Making Big Savings with Small Changes

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Recently, my paid maternity leave came to an end and I have started my unpaid leave from work meaning that we are now working from one salary. As such myself and himself had a look at our finances to see where we are. With the realisation that even when I go back to work we will still pretty much be on one salary as childcare takes the majority of one salary, it turns out that where we were was in a worse place than we thought. So out came my accountant hat (a very fetching fedora if you must know!) and after numerous cups of tea, and a very colourful spreadsheet later, I had set out some saving plans. Here are my tips and tricks.

The first thing I have done is look at the structure of our bank account and our payment methods. After looking at this, I have made the following observations and adjustments.

1. Set up regular payments.

Where we could, we have changed the payment date for bills and other regular expenses (rent/mortgage, savings etc) to be paid out of our bank account a couple of days after our salary gets lodged. Not only is there often a cost saving for paying bills by direct debit but this also eliminates the need to hold money in our account for a bill that would be paid at a later stage. Doing this avoids stressful situations where we have very little money left after paying the bill or avoids necessary overdraft fees if we had used this facility to make the payment. Getting all the bills paid at the beginning means we know exactly how much money we have for the month for all our other personal expenses.

2. Planning for set expenses.

There’s nothing worse than receiving a letter in the post for a big expense with only a month notice to pay, or less. This will put anyone on the back foot because there is no other option but to pay it and make sacrifices elsewhere. To avoid this strain, as best as is possible, we have counted up all our set expenses for the year. I’m not talking about rent/mortgage, electricity or gas expenses but instead I’m referring to those expenses that are often only paid once in a year. These are usually easily forgotten….. car insurance, health insurance, car tax, tv licence fee and even christmas gifts and holidays. We counted up the cost of all these and set up a monthly payment from our main account to another secondary account to cover these. We will then use this second account for a source of funds for these expenses. Yes we may have fees to pay on the second account but these will be much less than any overdraft fees or loan interest.

Ok so now that I have structured our regular bills as best I could, the next step was to look at our monthly expenses. So I took the following steps…

  1. Use debit card for 1 month.

Often we take out €50 from an ATM but can you say for sure exactly what that was spent on? It’s very difficult to do for most of us, so by by using our debit card for a specified period we got an accurate record of our expenses. At the end of the period, we got our bank statement and categorised all items into expense types. Once we did we were easily able to see our spending trends and surprised ourselves on a couple of these. I would never have thought I spent much more than €15 a week on coffee but when we looked back at statements it was much more than this. We went through the expenses and decided which ones we could live with cutting down on, or even better cutting out completely. For example I now make my own coffee and treat myself to a cup from my favourite barista twice a week.

2. Get organised.

We also have started to plan meals better during the week and at weekends to avoid the go to take away when we haven’t anything in the house to cook. This is surprisingly easy to do once we found some dinners that we liked to cook and are really tasty rather than the old bland meals we used to cook. This bit will take a bit of trial and error to get these recipes but once you do you’ll love your home-cooking. Also, bringing lunch with us is another great saver and frankly is much better value against the sandwiches we used to pay for, and again much tastier.

3. Avoid wastage

Groceries make up a significant amount of our monthly household expenses. As a result we have switched to a low cost supermarket for as much of our grocery shop as we can. I honestly can’t fault these retailers for the majority of items and have significantly cut down on our spend in the last few months. However, I would advise everyone to be aware of the products you are purchasing at these retailers. In the first few weeks we noticed that a large amount of the fruit, vegetable and milk products had a much, much lower spoilage time than other mainstream products. As a result we were throwing out a lot of products before we even had a chance to use them. This was such a waste of food, and of money, so we changed back to mainstream products for a few things and for others we only buy what we need in the next one to two days. I know this is annoying as we now need to do a top up shop mid week for fruit and vegetables but when it saves money and reduces food wastage I think you’ll see its worth it.

My Ultimate Guide to Your Hospital Bag – everything you need for your baby delivery

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A mama-to-be friend of mine is getting very close to her due date and is heading for squeaking bum time. She has started to organise her bag for the hospital visit and asked me for my list of essentials. Rather than hand over the 3 lists I got from other friends and the one final accumulated list which would rival Santa Claus’ list of toys (mine, however, wasn’t filled with toys), I prepared a new one for her. This list had everything that I had actually used and needed during the time in hospital. I also added in my tips and bits of information that I thought might be handy for the stay (always looking out for those nuggets I can bring you!). Baring in mind for this that I had a caesarean section and knew this going in to the hospital so I didn’t pack anything for the labour ward.

Clothing and footwear:

  • Nightie x2 – string ones best for breastfeeding and also for the heat in the hospital
  • Pyjamas pants and string top – change into these during day time
  • Slippers – slide on ones
  • Dressing gown
  • Flip flops for in shower
  • Knickers – biggest ones you can get particularly get high-waisted ones, you’ll thank me afterwards
  • Maternity bra – comfy ones
  • Big towel – make sure its a dark colour
  • Hair turban towel can use normal towel but the turban is handy

Toiletries

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Shower puff or some sort of body scrubber
  • Body moisturiser, bring anything you used for stretch marks
  • Deodorant
  • Cleanser, toner, moisturiser
  • Hairdryer
  • Hair brush
  • Shower Cap
  • Hair bobble
  • Hair clips
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Lip balm
  • Hand cream (can use moisturiser)
  • Lansinoh nipple cream – to prevent cracked/sore nipples from feeding or pumping
  • Breast pads – used for leaking….I didn’t need this and I’m not sure anyone would have a big enough supply just after having a baby to leak but I could be very wrong on that.

Babies

  • Baby grows x6
  • Vests x6
  • Cardigan x4
  • Hats x2
  • Wipes
  • Nappies

Other things –

  • Phone Charger
  • Bag for bringing things to shower
  • Magazines
  • Note pad & pen to remember any info or to write questions
  • Deodorant for Hubby – for the long days in the hospital.
  • Spare T-Shirt for Hubby – same as above
  • A few protein bars for Hubby as he could be hanging around a bit.

Tips:

Bring a few additional bags with you for Hubby to bring things home just some small plastic ones that you can easily ball up.

Pack your toiletries etc in a clear bags to make it easier for Hubby to find items in them. If he’s anything like mine this will go a long way to avoid everything being pulled out onto whatever surface is closest and shoved back in without any order.

Bring miniatures where you can……hotel sizes are handy to have!

If you have favourite products for anything, bring these…..bring anything that will feel like a treat. After everything you’ve been through you deserve the bit of luxury!

Use sandwich bags for the baby stuff so that you have one baby grow, vest, nappy etc in each. Handy so that you’re not rooting around trying to find one of each. Can also use sandwich bags for the toiletries.

Get your other half to investigate the parking rules around the hospital. I was going to city centre Hospital and there was only public paid parking in the area. My husband set up the relevant Parking Tag App to pay for the parking around there so he was able to just update from his phone.

Pack up the things you won’t need until day 2 in a separate bag for your partner to bring with him when he comes back in. For example, spare knickers, spare nightgown etc won’t be needed straight away.

I feel like a total Irish Mammy for this one but have some meals at home for your partner that are quick to cook as he’ll be home quite late every night. We did this but then put them in freezer which totally negates what we were trying to do. A couple of microwave meals would do the trick.

I’ve heard of someone bringing in a scarf to tie to the bed to help pull themselves up after section which sounds like a good idea.

Hope you find this of help and have gotten some good information from it. If there is anything else you think is a must to have let me know in the commens below.