trick with my local hairdressing salon. If I didn’t go very often they would send me vouchers via email to entice me back! I made some great savings by leaving my roots to grow out as far as I could bear and then using their vouchers, some of which were £20 off.
Learn to love to do your own nails and buy face masks etc. to enjoy with your new mum friends or by yourself in the evening once the kids are in bed. One thing I did do was to save my spare pennies in a money box and once it was filled I put it towards a well-deserved budget spa day with some Mummy friends.
Trips away for us as a couple have dwindled since having Jake but this is not something I am bitter about and it’s not even something that I feel we need so much now. My attitude has changed since having a child and being at home as a family is far more important. When we do go away it is for a reason, such as going to a show or a gig. We will plan this in advance and my husband is brilliant on the internet at looking for the best deals on hotels. Secret Escapes gave us a fantastic deal at the most beautiful hotel in Wales for our ten year anniversary. I would also recommend checking the price of travel prior to leaving and working out if taking a car would be cheaper than a train. If the train is your choice of transport speak to somebody at the station to ensure that you are getting the best ticket for your needs. When we visited London a few weeks ago we started using the self-service ticket system but we couldn’t seem to find a good deal for the weekend and the tube. We spoke to a member of staff who came over and told us how we could get the most out of a ticket for the least amount of money and he even put it all through for us with a little discount code… It pays to ask.
We were always a holiday abroad type couple. Pre-baby we never thought about holidaying in the UK and would dream of spending our two weeks in the sun and doing very little. When it came to Jake’s first holiday he was just 6 months old and I couldn’t imagine taking him on a plane, having to think about the heat and not being able to sunbathe on the beach all day. We decided to try Cornwall and chose a cute little caravan on a lovely holiday park. That holiday was amazing and I was gutted when we had to return home. We did so much, we saw so many brilliant landmarks and attractions and we learnt that the UK has so much to offer a family. The following year we returned to the same park and were even given the same caravan!
This year we have chosen to holiday in Wales as prices to go abroad this year have shot up and we just cannot justify going. We are fine with this because we know we will have fun wherever we go and even though the weather can be a bit of a pain there is always something you can find to do if it rains. It also means that you will experience much more than if you went abroad and sat on a beach every day.
To be honest we have been so tired the last few years that a good night for us is a film on the telly and an early night! Nights out aren’t quite the same after having a child… there’s no hangover day, that’s for sure. I can add up the nights out I have had since Jake was born on one hand. These may be more important to you but it is an easy area to cut back on and make some extra savings.
We are both very active people and have always enjoyed exercise. Gym memberships can be extortionate though and if you can’t always make it there you are never going to get your money’s worth. If you like to keep fit there are free and cheaper options. Running and walking are your free options and if you aren’t feeling particularly motivated you could always join a local running group and make friends at the same time. My husband has always played 6 a side football and he continues to do this every week. It is a cheap way of keeping fit and meeting up with his mates. Pay as you go classes may look desirable at a £5/£6/£7 a time BUT have you ever stopped to work out how much this equates to over a year? I now pay a monthly fee to a studio and I can attend any class I like for that amount of money, as long as it is during the day. I try to do three classes a week and am making a saving on the pay-as-you-go classes I was previously paying out for. Check out your local gyms and studios to see if they offer better rates for off-peak classes.
Limit your treats
If you can live without it, you don’t need to be spending out on it. If you are in desperate need of clothes, of course, don’t restrict yourself but if it’s a luxury item that will not benefit you- a pricey fancy coat, for example- I am afraid you will need to just admire it from afar. If you can afford to put a set amount aside each week/month and make a conscious effort to make that treat attainable in the future then do this and give yourself something to look forward to.
Food shopping is probably where most of you spend the majority of your money and with the supermarkets constantly having deal battles it has made it easier for us to shop around for the best deals. There are so many areas I could cover here: coupons, internet shopping, comparing prices, discounts, meal planning etc. but I have found the perfect article over on Savings for Savvy Mums that has this topic covered from all angles; How to cut your family food bill in half and still eat right.
This has always been a difficult task for me especially when Jake wasn’t sleeping well but I am much better at it now and I have my favourite go-to stores for my bargains. I have previously attempted to hit the cheap supermarkets, then top up on brands in the mainstream ones and even tried timing the reductions but it can all get a bit much and I found I was wasting quite a bit of time and petrol. I want to be at home to be able to enjoy spending time with my son and that doesn’t involve driving around lots of shops, so my secret is to get my cleaning products, light bulbs, homewares, crafty bits for Jake and DIY items in the budget shops, such as, Home Bargains, B and M, Poundstretcher and Poundland. These are also great for picking up some random items too!
My biggest tip would have to be to get every loyalty card on offer in the stores you shop in regularly. My purse is packed out with cards but I am gaining points, offers or deals with each purchase and these can come in so handy during one of those tight weeks/months. It doesn’t even stop with supermarkets, I have cards for The Works, Wyvale Garden Centre, B and Q, Boots, Costa Coffee and Pets at Home as well as the usual Nectar card and Tesco cards. If you don’t shop in one of them often you will occasionally be offered better savings through the post which benefits both yourself and the shop. Don’t forget that Nectar points can be gained in other stores and spent in any of them too!
And the easiest option…
Enjoy being at home
Enjoy being together in your own home and garden. We spend much more time at home now that Jake is at pre-school in the week because he needs that down time to relax. When Jake had chicken pox we had no choice but to stay at home but we found plenty of activities to keep us busy. We will also quite happily go out on a dog walk or visit family at the weekends and just enjoy being together. Fun doesn’t always need to cost money.
Do you do anything else to save money in your household? I would love to hear more tips.