Life has got expensive, hasn’t it? Maybe it’s the addition of children that leads us to the conclusion that you need to earn a small fortune just to enjoy your life, or perhaps it is that everything has become so unbelievably expensive. A few years ago, if someone gave you $50 then that was a huge deal, now you can spend double that just doing a top-up grocery run!
     If you have teenagers, then you are in an even worse position. Before, when they were little, it was easier. Ok, so you needed to borrow a small fortune to buy all the kits and add-ons that you need to raise a child, like seats that hold them up and sippy cups that they want to use, or the steriliser! Remember? You had to buy three in the end because two of them broke? However, once you had all these gadgets, the rest was pretty low key. Teenagers have the same demands as an adult. They want adult clothes, adult phones, adult amounts of food. So you are no longer funding two adults and a couple of kid. You are paying for a whole blinking football team!
     We should be feeling a little better about money; there are so many shops out there which offer us savings and discounts, the problem is they also offer the dreaded bargain aisles, you know the ones? You pop into the shop for washing powder and a couple of toilet rolls, then head out with a two year supply of peanut butter because buying in bulk saved you a few dollars. Of course, as soon as you get it home your children announce they don’t like peanut butter anymore.
     Life is expensive. There is no way around it. We just need to face the facts.
     Or, do we?
     There are ways we can lower our living costs, but we do need to get organised. Firstly, we need to start with a budget plan. Not just a few scribbled down notes on a piece of paper. You need a full on, all singing, all dancing financial budget plan. You won’t need a professional to help you with this; there are some brilliant online apps which can help you get your family finances on track.
     It is critical to start with the basics and then expand on them. So sorting out the household income, what you all bring to the table, then working out every outgoing. You also need to look at contingency plans too. You should budget some savings in too. This will mean you know exactly what is going out and coming in, every day.
     Once you have this, you need to stick to it. If your budget only allows you to spend $90 on food for the week, then that is it, you cannot go over this limit. The fun part begins when you start trying to come in under budget every week. This is where we can help!
     In the catering industry, they cook large portions of food and then freeze it down to consume at a later time. So having a big freezer is your friend. Go with cheap buy simple recipes such as ground beef chilli. You can cook up enough of this to feed an army, then freeze it down. You should also look at what you can add to the chilli to give it more bulk and save you a little on meat. A superb idea that they use in the catering industry is adding lentils to chilli. The lentils soak up the flavour of the meat and juices and mimic the texture of the meat; this means you can stretch your ground beef out a little further. You could also make in bulk pasta sauces and soups. While it may cost you a bit to grab up the ingredients in the first place, once you have stocked your freezer full of food, you will be spending less during the week.
     You can also change the cuts of meat that you eat. Use a crock pot to cook tougher, cheaper cuts of meat for longer periods of time. This creates more flavour and gives you delicious meals at half the price.
     When it comes to clothing, we know this is an area that will set you back a small fortune. You want your kids to fit in and have the best you can afford, but they have champagne taste while you have beer money. They need to understand that you cannot always provide the coolest trainers. It is a good life lesson.
     Kids that are old enough could work for family or friends to help save their money; this can be a great lesson for them in how hard it is to earn a relatively small amount of cash. However you can do you bit too if you are still buying directly from the shop without at least searching the internet for deals, then you are doing yourself a disservice. Check out sites like to see where you can pick up deals and you won’t believe how much you could save. There are some people who only use sites such as Groupon to purchase food, drink and clothing. They save an absolute fortune! Get on board and see if you can do the same.
     If you want to save yourself some money, then start looking at what you can make in your home. Going back to the kitchen, for the price of one loaf of bread you can buy all the ingredients you need to bake six loaves of bread! Or many bread rolls which can be frozen and cooked to order! You could also consider starting your own vegetable garden. Chances are your children only really like a few vegetables anyway, so if they have favourites such as carrots and potatoes, then why not grow your own. You can also introduce fruits they enjoy too. Strawberries and raspberries cost a fortune in the supermarket, so why not get them in your garden and save yourself the cash!
     This year, go back to black and stay out of debt.


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