It’s not often that January tops the list of people’s favourite time of year. And with post-Christmas fatigue, Blue Monday, more cold snaps and the ongoing cost-of-living-crisis to contend with, for many of us, this year feels like it’s got off to an even bleaker start than usual.
Financial pressures are hitting the vast majority of Brits hard - and families in particular are really feeling the pinch. Recent research has shown that two-thirds of parents in the UK are concerned about paying for both food and fuel; and even more worryingly, one in three parents say they think the cost-of-living-crisis will impact their children’s mental health, according to research from King’s College London.
With impactful Government support still vague and ambiguous, tens of thousands of parents are left wondering how they can tighten their belts even more - without having to totally give up on the things that bring them and their kids joy and happiness.
As both a dad of three-year-old twins, and an employer of plenty of busy parents, I’ve picked up a few money-saving hacks over the years that can make a genuine difference to family life. And what’s more, most of them are so easy to start taking advantage of, they’re a real no-brainer…
Workplace nursery schemes
Childcare is probably one of the biggest expenses a parent faces. Costs are escalating at an alarming rate and for those parents who need childcare for multiple kids, it can quickly become completely unmanageable. If this is you, speak to your employer about a workplace nursery scheme.
Unlike childcare vouchers where the maximum you can sacrifice is £243 per month, workplace nursery schemes allow you to opt to pay your full nursery costs as a salary sacrifice directly from your gross income (your pay before tax and NI) instead of part of your salary. You then only pay tax and NI on your salary after the childcare fees have been deducted, making you a potential saving of hundreds of pounds a year.
If your workplace doesn’t currently offer such a scheme, it is 100 per cent worth making the case for one with your boss. It doesn’t cost the company a penny but can make all the difference to its teams.
Take advantage of cashback websites
I might be a little late to the party with this one, but when a good friend recently told me he made £1,500 through cashback websites, I couldn’t believe it. Now, I absolutely swear by them and they are so easy to use. There are plenty out there like Topcashback.com and QuidCo.com, and all you need to do is go through their website before you make any online purchases - which, as a parent of twins who constantly need new clothes and toys, is a regular occurrence in our household. They work with thousands of major retailers - just search for the place you plan to buy something from and click through to that retailer from the site, rather than visiting it directly. The cashback site then automatically logs whatever you spend, and pays you a percentage of the money back. You can either withdraw this into your bank account or you can claim it in shopping vouchers - either way, it’s basically free money for doing next to nothing!
Workplace electric vehicle schemes
If, like me, you’re constantly ferrying your kids around from nursery to school to playdates to activity clubs and back again - you’ll know the importance of a good family car. And going electric has countless benefits, one of which is the ability to lease an electric vehicle through another money-saving workplace scheme.
Similar to the workplace childcare scheme, the EV scheme also works through a salary sacrifice and enables an employee to exchange part of their pre-tax salary in return for a brand new car. By paying for the monthly vehicle costs from your gross salary, you can reduce your PAYE, NI contributions and Benefit-In-Kind tax - making you massive savings, sometimes up to 40 per cent less on the normal lease price.
Again, this doesn’t cost employers anything - it’s something I offer to all of my staff and take advantage of myself.
Be savvy with public transport
Like everything else right now, train travel prices are on the rise. But if you are reliant on public transport, it doesn’t mean you have to cancel your plans and stay home - there are lots of hacks you can use to get the best deal on train tickets so your family getaway is that little bit more affordable.
Firstly, get yourself a friends and family railcard. These are available to use by up to four adults travelling together with up to four children. They save adults a third on ticket costs and kids up to two thirds - it’s well worth it, and you often make back the cost of buying the railcard in just one trip.
Secondly, you can now buy, swap and upgrade your train tickets through the Seatfrog platform - and we always offer the best tickets for your journey at the best possible price. The new ticket swap feature (currently available on LNER routes) means that you can now swap inflexible ‘advanced’ tickets for a new date and time for a nominal fee, rather than having to buy entirely new tickets. So should you miss your train, or decide to change your plans and travel back at a different time, you don’t have to fork out loads to do so.