Author: Amber Swayn
To understand my financial outlook, I’ll first disclose three facts:
- I am a payer-offerer, not a saver
- I have an ultimate financial goal of being debt free ASAP
- I’m preparing for my husband and I to be self-funded retirees
To achieve our ultimate financial goals of becoming debt free and self-funded retirees, I had to get control of our family finances. We weren’t in a bad financial position at all but knowing our exact financial situation has saved a lot of stress and ensured that we can make decisions that work for our family.
Here are my top tips for keeping your finances in check:
Budgeting tips when you have twins, triplets or and more
1. Choose a budgeting style and stick with it
There are a few different options that stand out to me, I’ve tried two of them and the third has never held any appeal.
Pay as you go
This method is basically pre-paying or putting money away for every foreseeable expense in your pay cycle increments. For every expense you can think of, break down to your pay cycle (monthly, fortnightly or weekly), then bpay the amount straight from your pay as soon as it hits. Some things you can’t – like rego and insurance, but I would put that amount into a separate account each pay so I couldn’t touch it (in theory).
These days I run a pretty detailed excel spreadsheet with all of the family expenses and then balance it every week. I literally have every forecasted expense for five years in this spreadsheet (as well as a separate worksheet for our consumer debt and mortgage so that I can keep track of how we’re going to pay off day). We have a joint account where all of our income, less our individual pocket money goes in to. We use this account for everything except for our personal stuff (lunches if we don’t take what’s in the fridge, hair appointments, make up, social events with our friends, camping for my husband, etc).
To work out what our personal spending money would be in a $ amount, I estimated all family expenses, some modest savings to account for an annual holiday and a buffer amount. I took this total away from our joint income (base rate only) and divided the remaining amount in two.
My husband and I have no accountability to each other for this spending money. It is ours to do with what we wish. We each have an afterpay account where we can make our own big-budget purchases that we each pay off out of our own spending money.
I find a house account/joint account keeps me accountable for any random expenses too. We are both prone to purchases that aren’t really for the greater good, so having that accounting system means we know where every cent of our money goes.
The spreadsheet is a living beast, if we get an unexpected expense, we adjust accordingly so that we can cover the cost.
For me, cash envelopes just don’t appeal. I hate carrying cash, I hate the security risk, I hate having to withdraw money and (because of a childhood house robbery incident where our change jar was stolen) I hate keeping cash in the house.
I will say that the cash envelope system works for many very effectively.
I admire the efforts people go to keep their budgets in check and as with parenthood – whatever works for you is the best solution!
2. Try to earn free money without spending money
I run everything I can through my Flybuys card and gather points that I use for money off shops. This can be a trap to spend more to earn more however I’ve stopped worrying about earning the most points and always look at the additional spend v. the points value.
When they have a good offer on spend for points, I do use the additional spend to bulk buy items I otherwise wouldn’t get a discount on (wipes, ironing starch, dog food, etc) and things that may already be discounted heavily (laundry detergent, dishwashing detergent, coffee – 40% off or more is the savings I’d be looking for to bulk buy). I only bulk buy because I have the cash – I would never bulk buy on a credit card purely because the interest charges would likely absorb the “bonus” of the points that I later convert to money off.
I try and save the money off for weeks where I’ve had an unexpected expense or the kid’s birthday party shop.
3. Meal Plan but only if you have the time
I found meal planning does save me money, but I also spend more time on it… so instead at the moment, I keep a staples shopping list on my Coles App and do a stocktake each week before groceries to see what we need. Its hard, but I try my very best to shop my list. I have staple meals included there and generally only make “fancy” or high cost meals when it’s special occasion… and even then try to shop the specials.
4. Plan ahead and run your pantry like a store
I try to shop the
specials and discounted items at all times too.
I buy homebrand for things I don’t care so much about. I only buy the brands I prefer when they’re on special. I try to keep enough stocks on hand so I don’t have to buy items that aren’t discounted if I don’t absolutely need them, so some things stay on my shopping list over to the next week.
Even if one of my staples items isn’t on my list to buy that week but there is a great special, I usually won’t buy it – but then if I go the next week and it’s not on special and we need it, I still won’t buy it. My poor husband does sometimes go without coffee beans purely because I refuse to buy them if they’re not on special… but I will buy two bags if it’s 50% off. I only do this with the items that we are guaranteed to go through. You won’t find creamed corn in my cupboard because it was 50% off.
The general rule of thumb in supermarket world is that everything is on sale at some point or other… unless it’s homebrand, in which case it mostly isn’t but usually at a cost where a discount won’t break the bank. Failure to plan is a plan to fail when it comes to shopping the best bargains in your supermarket.
Oh and one last thing – I’m not above shopping at multiple supermarket chains if there is half priced nappies involved (multiple mums will get this more than most). It is for this reason I also have an Everyday Rewards card (but it’s nowhere near as lucrative for me as my Flybuys).
5. Need v. want
I generally only buy anything when it’s on special or clearance. When the kids were young, I got a lot of hand me downs, shopped up a few sizes in the clearance racks and attended our local MBA clothes swap event once a year for three years (that was a decent money saver).
I have only just started to buy myself nice items of make up and face care (my twins are 5). This was a choice I made not to prioritise myself, not a deliberate budget decision. I mostly buy classic, versatile clothing that last me forever. Look for sales – I shop at Jeans West but only when they have their 40% off sale. I shop a lot at Kmart for seasonal clothes or the inbetween sizes (you know the ones… specifically right now as I’m expanding with one pregnancy and in a few months when I’ll be shrinking back down again).
I also spacebag the clothes that I still like and don’t fit (specifically during pregnancy) for later on. I save the decluttering for once I’m back into that size.
6. Follow those who inspire you
I follow #debtfreecommunity on Instagram to be motivated on the debt journey and financial management – it’s so inspirational! I’ve learnt mostly that I’m on the right track, but also that there are so many other like-minded people out there that value their financial future too. It’s reassuring to know that in this world so accustomed to taking on new debt, others are working hard to clear all debt and save for their retirement like we are.
Finally, here are some really quick and easy financial decisions that we have made that have worked for us to keep our expenses low and debt reducing:
- We had a backyard wedding, homemade dresses, supermarket flowers and inexpensive rings.
- We purchased the worst home in the best street of our area (and will eventually renovate with cash).
- We choose not to put the children in day care any more days than absolutely required.
- We pay extra off our debt to reduce interest and the time of the loan.
- We buy and sell things on buy, swap sell pages to save money and earn some extra when we’re done with something.
- We chose to make-do with the car we have and pay for some modifications for additional anchor points instead of buying a whole other car (which we would have purchased second hand anyway).
- We have date nights at home after the kids are asleep and sometimes during the days I work while the kids are at daycare.
- We pay whatever we can ahead of time if there’s a discount involved (and never on credit, always only if we have the cash).
These are just a few of the things that we do that save us money. We also still treat ourselves to family dinners out or take away if we’re both exhausted at the end of the day. We don’t feel like we live on a strict budget, or that we miss out on anything.
Life is all about priorities and getting on top of your finances for me is a pretty important priority because if I control our finances, they won’t control us! As I’m pretty sure any parent can relate, knowing that you have the money available to pay for those unexpected expenses like a trip to the doctor, medicine, school photos, etc without the stress, makes life so much simpler in the long run.