Sticking to a budget can be difficult at the best of times, but raising a family can take the challenges of budgeting to a whole new level. That doesn't mean it's impossible, but you do need to be smart. Here, we give you some innovative and practical ways to start cutting costs today:

Find cheap alternatives to restaurants and cafes

As a mom, it's important to take some time out of your week to meet up with friends or indulge your interests. But, seeing your gal pal on the regular can, unfortunately, add up quickly; even if you're just buying a cappuccino once a week, that adds up to R1 200 over the course of a year – money that could go towards essential items like school uniforms or groceries. That doesn't mean you should cancel on your friend this week; it just means opting for something other than lunch or coffee. If you're close to the sea, you could suggest a beach day or a trip to a part of the city where you can have a picnic.

Keep an emergency fund

Setting up a specific fund in case of emergencies is one of the best ways of saving. Make sure that you put aside enough money every month in an account that makes it easy to access your funds, but one that has a decent interest rate. If you have an emergency fund, you don't have to resort to a personal loan in a time of crisis. This way you are utilising an account that earns you interest instead of a loan that you will pay interest on.

Look for lovable toys that cost little or nothing

The best toys aren't always the most expensive. Jar lids, plastic containers, boxes and measuring cups make perfect play things. It's great to buy your children one or two special toys, but over and above that, have a look at what is already in your house, and you'll soon see that your home is toyshop enough.

Learn to budget better

Budgeting can be difficult. No doubt about it, but if there's one thing you have to learn if you want to save is to draw up a strict budget and stick to it. The first place to start is being more conscious of where your money is going every month. Step one to better budgeting is tracking your spending. Step Two is identifying areas where you can cut costs. And step three is making sure that money goes only to the expenses it was allocated to – yes, budgeting is all about self discipline.  If you would like more tips on how to save, then have a look at our blog on budgeting.

Show your love with presence, not presents

The best gift you could ever give your child is your presence. Quality time spent with your child, where you are completely focussed on them for at least 15 minutes a day, can have a huge positive impact on your relationship with them and will lessen your need to shower them with unnecessary gifts – a go-to love substitute for parents who feel guilt for not being around enough.

Make your own baby food

All things baby-related tend to be expensive. All you have to do is look at what nappies and store-bought baby food costs to know how expensive. While there aren't many alternatives to the nappy situation (other than going old school and washing cloth nappies) it is possible to cut baby-food costs by making your own. The costs of bottled baby food add up considerably over time, and by making your own, you'll save money and ensure a freshness and nutritional value that processed baby food can't match. If you don't already have a food processor, now might be a good time to invest in one.

Save on electricity and water

Water and electricity bills can very quickly get out of hand if left unchecked. Teach your family how to save on water and electricity, and you'll see significant savings. Make sure your children can close taps properly and teach them to switch off the lights when they leave a room. Also consider installing energy efficient light bulbs, putting a geyser blanket on your geyser (and turning it down to 60ºC), and putting buckets in the shower to collect excess water that can be used for watering the garden. If youre interested in learning more ways to save water, electricity, and your money, see our articles on how to save water and how to save electricity.

Teach your kids to be responsible with money

Teach your children good money habits from a young age. It's one of the most important things you can do for them as it'll hold them in good stead when they start to earn their own money. Let them earn their pocket money by doing chores or getting certain grades at school, and teach them how to save. If they understand  the value of money, they'll be less likely to waste both theirs and yours.

Save on grocery shopping

There are many ways to save on grocery shopping, but one of the best is to take advantage of sales or items on promotion when at the shops. Write a list of the absolute basics and the must-haves, but where you can, use placeholders such as meat and vegetables, etc. That way you can find the best possible prices on those general items, and plan your week's meals around cheaper-than-usual ingredients, instead of the other way round.

Accept hand-me-downs

There's absolutely nothing wrong with hand-me-downs from an older child to a younger one. But there's also nothing wrong in accepting them from friends or family with children who are slightly older than yours, as long as the clothes are good quality and still in good condition. By being receptive, you can save a lot of money accepting both hand-me-down toys and clothes.

Get a low-cost bank account

Do you know how much you are spending on bank fees? Most people don't. They just let fees be deducted off their accounts thinking that there isn't an alternative. But there is: low cost bank accounts. Open your online banking profile and calculate what you're spending on bank fees every month. Quite a lot isn't it? To reduce costs, why not look at a low-cost bank account instead? To learn more about low-cost bank accounts and what they offer to the money-savvy mom, read our article on what to look for in a low-cost bank account, or alternatively visit our Money Account page to learn how one low cost account allows you to do more for less. 

Learn more

For more useful money-related tips, sign up for our Money Mailer. In this free monthly newsletter, we give you articles on topics ranging from borrowing to saving and everything inbetween. If you've ever wanted to know how to reduce your living expense, how to save for university, or how to improve your credit score, the insights in these article can leave you wiser, wealthier, and better equipped to make the most of your money.

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