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Saving money and increasing income

How do I save money while raising a family?

The time raising children can be one of the most expensive periods in your life, especially if you’re dealing with debt or have a limited income. However, there are ways to save money.

By understanding your budget you can save money on your living costs and other expenses. Budgeting can help reduce stress over money, allowing you to focus on the ones you love the most.

Regularly review your budget

Understanding what you and your family are spending each month is the first step to taking control of your finances.

Regularly writing down all of your priority bills, living expenses, income and debts in a budget can be a massive help when raising a family. A budget helps you track where your family’s money is going every month, as well as helping you to plan for any future expenses such as school uniforms and Christmas.

Our guide can help you to put your budget together.

If you’re dealing with debt or have a limited income, you may be tempted to drastically reduce your living costs beyond what you need each month. Don’t do this – it’s very important that your budget is realistic. Whatever your financial situation, your family’s wellbeing should always come first.

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Work out how to save money on household bills

Think about expenses such as your phone bill, utility provider and broadband. Is there a way you could reduce the cost of your bills?

For example, many people save money when they have a water meter. You may also find that you’re paying more than you need on monthly contracts such as your mobile phone and broadband. If that’s the case, you could potentially get a cheaper service elsewhere.

Budgeting tip: With utilities, make sure you’ve budgeted for the amount you’re actually spending, rather than the estimated amount.

Regularly compare what you pay now to what competitors are offering. Check if it’s worth switching to a new service at least once a year. You might be surprised by how much money you could save.

Encourage your family to be energy conscious. It’s a great way of saving on your energy bills, as well as helping the environment. Get them to unplug items when they're not in use, and keep doors and windows closed to retain heat in the colder months.

Save money on food by planning ahead and batch cooking

By planning your meals, you can save time and energy as well as money. Try cooking enough food to cover your meals for a number of days, and freeze it for later.

Get the whole family involved in meal planning. It’ll help your kids understand how to save money and prepare healthy meals.

Before going food shopping, make sure you write a shopping list of what you need. This’ll help to prevent impulse buys because “if it’s not on the list, we don’t need it”.

Budgeting tip: Keep your receipts, and compare what you’re spending against what you expected to spend. Then you can be sure you’re allowing the right amount of your shopping every month.

For more great tips on food shopping on a budget, read our guide on how to save money on meals and your food shopping.

If you ever find yourself struggling to cover the cost of your family meals, emergency help with money and food is available.

Explore ways to save money on clothes

Your children will go through a lot of clothes over the years, but there are ways to save money as they grow:

Budgeting tip: Try setting some money aside each month for when you’ll need to buy new school uniforms. If you’re on a long-term debt solution, there’ll be an amount in your budget that’s allocated for costs like this.

  • Give second hand shops a chance. Most charity shops will only take good-quality clothes. If you’re lucky, you can often find clothes that are brand new, sometimes even with the original tags.
  • Buy ‘pre-loved’ clothes in ‘job lots’. People often sell off their children’s clothes online in bulk as a means to get rid of it quickly. This means that you could potentially get several outfits for a fraction of the original price.
  • Find out if you’re eligible for help. Some schools have schemes in place in order to help families over uniform costs. Ask your school if they have any kind of assistance in place, and if you might be able to apply.

Looking to save money on clothes for the whole family? Our guide can help.


Prepare early to save money for birthdays, Christmas and other occasions

It can seem like birthdays and Christmas get more expensive each year. Planning ahead and setting a limit on how much money you spend on presents can really help during these fun but expensive times of the year.

You can reduce your Christmas and birthday costs by: 

  • Keeping your ‘gift list’ to a minimum. Don’t feel pressured to buy a present for everyone you know. Try asking friends and family how they feel about exchanging gifts this year. You may find they might also appreciate not having to buy lots of presents, too 
  • Set a spending limit per person and stick to it 
  • Start putting money aside at least three months before Christmas or someone’s birthday. Even loose change in a jar will add up over time 
  • Buying presents for a child? Ask family members if they’d like to contribute towards a big gift, rather than individually buying small or cheap gifts. That way, you’re more likely to get something your child will use for longer, and it puts less financial pressure on you 
  • Use a Christmas savings scheme. There are a number of websites that make it easy for you to save money in advance for Christmas, and use them to buy vouchers for Christmas presents. You can save by direct debit too – it’s an easy and reliable way to put away the money you need 
  • Keep an eye out for 2-4-1 deals on toys. High street stops tend to run discounts on toys a few months before Christmas 
  • Look out for pre-loved games, books and music. Major online and offline retailers have thriving markets in second-hand items where you can make huge savings over the ticket prices for new items 
  • Stick to the ‘want, need, wear, read’ rule. When deciding what to buy for a present, make sure it’s “Something they want, something they need, something they’ll wear, or something they’ll read’. These simple rules can help you spend your money wisely 
  • Look out for discounts on travel costs. Train companies will start selling cheap train tickets around 13 weeks before Christmas.
  • Use cashback websites whenever you make an online purchase. If you do this throughout the year, you may find you have extra money to use for Christmas 
  • Buy Christmas cards and wrapping in the January sales. You can often get them for a fraction of what they’d cost in the run-up to Christmas

Budgeting tip: if you use our free budgeting template, there’ll be a section on sundries and emergencies. It’s here that you can set aside a realistic amount of money each month towards Christmas and birthdays.


Find free or cheap ways to keep the kids entertained

Many parents worry that they’ll struggle to pay for days out and fun activities. 

Budgeting tip: taking the children to the cinema? Many cinema chains offer kids clubs, where kids go for a very low price at certain times of the day or week. Some chains offer free screenings to parents of babies and toddlers for films with a U, PG or 12 rating.

To try to save money:

  • Make use of your local library. Libraries are a brilliant way to get free reading for your children. They’re a mini-excursion too – kids love browsing and flicking through books while they’re there. Books are a great way to get kids away from their screens, too. Finally, it can be a great place for you to get a bit of peace and quiet!
  • Look on your local council website. Many local councils will put on free family events during school breaks. Do research a couple of weeks before the school break is due to start, and see if you can fill the calendar with fun and free activities.
  • Visit your local SureStart centre. They often have play areas and schemes available for children under 5. You can find your local SureStart centre on the government website.
  • Talk to other parents. Many other mums and dads will be looking to save money over the school break. Talk with them and see if they have any activities planned that you and your children could get involved in. There are mobile phone apps that can help you connect with other local parents.
  • Talk to your child’s school. They may have extra activities planned for children over the school break, or could help you find something fun and educational for the kids to take part in locally.
  • Look out for promotional offers. Some newspapers and popular food and drinks brands will run discounts and special offers on theme park tickets, camping breaks and more.

Looking for budgeting and money-saving ideas for parents?

Our blog MoneyAware has lots of great tips and information to help parents save money:

You can also sign up to our MoneyAware newsletter and get more tips and tricks each month!

I’ve got a newborn/toddler. How can I save money?

Adapting your budget to the arrival of your baby can be tough. 

Here are some tips to make it easier:

  • Claim your free ‘baby box’. Are you based in England or Scotland? All residents are entitled to a free box full of essentials for their newborn baby. Inside are clothes, bathing items and more. You can sign up for your baby box online or speak to your midwife.
  • Register for retailers that specialise in baby clothes. Some of them will give you a discount on future purchases by signing up.
  • Be clear on what your baby needs. The NHS Choices site has a handy list of essentials, such as formula, nappies and a car seat. If it’s not on this list, chances are you might not need it straight away.
  • Ask if your council has a free nappy scheme. A number of councils give free nappies to new parents.
  • Get free dental care. All new or expecting mums in the UK are entitled to free dental care until your baby is 12 months old. You may also qualify for free eye tests and prescriptions. Talk to your GP or midwife for more information.
  • Apply for help with childcare costs. Depending on your circumstances, you may qualify for help. Find out more information and apply through the government website.
  • Find out what benefits you’re entitled to. Every year, people in the UK miss out on billions of pounds in benefit money that they’re entitled to. Our free online benefits calculator can tell you what you can claim.
  • Make sure you get the money you’re entitled to during maternity leave. If you've worked for the same company for longer than six months, your earnings were at least the lower earnings limit for the tax year, and you take time off work when your baby's born, your employer must pay you while you’re on leave. The Government pages on maternity pay and leave or adoption pay and leave have more information.
  • Get help when you need it. While your health visitor should help with any questions you have, there are also specialist numbers you can call for more information and support. Find out more on the NHS website.

I’m in debt and raising a family. What can I do?

If you’re struggling to cover your children’s living costs due to debt, use our free online debt advice tool. It’ll provide you with free, impartial debt advice and a recommendation of a debt.

Alternatively, you can talk about your debts over the phone with one of our friendly advisors. If you don’t feel that you have a debt problem but can only afford the minimum payments on debt such as credit cards, overdrafts and catalogue accounts, then you may need to talk to your creditors about your options. 

When you’re unable to pay more than the interest and charges on a credit card, overdraft and catalogue account for a period of 18 months, this is classed as a ‘persistent debt’. At this stage, your creditor may ask you to increase your monthly payments. Ultimately, they may remove your access to that credit.

Our guide tells you what you can do to pay off a persistent debt. You’ll also find information on how our dedicated advice team can help you with persistent debt.

Other great ways to save money as a family

  • Switch to packed lunches – it’s an easy way to save on lunch bills, and can be just as healthy as well
  • Look out for free wi-fi wherever you take your kids. Both you and your children will be able to save money on their mobile phone bills
  • Borrow items you only need now and again from family and friends, instead of buying them. Great examples include power tools, lawnmowers, hedge trimmers and power washers
  • Consider National Trust membership while it costs £120 a year, it can be paid in instalments. It gives you free access and parking to a huge range of locations and attractions that provide a great day out for the kids. Make sure you’re committed to using it before you buy though!