Smart Saving Strategies for Families on a Tight Budget

Let’s face it. In today’s fast-paced world, managing family finances can be challenging, especially when you’re on a tight budget. The constant struggle to make ends meet often leaves little room for saving money, and there’s always something you’re putting off doing for your future that makes financial sense as a fully grown adult. However, when it comes to how to save money fast on a low income, with the right strategies, it IS possible.  Even if you’re not earning as much as your neighbours and friends, taking considered steps to build a financial safety net, even with a low family income, can help pave the way to a brighter future. In this article guide, we’ll explore practical ways for savvy families to save money quickly and efficiently to attempt to get to a point where no family feels like they’re just “treading water”. So, with that in mind, let’s start by considering how to create sensible financial foundations.

How to Create a Budget for the Whole Family

Creating and sticking to a budget is the cornerstone of effective financial management for families. Not just in the UK, but worldwide. Begin by assessing your family’s income in a spreadsheet on a computer or on paper by listing all expenses and incomes in two columns. Once you’ve done that, categorise them into essentials and non-essentials. Then go one step further and try, as a family where possible, to order the expenditures you’ve listed even further in terms of importance to you by labeling them alphabetically. For example, if you have numerous subscriptions, which do you need or use the most? You can also use budgeting tools or apps to track your family’s spending and identify areas where you can cut back. Apps like Snoop are great for this For a detailed guide on budgeting apps, check out our best budget apps article. Once you have your list of expenditures, it’s time to consider which ones are making your life harder, and usually, it’ll be existing debts that literally compound not only your money constraints for your income but also what you owe over a term/time.

Reduce Family Debt First

Debts can be a significant barrier to saving money for families. Identify your outstanding debts, such as credit cards or loans, and create a plan to pay them off systematically. Consider prioritising high-interest debts first to save on interest payments. Alternatively, do your research on the best 0% interest balance transfer cards. Whilst there’s nothing better than paying off outstanding debts completely, their offers can give breathing space if you have multiple debts that are charging interest each month. Just be sure to prioritise the monthly minimum payments to be sure of keeping promotional balance transfer offers and use a comparison service to find the best offers.

Explore Opportunities to Earn More as a Family

Okay, let’s move on to exploring ways to maximise income. Exploring opportunities for the whole family to increase income can be a great way to get the kids involved. Sort out those cupboards and get whatever is unused or surplus on eBay, Vinted, Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace as soon as possible. For smaller, low-value items even erecting a table out the front of your home with a 10p box, 20p box, etc can clear up space and help out with change for family expenses quicker than you might think.

Look for opportunities to inspire independence in your children as they age with weekend jobs like newspaper rounds, pet-sitting, and odd jobs for friends, family, and neighbours. For yourselves as adults, have you become stuck in a rut? Are there better jobs out there, or promotions that are potentially passing you by? Try putting yourself out there with applications (interviews are a great experience even is unsuccessful in the process) or improving your skill sets with self-study.

Udemy regularly offers free courses that can pad out a CV or LinkedIn page. For example, I’m looking into picking up skills in the area of Web3 and coding with Python and whilst Udemy didn’t have many free courses for those areas, they did offer huge offers on courses that could help build skills and offer, at the time of writing, 7.5% cashback on courses via Quidco.

Discover Family-Friendly Side Gigs

Side gigs can be a game-changer for boosting your family’s income. From freelancing to online tutoring, various platforms are offering flexible opportunities that suit family life. For example, I write freelance and maintain this website around my main job and family life. It’s important to ensure your side gig complements your family’s schedule and skills, as if it encroaches or becomes too much of a chore you’re likely not to get the best return on your efforts.

Cutting Costs By Lowering Family Expenses

Identify areas where your family can cut unnecessary expenses. Analyse your monthly spending habits and find alternatives or cheaper options for regular purchases. Can you swap supermarkets? Carshare for commutes? or buy essentials in bulk to reduce costs long term. For example, we found a swap to a mid-range dishwasher tablet saved money versus the premium brand we were using, but was just as good; we then sourced this in bulk when on multibuy deals to cut costs further. Small changes can make a significant impact over time.

Consider also challenging your family with a “No Spend Month.” During this period, commit to spending only on essential items. It’s a great way to reset your family’s spending habits and identify non-essential expenses that can be eliminated without noticing them. Maybe you could even try the Savvy Dad peak money-saving challenge which is both affordable and realistic.

Consider Practical Money-Saving Tactics

What about opening a Family Savings Account? – Having a dedicated family savings account can help you separate your savings from daily expenses. It also means you’re not tempted to see any extra cash in your accounts as “expendable” when it comes to checking your account balances. Look for accounts with competitive interest rates and minimal fees – it’s always worth checking out the Which? Best Buy charts or the guides on MSE. Set up automatic transfers to ensure consistent family savings and consider some of the best budgeting apps in the UK for use.

When it comes to kitting out the family for school, consider looking to outlet sites. Schuh Outlet and Office Offcuts are great places to look for discounted footwear and even factories have clearance stores – for example, in the East where we’re based, StartRite has a fabulous discount section to clear stock. Never be afraid to ask the school for secondhand or nearly new uniforms too and no school should be pressuring parents and carers to buy expensive uniforms.

Next, look around your home in the cupboards you never use. Identify items that your family no longer needs and consider selling them online or through local platforms. It’s a quick way to generate extra cash and declutter your living space. Vinted has a bit of a bad rep right now judging by the reviews for accounts being closed without good reason, so we’d suggest sticking to sites and apps like eBay, Gumtree, and Facebook Marketplace.

What about also trying to implement a family-friendly “Cash Envelope” method? The cash envelope method involves allocating a fixed amount of cash to different spending categories. Once the cash is gone, your family stops spending in that category. It’s a tangible way to stick to your budget on things that are not essential and avoid overspending.

Care and housing costs can run high and while the energy price cap is hopefully due to drop soon, standing charges are still rising and it’s still pointless paying for wasted electricity, so save it where you can. Set thermostats properly, bleed those radiators regularly, buy domestic heating oil at a discount during off-peak periods, and switch to the best energy supplier you can find – we highly recommend Octopus Energy for a huge number of reasons you can read about in our article that offers a £50 switch incentive.

Explore ways to reduce car-related costs, such as carpooling or using public transportation. For housing, consider negotiating rent, refinancing your mortgage, or downsizing to a more affordable living space if these are reasonable options.

Review and Cancel Unnecessary Family Subscriptions

Review your family’s monthly subscriptions and identify any that are unnecessary. Canceling subscriptions for services you don’t use frequently can free up funds for more critical family expenses. Common culprits can be Spotify, Amazon Prime, and TV services like Sky. Why not try negotiating with the providers for better value (See our guide on haggling with Sky), or try switching to cheaper alternatives – in this case, NOWtv deals.

Seeking Support and Asking for Help as a Family

Don’t hesitate to seek financial advice or assistance as a family. There are numerous resources available, including government programs, charities, and financial counseling services. Reach out to get the support your family needs. Remember, there’s no stigma attached to asking for help, and whatever you do, never borrow more to cover debts – always seek professional financial advice.

Saving money on a low family income requires a combination of budgeting, debt reduction, income maximisation, and practical money-saving tactics. It’s by no means easy, but by implementing the strategies outlined in this guide, savvy families can begin to take control of their finances, build a safety net, and work towards a more secure financial future.

Start small, stay consistent, and watch your family’s savings grow. Once you’ve made a few changes, it can help to get the ball rolling and inspire future endeavours!

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