I was a teenage Mum without savings
When I was a teenage single parent my 18 month old daughter had just 3 sets of day clothes as I was so broke. And those clothes only cost £2.99 a set from the market.
I had no savings, no credit card, no overdraft. Unable to buy more clothes I dreaded her having a growth spurt before I had managed to find more money for clothes.
If I had had a few £ in savings I could have saved myself a lot of stress and worry and (internal) embarrassment. I could have bought her more clothes or chosen not to but without any savings I had no choice.
Savings give you choices.
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I didn’t have a savings habit
I still remember that time now and wish I knew then what I know now. I could have made better choices with the little money that I had which would have freed up those few pounds I desperately needed.
I didn’t have a budget, didn’t think about savings or paying for things that I didn’t buy weekly. So I didn’t have any money left over when new clothes or shoes were needed.
Some of the little things I did then which I now know could be different:
- I bought my bus pay weekly even though I was paid monthly and a monthly pass would have saved me money
- I paid my electricity bill quarterly but didn’t put money aside every month
- I bought takeaways from the local chippy at least twice a week – too lazy/tired to make something
- I bought pre-packaged food rather than cooking for scratch – I loved potato waffles!
- I bought my breakfast every day when I got to work and often my lunch too – leaving home at 7am I didn’t think to plan the night before
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing”
Related reading: The easy way to save money – 15 tips to save $14,000 a year!
You need a budget
What I know now is that I needed to budget. To know all my outgoings not just the bills I got through the post or the shopping I bought without a list.
“Look after the pennies and the pounds look after themselves”
When you don’t have much money, every penny counts, literally. You need to know what you are earning, any benefits you receive (e.g. child benefit) and add them all up.
Then you need to know what ALL your outgoings are, not just your regular bills but the ones that pop up unexpectedly. The house insurance, birthday presents for your children’s friends, new shoes for growing feet.
I know it looks daunting to start off with – so many boxes! But please do complete it or make your own as it really is worth it.
Just completing it makes you think about everything you pay out for and also what you don’t currently pay out for.
I’m sure you have all heard the horror stories of people losing everything in a house fire and not being insured!
How awful, when contents insurance can be bought for less than £100 a year. That’s just £8.33 per month. Less than one takeaway pizza.
Please, please make sure you have insurance. Whether you are renting or buying a property you still need contents insurance.
Once filled in the budget planner will tell you whether you are balancing your books (great) or not (oops).
The bit I like about the planner is that you can input what your desired spend is for a specific category.
For instance, if you know you want to take a packed lunch to work in the future but are currently spending £20 a week then input £20 as your weekly spend and £0 as your desired spend.
Related reading: 25 tried & tested money saving tips
Better spending and saving habits
When you truly know what you are spending, you can make choices about future spending. You can choose to
- shave £5 off your weekly shop,
- buy one less takeaway a month
- take a packed lunch to work
- reduce your cable TV package
- get contents insurance!
Knowing what you are spending allows you to start making savings. Putting money aside for a rainy day, children’s new shoes, car repairs etc.
The important thing is you can make savings, you just need to decide how much and how you are going to do it.
Related reading: How to choose the best cash savings account
If you haven’t saved any money in the past year, don’t make it hard for yourself. Start off small, aim to save a few pounds each week, maybe £20 or so every month – that’s £240 in one year.
Prove to yourself that you can save. Once you have successfully saved for 6 months, set yourself another savings goal.
Use the budget planner again and tweak those entries. Identify where you want to reduce your spending and increase your savings.
I am sure you can see that with just a little planning my daughter could have had those extra clothes. And I didn’t need to have been stressed or worried.
Don’t be me, work out your budget, make those changes and start saving. You will feel sooo much better in 6 months time.