What with the cost of Christmas and cuts to the child benefit system, Britain’s already hard-pressed families are feeling the pinch more than ever before. But that doesn’t have to mean a winter spent wearing jumpers and staying in watching TV, says Lianne Kolirin…
You’re still counting the cost of Christmas and your child benefit has been cut, but with a few simple money makeovers, 2013 needn’t be all doom and gloom.
Fact: some people are better at managing their money than others. While there are those who always shop around for the best deal, others prefer to save time by settling for the easiest option. I count myself among the latter.
As self-employed parents of three, my husband and I spread ourselves thinly and juggle the responsibilities of the kids between us. Something has to give, and for us that has been our finances. We pay our bills from a joint account and have always used the same utilities providers. But we are probably not getting the best deal.
And we are not alone. Research conducted by collective buying site Incahoot* found that nearly one in four people had never switched their energy provider, despite the fact that more than half of Brits feel their bills are too expensive. The reasons people gave for not switching included too much hassle (15 per cent), too complicated (18 per cent) and too many tariffs to choose from (34 per cent).
Yet if you send Incahoot copies of your household bills it will do the research for you. If you choose to follow its advice, you just click through to the relevant provider and follow its online instructions. This simple process saved us nearly £500 on our annual energy bill and shaved a further £32 off our home insurance.
‘Families are looking to make savings where possible and recycle, reduce waste, upcycle and reuse items where they can,’ she says. ‘I believe that budgeting, like slimming, works best when changes are easy to achieve. Amidst a busy family life, downsizing to a family tent for two years or cycling 20 miles to work and back each day are not really practical options.’
Goddard-Hill’s new e-book 100 Ways To Be A Thrifty Family covers every aspect of financial family life, from bills and cars to holidays and special occasions. She has plenty of common-sense suggestions for keeping the cost of the weekly shop down, including reducing food waste by planning meals, storing food more efficiently and making use of leftovers.
‘Be really mindful of what you are spending,’ she says. ‘If you go to buy a loaf of bread, just buy bread and nothing else because before you know it, you will have spent £20. And be assertive when it comes to socialising. Don’t be afraid to say no and offer alternatives. If friends ask you out to eat, invite everyone to your house and ask them to bring a dish.
Just because times are tough, you don’t have to put your life on hold.
‘We’ve all got less coming in and times are tough, but you don’t have to sit at home wearing jumpers and being boring,’ says Lucy Tobin, personal finance journalist and author of Ausperity: Live The Life You Want For Less. ‘Restaurants, gyms, shops and other attractions are all feeling the impact of austerity too, so they are offering more deals than ever before.’
When it comes to holidays, Tobin recommends being flexible, although this is not always possible with kids. ‘There are now some really cool hostels out there, or you could save by flying from a different airport or taking a ferry,’ she says.
For family days out, Tobin recommends shopping around for discount vouchers to theme parks and big family attractions. ‘Take your own food as it will be cheaper, and usually nicer,’ she says. ‘If you plan in advance, you can usually get cheaper train tickets, and if you’re driving petrolprices.com shows the cheapest places to fill up.’
This may be the age of austerity, but with a bit of research, careful budgeting and imagination you and your family can make your money go further in 2013.