Monday 9 March 2015

Reducing The Costs of Being a Stay At Home Mum

When businesses start to look at their costs, they often start with the variable costs, as they consider the fixed costs to be, well, fixed... Think of that in the home environment and you can understand why people start by cutting back on luxuries in the supermarket, or by cutting out nights-out, holidays and manicures. I think as Stay At Home Mums we can all list the things we USED to spend money on, that we now don't. Before I move on, do you want to play a game of "Where's Aaron?" with the photo above? ;-) I have seen so many Where's Wally costumes in the past week, both on World Book Day and at the Comic Relief Danceathon yesterday.

Those pesky direct debits that come out of our accounts every month - our home "fixed costs" - can be reviewed too. In fact, some, like magazine subscriptions, can be flat out cancelled. I never had time to read my magazines anymore after having Aaron. Even if you have paid 100 pounds a month for gas and electric, dual fuel, for forever and a day, (1) it might take 6 months to a year for your provider to admit that your account is in credit, which is a nice surprise, but all it does is reduce future bills, as often they're reluctant to give it back in cash. But (2) as well as checking if it actually matches your usage you can just switch providers. If you are reluctant to, I can well understand, as this was my experience below.

Many years ago I used the then famous company to switch energy providers. It took about 2 months and then even longer to receive the "prize" they offered for switching (a bottle of champagne if I remember correctly). Nothing enamoured me about the process and therefore it's been a lot of years since  I have done so again.

I did however change again, probably about 7 years ago, but I didn't do it as a "switch". What happened was, I was at the Vitality consumer event, and my current energy provider approached me. I spent a considerable amount of time on their stand and they convinced me we would make savings, so I went with them, and THEY took care of the whole process of transferring providers, so I didn't even feel like I'd switched.

However last year they wrote to me, to advise that I might have been mis-sold my contract at that event. There was a form to fill in, and I am ashamed to admit I never got round to completing it.

Suffice to say, I have followed the current #PowerToSwitch campaign with a great deal of interest as I know this is something important for us to do. Thank God Spring is now properly here though, and we can start to think about keeping the heating off until Winter... and having lights on less as the days lengthen
The #PowerToSwitch campaign encourages people to switch suppliers and save money. With 27 energy companies on the market and some fixed deals £100 cheaper than they were a year ago, there’s never a better time to find a great deal, switch and save!
I am going to dig out that letter, see if I am still in contract and find out all I can at Be An Energy Shopper dot com.

It's possible to save 200 GBP when changing energy providers, and I know what I would spend it on. The first thing that springs to mind is a Spa Day, but given the savings would be spread over the year, I think it would be more likely that I'd enjoy the savings monthly, which means they could go into healthy eating or a gym membership to revitalise me. Ha! In a post about ENERGY I am talking about mine, or rather, the lack of it.

The energy industry has quite literally been reformed and a great summary of the key changes is here: Why Should you Go Energy Shopping

Things you can do to save money
 as a 
stay at home mum:

  • Automobiles. Yes, it is very tempting as a family to run two cars, but life is considerably cheaper with one. Aaron and I walk, bus or cycle everywhere, and the same is true of the school run.
  • Getting Away. For long journeys, don't just look at trains; consider coaches too.
  • No more holidays. One of the first things to go, when surviving on one salary, is often holidays. But we all need a break, so ensure you find a way of getting away, even if it is a weekend with friends or family. It's still a case of "a change is as good as a rest" and normally means accommodation is free.
  • Travel blogging. Forgive me if you are a reader who is not a blogger, but to those that are, we've all seen the rise in travel blogging that has accompanied the boom in parent blogging. Well now, more so than ever, they are overlapping and many of us are getting the opportunity to work off our holiday. A bit like washing the dishes in a restaurant to pay for your meal, but with writing and photography instead. It's a fabulous win:win all round. The family gets a holiday they might otherwise not have done, and the holiday company benefits from fabulous, passionate online exposure and more importantly, authentic word of mouth!
  • Food shopping. Don't buy your groceries where you always have done, and don't be too snobby to try something new. There are plenty ways to save, by switching supermarket as with your gas and electric suppliers. Getting bread and milk locally can often save money, as even though they might be 50p extra each, you may just buy those and a newspaper, rather than the 20 pounds you'll end up spending if you buy them in a supermarket.
  • Do a meal plan to make  sure you are buying what you will eat. I find knowing Aaron's tastes really well, and  thus buying the foods that I know will be loved and nutritious saves on waste too.
  • Clothes shopping. Don't buy new seasons children's clothes till you check if you will actually need them. Yes, there was a time where Aaron needed new jeans every 6 months, but he's been in the current ones (about 5 pairs not including trousers) for well over a year. They were slightly long to begin with, and with high top trainers, last even longer :-) High tops are a fab way of avoiding ankle swingers!
  • Same is true of starting school. He seems to need/wear less clothes, now that he tends to often go straight from school uniform to PJs.
  • When you get on with changing energy providers, check your deal for TV/Internet/Landline too as there are huge savings to be made here.
  • When I became a SAHM one of the first things I did was to review my personal mobile phone. Bad enough that companies often tie you in now for 24 months where once it was 12 months, but they don't drop the monthly fee once you've paid for your phone (when you get a supposed "free upgrade" part of your monthly tariff is effectively paying for that handset). A couple of years ago, I set myself a reminder, and the minute I was out of contract I went "Sim only". Firstly it meant I went from 25 pounds a month to 6.50 pounds and as they included so many things in it (minutes and texts) I never went over. I stayed like that for 2 years (plus the 2 years I'd been in contract) and really benefited from the savings BUT last year my battery was on its last legs - no wonder, the phone was 4 years old. I went into a phone store and most of them no longer sell batteries, so they convinced me to get an upgrade. Now I am back to big bills every month... so don't make the same mistake as me! A word to the wise!
  • As a SAHM, sometimes the heating is on more, as we are home, where once we'd have been at work. I can't justify heating a house with only me in, so this is where blankets and extra layers comes in!
  • Appliances. We've recently got a fridge freezer that is A+++, which means it is incredibly efficient. So sometimes it is not always about getting the best deal from your energy provider but also making sure your appliances themselves are economical. Last year we got a cooker with two ovens. When I am making something simple, I use the top oven, as it is a smaller space to heat and therefore economical in warming up quickly and therefore cost effective. TVs are a guzzler so it is a good idea not to leave them on standby overnight (I am saying this to myself as we are guilty of this)!
  • Lighting. I ensure that the lights we use most often are ALL energy saver bulbs. You know the sort, they are low voltage with the same amount of light, and cheap to run. Aaron doesn't like 100% darkness so the hall light is left on all night.
  • Beauty. As a SAHM, sometimes this is one of the first to go! Ha ha! Not our actual beauty but our regimes. Although sometimes the beauty gets a knock too ;-) I've now learned how to do my nails myself although true be told I don't often bother. The leg waxes were one of the first things to go, having been substituted with shaving, however I must convince, the onset of Winter saw me harnessing my inner Gorilla. He's still with me, despite the sun and blue skies being here a fortnight. Seems I am yet to shed my Winter skin. Being that I have long hair in a pony tail it doesn't need cutting every 6-8 weeks as with short styles. The only thing that does literally get in the way is my fringe so I HAVE learned how to cut that myself. I haven't coloured my hair in over 20 years, so I don't have to worry about roots growing out, as that is an expense nobody needs. But I am sure that can be done at home too. I know my Mum has great results!
  • Gifts. As bloggers we often get goodie bags, and there's sometimes items in there that are not age appropriate for our child. These are great for keeping to one side as presents!
  • Shop wholesale. Another tip for bloggers, is that companies sometimes give us products at cost, rather than free. So, you're in a scenario where you need to buy something. You know the pennies are tight. But you also know that the company may be reluctant to offer you the product complimentary in exchange for a review. So, offer to pay the cost price, in exchange for exposure. You don't have the pressure of writing a full on review but you and the company get a win:win relationship out of it. Been a long time since I have done this, but the few times I did, it worked really well. It's authentic too, as you are endorsing the product with your full heart. A high ticket item is still a big outlay even at 60% of retail, but you have a Spring in your step about the saving made. Plus, you chose the product rather than it choosing you!
After having two bad experiences switching energy provider, I have been complacent and have stayed with our current one for probably 7 years, despite receiving THAT letter last year. However blogging about this #PowerToSwitch campaign (and taking part in the Twitter party the other day, where I won John Lewis vouchers) has been fabulous for bringing the following facts to my attention:

- Switching times have been cut in half to about 17 days, down from 5 weeks last year
- Families can save around £200, sometimes even more, by switching- The government has encouraged new suppliers to market; there are now 27 independent suppliers- It is easy to compare using Ofgem-approved comparison sites via A new TV advert highlights the savings: 
Being at home for Aaron means a great deal to me, and tatty nails and a lack of new clothes aren't going to dissuade me from that. So, when challenges come, I dig my heels in and look for the blue sky and/or the silver lining that accompanies every cloud ;-)
I've written this post before actually switching myself, so I am going to share some facts with you, that I will use to guide me in the process:

There are 3 steps to switching supplier: 

1. Before you start shopping around, you’re going to need some key information about your current gas and electricity tariffs. So grab a recent bill or an annual summary  sent any time after April 2014.

This will have the following information:
  • Your tariff  name.
  • Your tariff end date.
  • Your method of payment.
  • Your annual consumption

2. Start comparing tariffs. For more information visit 

3. Switch either by switching through a price comparison website or contacting the energy company you would like to switch to. 
A series of reforms have been introduced to help consumers compare tariffs more easily and switch suppliers more quickly. Independent are suppliers increasing competitive pressure on the larger companies. Indeed, 10% of the market is now made up of independent suppliers, in 2010 it was just 1%. Switching times have also been halved.

We don't actually own a tumble drier, so one of the things I am looking forward to the most about the recent good weather that will hopefully now be here to stay for 7 months, is getting clothes out on the line! So not only will the radiators no longer be needed to keep us warm, but I can dispense with their drying abilities too!

I'm working with BritMums and DECC alongside the #PowertoSwitch campaign. I have been compensated for my time. All photos, editorial and opinions are my own, apart from where I have clearly indicated  and included quoted text and an advertisement video. Visit for a lot more information about switching energy suppliers.

1 comment:

  1. Oh a tumble dryer, now that would be a useful appliance to have!
    So many great tips here, thanks so much for taking part in #PowerToSwitch. I'm commenting for myself and for BritMums.


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