With family circumstances changing we've had a 2/3 drop in income. Thankfully, I'm a dab hand at budgeting so with our carefully constructed eco stash of money-saving reusables, our penchant for preloved, and a few top tips we can reap the rewards of extreme budgeting. Don't get me wrong, it takes almost military planning, but the rewards are massive.
So what are the steps: 1️⃣ Look at what income you have coming in; add in everything- salary, benefits, income from other sources etc. Check you are claiming all benefits you are entitled you- you'd be amazed what help is available. You can use a site like https://www.entitledto.co.uk/ or https://www.turn2us.org.uk/ for help and advice. 2️⃣Look at all your outgoings- mortgage/rent, food, cleaning stuff, travel, electricity, gas, monthly credit payments, insurances, MOT, parking, school fees, clubs and subscriptions, phone bills, clothes. Include EVERYTHING; a look through your bank statements and receipts over a few months should give you a good idea. There are budgeting spreadsheets to make this easier, particularly if some bills are weekly, some monthly and some yearly. I've created our own spreadsheet to record everything. 3️⃣ Be honest but not self-critical: if your outgoings are more than your income, you have a problem! But by being thorough and honest you can look at what you can do without or find a cheaper alternative. 4️⃣ Use what you already have and ditch what you have and don't use. What can you do without and not really miss it? Cancel subscriptions memberships, unhealthy habits, takeaways, meals out, holidays, TV channels or other non-essential spending. Each family is different, so what is not important to you may be "essential" for another. Have a good sort out and look at what you already have. Most people have hundreds of things they had forgotten about. For items you don't love anymore, sell them on Facebook Marketplace, groups or auction sites; outgrown clothes, toys, furniture, gadgets, tools...anything! Doesn't cost anything to advertise and you can specify that the items have to be paid for on collection, so saving you and the buyer postage and delivery costs, as well as pricey eBay and PayPal charges. 5️⃣Cut down on your wants and focus on your needs. Do you really need to buy a new book/ tool/ pan/ Halloween outfit etc or could you borrow one or get a used one? Make the most of your local library, Freecycle, Freegle or swapping or freebie groups or sites to see what other are prepared to give away or lend. 6️⃣Meal-planning: Make a list of all your food items and meal plan based on that. You may get some weird meals, but by planning around what you already have means you can create a shopping list accordingly and limit a supermarket sweep in the aisles. This will cut your food waste too which brings me on to the freezer... Use you fridge and freezer! Batch cook, take advantage of reduced-to-clear items and foraged fruit. If you can't cook/ shop well, there is plenty of help online. We love the Jack Monroe recipes for this. She has a whole website of simple recipes using cheap ingredients including lots of vegan recipes and 'tin can cook' books. You can find some of our faves here: https://cookingonabootstrap.com/ 7️⃣Harness the power of preloved; clothes, toys, presents, gadgets, gifts, look at what you have already, assess if you really need it and if so hit charity shops, Facebook, Freecycle etc. first. They might just have what you want for a fraction of the cost of new and reusing something is far kinder to the environment than buying new. Check out our Not Buying New blogs for more info on how we do it. 8️⃣ Bargain with your bills: shop around, use Money Saving Expert and Martin Lewis' advice and use comparison sites to find the best deals available. Never auto-renew, always ring the company and talk to them to make sure you're getting the rock bottom price. 9️⃣ Rethink and reduce: don't leave all the lights on or crank the heating up; layer up, check efficiency, make your appliances work smart for you. Check your portion sizes and love your leftovers. Get rid of the car, changing your working day to either work from home, walk or cycle, car share, take public transport. Maintenance is better than repair; whether it's clothes or cars, keep on top of things and take care of what you have and it will take care of you! 1️⃣0️⃣ Choose to reuse I bang on about this a lot but using reusable water bottles, flasks, packed lunches in wraps, cloth menstrual products, nappies and wipes, a safety razor, reusable decorations, wrapping with cloth etc. can all save you a ton of money over the years. So that's my top ten thrifty tips so live as eco as possible on an extreme budget. What would you add?