10+ ways to stick to a budget and save REAL money (a whopping $25,000+ for me!)


Tips to stick to a budget and save money

It was time for me to grow up, stick to a budget and start being responsible about spending money. After years of earning a healthy monthly salary, I decided to leave my job and start my own business. I was suddenly in a position where I had to watch every cent.

No, I mean like literally every cent.

Just for the record, I was so okay with that and if you asked me to make a choice between continuing on the career path I was on and making money, or doing something I love, spending time with my family and having to stick to a budget like glue, I would be all, “Der, no contest”.

Creating the life I want win hands down.

Before I made the leap of faith and handed in my ‘I wont be at work on Monday’ letter, I sat down and looked at ways I can potentially save our family money.

I was tempted to write down “Lock me and my children in a room with no computer, no phone, no credit card and no way to send smoke signals to retailers” and leave it at that. That would totally work. But the  sensible side got the better of me and I actually got serious for a moment about how we can stick to a budget in our family.

Related: How to find more time for yourself


I came up with a list of nearly 50 ways we could cut costs, and then I sat there and felt totally overwhelmed for a little while. I realised that while I needed to drastically reduce our family’s spending, I needed to do it in a realistic and achievable way.

So I narrowed the list down to 10 ways we can stick to a budget: small changes that can make a big difference – like potentially over $25,00 a year difference – and not feel like we are going completely without.

10 achievable ways to stick to a budget

1. Don’t carry your credit card

The money I have put on my credit card in the past makes me feel physically sick. I could cut it up, but since that’s never going to happen, I remove all temptation by not taking it out with me. I worked out that my weekly impulse buys were costing close to $5K a year (and that is being conservative).

Even if I allow myself a few splurges every now and then, if I leave the credit card at home, I can cut out at least $4K of meaningless spend. Holy crap!

* Estimated savings per year: $4000 *

2. Slash your electricity usage

By turning off lights when we leave the room; switching off appliances at the wall, not just the appliance; using cold water for washing; washing during off peak periods; and not using the clothes dryer unless it is absolutely necessary, I worked out I can reduce our electricity bill by at least 30%.

I can be totally lazy when it comes to all of the above and I hate to think how much my laziness has cost us over the years.

With energy costs so high it doesn’t take Einstein to work out that we could potentially save bucket loads a year by flicking those switches. If I reduced our energy bill by 30% on a $850 a quarterly bill, it’s totally worth the extra effort it takes to flick off switches and nag the kids.

* Estimated savings per year: $1008 *

* Boss level tip: call your utility companies and ask for a 20% discount. Negotiate down from there. You’ll get some % discount, guaranteed. *

3. Pack lunch when you go anywhere

Five people at an average of $8 bucks per lunch, times say once per weekend by 52 weeks. That is freaking $2080 per year. Enough said.

* Estimated savings per year: $2080 *

4. Cut back on Foxtel.

By removing the channels we don’t really watch on Foxtel and locking ourselves into another 24-month contract, I saved a whopping 36 bucks a month. For the win!!

* Estimated savings per year: $432 *

5. Buy bulk fruit and veggies

We go through tons of fruit and veg in this house and spend at least $100 a week on them. If we pool together with some friends and buy direct from the markets or growers (in bulk) and then share it out, apparently we can save up to 40% off our weekly fruit and veg bill.

* Estimated savings per year: $2080 *

6. Don’t buy takeaway

By doubling the ingredients of a meal once a week and freezing the leftovers, we give ourselves a night off from cooking. The main reason we buy takeaway in our house is to either have a night off cooking or grab a quick meal when kids’ sport activities keep us out late. Cutting out $50 a week on takeaway means an extra $2600 in the bank every year, thank you very much. Sold – hand me a an apron and a saucepan, I’m gonna get cooking!

* Estimated savings per year: $2600 *

7. Colour my own hair

Six salon visits a year at $180 a pop = $1170 a year. Six packets of hair dye bought on special at $14 each = $84 a year. Total savings – $1086. Score!

* Estimated savings per year: $1086 *

8. Make our own takeaway coffee

By making my coffee at home and taking it with me in a flask we can save $1820 a year by not buying coffee from cafes. And that is after I take out the cost of buying and making the coffee ourselves.

* Estimated savings per year: $1820 *

9. Meal plan and shopping list

This proved to be a HUGE money saver for us. When I set a weekly meal plan and only buy what we need to make those meals, we eliminate 90% of our food wastage and save bucket loads on our weekly grocery shop.

I have been buying in bulk and dispensing snack items into smaller containers for kids’ lunchboxes, buying staples in bulk and putting them in jars and buying home brands rather than top shelf labels.

Our weekly grocery bill went from $350 a week to $190 – $200. That is a savings of $7800 per year, not including what we save by not wasting food.

* Estimated Savings per year : $7800 *

10. A No-Spend Weekend Challenge

I set a Weekend Challenge where the kids come up with an idea once a week of something that we can go and do as a family that wont cost a cent.

The kids loved the concept and some of the ideas they came up with were: explore a suburb on bikes, skateboards and scooters; picnic somewhere we have never been before; take advantage of free activities and shows put on by Sydney City and local councils; footy in the park; make a movie.

We used to spend on average between $50 – $100 per weekend on family outings and activities. If we saved even $50 a week that would amount to $2600 a year. That could go a long way towards a family holiday.

* Estimated savings per year: $2600 *

Result = $25,506 back in our bank account!

Holy Moses, if my calculations are correct I could potentially save our family $25,506 a year by making these small changes.

But wait, there’s even more ways to save

I can even add to this by doing things like:

•  Making gifts
•  Shopping for clothes on sale only
•  Buying Christmas gifts during big sales
•  Inviting friends over instead of going out
•  Mastering the 30 Day Spending Rule
•  Bargaining on key household items
•  Negotiating down our mortgage rate
•  Using the library instead of buying books and movies
•  Tracking my spending with an app
•  Buying from op shops more often
•  Stop collecting and start selling
•  Checking out gas cars as an alternative to petrol

Along with a zillion other potential money saving ideas that will help you stick to a budget. Just imagine how much you could save.

What’s your top tip to stick to a budget?


Time to get organised - stick to a budget and save real moneyImage by Arnel Hasanovic 

Written by Sonia Stackhouse

Sonia Stackhouse is the founder of Little Lane Workshops, an art, craft and lifestyle studio on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. She is also mum to three boys - two teens and a tweenie. Sonia shares her fabulously flawed attempts at being a mum and business owner on her popular blog Life Love and Hiccups.

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1 Comment

  1. Seana Smith

    Hello there, thifty mummas and pappas… I am on this path too…. we have totally stopped using a credit card, and find that makes things easier to track. I’m trying out a free version on a simplified Xero type thing for family budgets… but it’s not that simple so will take me a while to get into.

    Am hoping to still be able to afford to do what I love… just to cut out all the extras … also to gain the life we want and need… a less stressful one with less work.

    Thanks for these tips… I must do my own hair… not sure whether to keep with same fairly expensive hairdresser for cuts, but just go less often… or to go to a cheaper one. Nice problems to have.



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