Planning a family holiday on a budget? Read this…

Planning a family vacation can be exhausting. There is so much to organise and when it is left solely up to you the pressure to make it memorable can be overwhelming. So stop planning by yourself and get everyone involved to share the load. This will not only help you get excited about going away, but it will also make the whole process less stressful. Use these tips to create a budget vacation that you all remember for the right reasons.

Shop around

It can be tempting to buy your flights, car hire and accommodation from the first website or travel agent you visit. But it’s worth shopping around before you buy. There could be better deals for you and your family to utilise. Discounted and last minute sites such as Hotwire.com, will compare deals to ensure you get the best one. This can be useful if you’re short of time and want to book your vacation quickly. Also, consider using comparison sites for your insurance and currency too. Always read the small print and ensure that the offers you are buying suit your family’s needs and won’t incur additional charges later on.

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Research with your kids

Before you go away on your trip, it’s a brilliant idea to sit down with your kids and research the area you’re travelling to. You can do this online or with magazines from a travel agents. This will highlight exactly what there is on offer to keep you all entertained throughout your vacation. Explain to your children that you are sticking to a budget, so you need to prioritise where you spend your available money. Once they are familiar with local attractions and points of interest, you could get them to choose one or two things they would like to experience. You can then research any coupons or deals that might be available during your stay. Some attractions may have family tickets or discounts on children under a certain age. Also research free attractions such as museums, art galleries and parks you could visit too. Undercover tourist discount codes can help make many of those more expensive attractions much more affordable.

Start an emergency fund

Even after you’ve booked and paid for your vacation, it’s wise to save some additional money just in case. It’s best to plan for any eventuality while you’re away. So start saving a little each week to create an emergency fund for your vacation. Little things like saving money on gas or on groceries will go a long way over time, so start this as soon as you can. It will put your mind at ease and if you don’t use it, you can spend it on some beautiful souvenirs from your trip. Encourage your kids to save their pocket money for your vacation, to take the pressure off you too.

These tips will help you plan and save for you vacation with ease. It doesn’t have to be difficult if everyone gets involved and sticks to the budget. Utilise as many freebies and deals as you can to stretch your budget further and enjoy every second of your family trip.

Balancing The Family Budget with Becky Goddard-Hill

Have you checked out Baby Budgeting? Becky Goddard-Hill is the author of How to Afford Time Off With Your Baby and Baby Budgeting is her blog. Both the book and the blog are packed full of useful advice for balancing the family budget for mums who want to take a career break to spend more time with their young children.

What I  like about Becky is she’s determined that she will not only balance the budget but that her family will have fun doing it. So she’s turned what could have been a few years of penny-pinching into a really positive lifestyle where mums can enjoy their family time, see more of their children’s grandparents and and build the a community that wouldn’t have been possible if they worked full-time.

I also admire the way Becky leapt into blogging – she’s grown her readership incredibly fast and was a finalist for The MADs (Mums and Dad bloggers) Awards last year. She ‘s never afraid to try new things with her blog, which is why I was great to see her in this video…

Plus it’s really nice to actually see Becky because up until now I’ve only known her by blog and email! The video has some  useful tips for budgeting with a family, including the recent changes to the UK’s child tax credit and child trust fund, so it’s well worth a watch.

Becky may be taking time off with her babies, but she’s got all the qualities of a true mumpreneur!

Ten Ways to Stretch Your Maternity Pay

It’s not easy starting a business when you’re on maternity leave, so here are a few tips to make your money go further.

  1. You are entitled to free prescriptions and dental treatment while you’re pregnant and a year after the baby is born. Don’t forget to book in a dental check up before your child is a year old (easily done when you’re busy with a baby!).
  2. Shop around for home and contents insurance and car insurance. If you can’t find time to do that, phone your insurance company when your renewal letter arrives and ask them if they can give you a better deal.
  3. Shop around for gas and electricity too. Often the best deal is the web tariff, so you don’t even need to pick up the phone.
  4. Have you got baby equipment that seemed a good idea before the little one was born, but has hardly been used? How about that heavy travel system that fills your entire car boot and that travel cot that turned out to be too small? You can sell these now and spend the money on kit for your older baby such as a play pen, garden toys, a bigger travel cot and a baby bouncer. You can buy and sell at Netmums.com, eBay, car boot sales and notice boards at some Sure Start centres.
  5. Look up new recipes using seasonal ingredients. Seasonal ingredients are usually cheaper than ones that have been grown overseas, they are better for the environment (less travel) and you could support local farmers too.
  6. Try planning your meals for the week before you go shopping. This saves you having to throw away food that has gone out of date because you bought too much. It also saves you from popping to the supermarket mid-week when you run out of food. That means you won’t be tempted to spend £20 more than you expected! Meal planning sounds a pain, but with a bit of practice it’s hardly any effort at all.
  7. Check to see if your mortgage company will let you take a payment holiday for a few months.
  8. Sell your maternity clothes on eBay.
  9. If you have credit cards and or accounts with home shopping companies, make sure you pay them on time. I never used to miss a payment, but I was a bit disorganised after my babies were born and I missed the payment deadline by a couple of times. Once you’ve added up the interest and late payment fee, it can be surprisingly expensive. Check to see if your credit card company will take a minimum payment by direct debit – at least you won’t have to pay the fee then.
  10. Check out www.babybudgeting.co.uk for loads more ideas for saving money when you have a baby.

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Where’s The Money Gone?

If you look at your bank balance at the end of the month and ask yourself, ‘Where’s the money gone?’ read on. In this article we look a couple of ideas to stop the drain of cash from your account.

Payment protection insurance

Did you sign up for payment protection insurance when you took out a loan or credit card? Payment protection insurance (PPI) is designed to help cover your repayments if you have an accident, are ill, or become unemployed. However in past years people have been missold this insurance You may have been told that it is compulsory, which it isn’t, or been sold the insurance when you have cover elsewhere. If you are a pensioner, self employed or unemployed, you may have wrongly been sold insurance against becoming unemployed. And you can be paying out pounds every month for this cover.

Check your own circumstances by reading the paperwork with your load or credit card. If you think you have been missold PPI you can reclaim what you have paid. There are template letters to help you do this on Money Saving Expert. The site can also help you work out if you are getting a good deal on the insurance that you DO need: insurance offered with a loan or card is often dearer than an independent product.

Direct Debits

Another way to save money is to look through the direct debits and standing orders that you have. If you have online banking you should be able to check this instantly, or simply take the time to go through your bank statement. If you can’t identify where the money is going, ask your bank to help. You my find that you are still paying out for subscriptions that you no longer need. Cancel these by writing to your bank.  The Direct Debit guarantee also means that if the originator or the bank/building society makes an error you are guaranteed a full and immediate refund of the amount paid. So, get in touch with the bank if you think that money is coming out of your account in error.

Council tax rebanding

Council tax takes a big chunk out of everyone’s monthly income, and it is relatively simple to see if you are paying a fair amount or whether it is worth asking for a council tax reband. The first thing to do is check out your neighbours’ banding to see if you are all paying around the same amount or if some houses on your street are in a lower band than yours. Look on the Valuation Office Agency website in England, and in Scotland use the Scottish Assessors Association. Then, work out what your house was worth in 1991 to get an idea of the correct band.   If you think you are paying more than neighbours with a similar property, get in touch with your Local Listing Officer. Make sure that you’re sure that your property is overvalued, though, as they can also put you up a band!

This article is by Gemma Johnson, co-founder of www.babeecard.com

Winner of Mumpreneur of the year 2009 sponsored by WBMN

BaBeeCard Winner of Best Gift Card Award 2009 by Prepaid365.com

How To Save Hundreds Of Pounds In Minutes

If you’ve got a baby and a new business you need every spare penny.

You could look at every single purchase you make and try to get it cheaper, but this takes time and all that penny pinching can get depressing. Why not be smart with your time and your money by finding ways of saving the most money in the least time?

1. Change tariff and save a wad of cash

I just found out we could save £25 a month on our gas and electricity by switching to a different tariff without changing my supplier. It took me about 3 minutes on the web to find that out, I can’t believe I didn’t do it months ago.

Money saved: £300 per year

Time taken: 3 minutes

2. Insurance just got more interesting

When your house or car insurance is up for renewal, phone up the insurance company and ask if you can get a better deal. I’ve saved £100 off our house insurance twice in the last two years, again without moving companies. It’s far easier for an insurance company to retain you than it is to get a new customer to replace you. So they’ll usually give you a discount if you ask nicely.

You’ll probably save a bit more by going to a price comparison website, but if you’re pushed for time this is a great alternative.

Money saved: £100 per year

Time taken: 3 minutes

3. Don’t forget the loyalty card

I used to think that loyalty cards were a waste of time, but it really does all add up. Despite being on a fairly tight budget (going on maternity leave twice in two years does that to you), we still make about £150 per year on loyalty cards, almost all of our points come from the basics like toiletries and the weekly food shop.

Money saved: £150 per year

Time taken: about 3 seconds longer at the till

4. Get a credit card to suit your spending style

If you’ve got an outstanding balance, get the lowest interest rate you can. If you pay off your credit card balance every month, get a card that pays you points or cashback when you use it. We do both – we have a low interest card with an interest free period for our outstanding balance and a points card that we pay off every month. You need a bit of self-discipline to do this, though.

Money saved: anywhere from £50 per year if you use a points card to £100s if you lower your interest rate

Time taken: 10 minutes to apply for a new credit card

5. Cook like you’re takeaway

We used to grab takeaways on a regular basis because we were tired and lazy. I don’t mind the occasional takeaway if we’ve got a burning desire for a decent curry, but if it’s down to laziness, it can be an expensive habit.

Why do you get takeaways?

If it’s because you’re hungry and the fridge is empty, try cooking a double portion and freezing ahead for a day when you’ve not got time to shop or cook. Cooking double takes the same time as cooking a single portion.

If you love the food, see if you can get a cheaper but  quick alternative. You can throw together a chinese dish in minutes using a pack of pre-prepared vegetables, a pack of pre-sliced chicken, a jar of stir fry sauce and some dried noodles. If pizza is your thing, you can keep pizza bases in your freezer (find them in the supermarket with the chilled pizza),  plus  grated mozzarella, pepperoni and a jar of passata. Much cheaper, takes minutes to prepare, tastes good and it’s healthier too.

Money saved:  £15 per week on a takeaway = £780 per year

Time taken: if you’ve planned ahead, this is actually faster than going out for a takeaway

6. Go for supermarket own brands

You won’t even notice the difference. And if you do, switch back to the non-own brand for just that item.

Money saved:  £15 per weekly grocery shop = £780 per year

Time taken: 0 minutes

Do you have any tips that save money in minutes?  Drop me a comment!