The Easter Bunny might deliver chocolate, but he’s not known for leaving extra cash. Balancing your budget is still your job.
April is a big holiday month in South Africa. Not only do we have school holidays, but almost every week has a public holiday or long weekend in it. Having the kids home from school is lovely, but it can also be stressful from a budgeting point of view. They seem to eat so much, and keeping them entertained feels like a full-time job.
Take a deep breath, and let’s look at ways to ease the financial worries.
Start with your budget
Holidays do bring about more expenses, but there are also things you don’t have to pay for. There is, for instance, no transport to and from school. Therefore, when you think about the holidays ahead, you have to start with your budget. Remove the regular expenses that fall away, such as school transport and tuck shop money, and add holiday-specific spending, such as your children having lunch at home instead of at school and some entertainment. Is your budget balancing? If not, it’s time to think creatively.
Planning in the kitchen
Grocery expenses can run away from you very easily, especially if you take the children with you to the shops (they are on holiday, after all). Your best defence is planning. Get your family around the table and find out what everybody would like to eat in the week ahead. Agree with certain suggestions, however, let everyone know that not everything that’s suggested, will end up on the list – you don’t want your food planning session to end up in a food fight! It is a good idea to give your family some guidance, based on what is already in your cupboards and in the fridge and freezer. Always aim to use up what you already have, instead of buying stuff.
Once you have agreed on your meal plan for the week, draw up a shopping list to get the items you will need to make the meals. When you go shopping, only buy what’s on the list. It might sound rather boring, but it will keep your budget safe.
Dealing with snacks
When at home, children tend to pay frequent visits to the kitchen in search of something to munch on. Snacks can, therefore, eat a big hole in your budget. Avoid this, by dealing with snacks like you would with a school lunchbox. Each child gets his or her snack box for the day and can decide when to eat what. The important thing is that when the snack box is empty, it’s empty. You might want to be creative and allow snacks to be swopped out, eg, an apple for a handful of nuts, but agree on this beforehand.
Again, this might sound a bit boring and too rigid for holiday time, but your kids will thank you when they realise they can go on an outing because of how well the budget is being managed. Also, involve them in the planning and packing of their snack boxes, and encourage them to enjoy their snacks in fun environments, such as on a walk in a park.
Fun doesn’t have to be expensive
When doing your meal planning for the week ahead, make entertainment part of it. For example, plan to have a family movie night, or an evening of playing cards or board games, and plan the food you’ll be having around that. How about having dinner by candlelight (even when there’s no load-shedding!) or dressing up for a meal with a theme? There are many ways to make being at home fun – and sneaking in savings without anybody realising.