I know that's how it feels around here quite regularly! When I start feeling like that I take a very short walk back in my memory and remind myself how we survived when dh wasn't earning anything, in the first couple of years that he owned his own business. My those years were difficult. There were other factors about our lives that caused a great deal of stress and, for me, depression. But not earning an income beyond toilet paper and laundry detergent made life that much more difficult to endure.
We are very fortunate in Australia, that our federal government has a very generous social security system. Without that things would've been impossible. That being said, we still had to survive on not very much, and I find myself again thinking that if things continue to go the way they are, our wages again will look like they are not enough! So what is a 'professional Mum' to do? Given that my career choice is being a SAHM, getting a job isn't really on my radar. I tackle our financial management on many fronts. Since I manage our family's finances I find I am able to do many things that enable us to continue with me caring for things at home. Following are things that we do regularly to help us manage a tight budget.
- I make a spending play each month, taking into account regular things that need to be paid each month, along with bills that come in less often, but still regularly.
- About once every few weeks I put all our expenditure into an excel spreadsheet so that I can see how much we're spending and what we spend it on. It helps when you need to plan ahead for big bill months and when you need to fill out school fee-relief forms.
- We only use cash. I pay bills using online facilities, but if I'm handing money over for something in person I make sure I have the cash. I withdraw what I need either fortnightly or monthly, depending on the timing of bills, from doing step #1.
- We are careful with our power consumption. We rarely use the dryer, choosing instead to put clothes horses over ducted heating vents, which are on regularly now anyway. In warmer weather I hang washing on the clothesline outside. We only have one light switch (with two low-voltage down lights on it) on in the evening. The heater is never set over 21C. We turn it off altogether overnight. The coldest the house has ever been in the morning is 9C. An extra blanket sees us through cold nights like that.
- The biggest way I see that I can save money is with our grocery budget. So I plan my menu carefully so as to alternate different meats with vegetarian meals. By doing this I can ensure an overall balanced diet using cheaper cuts of meat. Vegetarian meals also reduce your grocery costs. We genuinely enjoy the vegetarian meals I make. We all enjoy our meat, but I have discovered many tasty, satisfying vegie meals along the way too.
- Once the menu plan is completed, I prepare a shopping list according to what I need for those meals and what I need to replenish. When shopping, if you set yourself a rule that you only buy what is on your list you will be amazed how much money you save!
- Shop carefully. If you go past a Safeway, a Coles and an Aldi regularly then get to know which have the best prices and be prepared to shop in a few different places. If you have to travel to get to a cheaper shop then you should calculate how much you save and compare it to the cost of the petrol to get there. You may find you're spending more in petrol than you save, in which case, you should just shop locally.
- Cook from scratch as much as you can. It's cheaper AND healthier. You'll save money on doctors bills!
- We grow our own vegies in summer ~ tomatoes, zucchinis, green beans, herbs. I hope to expand our repertoire this coming year. But anything at all that you can grow, even in a pot, will help your budget. Homegrown vegies taste better too!
- Finally, make use of second hand clothing shops to buy your family's clothing. I would estimate that 90% of the children's wardrobes, 50% of mine and about 10% of dh's clothing are bought at Op Shops. We have usually been able to get what we've needed. Certainly, start there and then move on to retail stores if you can't get what you need. I am currently wearing a fantastic denim skirt that I picked up from Savers in Dandenong a couple of months ago ~ it is my absolute favourite skirt for every day wear that I have right now. It cost me $7 rather than up to $50+!