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Reducing the stress...Budget Cutting

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I know this is not technically Family Law but it sort of is given many parents after a separation find it very difficult to make ends meet and to find the balance between trying to budget cut but at the same time not eliminate "luxuries" from their children lives especially if they were accustomed to certain things previously to the separation.  Also under this technical loophole :) is the fact that financial stress on parents can impact on children (children have enough to deal with in being "products" of a broken home) let alone also having ill parents (yes stress can greatly impact health) or even something as simple (but really huge) as missing out on laughter at home because their parents are so weighed down with all of the other stressors that go along with separation, that they become these serious creatures who forget to laugh.  Yes, a smile really is priceless and children deserve parents who spend less time worrying about money and more time making good memories (happy memories)  with them!!

Here's a few ideas on how to live on a small budget and reduce some of the stress to bring back the smiles

Clothes (We all know children grow like crazy especially when younger and like to be up with the times)
* Garage sales are great for finding baby and toddler clothes.  Usually in very good order and very cheap
* If you're not afraid of op shops (there are the good and the bad) you might have to search for ages but you're bound to come across some popular brand names in good order and even clothes that have never been worn.  Op shops are great for finding bits and pieces-odds and ends - fabric (convert a curtain into a costume it's cheaper than buying fabric…if you can sew) for school dress up days etc, and also things like "junk jewellery" and other prop type play things (just give them a good wash beforehand)
* Check out the factory outlets especially the ones that call themselves samples and seconds.  You'll find that many of these stock last season's over supply for the retail outlets they supply to including some very popular stores
*Yes there is always ebay.  I've never bought anything off there myself (trust issues :)) but I know heaps of people do
* Hand me downs, hand me downs, hand me downs still in decent order.  Personally I still like to buy at least one new item new for each child regardless.  Obviously all get new underwear, shoes etc.

Free/Low Cost Out of Home Entertainment (take a picnic, esky, drink canister along rather than buy)
* Parks with playgrounds, ovals to play sport
* Beach
* Family bike rides, skate parks
* Fishing (you will need a licence, not the kids you can say they're your lines :))
* Council "family days" (many hold one in their shire once or twice a year and have a free BBQ and free activities/rides for kids)
* Street fairs (most have a stage with different bands playing at various times for different age levels and also children's entertainment) The ones run by Church groups, Police unions, Fireys etc  are usually the cheapest for rides, food etc
* Visits to National Parks and Nature reserves (many have an information Centre so you can learn and teach the children at the same time).  If you're more inventive you can even make up activities to play that promote further interaction with the surrounding environment
* Check out your local library and some of the larger book stores to see if they run a children's story time (is free and usually held weekly running for approximately hour - 1 hour)
* Family memberships at places like the swimming pool are usually much less expensive than singular visits (especially if you have 2 or more children)

* Support your local community…look out for farmers markets (many sell much fresher produce without the ridiculous tax inflation), some of the smaller local shops are no more expensive and sometimes cheaper than the big chain stores (shop around)
* Find out who makes the home brands, try them all and don't be too proud to buy them.  Go on taste, nutritional content etc rather than the packaging.   Some of the no frills brands are actually made by the same manufacturers as the more expensive brands (just different packaging).
* If something unperishable is on sale for much less than the usual cost (if you have the cash at the time) buy in bulk especially if it's going to be used. 
* Get shampoos/conditioners etc that are in a pump bottle rather than easy pour or transfer them into one (young children have less concept of moderation…so I've found :)) and buy refills rather than the originals
* Hot Pots, stir frys, pastas etc can be just as nutritious as anything else and also very cheap.  If you don't like cooking make big batches and freeze remaining quantity in airtight containers that can be easily pulled out and thawed for another night (some vegies, especially those with a high water content, don't like to be frozen)
* Babies from 6 months can enjoy similar textures and foods to the whole family (inc. finger foods), you just need to chop it up a bit finer and be extra vigilant.  If you would rather stick to mashed potato, pumpkin etc instead of the expensive counter baby foods use ice cube trays and freeze your own "baby sized" portions. 
* Want to do weekly fish and chip night (Aussie thing or so I've been told :)) but can't really afford it…buy the chips and extras if you'd like from the fish and chip shop, make the fish at home
* Don't buy extras that you're never going to use.

* Check out the notice boards at the Health Nurse, Local community centre and Church organisations…many people offer cheap holiday accom (fully furnished inc. toys etc) for families.  You might need to go on a waitlist but hey, one holiday in 2-3 years that is affordable is better than no holiday at all!!  Besides it gives you time to save
* Camping is obviously cheaper than vans/motels etc providing you already have the equipment.  Not as easy with young children if you're on your own
* If you have a concession card there are many holiday parks that offer family discounts (I'm not sure of the cut off but I think part Parenting Payment (and concession) is available to people with 1 child on less than $35K increasing with children?)
* Time shares are often cheaper than single rentals but you will have to holiday at particular times.
* If you can't afford any holiday…why not pitch a tent in the yard or at a relatives and make your own fun (young children will have fun with most things)

Child care
* Family day care through councils is cheaper than child care centres (find one you like…interview them). 
* For those who are lucky to have grandparents/relatives willing to babysit while they work, study, train.  Although I'm sure that many grandparents do it out of the goodness of their hearts as they love spending time with their grandchildren (and visa versa) and so expect nothing in return, just for some general info.  If you are working, studying, training then your "sitter" might be able to register as a carer and get paid a small amount for minding the children for you, similar to child care benefit.  Remember for grandparents who are retired or verging on retirement…Super hasn't really been around all that many years and there was also a huge crash not too long ago, so some might find this extra "pocket" money useful.  Check out the centrelink website
* If child care is more about you wanting to socialise the children…play groups are great for that and are usually very low cost.  Also great for parents to meet other parents.

* Second hand book and uniform shops.  If the school doesn't run one make a point of familiarising yourself with a few of the parents of the older classes and ask them if they would be willing to sell you their children's uniforms second hand when they grow out of them. 
* Buy the more expensive stationary (e.g. colouring pencils etc) it actually does last longer and you'll find you end up spending more on re-buying earlier in the long run otherwise
* Actually have a look through the book club pamphlets and other school offers before throwing them away…with the discount that is applied to them some of the items are actually cheaper than you'll find elsewhere
* If you're going through financial hardship and your child/ren are enrolled at a private school, before you pull the children out (especially if they love their school and friends) don't be too proud to speak to the Principal of the school.  In some cases they might be able to reduce or waver part or all of the fees or even offer a payment plan that is within your budget until you can get back on your feet.

Toys/Activites (For younger children)
* Keep old cards etc and recycle them…get the kids to make new cards which are more personalised, recycle paper you've only printed on one side of for drawing/painting, junk mail for cut and paste, tissue boxes, egg cartons, anything and everything for creative play.  Children have great imaginations!
* Convert the kitchenware into musical instruments…pots/pans for drums, bottles with rice for shakers etc
* You can make your own playdoh and goop using basic kitchen ingredients
* Let your kids get dirty…cooking activities, mud play outside just after a rain
* Couple of chairs and a blanket…instant cubby
* Make Christmas decorations the tree will look gorgeous

Activities for older children
* If your children like science or circuitry or projects or fixing things…let them.  Rocket launchers (you can buy cheap piping materials from hardware stores), give them old radios/computers/t.v's etc that no longer work so they can try to fix them, buy them an old bomb that doesn't go that they can try to make run over time, let them give home repairs a try, make things out of old scraps etc
* Skate parks (theyre everywhere these days)
* Put up a basketball ring…you can get some really cheap ones, I'm sure you'll know someone with a hammer drill you could borrow if you need it to attach the ring to the wall
* Find out what they like and work around it…doesn't need to be expensive just cater to their interests

There are heaps more things you can do on limited means and yes although it is true you do need money to survive, what point is money if all it does is stress you out and takes away all of the fun you could be having with the children?  You hear people say, especially older generations…"We didnt have much money but we never went without", "I remember the time" and they smile as they reminisce about the "good old days" where life was simple.  Children of today are not that different at all, it's just our perceptions that have become a little askew. 

"Never, "for the sake of peace and quiet," deny your own experience or convictions". Dag Hammarskjold
I needed help with my case and couldn't afford a lawyer and found these guys invaluable
Crazyworld this is a fantastic idea to post.
Hope don't mind adding my own:
-Guides and Scouts can cost a little initial outlay but they are great for the kids.
-Make your own meals ahead of time - abattoirs (sp?) are great to buy bulk meat, for help with freezing meals there are great books like recipe blocks which use those silicone muffin trays to put your base into and then freeze. 4 ingredient cookbooks are fantastic too.
-Mostly for those outside of metro areas but find out if your town has community garden beds with a vegie patch, you normally donate $20 a year and take as much as you need.
-Neighbor swap is good, we have a neighbor with a large vegie patch and we swap with them and give them our eggs from the chooks as we have more chooks than anyone in our street so we have control over the egg exchange LOL
- Markets, great for bargains of any kind.
-If you can't go without smokes, buy tobacco and rollie at market $85 worth equals approx 500-600 smokes what a saving when average smokes cost $12 for 25, you save a minimum $155
-If you can't go without your weekly lotto ticket grab a  system ticket instead. Choose 8 numbers then if you get any 4 you win, cheaper than quick pick and more chance of winning 'something'
- Gamer or kids love computer games. try instead as you pay per month instead of a game.
- Search for best deal on car insurance, health insurance, house and contents - shop around it can save you heaps. I switched from AAMI to YOUI and saved $390 a year on car insurance, $180 on house and contents.
- Health care cards are a golden ticket in my eyes, always check what you are entitled to in your state. In VIC you can get a 6 months car rego instead of a year and it is also discounted. my $590 rego a year went to $170 for 6 months.
- as you said crazyworld, ebay it is my third love (after hubby and kids). great for buying if you know it is a bargain but also great to sell your unwanted items.
- Make your own cleaning products - I save $290 a year this way, can post recipes if anyone is interested.

I am the queen of cheap skating it IMO, if you can get your expenses down anymore then I will find a way to do it
I also find that drinks and snacks for my teenagers when out and about sure add up, so I keep a couple of drink bottles of water in the car, and, if I remember some small packets of BBQ shapes. Otherwise "I'm hungry/thirsty" after school can easily become $50 a week. 350ml drinks are the worst value.

Eating lunch at home on weekends, and taking lunch from home to school and work during the week also saves at least $100 a month.
Should add for those near one, ALDI is a god send. 16 rolls of toilet paper $4 and it's not too bad. 99cent 2l cola for the teenagers, $2 wipes, nappies are fantastic and cheap. I got my fax from there $50, printer $50, paper is $2.99 per ream and other fantasic bargains. oh yes 1l shampoo and conditioner for under $2 and $2.80 for pack of ham, $2.99 for large pack of sliced cheese and it feeds hubby and 3 kids lunches for a week and hubbies a tradie so up to 6 sandwiches a day.
Best money saver I did get though was LPG gas in the car, big initial outlay but got it on the grant program in VIC and it saves me $80 a week.
Few more…

* If your not like me and cut your own hair, Hairdressing training colleges (if your happy for your children or yourself to be a "guinea pig" for an apprentice :)), usually located in the State Capital Cities, offer hairdressing at very low cost in comparison to qualified hairdressing businesses.  You can save a lot of money on non basic hair cuts and colours which would usually be quite pricey

* If you have any trees that are as risk of falling or need immediate lopping (same reason) the SES offer a service where they will come out to do it for you.  Before chopping it down though (if it is a native) I would suggest firstly contacting the Council you live in as fines for removal of natives, especially if there are any Environmental or Heritage Overlays can be very hefty….VERY hefty!!

* If you are a still engaged in home duties after the separation (maybe your children are still below school age or require additional care due to illness that keeps you on call and limits your free time etc) but you would still like to earn a small income (this applies to SAHD's too…not every stay at home person is female, there are a couple of SAHD's at my children's playgroup) there are many places that will pay you a small amount for product sampling, mystery shopper etc (you can take the children along and sometimes work in your own hours).  Also if you'd be happy to care for other peoples children as well as your own, you can enquire into becoming a registered Family Day Carer (maximum 4 children including your own…you will need to safeguard the house pretty well) which will keep your foot in the workforce (might be different to your usual occupation…but at least it shows you've been in "paid" employment which is something that will go positive towards future interviews when you are looking to reenter the workforce on a PT / ft basis)           

* If you have girls (or boys who fall into this category…I am not being humorous!!) watch out for the twice yearly Myer stocktake sales for lingerie.  Brand name bras (and other lingerie items) that usually sell for well over $60/$70 can be as little as $5/$10 apiece as well as other heavily discounted clothing (suits, casual wear etc)    

* If your going to Court (or for interviews) and you don't have a suit/business wear, can't afford to by one/any and need it pretty quickly…go to an op shop to find one (they usually have quite a few in stock) just get it dry cleaned before wearing it.  If you only need it for the one day/case etc it won't put a huge dent in your pocket and once you're finished with it you can always put it back into the charity bins.  No ones going to know where it was bought and it might give you a better edge in the interview/case!!!

"Never, "for the sake of peace and quiet," deny your own experience or convictions". Dag Hammarskjold
I needed help with my case and couldn't afford a lawyer and found these guys invaluable
My turn  :lol:

- Kids love the multi-pack chips / arnotts shapes etc. Much cheaper to buy the larger size, single flavour packs/boxes and divide into ziplock bags yourself. Also helps you decide what portion size you want them having

- The good old money tin: Can usually be picked up for a dollar or two at 'cheap shops'. Put any silver change (gold if you want or can too) into it during school terms and get the kids involved by telling them come holidays they can put the money in the tin towards a special treat ie movies, ice skating, zoo, etc. I've found my kids go mad at me if I use silver change at the shops now because it 'belongs in the tin' (heehee sneakily teaching them about the rewards of saving)

- Family movie night! This is our family's absolute favourite and costs us very little: The larger chain stores like BigW have DVDs for under $10, quite often they will be ones you remember from when you were a kid! Our rules are everyone has to agree on one movie, and the kids take turns on picking a family-size block of chocolate. Less than $15 provides what the kids really need most - a bit of fun, time and togetherness as a family

"Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it."
Bill Cosby
Last one for me…

* I was lucky my father taught me a lot when I was growing up and I was always keen to help him out with DIY projects etc which he let me.  If you didn't have that yourself or would like to learn more Bunnings have free D.I.Y workshops and also children's workshops.  You can learn how to be a home handy"man"…it will save you heaps of money if you can do the small jobs yourself!!  If you can't make these, during business hours some of the staff are qualified tradies and are absolutely fantastic in assisting you and giving advice about how to go about different things i.e. plumbing, electrical etc  

Oh while I'm here just because I've mentioned "mothers" group before and now playgroup (previous post this thread).  For anyone who doesn't know…

"Mothers" group is for 1st time parents with newborns/infants (run through the health clinics/community health centre) where you go to a series of weekly meetings and are taught about how to care for newborns.  It's focus is teaching and learning through professionals and each other and is offered to all new parents.  Mother's and father's are both welcome…there were 2 dads at mine.

Play group is for children up to school age where you pay a small yearly fee and take your children along for the purposes of interacting with other children to develop socialisation skills and also (like I said too) to meet other parents.  The low cost involved is becasue you're the one supervising your your child/ren.  Like "mothers" group it is also open to both mother's and father's.  We have 1 stay at home dad (SAHD), who comes every week.  This will be his last year though as next year he'll have all 4 at school, 1 dad that comes with his toddler when his wife can't make it and one other SAHD who comes when he can (roughly every 3 weeks) with his little man.          

Last edit: by CrazyWorld

"Never, "for the sake of peace and quiet," deny your own experience or convictions". Dag Hammarskjold
I needed help with my case and couldn't afford a lawyer and found these guys invaluable
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