I like to think I know what I’m doing when it comes to saving money. As the writer of the Skint Dad blog and the winner of Savoo’s UK’s Smartest Shopper competition I have got the credentials to back it up.
I decided that going forward we would spend less, cut back and live frugally but without living without.
Spending less, cutting back, living frugally but ‘without living without’ is the mantra I live by, but you know what? It wasn’t always like this.
There used to be a time when I wouldn’t think twice about having a pub lunch, buying that designer shirt or having a £25 takeaway.
Those were the days.
Those were the days when I lived for the weekend. Those were the days when I didn’t worry about money, didn’t worry about consequences and certainly didn’t worry anyone apart from myself.
Those were the days I never had any money in bank.
Fast forward fifteen years and things have changed. I am now a stay-at-home-dad with two children and a house to run whilst the better half puts the bread on the table.
Only in the last three months has this been the situation. It arose after we were looking at our finances one evening and realised that the cost of childcare and travel (I commuted to London every day from Kent) was more than I was bringing home every month!
As you can imagine this came as quite a shock.
The first thing I did was ask for a pay rise which was greeted with a slightly awkward, “No Mr Willis”. I then tried to see if we could find cheaper alternative childcare to which I also fell flat on my face.
I had to submit.
Long story short, I became a stay at home dad and changing nappies, cooking dinner and managing the household purse became my 9-5.
I quickly learnt how to be a Dad. Not the Dad who just played with his children at weekends and made a mess of their bedrooms, but a Dad who knew how each one liked their food to be served on the plate, that could still be on time for the school run after leaving the house 10 minutes late and who could finally get a grip of the house hold finances.
After a month or two of being at home, I soon started to realise that we were still in quite a bad situation financially and something had to give. I knew that if we carried on the way we were going, I would be going back to how I was 15 years ago – no money in the bank.
We had to cut back further and there were a few obvious savers – the heating went off earlier and came on later, the food bill shrunk and I had to learn to fix holes in socks (and not moan about it).
I could see living like this would be tough. I was prepared to cut back more and more but I felt bad for the children. It wasn’t their fault we had little money. It was mine. So for them, I decided that going forward we would spend less, cut back and live frugally but without living without.
Here are some of the creative money-saving ideas I use to save more but not scrimp on life.
There was a time when we would easily spend upwards of £20 on takeaway food at the weekend. This soon stopped when we assessed our finances but instead of going without we started making fakeaways. We set a budget of £5 and create from scratch – the same food we were spending a fortune on. Learning how to cook good food on a budget is so much fun!
2. Have a BOGOF Day
If you want to save some serious cash, arrange a BOGOF day with a friend or family member. This is where you go shopping together and look for the deals you both want. You can split the cost and never pay more than half price for the items.
3. Skill Swap
This is a great idea. For instance, if you are a whizz with WordPress or skilled on social media you can approach small businesses that you require a service from and see if they need help with setting up a Facebook page or website for their business.
4. Make Your Own
Instead of buying expensive decoration for occasions like Birthdays, Christmas and Easter etc, we have great fun recycling everyday household items and turning them into Christmas crackers, Easter bonnets, Halloween ghosts, the list is endless. This is great fun at any age.
5. Online Tools
Make use of online money saving tools. This includes Savoo for vouchers and deals, Topcashback and Quidco for cash back and MySupermarket for price comparison for food. We get the children involved with this as, just like their dad, they love finding a good deal.