I need to budget for a life I’ve never lived before, a life with kids. The fact that my kids will arrive fully grown, needing uniforms and money for school trips just adds to the fear that I will not think about something and suddenly there will be a very unpleasant bill.
Luckily I have some brilliant friends who seem to be doing rather well at this parenting malarkey. One, who is also a single Mum, invited me over for dinner and a detailed scrutiny of my budget. Needless to say there were things I hadn’t thought to account for (like birthday parties and hair cuts) so below is our list that we made together.
Please note that the numbers attached to each point are what we came up with for 3 people ~ ie. if I were fostering two tweens/teenagers (in London) and they are all per month. In every case I have tried to take the highest number we came up with to ensure nice surprises at the end of the month rather than bad ones! It also meant I didn’t need to over think the incidentals as they should be covered each time I didn’t hit the top figure budgeted for.
What have we missed? Add your suggestions in the comments below.
1) Rent £2350++?
At the moment I do not live in suitable accommodation. One of the main purposes of this budget was to work out what I could afford in rent (including service charges and council tax) so I could start my house hunt knowing my maximum. Ideally I’d stay in Camden, but there are other, more affordable boroughs just a little further out that might be a better choice.
2) Food (The Weekly Shop) £300 per month
This was our supermarket shop, so it includes all other household products. We both commented on how much we saved if we shopped online – Don’t want to wait in for a delivery? Click and Collect is an amazing service offered by most bigger supermarkets.
3) Travel £300 per month
This was the hardest figure to work out as it is dependent on the age of the child, how they will travel to school each day and if I will need to take them. The worst case scenario (money wise) is that they are 12 years old (old enough they have to pay but too young to travel alone) and have to use the tube (buses are free with a registered card). So £300 is extreme to say the least, but hope for the best; prepare for the worst.
“Hope for the best; Prepare for the worst.”
4) Clothing £240 per month
I’m not a big spender on clothes and I certainly don’t mind rummaging through sales and second hand shops, but I will heed my friend’s advice: Never scrimp on school shoes. I know other friends who save and buy better quality clothes as they will survive quite a few hand-me-downs. Coats are great for doing the rounds through groups of friends’ kids.
5) Hobbies and Socialising £400 per month
Sometimes school’s have free after school clubs that kids can attend, so this money would be saved for weekend or holiday clubs, or maybe music lessons or buying sports equipment. For my part I have a gym membership, arts and crafts pursuits and coffee shop dates with friends to cover.
6) Beauty and Pharmacy £60 per month
Hair cuts, shampoo, toothpaste, plasters, sun screen lotion… One thing I didn’t know, was that many over-the-counter medicines for children can be got free from your GP; like Calpol, Nurofen and eczema cream for example. You can also get government vouchers if your child needs glasses.
“A penny saved is a penny earned.”
7) Utilities & Services (excluding Council tax) £230 per month
For this I included estimates for gas and electric, water, TV licence, landline + Internet, contents insurance and mobile phones.
8) Presents £60 per month
This was something that I had not considered at all. While the Local Authority will give you a little extra for birthdays and Christmas for your foster child, I hadn’t considered all the presents that they would want to give over the course of the year (or indeed, how many I give). Even a card in the post has to be paid for. This brought back lovely memories of my Mother’s present drawer. If she saw something on special offer that could make a good present, she would buy it then and there. That way, when unexpected birthdays popped up (suddenly finding an invitation at the bottom of our school bags), she was ready to go.
“Stock up on cards, presents and wrapping paper in the sales.”
9) Holidays and Outings £100 per month
This one was a bit of a shot in the dark as I’m not a frequent holiday taker, but even traveling to Devon and staying with family costs money. Then there are the school trips and camps and the day trips we’ll take as a family. Fortunately, in London there is so much to do for free.
10) Pets £70 per month
OK, this one doesn’t apply to everyone, but I have two dogs to think about. I spend about £50 a month (on average) on food, medicines & vets and grooming. The other £20 would be if I needed to kennel them. It’s not often I do this as they either travel with me or stay with friends, but in the spirit of covering all my bases it’s been added on.
11) Car £0
I don’t have a car, so at the moment my budget stands at £0. Things you will need to consider are car tax, MOT, ongoing maintenance, insurance, fuel and parking permits.
13) Pocket Money £100 per month
The inessential essentials (like getting my nails done – yes, I get pocket money too!) I know many people have different positions on pocket money, but it is one of the expectations when fostering that the child will have pocket money. Personally I think it’s a great idea as it allows them to learn about saving and making choices for themselves. Will they chose to buy X today or save to buy Y in a couple of weeks time? Either way it is their choice.
13) Savings £100 per month
Rainy day money, Emergency funds, Pension pot. Whatever you call it we all have to accept that no matter how good our planning we cannot prepare for every eventuality. I would highly recommend making an appointment with an advisor from the Government money advice service http://www.moneyadviceservice.org.UK. It’s completely free and impartial and really helped me get my head around different options from ISAs to stocks and shares. He also advised that, when it came to doing my own taxes (as a foster carer you are considered self-employed) it would be worth paying for an accountant to go through everything for/with me (at least for the first time anyway). Just make sure you keep all your receipts (preferable in some sort of order!)
So there are my every day essentials. Of course, on top of all this are the bigger one-off purchases (furniture, electronics, bedding, kitchen ware…) but I’ll save those for another day.