Queensland mum Kerri-Ann Manly wowed parents nationwide when she revealed she had cut her family’s spending by $2500 in one month. Some of those savings came from preparing nearly all the week’s meals in one day. But obviously, to save $2500, there’s got to be more to it than that.
Manly – a mother of four, stepmother of three and grandmother of two – explains that she doesn’t do “extreme budgeting” every month. She also admits that it’s not easy.
“It is uncomfortable to save $2500,” she tells Mamamia. “We really had to redefine what were needs and what were wants. When you’ve been living a comfortable, convenient life for a period of time, that can get uncomfortable. That’s how we knew we were doing it right.”
Here, Manly reveals some of her savings secrets.
LISTEN: Single mum Canna Campbell saved $32K in a single year. She shares her methods, on I Don’t Know How She Does It. Post continues after audio.
Try cutting spending for a limited time – and get the kids to see it as a challenge.
“We find that doing a really short, sharp period of time, usually a month, of extreme budgeting works so much better for us,” Manly says. She explains that when she first tried cutting spending, her kids weren’t keen. “But we’d have weekly updates and I’d let them know where we were at with the bank balance. Once they saw what was happening, they got really, really enthusiastic. Now it’s, ‘Oh, cool, let’s see if we can beat last time.’”
Avoid trips to the supermarket if at all possible.
You don’t want to drop in for just one thing and find yourself walking out with $50 worth of groceries. Manly says she’ll plan her meals to have dinners with salad vegies earlier in the week and dinners with root vegies later in the week. “That means I don’t have to go to the shops to get the fresh produce,” she explains. If she’s going to the supermarket with her kids after picking them up from school, she’ll bring drinks and snacks with her, to avoid buying them for the kids. “We’ve really curbed habits.”
Stop buying individually packaged drinks and snacks for your kids’ lunchboxes.
“That was a huge, huge, huge convenience thing we cut out,” Manly says. “No poppers, no little prepacked chips. We have little refillable bottles, and the kids fill these up with juice from big bottles. They split up a big bag of chips into the little snap-lock bags.” She also makes her own cupcakes, biscuits and slices, which she says is “definitely a lot cheaper”, if you bake regularly and use up ingredients like flour and sugar.
Make your own takeaways.
“We were having takeout once a week, which sounds reasonable, until you realise it could be for anywhere from five to 11 people,” she explains. “Just cutting out our Sunday night takeout cut $200 from our budget every fortnight.” Manly now tries to make the Sunday night meal look like a takeaway. “I do crumbed chicken tenders and put them on a little plate that’s got potato wedges and then some kind of dipping sauce in the middle.”
Try vegetarian or retro options for cheap family meals.
Manly says her kids are big fans of peanut burgers. “It’s chickpeas, peanuts and onions – just really basic ingredients, but they’re really tasty. I was a vegetarian for a long time and I would eat them but I didn’t ever think the kids would. They were like, ‘These are great!’” She says her kids also love her Nana Bev’s beef chow mein. “When I made it for my kids I was just transported back to my 15-year-old self. I was like, ‘Oh, this is cabbage and mince and beans, this is not going to go over well,’ but I had stuff I had to use up, so I did it and they loved it.”
Switch off the lights.
The family managed to cut $400 off their quarterly power bill, which had been $1100. Manly says one of the big ways they made savings was to change their lighting. “We rent, and in our house, when you turn on one light switch, you actually get seven lightbulbs come on, downlights and stuff. We went and bought a $50 light strip from Bunnings, and I put it in the kitchen – it just sticks up and it’s renter friendly – and we now just live by that light of a night-time.”
Look at ways to cut down on car trips.
The family live a little distance out of town, and Manly and her husband Karl used to be constantly driving their teenagers to their jobs. “Our teenagers had to get with the program a little bit,” she explains. “If someone was going into town and it was an hour before their shift started, that’s when they went into work, and they would have to sit out the back. We had to cut down on unnecessary trips in and out of town.”
Get everyone to work on increasing income.
“Karl and I made the deal that if we were offered overtime at work, no matter how uncomfortable it made life, with sorting out the kids and things like that, we had to say yes for the month,” Manly says. Meanwhile, the kids also learnt to do their bit. “They all went through their stuff and went, ‘What don’t we need anymore? What could we put into a garage sale or sell?’ It was a good way to let them be a part of it.”
For more tips, check out Manly’s Facebook group Chaotically Organized.