A Guide To Planning for the Weekly Shop

Most of us will use the weekly shop to buy our food supplies and stock up on household essentials, but how much are we spending on average? In the most recent Family Spending Report, it was found that the total average household expenditure was £531.30 per week. Of that total, £58.80 was being spent on food and non-alcoholic drinks, and £35.40 was going towards household goods and services.

Food is an essential purchase, but are there ways to reduce the cost of the weekly shop without sacrificing taste and variety, or restricting portions? Let’s find out, by taking a look at some tips for cutting costs and ways to plan your shop around your meals.

How does the weekly shop fit into your budget?

If you work out how much you need to spend on your main outgoings, such as bills and rent payments, you will then be able to work out how much you have left over for food and other purchases.

Money Dashboard’s personal finance assistant can help you keep track of this. Use the budget planner to calculate how much cash you have at your disposal for each category of spending. Once you know how much you can spend, you can decide how much you want to spend. If you want to buy fancier food, or brand names, and it’s within your means, then you can.

If you’re trying to save, and want to keep costs as low as possible, make sure you know how much you have available to spend to also be able to put some money aside. Always consider your needs, and remember that budgeting is important.

Great ways to cut the cost of your total bill

  • Always check the reduced section, as you can find still-fresh products at bargain prices. Invest in reduced meat and fish, and keep them in your freezer for a later date. Keep in mind that a use-by date is not the same as a best-before date. Best-before dates are a rough estimate of optimum quality, rather than a deadline, so eat at your discretion.
  • At one time or another, we’ve all been guilty of ‘impulse buying’, that is, picking up the newest flavour of a favourite crisp brand, or stocking up on too much chocolate for the evening ahead. We all deserve treats, but planning for them will make a difference, so try to stick to rules. Not shopping while hungry will reduce the urge to impulse buy.
  • Switch from pricey name brands and ‘premium’ supermarket goods to cheaper own-brands or value products. Value brands don’t look as pretty, and the words used to describe them deliberately imply simplicity, as opposed to the ‘extra special’ or ‘finest’ supermarket products. But does it really have anything to do with the taste? Some research suggests that the products are similar in quality, so you end up paying premium for design or reputation. This applies to household goods such as cleaning products, too.
  • Don’t worry about filling your basket. Apparently, you’re more likely to buy more if you believe what you’re buying is cheaper, which leads to a bigger basket spend. Stick by your list, and only buy what you need.
  • If you want to make small weekly savings that add up, cut out a treat or two. You’ll also reap the health benefits that come with not having as much junk food in the house.
  • If you have the time, shop around. The supermarket isn’t the only place that sells food. Some local butchers offer meat packs that are good value, offer variety, and may last for a good number of meals. Similarly, market stalls and local grocers may offer better prices for fruit and vegetables.

The Importance of Meal-Planning

Remember to think about how much time you have for preparing and cooking food – your lifestyle and schedule should influence your spending.

  • If you’ve got the time to cook, be sure to write down a weekly meal plan which includes your favourite recipes, and an appropriate shopping list. This will help you towards only buying the ingredients you actually need.
  • If you’re a busy bee, it might make more sense to spend a free evening preparing one huge meal that will last several days, or plan lunches that require minimal, or even no preparation. Making a shopping list is still necessary – even if you’re going to be shopping online – and batch-cooking is key!
  • It’s also useful to organise meals around produce you already have – look for leftover ingredients in the cupboards, or a portion of meat you put in the freezer for another day, and plan accordingly.

It turns out you can enjoy your favourite meals, plus treats, at a reduced cost. All it takes is simple budgeting, planning ahead, and learning some super smart shopping practices.

Why Can’t I Stick To My Budget?

Budgeting is vital to achieving financial stability, and it starts with developing a good attitude towards saving. However, once you start out, it’s easy to fall into the trap of only budgeting month-to-month, and not reaping the benefits that would come with budgeting long-term. Doing so is more rewarding as it takes account of irregular spending patterns, and allows you to plan in a way that more accurately represents your lifestyle.

Factor in Unexpected Spending

One reason budgeting can be difficult is that life is unpredictable. You may set up a £100 monthly spending limit for car costs, and then be hit with a £300 repair bill. You might have a string of birthday dinners that you’re obliged to attend. Anything can happen, and if you haven’t factored the costs in, the whole system will be thrown off course for the rest of the month, which can be frustrating and discouraging.

TIP: If you set aside a portion of your budget towards unexpected costs, that will prevent being blindsided. And if you don’t need to dip into it, that’s extra savings!

Every Month is Different

Some months will have added costs – such as December due to Christmas and New Year – so remember that spending patterns will be different month-to-month. Life events such as starting a different job, or moving home will also affect some months more than others. Keeping track of your spending over a longer period of time will help you predict and manage your budget needs.

Notice Overall Trends

By looking at your expenses over a six-month period, you will be able to notice spending trends, giving you a clearer idea of what six months of your life looks like, financially speaking. For instance, you may notice that in some months, you’re more inclined to dine out. This could be due to a large number of birthdays or a rise in free evenings.

If that’s the case, make sure you account for it in your overall savings by cutting back on spending in the couple of months leading up to this busier month. This way, you can treat yourself without having to worry about it not fitting into your financial plan. The ‘bigger picture’ you get from noticing these different spending trends will enable you to budget more effectively and accurately.

How Money Dashboard Can Help

Money Dashboard’s Budgeting function makes it possible to view a budget history of up to six months, and highlights instances of spending over the limit.  This makes it possible for you to see at a glance how much you have spent, and if you’ve gone over or under.

Additionally, all your transactions are sorted via a tagging system that allows you to view your outgoings in categories. In this way, you can see which areas you may be overspending in, which will help you set up an appropriate budget.

A Great Christmas that Doesn’t Cost the Earth

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It’s no secret that Christmas can be a costly time of year. There’s dinner to prepare, rooms to decorate, gifts to purchase, and guests to entertain. We all want our Christmas to be special but we don’t want to end up spending money we just don’t have. Nobody wants financial worries to dampen their enjoyment of Christmas or for their budget to be broken. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be like that.

Going Home for Christmas?

For a lot of us the most important aspect of Christmas is gathering with family. Whether you’re making your way across the country or hosting for a large party, you could end up with unwanted additional costs, be it a plane ticket or another head to cater for.

If you’re travelling, consider booking your tickets in advance or looking for cheaper ways to travel such as by bus or car-sharing.

Another money-saving tip is to let out your home online while you are away, thus recouping the costs you’ve spent on travel. Plenty of people are looking for places to stay short-term over the Christmas season.

Be a Thrifty Host

If you’re the one hosting this festive season, why not share the load? If you live near parents, siblings or friends, team up and share hosting duties. This will reduce the financial burden and prevent wastage.

You could divide up important tasks or have Christmas dinner ‘pot luck’ style. If you really need to squash the cost of Christmas this year, consider organising ‘Secret Santa’ for the grown-ups. That way everyone gets a gift and nobody has to buy a whole host of fancy and expensive presents.

Plan Ahead for Christmas Dinner

It’s important to know how many people are coming to dinner so you can make an appropriate shopping list. Don’t ‘overbuy’.

Supermarkets will have special offers on Christmas food in the weeks leading up to Christmas so know what you need and buy things week-by-week so you don’t have to do a big, expensive shop in the few days before Christmas when things are more expensive.

While you may want to opt for high-quality brands it’s vital to remember that discount supermarkets offer food that can be just as delicious at a smaller price.

Finally, think outside the box. If you’re catering for a small group, it might not be essential to buy a large, pricey turkey. Consider cheaper alternatives such as a roast chicken or a shoulder of pork.

Finding Great Presents for Less

Sign up to a cashback site. By teaming up with leading companies and brands, these sites are able to give you money back on your purchases. The site will track what you’re buying and offer a cashback reward. That way, you’ll receive a chunk of the money back on your Christmas essentials.

‘Black Friday’ sales and deals have become popular in the last couple of years. Check both in-store and online to see what popular gift items you can get at a reduced price.

Check online classifieds for ‘Nearly New’ items. They say ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ for a reason – you might just find the perfect present in good condition, for a fraction of the price you’d pay for it brand new.

Reap the Rewards

It’s good practice to collect vouchers whatever the season, but you’ll definitely notice their usefulness at Christmas. Before throwing them away, check old magazines, newspapers, brochures and advertisements for vouchers. There are also handy online resources you can check out such as websites dedicated to collecting the best voucher codes all in one place.

Keep an eye on any extra vouchers you receive as a result of reward card transactions. If you have a Nectar card or a card from Boots, Superdrug or Tesco you’ll probably receive additional vouchers whenever you put points on your card. Read the vouchers and save them – you could end up with a voucher you can combine with an in-store deal.

Get Creative

If you’re a crafty type, make your own presents and decorations. You’ll save money and you’ll be creating personal and thoughtful gifts.

Be sure to check in at charity shops and local reuse projects as lots of people donate decorations and Christmas supplies once Christmas is over. You never know what you might find.

Be on the lookout for free Christmas activities. Lots of Christmas markets and fairs are free to enter. There might even be free events such as fireworks displays. You’ll get into the Christmas spirit without spending a penny.

Budget, Budget, Budget

With Money Dashboard’s personal finance assistant you can now categorise your spending exactly how you like with your own custom categories and tags. Why not make a specific budget for ‘Christmas’ and track everything you spend so that no expenditure goes unnoticed? That way, when it all starts again next year you’ll have a much better idea how much you’ll need to set aside and Christmas financial woes will be a thing of the past!

 

Saving energy this winter: how to stay warm without breaking your budget

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When it starts getting chilly and all you want is to keep warm, it’s very tempting to turn your central heating on, and leave it on all winter. When the energy bill arrives you might wish you had looked into some money-saving alternatives. Luckily, we’re here to provide you with some efficient ways to stay warm and save the pennies this winter.

Keep an Eye on the Weather

While it might feel cold, the sun may still be shining. Keep your windows uncovered during these sunny spells so that the heat can make its way into your home. Just remember to close your curtains again once it starts getting dark. This will reduce the effect of those cold winter drafts.

Invest in a Portable Heater

In some cases, it is wise to use a portable heater. This is especially true if your central heating lacks temperature controls or if you rely on storage heaters. Make sure to research which models are particularly energy-efficient. Also, if you mostly use just one room of the house, you can save on the cost of heating the whole home by using a portable heater in the room that you use the most. Just make sure to close all the doors to keep the heat in.

Understand the heating system your home utilises, and be conscious of that system when making choices that will affect your personal finance.

It is also worth considering that, for safety reasons, or because of the size of your home, it may make more sense to heat the whole house.

Be ‘Smart’ with Heating Controls

Some heating controls will have a timer. You can use the timer to set heating times so that it only comes on when you need it. This is especially useful when you’re leading a busy lifestyle and are always coming and going.

If you heat your home via a gas, oil or electric boiler, it might be useful to look into getting a ‘smart’ heating control. They can do a lot of good around the home in the colder season, from creating a heating schedule to automatically shutting off when you leave the house. Remember these ‘learning’ thermostats can be expensive themselves, so make sure you get a good deal and practice budgeting resourcefully. Use Money Dashboard’s budget planner to do this.

Cold-Proof Your Home

Doors and Windows – A lot of heat can escape around doors and windows. You can prevent this in a variety of ways. First, keep them locked. This will seal them tightly, reducing any gaps. Secondly, check the stripping that surrounds your doors and windows. If necessary, replace any bits that look worn or ineffective. Finally, while covering windows with insulating film may sound a bit odd, it can work towards eliminating heat loss. This temporary layer will work towards keeping you warmer and you can remove it when you no longer need it. Kits are available to purchase online. Prices can vary so always check to see which materials you can afford.

Insulation – Insulating walls and lofts can eliminate the risk of cold weather creeping in and help towards cutting the costs of bills. Some energy providers may offer free insulation deals – check with them and see if you’re eligible for this service. If not, consider insulating your home. Always make sure to check if you can work this into your budgeting.

Around the Home – There are lots of little ways you can keep the warmth in around your home. These include keeping radiators clear so that furnishings won’t absorb their heat.  It is also easy to forget that there may be various gaps in your walls that are letting cold air in. There could be gaps around pipes and electrical sockets, for instance. While these may have been filled in at the time of installation, the materials may have worn away. It’s vital to check for holes around your home and give them some TLC by sealing them.

Wrap-up and Wear Your Slippers

The Energy Saving Trust affirms that reducing your heating by even one degree can help you save money on energy bills. You can compensate for this extra degree by wrapping up.

Wear layers. Layering is important as thermal insulation is created between the layers of clothing. It therefore makes more sense to wear many layers of clothing, rather than just one thick layer. Remember to wear slippers or thick socks as well.

Other things to have on hand are a hot water bottle and a cup of tea. With all these things keeping you warm and cosy, you’ll be less likely to feel the drop in degrees.

And if you have to keep your heating on…

Make sure you’re getting the best deal. Money Dashboard’s personal finance assistant will help you see how much you’re spending, and price comparison services will help you find the right energy deal for you.

Switch energy suppliers or change tariffs if it means paying less. Some energy providers will offer discounted rates if you choose to pay by monthly direct debit, so keep that in mind.

 

Exam results: what they mean for parents and students

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Getting exam results is exciting for both parents and their children. It may lead to elation, or disappointment. It may determine what academic institution the child is attending next and therefore how they will spend several years of their life.

If your child recently got their exam results, it could be a good time to re-address both of your finances.

Spending Changes

If you’re supporting a child in education, it’s good to re-address your spending plan when they are changing circumstances.

Whether they’re heading to college or university, starting working life or going travelling, if you plan to continue to help them financially you should look at the costs involved. You may be saving money on certain things when they have left the house: grocery bills, transport costs, school uniforms and PE kits, you might even save on your energy bill by turning off the radiator in their bedroom. But these costs could all be replaced with other costs. There are still books and stationary to be bought, plus housing, household bills, and living expenses to consider.

It may affect your current home insurance or car insurance cover, or you may have to look into new insurance policies. Try to make a list of expected savings and costs associated with the change, and figure into your budgeting.

Discuss Finance with Your Kids

Some young people going off to university will have university fees or accommodation paid for by their parents, or receive a regular allowance. Other parents do not have the means to provide this, or their children are better able to support themselves through student loans, grants, bursaries, or a part time job.

Access to finance for both parents and students can vary greatly, but it’s worth examining in all situations. Students need to have a solid understanding of what sort of costs to expect.

Learning to Budget

Good financial planning starts with budgeting. Students should calculate how much they will have to spend each month in total, make a list of expected costs, adding in a safety net for unexpected costs.

Money Dashboard’s personal finance assistant will help with monitoring spending to make sure it stays within the budget, but it’s also important to adapt. Overspending isn’t a failure, it just means the budget should be updated based on actual spending habits.

Child Tax Credits and Benefits

Children are legally obligated to attend schooling until the age of 16, but many continue education for years to follow. If you receive child tax credit or child benefits, the benefit will be automatically be stopped when your child reaches 16.

If your child is looking for work, it’s likely you’ll no longer be entitled to these benefits, unless you have a younger child as well.

But you may still be entitled to these benefits if your teenager is:

  • Staying in school to study A-levels, Highers, or similar qualifications.
  • Attending college to study A-levels, Highers, or similar qualifications.
  • Attending a vocational school
  • Attending some training courses (subject to Government approval)

If you think you are still entitled to benefit, you will have to re-apply via your personal tax account or by contacting HMRC.

Student Finance Sources

Tuition fee loans are available from student funding bodies. These differ depending on which nation of the UK you are in; Student Finance England, Student Awards Agency Scotland, Student Finance Wales, or Student Finance NI.

Scholarships and bursaries are offered by universities and further education colleges, as well as charities, trusts and local councils. They may be based on exam results, or offered for other reasons, such as disability.

Other Financial Support

The Government also provides a calculator, that allows students to find out what they are entitled to in terms of student loans and additional funding. It takes into account the student’s earnings, and the earnings of their partner or parents:

https://www.gov.uk/student-finance-calculator

Students can seek additional financial guidance from their university or college’s student advice centre.

Returning Home

Students returning home from study may still need some financial support. Even intelligent, educated individuals have a hard time finding work without experience. If you have been supporting your child through university, don’t presume you’ll be better off now. They may need a little more time to become truly financially independent.

Personal Finance for Freshers

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The freshers’ parties are over and students across the country are settling into their new routines. But student life can be more expensive than expected. Some people are content to accept the label of “poor student” and build more and more debt that will follow them into their working life, slowing their ability to save up and achieve their goals.

But that doesn’t have to be you. By taking steps today you can build good spending habits and leave University with the best possible opportunities and the least money squandered. The following advice should help you down the right path.

Buy Pre-Owned Text Books

Textbooks are a big cost for students every year. Ask your university or college’s student information office about schemes for re-using textbooks. You may be able to purchase one for cheap from a student in the year above. Look for websites online selling the books second hand and look out for thrift shops near the campus. Be wary of the edition number though as you may need the latest release.

Home Cooking

If you don’t already know some basic recipes, you will at some point in your life have to learn. If you start now you’ll be saving a lot of money compared to students who spend on takeaway, delivery, and fast food. The extra time and energy invested are worth it because home cooked meals are often healthier and so your mood and energy level will improve too. It’s easy to find recipes online catering to almost any taste or diet and some are specifically written for students. The key is planning your meals at least a day in advance and making a list of what you need to buy to make them.

Explore Student Discounts

Discounts for students are very common. Hairdressers, cinemas and other entertainment, clothes shops, and public transport are just some examples. Look out for places that offer student discounts, and make note of them for future. Take your student ID wherever you go as it will come in handy. Check out Save the Student’s Directory of student discounts. However, keep in mind that just because a place offers a student discount it doesn’t mean it is the cheapest deal available. always compare prices.

Book Travel Far in Advance

Your term times and holidays are set before the academic year begins. If you are travelling a long distance to go home for the holidays you can book your transport months in advance. Advanced bookings tend to be cheaper for trains, buses, coaches, and flights. This may put you out of pocket today, but it will pay off throughout the year.

Personal Finance Assistant

It’s much easier to build good spending practises when you have a clear understanding of how much of your money is being spent on what. Money Dashboard’s budget planner functionality allows you to set your budgeting expectations, monitor the progress, and see quickly and easily the areas where you are spending more than you should be.

Update Your Budget

Working out your budget is surprisingly easy. The bigger challenge is to stay on top of your budget and make sure you don’t overspend. If you don’t spend what your budget predicts, you need to either change your spending habits or change your budget. Either way, it’s important to keep monitoring your spending.

Don’t Buy It Yet

There are a lot of things that you could spend money on that you may feel would improve your life. It might be furniture for your dorm or flat, weights to help you exercise, shot glasses for parties or a poster or decoration that will inspire you. While you might want all these things, you have to prioritise. If you see something in a shop or online that you think might be useful, don’t buy it right away. Write it down on a list, with the cost, give it a day, a week, a month, or however long it takes for there be to enough space if your budget to afford the purchase. Don’t make impulsive purchases that you’ll regret.

Saving for Success

Whatever you are studying, and whatever you plan to get out of life, the best way to achieve it is to put any resources you have to the most effective use. That means having a successful university experience, both academically and socially, without creating restrictive debt and indulgent spending practises.

 

Do You Have a Financial Cushion?

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It’s wise to set aside an amount of money that will sit in your account at all times. This means if you are faced with a large unexpected cost you will have money available to pay it off, like last-minute travel to a funeral, a major fault with your car, or replacement of broken furniture. It’s a “cushion of cash” for when your account balance falls.

But it can be confusing figuring out what your budgeting priorities should be. Should you save money for emergencies? Or repay your loans and credit? Once you decide to take control of your personal finances, you can be actively making decisions about where your income is best spent, and therefore deciding what to do with what’s left after your living expenses are paid.

Step 1: Consolidate Your Debts

This process ensures you are paying the minimum possible for your debts. Depending on the terms of your credit agreements, it may be possible to refinance debts like your mortgage, car loan, hire purchase, student debt, etc. into a single debt with a more favourable interest rate.

If you have a credit card with a high interest rate, see if you can transfer the debt to a card with a promotional offer for balance transfers. If you qualify, some will charge 0% for 18 or 24 months.

Unless you don’t have enough income to pay for your debts each month, don’t agree to a consolidation loan that extends your terms, or you will end up paying more for interest. Try to pay the same amount per month that you are already paying, and if you are getting a better rate, the debt will be paid off faster.

Step 2: Pay Your Debts

Before you start to put money in savings, you should pay off your debts. The interest that you will pay on debts will almost always be more than the interest you earn on savings, so the frugal priority is to eliminate your debts as soon as possible.

Step 3: Create Your Cushion

If you don’t have a financial cushion, then you may have to pay unexpected costs by borrowing money. Whether it is a personal loan from a friend, a credit card purchase, or going into your overdraft, it will add to your debt.

The size of your cushion can depend on your lifestyle. Think about the biggest emergency costs you might face (household, car, travel, etc.) and try to at least match this cost. Three to six months of expenses would be useful in case there is a sudden interruption to your income flow, to loan to a family member when they are in need, or if you are faced with several large, unforeseen costs at once.

If you have to spend your cushion, put your savings on hold until you have replenished the fund.

Step 4: Start Your Savings

What comes next depends on what’s important to you. Some people save towards a new car, a family holiday, or a month long backpacking trip. Other people would like to own a home. ISAs often offer the best rates for savings as the interest you accrue is tax free within certain limits. Some types of ISA will even offer incentives for spending these savings on buying your first property.

It’s also wise to start saving for your retirement as soon as possible. Depending on your type of employment, you may be able to pay into a workplace pension. These usually offer the best rates, but personal and stakeholder pensions are also available, so it’s worth comparing. The one that’s right for you will depend on how much you can afford to contribute and how much risk you are willing to take with the money. Also be wary of charges and the terms regarding moving to other pension policies.

 

9 Bright Back-to-School Saving Tips

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As all parents know, even if you are not paying private school fees the school will regularly ask you for money. There are school trips, extra-curricular activities, lunches, class photographs and more. With the school year starting, it’s now the perfect time to be budgeting for the year to come.

If you already use Money Dashboard to assist you with your finances, you can look at your spending over the course of the last school year to predict how much it is likely to cost you. Take an average monthly cost and put that money aside each month to meet these costs.

If your child is just starting school, you can speak to school representatives or experienced parents to get an understanding of the costs involved. Getting prepared now will make meeting these costs easier throughout the year. Here are our top tips:

 

What Do You Already Have?

Before you go to the shops, search your home and make an inventory. The backs of drawers and cupboards may house old pens, pencils, rulers, notebooks, rubbers and other stationary. Take stock and you’ll likely have less to buy than you thought.

Check that jumpers, gym kit, and shoes still fit. Some will last a while longer. If anything is too small, don’t chuck it out, it can be sold on.

 

Make a List and Don’t Deviate

Read the notes from the school, and make a full list of items they will need. When you go shopping, stick to this list. Don’t buy anything else. You can keep the price to a minimum by only getting the essentials.

 

Look Online

Online prices are often much lower than prices in the shop. Have a look on Amazon, eBay, and Google shopping for anything you need. Sometimes prices are advertised without postage and packaging, so make sure you take this into account. Also look at where the item is being delivered from and the estimated delivery date. The cheapest options are sometimes from China or other Asian countries, but they might not arrive by the time school starts.

 

Second Hand Uniforms

Find out if the school does a second hand uniform sale or a thrift shop. Children grow fast, and uniforms or gym kits are regularly not well worn before they have to be passed on. If the school doesn’t organise a sale, communicate with other parents and see if you can buy, sell, or swap with them.

Charity shops near the school might have old uniforms at bargain prices. You could also look for books, stationary, and shoes that fit at charity shops, or advertised second hand on websites like Gumtree.

 

False Savings

Remember that any clothes you buy for your kids will have to be durable. They must endure playing outside, painting and messy eating without getting wrecked. If you buy discount brands and low quality clothes, it may be a false saving when they develop holes that can’t be repaired or stains that can’t be removed, and have to be replaced.

 

Get Arty

While folders, jotters, lunch boxes and pencil cases are available with your kid’s favourite performers or characters are likely available, branded merchandise is usually sold at a premium. You can buy plain products and personalise them. It could be a fun activity to do with your kids, so they get a hand in what their school stuff looks like. Pages of stickers can be bought online for a few pounds. Along with some coloured fabric or marker pens, you can turn school supplies into a creative art project celebrating whatever brand your kids want.

 

Home Repair

When kids play, uniforms get damaged. Instead of throwing them out and buying new stuff regularly, you can save money by doing a bit of needlework. Basic sewing isn’t difficult to learn – there are instructional videos online, and buying needle, thread, and some spare buttons is far cheaper than replacement clothes. You can even go a step further and learn how to make alterations to clothes that don’t quite fit.

 

Pack a Lunch

Whether you find it easier to do in the morning before school or the night before to be refrigerated, giving your child a packed lunch to take will save you spending on school dinners. It also gives you better control of their food intake to make sure they get a balanced, healthy meal.

 

Planning Ahead for 2017

Look out for bargains and sales on jotters, stationary and clothing throughout the year. Even if you don’t need it yet you’ll inevitably need replacements for lost or broken equipment, or clothes in larger sizes. Often these things are more expensive in August as that’s when people shop for them. Over the next year, build up school supplies and you’ll have a much cheaper August next year.

 

Managing Money With a Partner When You’re Expecting

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No matter how well you manage your money, the arrival of a new-born will change your financial plans. Handling finances with a partner can also be confusing and that’s why it is important to have a plan in place to make sure you always have the money you need when your family starts to grow.

Co-Management of Money

 Financial planning can be a difficult topic to discuss with your partner or family, but a clear and transparent plan can prevent arguments and overspend in future. Make sure you:

  • Set a limit: Purchases over a certain threshold should be discussed with your partner. Agree on that limit.
  • No secrets: Be open with your partner about your spending habits, your debts and your investments.
  • Discuss money regularly: Review your budget whenever you get a chance. If your arrangement isn’t working, adjust it and try again.

Equal Partners 

Regardless of who makes more money, who is better with money, or who is interested, partners should both understand the finances and be involved in decision making.

Understand Your Money

If you haven’t already, you should first get a clear understanding of your personal finances. Use Money Dashboard to get a full view of your income and outgoing expenses to see where your money is being spent. You may find you are overspending in ways you didn’t expect, and can adjust your routines to save money.

A Plan That Works For You

Different couples will want to manage their finances differently. Some may be comfortable spending each other’s money. Others prefer to have some privacy and independence. Here are four different options for managing money as a couple:

1. Separate But Equal

If you and your partner want to keep your money separate, devise a system where both are paying a fair share. Some bills can be in the name of one partner, some in the other. You can trade off paying for shopping, and pay half the cost of purchases into each other’s accounts.

  • Plan how regular spend and costs that pop up will be handled fairly.
  • The split doesn’t have to be 50/50, especially if income or childcare responsibilities aren’t equal, but both partners should agree what is fair.
  • Consider your partner when making purchases and financial decisions. Even if they don’t have access to your money, you both have a responsibility to provide for your child.

2. Share Everything

Joint bank accounts exist for couples who share money. Open one that suits you, and use it for receiving income and paying bills. Remember that this means you’ll both be responsible for debt and overdrafts, so it is vital you understand each other’s spending habits and trust each other not to overspend.

3. Three Pots of Money

Both you and your partner keep your own accounts, as well as paying into a joint account. The joint account pays for household bills and baby-related expenses and you can do what you want with your own money, allowing for privacy and independence.

  • Credit accounts are not good for joint spend. A credit card can have more than one user, but one person needs to be the main cardholder, and is liable for the other user.
  • Agree on how much each person should pay into the joint account and how regularly. Your budget will show you how much you will need for joint expenses.
  • Both of you are liable for joint debts. Keep the joint account well-funded.

4. Personal Allowances

This method works when one of you is the main earner, while the other handles parental care. The breadwinner transfers an agreed amount regularly to their partner. After joint costs and baby costs are covered, the partner receiving the allowance can do with the leftover money as they wish.

  • Agree how household and baby costs will be paid: by the main earner, split equally, or through a joint account.
  • Look at your budget to determine how much the allowance is and how regularly it should be paid.
  • The allowance is not a favour, or employment. You are both part of a working team, covering separate responsibilities.
  • Both partners must be comfortable with the arrangement.

9 Supermarket Mind Games

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Supermarkets are big business, and the big chains have put a lot of research into how to subtly seduce their customers into spending more than they intend to when they walk in. We explore some of these techniques, so the next time you do your regular shop you are armed against the temptation to overspend.

This is a fresh shop

The fruit and veg section is usually the first department you’ll see. This gives you a feeling that the supermarket will be filled with freshness, you’ll eat healthier and be a better person than ever before. This feeling will be totally gone by the time you reach the cakes and biscuits but the fresh smells and bright colours will draw you in.

Why Do They Offer Free Samples?

They have a product you might not normally buy but their research shows you’ll probably like. If you try some, you might buy some.

You will feel like the supermarket has given you something for free. Unconsciously, you feel like you owe them.

Just rushed in to pick up a few things? Take your time, hang out, try some food, look at all the things you can buy!

So Bright and Colourful

The shop floor is very well lit, with either goods for sale or eye-catching signage occupying your vision in every direction. Customers are dazzled, even hypnotised by the overwhelming input. It seems like your only choice is to slowly and methodically scan every inch of the store, for what you need. Instead, stick to the list that you wrote in advance. Don’t let yourself be distracted by the special offers. If you see something you want, maybe make a note of it to put on your list for next time. That way you avoid impulse buying which can lead to over-spending and wasted food.

Walking Pace

The music in supermarkets is going to be slow and relaxing. They want you to go slowly through the aisles so you have more chance of spotting something that you want to buy instead of charging through getting just what you need, like someone who is budgeting might want to.

Shelf Placement

Expensive options are usually at adult eye-level on the shelves, with the cheaper options down below. They’re hoping you’ll be too lazy to bend down for everything you need and it works rather well.

Items that kids will want are at children’s eye level. They’re not doing their own shopping but if kids want something they’ll pester their parents for it. If you don’t give in to your child’s requests you risk the humiliation of a bored child throwing a public temper tantrum.

End of the Aisles

Items on offer will appear at the end of the aisles. Usually bargains appear on the ends before you would find them as you wind through the shop. You’ll see a small amount of the item in a feature location at a discount price and snatch one up before you get a chance to compare it to other brands or alternative choices.

Growing Portions

Week 1: You spot a miniature version of a chocolate you like. It’s cute, it’s on offer, and it’s just a little thing. You buy it and eat it right away but feel a little unsatisfied. It’s over too quickly.

Week 2: You see the chocolate you got last week. Better get the full size this time, that miniature isn’t enough.

Week 3: 33% extra free? You were going to buy the regular size any way and this costs the same.

Week 4: The deal is gone. You get the regular size, but feel a little unsatisfied. The bigger one was more fulfilling. Better get giant size next time.

These bigger/smaller options and their special deals are designed to push you up a ladder to buying bigger quantities.

Will This Be Enough?

Product packaging sizes are sometimes deliberately awkward. It will be too much food for one person, but not enough for a family. The effect is you will have to buy more than you need, even if some of it might be wasted.

Impulse Buy Racks

This trick isn’t even subtle, but it still works. Impulse purchases like chocolate, chewing gum and glossy magazines are placed next to the checkout so you will add them to your shopping while you wait in line. A long way from the earthy freshness of the fruit and veg, now we’re just adding unnecessary junk to the trolley out of boredom. Don’t give into temptation. Stop and think “Do I need this?” If you did it would have been on your list and already in the trolley. It might be a small purchase but it’s a bad habit to get into and if you go shopping a lot it adds up.