31 money-saving tips for parents

31 money-saving tips for parents

Some of the UK's leading family bloggers share their top saving tips...

If you’ve got kids, you’ll know just how expensive they can be. In fact, in the UK we spend an average of over £500 every month on essentials and indulgences for under-fives – from basics such as nappies and milk formula, to extras such as toys, games and activity classes.

So are there any ways you can cut down the amount you’re spending? We asked some of the UK’s leading parent and family bloggers to give us their top tips. Here are 31 of the best:

1. Do a money audit

“Because money is so emotionally fraught, many of us just don’t look at it properly. For me, the turning point was adding up everything I owed, marking the interest rates so I knew which debt was costing most. I had one spreadsheet detailing everything I owed, and another detailing everything I earned, month by month. It’s good to see everything in black and white, and seeing your debt shrink month by month is pretty great.”

Sally Whittle, Who’s The Mummy?

2. Clear debts first

“There’s NO POINT in saving if you have debt elsewhere. So if you’ve got money on your credit card, you need to get rid of that first.  For some reason this didn’t dawn on me, and I was busy putting £50 away at the same time as paying £100 off my credit card bill. Pointless. Also, work out how much you can realistically save. If you’re constantly taking it back out again before the end of the month, that’s not going to get you anywhere and you’ll soon get despondent.”

English Mum 

3. Set savings goals

“When I was broke, I had a plan to pay off debt. Now I’m less broke, I have a savings plan. This is a chart that sets out the things I want to save for in the short-term (school fees, travel), medium-term (university) and long-term (don’t die in poverty and be eaten by cats). Having concrete plans written down makes saving a bit easier because in my head, I know it’s for something I find important. And it also informs how I save.”

Sally Whittle, Who’s The Mummy?

4. Cut down on treats

“[This] tip is easily the hardest one to stick to, but as it involves vices it’s also an area where big savings can be made. Two of my biggest weaknesses are red wine and chocolate, and we were spending way too much on these when I was well off but miserable in my old job. The secret is not to cut things out completely, but to reduce them. Life’s short and is for living, so it’s about finding a balance.“

Tom Briggs, Diary Of The Dad

5. Have a clear-out

“I had a massive clear out at the beginning of the year and sold many second hand items on local Facebook groups such as baby toys and pushchairs. I also sold some items on eBay which were brand new and managed to make over £500. I'm hoping to do this again soon and the money will go towards my house deposit.”

Kerry, Oh So Amelia

6. Sell, swap or recycle unwanted toys and clothes

“Do a toy-swap with friends and family so that your kids get something exciting without shelling out a small fortune or visit NCT nearly new sales in your local area to pick up some bargains. You could also gain some instant cash by filling up a black bag with old, unwanted clothes and taking it to your nearest ‘cash for clothes’ store for recycling.”

 Vikki, Love From Mummy

7. Ask, "Do I really need it?"

“Before you buy anything, ask yourself whether you really need it or, if it’s a luxury, whether you can justify the cost. For example, there are several very expensive baby products that are marketed as must-haves that you simply don’t need. We’ve saved ourselves getting on for £1,000 in this way.”

Tom Briggs, Diary Of The Dad

8. Make small changes 

“Those coffees you buy in Starbucks. The bus journey that you could probably walk every day instead. That gym membership that costs more than a run around the local park. They all seem like tiny things, but if you make lots of small changes to your daily life, they’ll soon all add up.”

 Alison Perry, Not Another Mummy Blog

9. Reduce your ‘invisible spending’

“For me this was things like the odd magazine and the husbeast paying for lunch at work.  For me, it is all about planning.  I buy a certain magazine every month, so I subscribed to it, which will save me 50% over the year and when I make lunch for Mini, I have started making it for the husbeast too.”

Jen Walshaw, Mum In The Mad House

10. Find a way to save that suits you

“Some people (*ahem*, that will be me) find the concept of saving easier if it’s done with REAL money. I like the whole reward system that comes with putting cash into a pot every week, then taking it to the bank and paying it in to my savings account. I’m sure that doesn’t work for everyone, but I have to get cash out anyway, so I get extra, and allocate it to my savings pot. If that doesn’t work for you, then look into sorting out a regular direct debit or another way that makes you happy."

 English Mum

11.  Use a budgeting app or tool

“There are so many online budgeting tools and apps out there, one of them is sure to help you. Most are free or available for a nominal monthly subscription following a free trial – so you have very little to lose if you give one a whirl. You Need A Budget, Money Dashboard and OnTrees all come highly recommended by UK users.”

Miss Thrifty

12. Spring clean your bank accounts

“You may think you know all your incomings and out-goings but it's really easy to forget about a subscriptions you may not be using anymore, in fact a few months ago I realised I had two small monthly amounts at around £6 coming out of my account each month for things I simply did not use but somehow I had overlooked, so it is always worth checking.”

Laura, Side Street Style 

13. Stick to cash

“If you're the sort of person who can easily spend on your card, how about going to the cashpoint on payday and taking out the money for that week/month. That way you won't be tempted to just put it on the credit card and can only use that money you have budgeted for.”

Kerry, Oh So Amelia

14. Bath the kids together 

“Unless one kid is particularly dirty, we chuck them all in at the same time to save water. At the moment they all enjoy this – and all get to reap the benefits of a nice warm bath. Though with the six-year-old getting taller by the day, I don’t think we will get away with it much longer.”

Emma, Me, The Man And The Kids

15. Don’t grocery-shop on an empty stomach

"If there was only one piece of advice I could give you, it would be not to do your food shop on an empty stomach. I now eat before doing my shop as then I'm not tempted to buy everything I see and tons of junk food. I started doing this and I have noticed that the food shop had decreased and pretty much cut down to half of what I was paying before."

Kerry, Oh So Amelia

16. Make a meal plan

“Each month I make a big list of all the food we have in the freezer and kitchen cupboards and then use this to meal plan around. Quite often there are a lot of meal ingredients lurking at the bottom of the freezer or back of the cupboard that you have forgotten about – and using these can save you so much money. Often I find that I only actually have to buy bread, fruit, veg and milk for a week – saving us the bulk of a food shop.”

Donna Wishart, What The Redhead Said

17.  Have breakfast for dinner

“One night a week – or once every couple of weeks – make breakfast for dinner instead of a ‘normal’ meal. Eggs are really cheap, as are bread and baked beans. Sausages, tomatoes and bacon aren't too expensive either, so cook a fry up for all the family. By doing a super cheap meal like this once a week can really cut back on your dinner spending and save a few extra pennies. If you did this four times a month you could easily save around £10-15 a month.”

Kerry, Oh So Amelia

18. Buy in bulk

“I’ve recently started buying in bulk online; it’s surprising at the savings you can make! Yes, I had to clear out some precious space in the cupboard under the stairs to store my new buys, but saving 5-15% off supermarket prices makes it well worth it.”

Donna Wishart, What The Redhead Said

19. Cook from scratch

“A takeaway for a family of four costs around £10 [or more] and is full of stuff that’s bad for your body, while a ready meal for four is easily £6. But you can make a delicious veggie curry for under a fiver, and if you have slow cooker, cheaper cuts of meat will make you a hearty casserole that is low in cost, and lovely to eat.”

Helen Wills, Actually Mummy

20. Do it yourself

“We have learnt that doing odd DIY jobs ourselves is cheaper than getting the professionals in. It makes me smile thinking about how much we have probably saved by watching tutorials on YouTube to teach us the things we need to know.”

Jo, Single Slummy Mummy

21. Use LED bulbs to get your bills down 

“We recently kitted out the entire house with energy saving LED bulbs. It’s done a huge amount to cut down on our energy use and bills. Our energy bills were eye watering so it was a priority for us to work on these bills and get the figures heading south.”

John Adams, Dad Blog UK

22. Monetise your skills

“Clearing debt means maximising your income as well as reducing spending. I also looked at the skills I had as a freelance journalist, and monetised them in different ways. I could write – so I became a writing coach for PR agencies, training up new recruits. I worked directly with businesses, and wrote press releases, customer newsletters, case studies and the like. I could type, so I transcribed committee meetings for a chartered organisation, too. Little extras, and they all added up.”

Sally Whittle, Who’s The Mummy?

23. Stop being so British and haggle

“Haggle over everything. This causes my wife some embarrassment so she leaves it to me. To give just one example, the other day our car insurer agreed to drop the premium by £60 simply because I asked.”

John Adams, Dad Blog UK

24. Use different accounts for different goals 

“We have a few different savings accounts and I find that helps. We have an account each for the girls and while we need to get more regular at putting money in each month, they are there for a rainy day. We also have a ‘treat’ savings pot, where we put in money that can be used if we want to treat ourselves to a day out, something nice for the house, or a weekend away. Then finally we also have a ‘serious’ savings account that we have in case of emergencies, say for example our boiler broke or something happened to our car. Needless to say I put the most money in the treat savings pot!”

Kate Ellison, Mummy Daddy ME

25.  Make the most of loyalty cards

"Apps such as myvouchercodes, PetrolPrices Pro and Find Free Parking will all help you to get great deals. Websites such as Groupon, Wowcher and SecretEscapes can offer some fantastic bargains and one day only offers. Make good use of your Nectar card and Tesco Clubcard – you can often get great offers using these on days out. So instead of taking along your vouchers to the supermarket with you, check out where else you can use them; they’re often worth much more elsewhere."

Vikki, Love From Mummy

26. Get cashback

"In this age of internet shopping many purchases are made online every single day. Save money on these purchases using online cashback websites to get a percentage back on almost every transaction. It also pays lump sums for things like new insurance policies and new mobile phone contracts."

Donna Wishart, What The Redhead Said

27. Check your tariffs every six months

“I’m always thinking that checking my energy, water and entertainment packages will just take too long and it’s not worth the time. NOT TRUE! I went online for 30 minutes this morning to check on my gas and electricity and immediately saved £160 over the next year. Well worth it. I’ve put a reminder in my diary to make sure I do this regularly, and to be honest I can’t believe I wasn’t doing this before.”

Alice Judge-Talbot, More Than Toast

28. Check interest rates 

“If you have savings – or debts – it’s worth checking what interest rates you’re paying or receiving. With savings, rates can fluctuate from 0% up to a couple of percent in other longer term savings accounts or ISAs. Also, many savings accounts offer an introductory bonus rate which typically ends after the first year. With personal loans it can be costly to restructure them part way through but if you have been paying a loan off for a couple of years – and still have a few years left on it – you may find that current rates are a lot lower. Talk to your lender and compare prices with other lenders to see if you can save.”

Donna Wishart, What The Redhead Said

29. Declutter your home and sell what you don't need

“Japanese decluttering expert Marie Kondo has been all the rage in 2016, and for good reason. Not only can her way of living give you a clutter-free home, but you can make some serious cash by selling unwanted items at car boot sales, eBay or Gumtree.”

Alison Perry, Not Another Mummy Blog

30. Do free things in your free time

“Family activities don’t have to cost a fortune. Spend your weekends doing free things – taking your bikes to the park, feeding the ducks, going to a museum or the beach. If you take a packed lunch with you, you’ll save even more.”

Alison Perry, Not Another Mummy Blog

31. Talk to someone if you're struggling

“If you’re in trouble with money, there’s loads of advice available. At the very least, call companies you are behind with, and ask them to freeze accounts while you catch up. Ask your bank to suspend your direct debits so you’re not racking up more charges.”

Sally Whittle, Who’s The Mummy?

Looking for more tips to help you save money? For more articles and ideas, check out our #SaveSmarter hub


BR01175 05/2016

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