Moving house so close to Christmas proved to be expensive beyond my expectations. Despite the fact that we only moved ten minutes up the road and did most of the moving ourselves, the costs added up quickly. Factor in the budget-conscious setting up of our new home, end-of-year-celebrations and Christmas lists and we started the New Year with a more humble bank balance than we intended.
Alas, at least we have a bank balance that's in the positive. Perspective is good at times like this.
I tend to stress about finances in every pregnancy, despite the fact that in each subsequent pregnancy, we've been in a better financial situation than the last. After seven years of teaching prenatal yoga I know for a fact that my worries are not unusual; a fear of the financial is one shared by most pregnant women.
I've written about the cost of living a few times (here, here and here) and I've always been inspired and motivated by the suggestions within the comments. Indeed, as the years pass the cost of living continues to increase, despite our best efforts to be conscious of how and where we are spending money. It's a universal issue that seems particularly pertinent at this time of year; in school holidays the grocery bill seems to increase exponentially and the costs associated with back-to-school are significant.
Daniel and I both work freelance; it's a beautiful lifestyle choice that allows us to spend lots of quality time as a family but the downside is that there isn't a lot of financial stability. We've learned to work with it though; we are pretty sensible when it comes to what we buy and our outgoings are kept to a minimum. Still, every fortnight I'm shocked by how much the day-to-day costs us.
Since our move we have made a few changes to ensure we are making sensible financial decisions and consequently embracing our desire for simple and mindful living.
- in mid-2014 we finally purchased a coffee machine. Instead of buying a top-of-the-range model we opted for the very affordable sunbeam cafe crema + grinder, both of which happened to be on sale at the time. We spent about $150 in total and since then, Daniel has perfected the art of coffee making (my brother is a coffee roaster so we get the beans for free) and we have saved ourselves a fortune. Coffee in cafes, takeaway coffees and the added sweet extras were really increasing our weekly spending and it got to the point where we just couldn't justify it anymore. We'll still go to a cafe about once a week but we consider it a bit of a treat and, where possible, we go without the children.
- we rarely buy books. When we were packing up our old house we were floored by how little our book collection had been touched over the years. Whilst the children's books are regularly read, our novels just sat on the shelf looking pretty. We donated most of our collection, kept our absolute favourites (especially cooking, gardening and lifestyle books) and since then, we've been going to the library which saves us money and ensures our bookshelf stays clutter-free.
- we researched our electricity consumption. Even when we turn our computer off, it's still using electricity, hence we turn it off at the wall at every available opportunity - same goes for most appliances. We don't have carpet in this new house so the vacuum cleaner rarely gets used and because we get endless amounts of sun, we haven't turned the dryer on since we moved in. Come wintertime, a clotheshorse on the balcony or beside the fire should eliminate the need for the dryer altogether (that's our intention, anyway).
- we're a one car family - by choice. Granted there are weeks when the juggle can get a little frustrating (especially when Daniel is working in Sydney) and it is going to be more difficult this year as I have to drive Che to school (we were within walking distance at our old house) but...we prefer the juggle to the expense of a second car.
- where I can, I buy groceries in bulk. Admittedly, I'm terrible at bulk buying, simply because the large bill terrifies me but I've come to realise that I'd rather have a large bill once every three weeks than a series of small bills every few days. We get our organic fruit + veg delivered once a week so it's only dry goods, bread and milk that I need to stock up on (I buy meat from the local butcher once a week).
- we take our water bottles everywhere (we love and swear by the klean kanteen range).
- we started a vegie patch and whilst I think I planted too late in the season (the humidity has been a bit of an issue) we have still managed to reap a good selection of greens. Now, I'm looking towards autumn/winter and thinking of what to plant.
We still have a goal of buying a little house but for now, we're pretty happy where we are; saving where we can and enjoying what we already have.
How are you feeling about finances for the New Year? Do you have a savings plan? What is your top tip for saving money as a family?