Our income has dropped considerably over the past year and because of more governmental changes we will no longer be receiving any kind of tax credits come April 2017. I am not opposed to the changes which state that by the time the youngest child is three the mother should be looking for work and by four should be in employment otherwise they will no longer be eligible for tax credits. I’m not opposed because I fully understand that our country can not continue to get itself into debt without some serious repercussions, and therefore the government needs to make savings somewhere. I am just so grateful I was eligible for the time I have been. Tax credits have allowed me to be at home with my children, which was always my greatest desire. I count it a privilege and a blessing to have been at home these past thirteen years, and am incredibly grateful. That said, between now and April 2017 I have some serious learning to do, because on paper our finances will not allow me to stay at home.
Thankfully, I serve a God who is even bigger than the governmental policies and I trust that He will lead our family to live more frugally and to somehow find a way for me to stay out of the workforce and remain at home with my children. We have been in situations before when on paper outgoings far exceeded incomings, yet each month we got through and had a fabulous standard of life. It was incredibly faith building and I am looking forward to what God might do in the future.
We have had a few family meetings to throw about some ideas. It has been decided, for now, that the children will still have the use of the child benefit (a small benefit all parents receive for each of their children regardless of their income or work status) to pay for their one activity, their clothing and savings. This they will need to earn as I outlined in this post.
Our biggest saving, which we have put into action this week, is to get rid of our once a week date. Although we only pay our babysitter £10 and we only pop to Sainsburys’ restaurant and spend a little over £10 on curry (for me) and ham and chips (for Gary), cutting this out will save £20 per week. It’s a big saving and it’s immediate, and let’s face it a weekly date is a luxury. The older children have all offered to work out ways for us to have stay-at-home dates, without being interrupted. Other savings will occur when we re-look at phone and broadband needs once our present contract is up next year. We are also discussing other optional expenses, which again are luxuries (Amazon Prime) to decide if it is still within our budget.
There are areas where we don’t have much wiggle room since they are essential to us. The first is the car and petrol, the second is our holiday to see Gary’s parents. We have had to cancel our holiday this autumn due to a shortage of money, but as we went in the spring we weren’t too concerned. However, we don’t want this to be the situation next year and, for us, this is an essential non negotiable area. We don’t have any other holidays and we both feel it is important for the children to grow up knowing their cousins (all twenty something of them!) and most of all their lovely Grandparents. It costs us £1000 just to get there. We usually stay with Gary’s parents. We have decided to put away £20 per week and begin to look at ways we can decrease the amount it costs us.
We see two areas which we can and will make considerable changes to. The first is our food budget, which we will somehow decrease to under £100 a week to feed seven of us and three pets in addition to the chickens. The second is our homeschool budget. Homeschool has always been of utmost importance to us all and this was reflected in our school budget which was considerable (about £300 per month, mostly on books). This will need to be reduced to practically nothing. We will need to save up approximately £600 per year to cover each older child taking up to two IGCSE’s each per year. It seems to simply sit one IGCSE exam, it costs almost £100. We will also still need to find £20 to pay for Conquer Maths, which is working so well I am loath to stop. We will obviously need basic supplies- paper, ink, pens and the like which we are hoping to keep under £20 per month. Our total budget for school will be £100 per month for all five children (£60 to cover exams, £20 to cover maths and £20 to cover basic supplies). Unfortunately this will mean no room for buying curriculum, IGCSE text books or any extras. We will try to put as much aside as we can for the purpose of the IGCSE’s before the tax credits are removed. We will also be consciously searching for IGCSE text books in charity shops. I will keep a note of the subject and the editions needed for each subjects to ensure I buy the most up to date version.
I have been researching schooling options and will be sharing lots of free ways one can learn (thank God for the internet!) and I have been praying about food, as this will be by far the hardest area for me to manage.
Fortunately, for me contentment comes easy. I love my life. No, I adore my life and the reasons for this have very little to do with money and everything to do with relationships. As long as we have money to house us, keep us warm, feed us and pay the bills, I will be a happy bunny!
I will enjoy the challenge of finding cheaper ways to eat and the imagination it will take to school in a fun but free way. Most of all, though, I will enjoy looking for sneaky ways to beautify our life so no-one actually realises we are on a tight budget. I have my sewing needles in one hand and my cash envelopes in another!
I hope you’ll all join me in trying to make our lives beautiful and joyful….on a little budget.