Trying to save money on family expenses? It’s hard at the moment, especially with inflation increasing the price of goods and services and interest rates on the way up. Anyone else noticing higher prices at the supermarkets. Sticking to a family budget with a strict spending money limit can make a big difference to your long term financial situation. Here are 101 ways to save money on your family’s living expenses without compromising fun, style and time.
Save on baby & kids stuff
- Stock up when things are on sale especially end of season sales. Buy sizes one or two sizes larger to fit kids next season. Visit the DFO (Direct Factory Outlets) in Sydney for more bargains.
- Accept hand me downs from friends or family or buy things from people who have finished having kids on Ebay, Gumtree and local Facebook groups as well as garage sales.
- Purchase gently used clothes, toys and goods at the My Kids Market. It’s held three or four times a year in Newcastle and is a great place to stock up on items. (You can also rent a stall and sell unwanted baby and kids items as well).
- Borrow items from friends that you’ll only need for a while like a bassinet, baby capsule or a baby bouncer.
- Start a clothing exchange with friends or neighbours so that when your kids grow out of their clothes, you can swap them around.
- Make your own baby food by pureeing fruits and veggies.
- Stock up on nappies when they’re on sale. Just tape the receipt to unopened boxes in case your baby grows out of a certain size and you need to exchange the box.
- Make your own baby wipes. (When my baby started to get nappy rash, the nurse at the Baby and Health Centre suggested cutting up Chux into small squares and using them with water or a sorbolene-water mix. These could be washed and reused if not too soiled).
- For free baby activities, check out your local library for baby literacy sessions. These are librarian-led sessions which introduce books, reading and rhymes to bubs. You can also borrow baby book packs.
- Join a local play group. This gets you out the house and enables socialising for both you and your child. For information on local playgroups, check out the local Playgroup guide.
Save on fashion & beauty
- Buy clothing during the sales or end of season.
- If you can’t resist some retail therapy, sign up for email from your favourite shop. Often you’ll get reminders of upcoming sales, VIP customer discounts or even special shopping nights.
- Clothes swap – get your girlfriends together and bring some clothes and accessories to swap. As well as a fun social event, it means you get some new wardrobe pieces for free.
- Share your clothes with your friends. If you have an occasion to go to like a wedding or party, don’t rush out shopping. First ask your friends if they have a dress or outfit you can borrow.
- Visit op shops, consignment stores and the Raid My Wardrobe market (A women’s recycled fashion event held a few times a year where women buy and sell quality preloved clothing). You can get some great clothes for a fraction of the cost. Also check out Re: Club where you can trade in your clothes and be rewarded with points in an account to spend on lots of new items. As well as an online shop, they are frequently at markets in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie.
- If you’re trying to save money on styling your hair, go a week or two longer between cuts and colour if you can. And ask your stylist for a low-maintenance cut to save money on styling products.
- For hair or beauty services, check if your salon has a special customer program where you can receive loyalty discounts or savings on a certain day of the week.
Save on utilities, banking and insurance
- Call your electricity provider and see what specials they can give you. Do the same for natural gas. If you find a better utility service, contact your current provider and see if they will match it or do better. If they can’t, then check any fees that would apply if you leave.
- If you have private health insurance, check to make sure that the cover is correct for your needs. If you don’t need extras covered like optical, physiotherapy, dental or natural therapies, remove the cover. Also, if you’re not planning to have any more kids, remove the costly obstetrics cover from your policy. Also, keep claimable receipts in a central place and remember to claim them.
- Check your car insurance. I recently inquired about the price increase for my Comprehensive Third Party (CTP) Insurance. My insurer advised that they couldn’t adjust the cost of the CTP but after asking if my car was garaged each night and being driven less than 5000 km a year, they reduced my comprehensive insurance by $54 for the remaining six months of my policy.
- Call your phone company about your phone, broadband and mobile service and ask about new discounts and plans. Ask about features that you’re currently paying for that you might not need like call waiting, call conferencing, etc. If you mention you’re shopping around for the best rate, they might be able to offer special rate or a one-off credit.
- Drop in or give your bank a call and see if you can get a lower interest rate on your home loan mortgage and/or credit card rate. Also, examine your bank fees and enquire about banking plans to reduce bank charges on transaction accounts. If you have savings account, negotiate with the bank to get the best interest rate. This will help considerably with your savings plan.
- If you have savings you can put away for a while, consider a term deposit but make sure that you negotiate with your bank or credit union to get a higher interest rate than advertised.
- Check your insurance coverage as well to make sure that you’re paying a reasonable amount. Some superannuation funds offer life insurance. Check if you’re covered and not doubling up paying insurance premiums.
- Check with Centrelink to make sure that you are registered for parental leave payments, baby bonus, Child Care Benefit (CCB) and Child Care Rebate (CCR) and other payments you might qualify for. If you’re a CCB recipient with a family, you might qualify for the NSW Family Energy Rebate.
Save on food
- Create a two-week meal plan so you can plan what to purchase for different meals to save money, time and food wastage.
- Check the supermarket circulars and department store catalogues for specials. (If you have an Entertainment Book and shop at Woolworths, purchase a Woolworths Wish eGift card for 5% off. Automatically saves you 5% at Woolworths, Big W, Dan Murphys and Caltex Woolworths garages. Entertainment Book also offers 10% off David Jones eGift cards as well.)
- Make a shopping list before you go to the supermarket to avoid buying what you don’t need. Check unit prices when you’re purchasing items. Sometimes buying a 2kg version is more expensive than two 1kg packets.
- Buy home brands instead of brand name items to save money or visit Aldi for low prices.
- Look for meat or produce which is nearing its expiry date. Often you can bag big savings.
- Always check your grocery bill before you leave. Print out a docket when you do your grocery shopping and review it to make sure that you’re being charged the right price. If you haven’t, go back and receive the correct price. If your grocery store is signed up to the Code of Practice for Computerised Checkout Systems in Supermarkets, there are certain procedures it has to follow. For example, if an item scans for a higher price than the price listed on the shelf, the customer is entitled to receive the item free. In the case of multiple items, they receive the first one free. Exclusions include alcohol, tobacco and gift cards.
- Buy fresh fruit and veggies in bulk and split with a friend or two.
- Visit farmers markets. Locally, you can visit Newcastle Farmers Market or Lake Macquarie City Farmers Market and buy fresh food in season straight from the farmers.
- Buy non-perishables in bulk when they’re on sale. E.g. canned food, toilet paper, laundry detergent, etc
- Grow your own herbs and vegetables. Even if you’re not a major green thumb, they’re easy to grow and save you purchasing herbs or veggies.
- Cook in bulk and freeze extras to have easy emergency meals instead of takeaway. Dishes that work well for freezing include lasagna, soup, pasta sauce, etc.
- Cook extra and take leftovers for lunch so you don’t have to purchase lunch. Get into the habit of making your work lunch at home.
- Add veggies like carrot and zucchini to meat dishes like bolognese. It makes meat go further and it adds healthy veggies to meals.
- Bake kids lunch snacks. It’s cheaper and healthier than store-bought snacks.
- Use cheaper cuts of meat in your slow cooker. The slow cooking tenderises the meat as well as the bonus of a cooked meal waiting for you when you get home.
- Make homemade juices and icy poles using water and fresh fruit.
- Have pantry staples ready so you can whip up some easy meals to avoid buying takeaway meals or going out for a meal. Pasta and tinned salmon makes a tasty baked pasta dish while canned beans and tomatoes and veggies provide a delicious vegetarian chilli.
- You can also find fast, easy and affordable recipe suggestions, as well as the Healthy Eating Quiz on No Money No Time website, created by the University of Newcastle.
Save on exercise
- Rent exercise DVDs from library or watch reputable YouTube videos and work out at home
- Visit your local park and walk, run or do sit ups, star jumps and burpees. You can also use council fitness equipment with fitness stations at Islington Park, Braye Park at Waratah, Warabrook Wetlands Reserve, Warners Bay Foreshore and Fingal Bay playground.
- Swim for free at Merewether or Newcastle pool or swim at council pools using a season pass or 10-ticket pass.
- Walk or run Parkrun 5K every Saturday morning in 11 Hunter locations.
- If you want to catch up with a friend, go for a walk or run together instead of meeting at a cafe. It’s cheaper and better for you.
- If you want to join a gym, ask about specials that might offer.
Save on socialising
- If you’re planning to go out for a meal, use your Entertainment Book or choose a night when you know there’s good specials. It’s Schnitzel Night pretty much every night of the week in this town! Also check when kids eat free in the Kids Eat Free guide on Newy with Kids.
- Meet up with other families in a park or playground and bring a picnic or cook up a BBQ.
- Invite friends over and ask each person bring a dish to cut down on costs.
- Enjoy a wine tasting or cocktail night at home by asking guests to bring their favourite bottle. Ensure there’s mocktails for designated drivers, pregnant or breastfeeding guests!
- Organise a spa night in your own home with candles, beauty supplies and enjoy some pampering. Invite a few friends and make it a Girls Night In
- Swap babysitting duties with friends so that you can enjoy a night out without babysitter costs.
Save on travel & holidays
- Jump on a bus or train or take the Newcastle Ferry across to Stockton on a Saturday or Sunday as part of NSW Transport cheap off-peak fares on the weekends.
- If your kids aren’t school-aged, go on vacations during the school term to get cheaper airfares and accommodation.
- When booking airline tickets, use BPAY to save on credit card charges.
- During peak school holiday season, rent a house with friends or family members to reduce accommodation expenses.
- Select accommodation where kids stay and eat free. Novotel hotels offers free accommodation and breakfast for 2 children under 16.
- Sign up for hotel loyalty programs such as Accor and IHG to get savings on accommodation. Sometimes you get can upgrades, early and late checkout, free wifi and other bonuses.
- House swap – ask friends and relatives who live in the region or interstate if you can trade homes for a weekend or longer.
- Try Airbnb for affordable accommodation
- Consider a staycation at home.
- Go camping. Here’s a list of 50+ camping spots and holiday parks within a 3 hour drive of Newcastle. If you don’t have camping equipment, see if you can borrow some from friends to try out the camping experience first.
- Consider alternative accommodation. YHA offers affordable hostel accommodation for families while National Parks and Wildlife Service have cabins and camping grounds.
- If you’re holidaying in a region, buy an Entertainment Book, use the Shop A Docket App or check out local tourism websites to see if they offer special prices for tourist attractions.
Save on family fun
- Looking for some affordable local family fun? Here’s some ideas for you in the Newy with Kids article 50 Free and Low Cost Things to Do With Kids in Newcastle & The Hunter
- Use coupons in the Entertainment Book to save money on local attractions.
- If you’re organising a day out with other parents and kids, check if there’s a group discount. Some attractions and kids concerts provide discounts if you can get a group of 10 together.
- Enter local competitions for concert tickets, attraction passes and other family activities. Newy with Kids offers regular giveaways with easy 30 word entry.
- Look for bundled attraction passes. Merlin Entertainment offers discounted passes for Sydney attractions like Sydney Tower Eye, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo and Sydney SEA LIFE as well as an Annual Pass. Locally, Charlestown Square offers Entertainment Passes which combine a visit to Reading Cinemas, Strike bowling and Megamania and Timezone.
- Join a toy library such as Newcastle and Hunter Toy Library open on Saturday mornings at New Lambton Library. You can borrow up to three toys for up to a month at a low cost of $20 per child per year. Belmont Neighbourhood Centre also have a toy library for kids aged 0 – 5.
- Cut back on buying books, magazines and DVDs. You can borrow them from your local library or swap them with your friends. If you can’t give up your magazines, purchase a subscription.
- If you love e-books, don’t purchase them. Borrow them instead through a local library.
- If you download music, books or apps from the iTunes shop, purchase iTunes gift cards when they’re on sale.
- Go to the movies on cheap days or purchase cheaper tickets though the Entertainment Book.
- Save on family fun and use your NSW Dine and Discover vouchers. This is 4 x $25 vouchers you can use on dining and entertainment. The scheme runs until 30 June 2022. If you homeschooled your kids last year, apply for the Parents NSW vouchers. Each household can receive a $250 set of vouchers.
Save on school expenses
- Stock up during Back to School sales in January. Shop around to get the best prices on shoes, computers, tablets and stationery.
- Buy second-hand school uniforms from school if available. Some schools have used clothing for sale organised by the school office or P&C or organise a second-hand Facebook group.
- Buy basics in school colours from Best and Less, Lowes and Big W.
- Take advantage of free and low-cost school holiday activities at local libraries and art galleries, Newcastle Museum and Blackbutt Reserve. Be sure to check the Newy with Kids quarterly school holiday roundup article to find out what’s on.
- Create a school holiday babysitting club. This is an easy way for a small group of parents to take turns minding each other’s kids for free thus saving not having to use annual leave days to look after kids.
- Save money on after school activities by applying for the $100 NSW Active Kids Rebate for sports activities (now offered twice a year) and $100 NSW Creative Kids Rebate for creative activities or craft kits you can do at home. Here’s a list of NSW providers supplying Creative Kids art and craft packs.
Save on cars & transport
- Find the cheapest petrol and fill up petrol on a low price day. Use Motor Mouth website or app to find cheaper prices
- If you do a lot of driving, sign up for a Costco membership. Even if you don’t shop at the warehouse, you’ll save significant amount on filling your car to justify the annual membership.
- Combine trips to reduce petrol use. Go shopping, run errands or attend appointments in one trip. If you’re heading to work, see if you can carpool with a coworker.
- Keep your car tyres pumped up both for better fuel economy and for safety.
- Reduce heavy gear from your car that you don’t need. According to the NRMA, extra weight in your car increases consumption of fuel especially in cities when you’re accelerating and breaking.
- If you’re travelling on a long journey, check the NRMA App to see what towns or regions sell petrol at a lower or higher price.
- If it’s possible, walk, cycle or take public transport where you need to go.
- Wash, vacuum and detail your car at home instead of paying to get it professionally done.
Save on birthdays and Christmas
- Host a birthday party at home, in a local park or local community centre. Details about low-cost party venues are available in the Newy with Kids Birthday Party Guide.
- Purchase party supplies on sale or buy plain coloured supplies which can be used for another occasion.
- Make and decorate your own birthday cake. Go retro with a Australian Woman’s Weekly birthday cake.
- Stock up on toys and games when they’re on sale. If your kids are attending lots of birthday parties, buy extra and store in designated present cupboard.
- Instead of buying birthday cards, buy bulk packs of cards or get the kids to make their own cards.
- Instead of purchasing and sending birthday cards, send e-cards or record a video message to send to the recipient.
- Save for Christmas expenses by putting money in a Christmas account or buying a $10 gift card each week to spend on Christmas.
- Buy Christmas presents when the half-yearly sales are on. Not only do you save money but you avoid the pressure of Christmas shopping.
- If you like making photo gifts such as photo calendars, mugs and T-shirts, purchase them on sale usually in the couple of months before Christmas.
- If you plan to make handmade Christmas gifts or crafts, start earlier in the year to avoid that last-minute rush. Stock up on craft items while they’re on sale
- After Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc, stock up on themed items like cards, wrapping and decorations.
- Trade your skills. If you can cut hair, do massages, bake cakes, babysit, fix computers or can mow lawns, barter with a friend or neighbour and help each other out.
- Purchase energy-efficient appliances to save money on electricity bills.
- Switch to energy-efficient globes and turn lights out when you leave the room and encourage kids to do the same to save money.
- Turn appliances off at the switch when you’re not using them. Even on standby, some appliances are still using electricity.
- Keep your receipts in a central place or take a photo using your phone. Record on a calendar or your smartphone when warranty is due to expire. That way, if something breaks or goes wonky, you can get it repaired or replaced under the warranty.
Want even more money saving tips?
Check out our mega article Money Saving Tips: 250+ Ideas to Cut Your Spending & Make Your Money Go Further. With household budgets being squeezed across Australia and interest rates on the way up, we’ve put together a series of guides to help you save money on your household expenses. They contain useful tips and suggestions about how to make your money go further. As well as useful money-saving tips, we’ve also put together information about various NSW programs and voucher schemes to help you save money. We’ve also included ideas for free family fun for those with kids or grandkids. We hope this information helps you save money if you’re on a tight budget.
In 2012, Reena founded Newy with Kids to share information about family-friendly Newcastle. Originally from Canada, she had no idea about what to do with her toddler and after searching unsuccessfully for a local family guide, decided to start her own. Since that time, both the toddler and Newy with Kids have grown keeping Reena busy. If you see her out and about, say hi.