The January blues can hit hard after an indulgent Christmas, especially when your bank account is nudging into the red. But as long as you have $50 in your back pocket, you can make it.
A new book from Stay at Home Mum founder and Once a Month Cooking author Jody Allen, The $50 Weekly Shop, shows you how to scrape by on next to nothing.
She should know, because her family did it for four years.
Made redundant while on maternity leave pregnant with her second boy, Allen and her husband were in the middle of building the dream home they have saved up for during the previous decade.
Relying on his wage, they were only left with $50 after paying all bills.
“I was devastated,” Allen says. “I fell in a heap and cried for six weeks, thinking, ‘f**k my life,’ and then I thought, ‘well ok, in another world, how could I make this work?’”
Pulling out her gran’s old Country Women’s Association book, Allen taught herself how to batch cook low-cost, big flavour meals on a tight budget.
Pretty soon she was researching how to make environmentally friendly cleaning products, pointing out that they account for as much as 20 per cent of grocery budgets.
“When my boys were little they would suck everything including toilet seats. By using only bicarb, orange, eucalyptus oil and vinegar for everything, I didn’t have to worry about them poisoning themselves and it smells fantastic.”
Then she went through all the bills. “I rang electricity, phone gas and insurance companies and so on asking for a better deal. To this date, no one’s said no. My house insurance went from $1200 a year to $400 after single call.”
Stay at Home Mum started out as a way to share her top tips and source new ones from other mums. These days the site employs 12 stay-at-home mums.
“It was never meant to be a business,” Allen says. “I’d just run out of ideas, so I put it out there, ‘what kind of hints can you give me on saving money?’ and it exploded.”
Here are Jody Allen’s budgeting tips to make it through January and the year ahead.
1. Bulk cook
“When you’re making spaghetti bulk it out with shredded vegetables and put some in the freezer for the nights when you feel like you’re going to get take away, because we all have that weakness when you’re really tired. You can pull out a tasty, homemade meal and have it ready in ten minutes.”
2. Stay away from the supermarket
“Do online grocery shopping, because you know exactly how much it’s going to cost and you’re not going to be tempted to buy anything else. I’m the worst person for that. If I go to the supermarket for bread and milk I’ll come home with heaps of stuff.”
3. If you do go to the supermarket, think ahead
“If you’re in the supermarket and you have a little bit of extra money, get a $5 voucher every time. When you accumulate them over the year, there’s your Christmas savings come December.”
4. Make the bills pay out for you
“I pay all my bills using the credit card and pay it back at the end of the month, using the points to get Myer vouchers and then in the Christmas sales I’d buy my husband and I all our clothes for the year.”
5. Plan for Christmas now
“I buy my presents all throughout the year. When you see a really great gift for your kids on a great deal, grab it and put it away, because it will save you money. At the same time, don’t forget where you hid them. I’ve done that before.”
Pre-Order The $50 Weekly Shop here. Out February 27.
Grab Once a Month Cooking now.