Go online to get best budget and baby tips
From financial planning to cheap and creative play options for kids, the internet is a modern-day treasure trove of resources and advice for harried and cash-strapped parentsFROM BUDGETING advice to free fun, the internet can offer an enormous wealth of information for cost-savvy parents. Some of the go-to websites for parents should include the websites of the National Consumer Agency and the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs), which offer lots of advice on various subjects from savings and pensions to managing your bills and eating well on a budget.
Other websites may prove useful to parents looking to shop for their kids or those seeking tips on arts and crafts or free fun activities to keep kids occupied without breaking the bank.
Irish parenting website rollercoaster.iehas become a hugely popular resource for parents, which, alongside advice on pregnancy and new parenthood, offers some sound advice on budgeting too. It is good on money-saving tips, with sections on back-to-school expenses and funding, such as clothing and footwear allowances, as well as useful advice on budgeting and cutting costs in the “Money and Work” section.
Some of the most useful budgeting information comes from the users of the site themselves. One discussion thread entitled “Healthy Budget Weekly Meal Plan” reveals that experience really counts when it comes to staying within the confines of the weekly food budget. It’s the mums themselves who post some of the most useful comments on the site, offering shopping and cooking tips to other parents. Some of the posters are bloggers elsewhere (such as the author of the cleansheets.ieblog) and offer some really useful tips such as:
Always use a list – go through your cupboards first and see what can be used up and then make your list to complement these ingredients
Always make a rough tot up as you go around the supermarket so that you don’t get any nasty surprises at the checkout
Make a meal plan – this way you can plan your meals better, saving money and preventing wastage in the process
Cook larger joints of meat such as chicken and ham and portion them up in ziplock bags for use as lunch ingredients – this works out cheaper and tastier than pre-packed sliced cooked meats
Shop online with stores such as Tesco, who show a running total as you proceed through your purchases.
The National Consumer Agency website ( nca.ie) is a great resource and not just for parents, though some of the sections can prove particularly useful for families. The site suggests completing a financial health check and provides a budget planner tool ( nca.ie/nca/ budget-planner) into which you can enter various incoming monies and outgoing costs.
Sections are provided for the likes of wages and children’s allowance, as well as outgoings such as utilities, car expenses, insurance and, more particularly in this case, childminding, babysitting and other child-specific costs.
Completing such a questionnaire allows parents to see just how much they are spending on essential and non-essential items. The website also provides a spending calculator with which you can tot up day-to-day expenditure, which may result in some surprising reading.
In parenting terms, the site has useful budgeting tools such as the baby budget planner ( nca.ie/nca/baby-budget) and the back-to-school budget planner ( nca.ie/nca/back-to-school-budget), which outlines various costs including books and stationery, uniform expenses, transport costs and voluntary school contributions.