So now you have your budget it is important to look at every category and see where you can save money ! The biggest spends for us are on housing, food and petrol and we have worked hard on getting the food and petrol spending down. The housing costs could go lower as the house is now a bit too big for us. However, MasterShoestring will finish school in 3 years time and then we plan to downsize drastically. We are thinking of buying something really small to live in (check out Tiny Houses !) and then perhaps having something a bit bigger that we can rent out for holiday lets and have family to stay in. Until then we concentrate on making sure that the big house does not cost too much to run, so we do all our own repairs and maintenance and don't heat some of the house in the winter.
With food I'm always looking for new cheap recipes and just got a new book from USA about living on $4 a day, so I'm looking forward to reading that and posting a review. Petrol is the same, we use petrolprices.com to check the price of fuel so we are always filling up at the cheapest rate. We are also careful about our driving style and walk or bike for short journeys.
The next categories we always check are the utility bills. There are lots of price comparison websites around so no need to pay more than you should. Next month, once the contract is up we are switching the broadband and telephone service to Plusnet because they offered a better deal and I'll be switching the gas and electricity at the end of June as well. First Utility, our current supplier wanted to put up the bill by around 25%. Instead I found a variable rate deal from ToTo which looks like it will cut the monthly bill by £22.
We shop around for everything and have discovered that in very few cases is the cheap product no good. For instance, I always buy cheap glasses from Tesco and so far they have lasted for years ! I shop around for travel and car insurance and also wait for anything that can wait e.g.) replacing appliances until I see a good deal. We also always look to see if we can get something for free first, for example we have a free piano from Freecycle and friends have given us countless 'hand-me-downs' for the children over the years. After 'free' we shop at jumble sales, then charity shops then reasonably priced high street stores or the internet. Nearly all our chemist items now come from the internet as that is the way I get the cheapest prices.
If we want something that is not really a need but more a want then we might ask for it for a birthday, save up for it or use extra income to pay for it e.g.) Swagbucks for books.
Using all these strategies I am hopeful that we will spend less this year than we did last and that is with an extra person in the house !
Keep on frugaling, it really does pay off !