Setting a budget and sticking to it is really hard and The Spinoff Parents regularly gets asked to pull together budget tips that real parents use. Here are the best crowd-sourced tips from parents in New Zealand.
We’ve tried to split this series into parts – because we were sent so many tips. This week we’ve compiled our best tips specifically around budget setting and spending. Contributions have been edited for clarity and in some cases combined.
Separate your bank accounts
- “We have an account for food, one for bills like car or van maintenance which all my part-time job income goes into. Another account for rates and house maintenance, and what’s leftover after power and phone is split between us for petrol, coffee, presents. It works OK although there’s never enough in any of the accounts.”
- “We run a bills account. I have an automatic payment into it every pay day, and then all bills-related automatic payments go out of it.”
- “We set up an automatic payment to an account with another bank that we didn’t have easy access to. Our money goes to that bank and gets split into three accounts: holiday, emergency bills, and car costs.”
- “We found the biggest hurdle to budgeting was the resentment that crept in seeing the small spends we were making – $5 here on coffee and $8 here on Maccas and $20 here on TradeMe. So we budgeted each other a set amount a week that goes into separate accounts and that’s our spend. If we want a big splash, we save. It’s really helped.”
- “We have a set limit for things we can buy for ourselves. If we go over the limit we need to ask each other if it’s OK to purchase whatever the thing is. It has helped us view our money as “ours” and helped us save money.”
Get some expert advice
- Te Wananga Aotearoa has a free money management course and it comes highly recommended from our readers. The course covers wealth and debt, interest rates, insurances and investment.
- The Sorted website offers free tips and advice and it has a free (government funded) online money management guide.
- The National Building Financial Capability Trust (NBFCCT) offers free and confidential budgeting services for families in crisis. They also offer budget resources for free on their website. You can call them on 0508 283 438.
- “Go back to cash and draw cash for different things. Put them in separate envelopes – one each for groceries, activities, petrol. Only put in the amount you’d like to spend or the amount you have available.”
- “Cash is good because when it’s gone it’s gone – overdrafts are dangerous.”
Track your spending
- “We have a spreadsheet with every single thing we spend money on included. It took us a while to develop a system that works for us and we started simply by tracking our spending so we could see where the money actually went.”
- “We write down every cent we spend. All of it. Every last bit of your current expenditure. When you do that it usually shocks you into reconsidering whether or not you actually *need* some of that stuff.”
Shop around for the best provider
- “Sometimes the best provider isn’t the cheapest – one place might be slightly cheaper than another, but they might lock you into a 32 month plan and increase your price six months in. Another place might have extras that seem to sweeten the deal but will cost you more in the long run.”
- “It takes time but shop around for your household services and review them. We’ve switched power, internet, phone companies countless times, each time to save money.”
- Bundle your insurances for a discount.
- “Choose one rewards scheme instead of lots of schemes (we use Fly Buys and AA fuel only).”
- “Use what you’ve accumulated in your rewards system. There are better and more useful stuff than I had expected in for example FlyBuys. Often the rewards on offer are on our list of ‘needed but not completely essential’ e.g. a new toaster because the one you have doesn’t work properly but isn’t completely broken.”
- “Ask your current provider (internet, power, phone) for the deal they’re offering to new customers. They resist at first, but persist and fill out an online request to leave and they’ll come back to you with a great offer.”
Create a buffer with your bills
- One of the big bill costs is power. Summer tends to be cheaper for power and cold snaps can really get you when you have no choice but to run your heater all night. Put extra into your account over the summer to pay for your heavier winter bills.
- Flick Electric have an awesome new tool called Volt. Volt is for Flickers who want a more predictable weekly payment. When you have a Volt you pay a fixed weekly amount that’s set to be higher than your typical bill, and the difference gets stashed in your Volt to help cover the occasional high bill. Volt means no more surprises and a clean run through winter.
- Here’s what some Flickers have said about Volt:
“It’s just me in my apartment and I really just want a stash to cover the odd price spike, so I’ve set my regular payment at $18 and my trigger at $30.” Matt, Auckland
“I’ve set my payments at $60 (35% higher than my normal weekly bill), and I’ve set my trigger in the same place. This should mean I never pay more than $60.” Jessica, Wellington
“I’ve got a bit of a stash but money’s a bit tight for the next few weeks, so I’ve dropped my payment and trigger to $0 so our next few bills come straight out of our Volt.” Emily, Christchurch
Keeping warm in winter while keeping your power bill down is such a huge issue that our next post in this series will focus on that. We’ll have tips from experts on staying warm and making sure your kids are warm, while making sure you can still pay your power bills.
We know energy poverty is real, and we’re doing our best to provide support to our readers to make sure everyone we can do our bit to combat this issue.
One in five Kiwis live in energy poverty. That’s not good enough, so our friends at Flick are taking responsibility for driving change. They recently ran a campaign called Give a Flick. Thanks to your support they were able to donate 10,000 LED bulbs to households in need. Flick Electric are supporting this budgeting series so that New Zealand families can get through winter with tips and advice for experts. Thanks Flick!
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.