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14 clever budgeting tips for families, now that life is getting crazy expensive.

Life is expensive right now. But you don't need us to tell you that: just look at your rising bills. 

From inflation, rising interest rates and prices of groceries going up, the cost of living is high on the agenda for many Aussies.

And for families, it's even more intense.

With this in mind, Leigh Campbell and Tegan Natoli from Mamamia's parenting podcast This Glorious Mess spoke to Derek McCormack, the Network Director at Raising Children, about how to effectively budget for your family. 

And according to him, it's all about preparing as much as you can. 

"You can do some thinking ahead now, as that always helps. Even during pregnancy and in those early days of having a family, it's worth taking the time to think about budgets. It all starts with 'what do we really want' and 'what do we really need'. If you focus on needs vs wants, that's a great start," he explained. 

But for those who have never stuck to a budget before or don't have much experience in the area, the best way to reign in your costs is to take things one step at a time.

"A lot of people relate to the idea that it's tricky to get going with a budget, especially if you haven't had great success in the past. But to make things easier, just think about the near-future, rather than the long-term future," Derek said.

"Also think about the benefits: why will it be good if we have a handle on a budget? How will that help us avoid stress? These are two good questions to ask yourself."

Watch: 4 money hacks that don't cut out your daily cup of coffee! Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

"In the early stages, think about essentials. For a family that might mean equipment, food, what you need on a week-to-week basis to care and parent."

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For those who feel confident with budgeting and are already sticking with a weekly or daily budget, Derek recommends trying to broaden the period. Questions to ask yourself include: What else do we think we will need in the longer term? What else do we want to happen in the longer term?

"Budgeting gets a bit more enjoyable with time! Consider what you want for the future, and when you understand what your available funds are and your outgoings, it becomes easier. As for single parents and with costs of living rising, we do have to think about them. A good place is to start by thinking 'am I taking in enough money to cover my costs?' If I don't feel that's in place, then check out the support that is available – government payments are worth looking into," he said. 

"Get advice from those you trust, such as financial counsellors and those in similar positions as yourself."

As Leigh noted, a 'want' that she finds fun working towards is a future holiday. And a 'need' of course are bills, which may not be as fun to work towards but the end goal is of course a better financial future for yourself and your family.

14 budgeting tips for families:

1. Keep a track of outgoings.

"Take a little note of what it is that is costing you money each day on an average basis. Do the same for weekends too, as it can be a little bit different. If it's a typical expense, you at least have a map of what you can expect to be spending each week," Derek said on This Glorious Mess.

And if it's an expense that isn't necessary: cut it.

2. The freezer will become your treasure trove.

This is a tip lots of families already know very well – but for those who may have forgotten, just remember that your freezer can be a great resource, so utilise it!

"I have a little freezer in the garage and it's so good to have, because if there is a special on, I stock up," Leigh said. Things to freeze include vegetables, meat, and ready-made meals if it's a busy week – a win for the budget and sorting out the mental load. 

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3. Consider opting for subscription food services.

Of course, this tip may not be relevant for all families across Australia, but for those in areas where subscription food services are available, it's worth looking into. 

"Companies such as Hello Fresh and Marley Spoon haven't put their prices up yet, and fruit and vegetables are getting really expensive. You can still often get more value for money using a meal delivery service. Just go on Instagram, search the hashtag of the specific company (e.g. Hello Fresh) and you should find the latest influencer with the latest discount code. Never pay full price," Leigh said.

4. Opt for second-hand wherever you can.

"As a big family of five, a lot of my tips are more based around the numbers game," Tegan explained. "An easy one is to get stuff second-hand wherever you can – especially for the baby age. Also, sell your stuff before it gets crappy. Don't let it sit in the corner or get mouldy. You're not going to use it, just sell it. Facebook Marketplace is heaven. The best part about it is that you don't have to take it anywhere, someone will come and usually pick it up when they buy it."

5. Ring around to get a better deal.

Every year it is well worth your time to call and shop around for the best deals on utilities. Whether it's health and car insurance, Wi-Fi, gas, electricity and energy companies, you can truly save hundreds by making sure you are getting the optimum deal for your household.

Listen to This Glorious Mess. Post continues after audio.


6. Join your local Facebook group.

"Some people give away the best stuff on these groups," Leigh said on This Glorious Mess.

"One woman said she didn't have a cat anymore and had kilos of cat food to give away, and she was offering it for free to anyone who could come and collect. People are also more likely to recommend local council-run initiatives, deals or offer their help via these local groups too. I've even seen some local businesses offer deals to people in the neighbourhood, such as 15 per cent off your next pilates class."

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7. Remember it's okay to say no.

Ultimately, life can be pretty expensive. If you are someone who lives away from family members and knows hiring a babysitter is going to really hurt your wallet, it's okay to say 'not this time'.

As Leigh said: "We've had to say to some friends my husband and I will either tag team, or we can't go because it's just too much money. A babysitter can cost so much money. If you want to catch up, have a backyard BBQ and have everyone bring a plate."

8. Look into your state government's voucher opportunities.

Across the country, each state has different vouchers for families available. For example in NSW, there are many options families can apply for including the First Lap ($100 voucher for swimming lessons), Parents NSW ($250 voucher for leisure and accommodation), Before and After School Care ($500 BASC voucher for eligible kids) and more. It's worth researching! Plus, if your child is between three and five, look into free government pre-school programs in your area.

9. Embrace leftovers.

Some people can get a little tired about eating the same thing repetitively, but if you can manage, it's well worth doing. 

For example, if you do a big cook-up on Monday and there happens to be leftovers, don't let it go to waste. Either use it for dinner the next night, or for lunch the next day for the kids. It will save your wallet a bit of money.

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10. Clear out your pantry before buying groceries.

As Leigh said on This Glorious Mess: "I just recently had my pantry overflowing with crap, and so I cleared out the pantry only to find 700 packets of pasta. Or heaps of tinned tuna cans – you get the drill. We've since been making plenty of dishes from these things and using up what we already had. And now the cupboard looks nice and neat!"

11. Couponing is a thing. Use it. 

"It's not just something you see in the movies or in America, couponing is a thing," Tegan said.

Whether it's the fuel or alcohol deals, you can see in the fine print at the end of a shopping receipt, or signing up to a grocery retailer's rewards program, there are plenty of options. 

"I'm part of a rewards program, and what the app of my local favourite supermarket giant does is tell you which of your favourite staple purchases are on sale this week. So when I'm organising my grocery order, it helps me save money. Plus, once you do enough shopping, you can get money off too. Even for chemists, you can join up too."

12. Your local library is a haven of free entertainment for the kids. 

The library is a true godsend. While each one has different conditions, it is more often than not free to join your local library, and access all they have to offer.

For parents with little ones, there are mother's groups, story time sessions and free parent and baby activities. And for those with older kids, there are lots of DVDs, books, magazines and more that you can borrow. Plus, most libraries have an e-collection which gives you access to heaps of audiobooks and ebooks. 

13. Try using the Chrome plug-in 'Honey' on your browser. 

"You can download this to your laptop, and it scans the internet for discount codes and then applies them once you're at the checkout of your chosen retailer," Leigh explained. "So just before coming on to record this podcast, I did an order on Harris Farm and using the Honey plug-in got me 20 per cent off my order."

14. Last but not least, keep the conversation going.

"An everyday tip is to continue having these conversations going, because if both you and your partner are managing different parts of the budget then those conversations are pivotal," Derek said on This Glorious Mess.

Do you have any budgeting tips for families? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: Getty.

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