At the beginning of November, I wrote a post explaining that it was my aim to spend less this month. In fact, it was my aim to spend nothing beyond essential items – such as groceries, bills etc. in an effort to try not only save money but also reflect on where it was actually going.
To some extent I have been successful in my endeavour, I’ve definitely thought more carefully about what I’ve been buying along with where I shop. Although I have definitely failed in that I’ve bought Thomas new clothes in bigger sizes and have taken Katie to Starbucks at least twice!
Today, I finally give you my top three areas for saving money:
1. The weekly grocery shop
I have to admit that I have never liked ‘budget’ shops – I like it when things are laid out nicely, look attractive and I can see familiar items quickly and easily. I would always opt for a brand I recognise over a cheaper item. This month, I went out of my comfort zone by largely shopping at Lidl. I usually shop at Sainsburys or Waitrose so this was quite different for me.
I have to admit, I was very pleasantly surprised about how much it has changed since I was at University. I was expecting crates and piles of boxes everywhere, with slightly dodgy looking fruit and veg. This could not have been further from reality and I am delighted to have discovered that they do AMAZING croissants.
We also shop at Morrisons fairly often, purely because of its close proximity to our house. I kept all of the receipts from our shopping this month in order to work out what our money was being spent on and from looking at these, Lidl definitely wins in the price wars and actually offers better quality a lot of the time.
However, the most useful exercise has been to actually work out what areas our money actually goes on. It was hugely surprising to discover that although we’ve bought more fruit and veg than any other item, this only accounts for 11% of our overall spending.
The other area that I didn’t expect was cleaning products – things like washing detergent, dishwasher salt and rinse aid. Obviously these things are necessary (particularly with kids!) but it’s definitely an area that I’ll be looking to save on in future months.
2. Nappies and baby wipes
I have always been aware that nappies and wipes have been a big area of expenditure for us – after 3 years of Katie wearing nappies I don’t even want to calculate how much we’ve spent in that time! I did try a cheaper brand with Katie but after she came out in appalling nappy rash, I didn’t even finish the pack and switched back to using Pampers.
With special offers etc. I worked out that at best, we usually spend about £24 a month on nappies for Thomas and then about £20 on wipes – bought in bulk from Amazon. Over the year this of course would work out about, £528. I also know that this figure is dependent on continually being organised enough to buy in bulk and for prices to hold steady – both of which are utterly unlikely!
Realising that I spend more on nappies than I do on fruit and veg in a month was slightly depressing as I certainly know which I enjoy more! It was for that reason, I decided to look into reusable wipes and nappies – something I had always written off as being a bit ‘hippy’ or alternative.
I was delighted to find that the City of Edinburgh offer a 3 week trial of reusable nappies that is heavily subsidised for residents – so only costs £12. They give you everything you need to experience using ‘real’ nappies and include a variety of different types for you to try – there’s no one size fits all – you could have a great nappy system that works well for one child but wouldn’t be right for another. I’m currently one week in on our trial and have been utterly convinced it’s the right thing to do.
I’m keen to write more about nappies and reusable wipes another week so won’t go on about it now, but suffice to say – I’ve discovered a whole world a didn’t know about! Have you ever given them a go?
3. Classes and activities
When Thomas was born, I have to admit that I struggled with having to entertain Katie with a small baby in the mix. Staying at home all day watching box sets for some reason was not Katie’s bag – and she really didn’t like my idea of playing with Playdoh for hours on end.
For that reason, I looked up lots of different classes we could do each day to try to break up the time a bit. This was a great idea in that I found loads that Katie really enjoys and other people can entertain her whilst I concentrate on Thomas for half an hour or so – but it does come at a cost.
It has been really difficult working out what to cut out because it feels like I’m taking away things that Katie is accustomed to and obviously enjoys – so I’ve been very aware that I can’t simply replace them with staying at home and expecting her to entertain herself or to sit and watch CBeebies!
The first thing I decided to look at were her ‘ad hoc’ classes – drop in activities that aren’t pre-booked. We had been attending an afternoon singing group which firstly, lasted an hour or so and secondly, provided coffee. I had always considered this an absolute bargain at £7. The problem is, I had never really considered parking cost, which made the total cost more like £10. Attending every week meant that I spent more on that single activity than any other and actually, more than any area of my grocery shopping!
I’ve kept in mind that it is something that we could do occasionally, and potentially something I could walk to if I could convince Katie to stand on her buggy board. However, I have to be honest and say that Katie has not once asked when we are going again and despite my impression that she really loved it, has not seemed to miss it at all. I certainly don’t regret the times that we did attend but it’s nice to have £40 in the savings account instead.
The next thing I decided to look at was whether all the classes still fulfilled everything I actually was looking for. For example, Katie has attended weekly swimming lessons for the last two years and has always been a bit of a fish. We’ve loved her confidence in the water and seeing how competitive she has been in her efforts to learn to swim. However, I was also aware that she had been acting up in the classes recently and as one of the most expensive activities, this was more than a little frustrating. What was the point in taking her if she refused to participate?
Whilst some weeks were better than others, I thought it was time to look at ‘big’ kids swimming lessons without parents in the pool. I contacted a recommended swim school and gritted my teeth expecting astronomical costs – I shouldn’t have been so pessimistic – it was half the price per term! She’s in a class half the size and was a total pro in the pool without her Daddy.
In short, it was definitely worth taking the time to consider each activity and ask if it was still the right ‘fit’ for Katie. I won’t be making the same mistake again and just pay term after term without really looking at what she gets from the classes.
I have yet to really sit down and examine my bank statements to see if there is any other area I can cut down on, but for now, I’m pretty happy we’ve made progress.
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