Managing your money is never more important than when you have children. Many people are facing debts thanks to Christmas overspending, so there's never been a better time to get control of your finances.
I have to admit that budgeting and managing my finances aren't one of my strengths. There is an element of "could do better" so this year I have decided to take charge and tackle money head on.
It feels dreary and depressing, after all I hardly live a champagne lifestyle. But there is nothing worse than worrying about money so here are some tips to tackling your finances.
Ugh, even the word sends me to sleep, but using a budget, according to Martin Lewis of the Moneysaving Expert, is a key tool in managing your finances. It allows you to see if you're spending more than you earn and if you can afford something. There is a free online budget planner here. Now we have no excuses.
Rethink the way you shop.
It's easy to feel like you're not spending money if you use debit cards or shop online a lot. It can add up. Stay away from online shopping if that's your downfall or think about using an envelope system for your money. Withdraw your cash each week and put a set amount into each envelope marked food, petrol, heating, etc. Of course, you'll know how much to set aside because you'll have done your budget above.
Always make a weekly menu, use a shopping list and visit supermarkets online.
Supermarkets are canny at getting us to spend more. Now, although I've advocated not shopping online, the exception to this is to do your supermarket shopping via the internet. Not only is it greener but you won't be so tempted by the special offers. You can also see how much you're spending before you get to the checkout, making it easier to keep to your budget. Sticking to your menu also means you won't be buying unnecessary food.
I know, easier said than done especially when it feels like times are lean and really, you're not spending on luxuries anyway. But there might be ways you haven't thought of such as swapping electricity suppliers, buying that special latte from the coffee shop just once a week instead of every day, reading newspapers online instead of buying them, using Freecycle or the library (something I'm guilty of not doing).
Make sure you claim what you're entitled to.
This may go against your principles but when you're struggling and have children, sometimes it's best to seek out help and this can be one of the ways. Fill out a quick form on the website Entitledto and it will work out if there is other financial help available to you.
If you need debt advice, find it fast.
Mounting debts don't disappear, they simply get bigger so find help fast. Citizens Advice Bureau can be found in most towns and offer free help and a plan to get you back in the black.
There are loads of websites and blogs out there to help you think thrifty, so there's plenty of insipration. My favourite is moneysavingexpert.com which has loads of articles about saving money on everything you can think of plus a lively forum which is great to tap into. For expectant mothers keen to take maximum maternity leave, this is a good site.
Have you got any financial tips? Are you good at budgeting? Share your story in the comments below.