There's no doubt about it, having a family is expensive. Children eat a LOT. And they make an awful lot of mess. And they require entertaining. And how quickly do they grow out of their clothes?! With everyone currently feeling the squeeze, here 10 mums offer their own little tips for saving money... without anyone feeling worse off. The little savings and stretches all add up.
1. Plan your meals
"It seems obvious now, but I used to just go into the supermarket and pick up whatever I fancied, random bits and pieces, and I was throwing food out of the fridge every week. Now I sit down on a Friday morning, write a seven-day meal plan, and buy exactly what I need (as well as the normal extras, like yogurts which disappear in a nanosecond). It's definitely made a difference. I spend less on shopping and throw less away."
Megan C, mum to Amy and Georgia
2. Swap shop
"See if you can find a bring and buy sale, or freebie swap shop in your area. A friend organised a swapping party at her house, where you could bring things you no longer needed and take anything that you could make use of. It was great because there were mums with kids of all ages, with different things they wanted rid of. I got some really good quality clothes for my little girl."
Siobahn S, mum to Jasmine
3. Join the clubs
"Loads of shops have parenting or mums' clubs. I joined every one going (Boots, the supermarkets) and it's helped me to save money on baby products I buy all the time anyway."
Sarah G, mum to Joshua
4. Discount vouchers
"If you don't mind your email account being flooded, it can be worth joining some discount voucher schemes. Sometimes I'll see something on Discount Vouchers, or Groupon, which is perfectly timed."
Brigit L, mum to Louis, Isaac and Lily
5. Ban the brands
"It was a revelation for me when I started buying own-branded/value EVERYTHING (apart from ketchup, which my husband would get very upset about). When I had my first baby, I thought it was essential to buy branded wipes and nappies and so on – but it's not and sometimes you can save almost half the cost by picking up non-branded items. Sometimes a 2-for-1 offer is worth buying, but quite often the own brand still offers better value."
Holly W, mum to April and Albie
6. A change is as good as...
"I put it off and put it off, because I knew it was going to be sooo boring, but finally I got round to comparing all our insurances, credit cards and energy tariffs. It did take me most of the day (while breastfeeding!), but within a couple of weeks, I'd changed everything. I saved more than £100 on our car insurance, applied for cash back credit cards and hopefully our gas and electricity will now be around £220 cheaper. It is worth doing. Jaffa cakes help with the boredom."
Andrea L, mum to Sophia
7. No more pester power
"I realised every time I took my five-year-old out with me, I was buying him things, like a comic, or a small and pointless toy, to keep him happy. So I started giving him a small amount of pocket money each week and now, when he asks for something, I can say we need to check to see if he has enough in his piggy bank and if he does we'll come back for it. He seems to like being in control a bit, and I'm not wasting cash so much."
Charlotte J, mum to Bobby
8. Borrow don't buy
"We seemed to have loads of books on the shelf that rarely got picked up. I do still buy books sometimes, but I also joined our local library. The girls like going there, choosing what they will take home with them, so it's a bit of free entertainment too. They are a bit old for it now, but we also have a local toy library where you can borrow toys for a couple of weeks."
Kate B, mum to Abigail and Rosie
9. Life's a picnic
"Whenever we go out, whatever the weather, we take sandwiches and fruit. I got sick of paying for lunches the boys didn't eat, and we can always find somewhere to sit down and picnic. We are also saving about £20 a week by making packed lunches for my husband on week days."
Theresa M, mum to Joel and Ewan
10. In for a pound
"It's not very glamorous, admittedly, but when I go out to do a big shop, I always stop by one of the pound shops first. I'll quite often pick up things I need. They seem to be good for stuff like baby shampoo and cleaning products (branded ones) and it's a massive saving. It's worth a 10-minute whizz around."
Jo F, mum to Natasha
Do you have any fantastic money-saving tips to share?