Trying to keep the household costs down

OK, a follow on from my previous budgeting blog post. How exactly can you reduce the monthly outgoings on your household bills?

1 – Shopping

There are a couple of potential ways to tackle this one. I will suggest some, but there may well be others.

The way it works in my house is this: Firstly we use a fortnightly meal plan. Just a piece of paper with the days of the week on, and then I write a meal for each day.  This works brilliantly for me, as my biggest problem has always been deciding what to cook for the evening/main meal. This way it’s already decided, so I just look at the planner the night before and take out whatever I need meat wise from the freezer to defrost.  It also means, when I do the shopping I only buy what I need, as I’ve already decided what ingredients I will need for the next fortnight. We have far less takeaways this way too!

I have a weekly budget for my household shop. For us (one adult, one teen and one child) that is £70. This includes EVERYTHING that the household might need (cleaning products, shampoo etc and food). I tend to do the shopping fornightly (see above), so that gives me £140 to spend each fortnight, I never go over.  Some weeks may cost more than £70, you know those weeks where everything runs out AND you need washing powder AND toilet rolls etc, but others cost way less. Overall it balances out pretty well on a fortnightly basis.

Going fortnightly also means less impulse buy opportunies, half in fact!

Online shopping can work out cheaper, even if you are paying for delivery. You can see all the offers clearly, and have plenty of time to compare the prices of different products. It also removes the temptation of walking past something you really don’t need but jumps into your trolley anyway, or suddenly appears out of no-where on the conveyer at the checkout! However you do miss out on the reduced sections found at the supermarket.

Reduced sections are great, and work really well with a meal plan. Buy the meat on offer and freeze it as soon as you get home. When you make your next meal plan, check what you already have in the freezer and use that up first. It might be ‘use by’ today, but if you are freezing it right away it’s good to go!

2 – TV, Broadband and Telephone

Check that you really need what you’re paying for. Can you reduce the bills at all? Perhaps with less channels or less data on your internet. Try calling your provider and seeing if there is a current discount they can offer you. Threaten to leave if you need to, and do so too. You are bound to find similar or cheaper elsewhere – but you may be more comfortable checking this before you jack in your current provider!

3 – Mobile phone

Check if you are out of your contract period. If you are you can get a much better sim only deal through your current network. If not, check that your plan is suitable for what you are using your phone for and change plans if you can.

If you are on PAYG, shop around for a new network, or product type with your current network. Many networks have deals these days, including free texts with a top up and/or free data. Look at what most of your credit is spent on and go from there.

4 – Utilities

Shop around and get cheaper tariffs if you can.  If you are on a prepayment meter, and can trust yourself to budget (see previous blog post on budgeting), it is far cheaper to switch to a standard meter (although the utility company will make a one off charge for this). For many families, a water meter can offer large savings too.

Reduce your usage where possible. Make sure all your bulbs are energy efficient. Encourage household members to switch lights, TVs and computers off when not needed or the room is empty. Only put the water you need in the kettle each time. If you are gathered in one room in the evening, shut the door to keep more heat in. Make sure your home is as insulated and draught free as you can. Put a heavy curtain over front doors or large windows, for example. Use a water butt to collect rain water, tumble dryer water (if you have a condenser type) and shower water whilst waiting for it to heat up. You can use this water for the garden and washing the car.

5 – Babies and Small Children

Breastfeeding can save a fortune over formula milk. Obviously it may not be possible for you and your little one, but there are so many reasons to give it as good a go as you can if it’s not too late already.

Making your own baby food is another way to save large amounts of money. An inexpensive hand blender and some ice cube trays are all you need. If you are not adding salt, many of your family meals may be suitable to whizz up and freeze. Otherwise use fruits and vegetables as well as some meats once your little one is old enough. Cook without salt and freeze in sterilised ice cube trays. Simply defrost and heat as many cubes as required for each meal in the microwave – taking care to mix thoroughly and check the temperature before feeding. Try ready brek instead of baby cereal too. It’s far less expensive for a much larger box AND doesn’t have any of the additives found in baby cereals!

Re-usable nappies can also save a fortune. They do require a larger initial outlay, but that is a one off payment. Or find a Real Nappy Library close to you.

There are many other ways to keep costs down, these are just a few that are easy to implement.