13 clever spending habits all parents should adopt in 2024

The art of saving money for your family includes adopting good habits and eliminating those harmful spending patterns that could be costing more than you realise

worried couple with a baby at home looking at bills
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The new year is here, and at a time when family budgets are still under pressure, there’s never been a better time to consider how you can improve your finances. But for busy families with hectic schedules, it’s all too easy to pick up less-than-ideal spending habits that end up costing you a fortune. With the cost of living still high, it's really important to understand how to save money to ease the pressure on your family's budget. (Check out our guide if you're not sure how to start budgeting.)

GoodtoKnow's Money Editor Sarah Handley says: "When life gets busy, it's all too easy to take your focus off what you're actually spending and why. And we all have these spending habits that might start off small, but can grow into something that is actually working against your family finances, rather than for them."

With that in mind, we’ve come up with the money habits to keep, as well as the ones you should let go of, in 2024 to help your money go further.

1. Get better at budgeting

Budgeting is an important and relatively easy way of getting your family finances back on track, and it will ensure you know which expenses need prioritising each month. Marketing director at EQ Investors, Ben Faulkner, says: “Controlling your spending during ‘normal’ times is important, during times of uncertainty, it’s imperative. Create a household budget by listing both your income and outgoings to help you manage your money better. The Money Advice Service has a useful free budget planner to help you get started.”

Go through your bank statements and weed out any unwanted magazine subscriptions, insurance policies or gym memberships. You want to get to a point where the amount you have going out does not exceed the money you have coming in. It’s worth doing this every one to two months to make sure you stay on top of it.

2. Curb unnecessary spending

Even the smallest of purchases can quickly eat into your bank balance. So for 2024, make it your mission to cut back on your spending, and see if you can get the whole family to take on the challenge. A good place to start is to resist impulse purchases. It can be particularly difficult to do this if the price has been discounted or stock is running low and you feel you might miss out. But take a step back, sleep on it, and see if you still think you need it when you wake up the next morning. 

Co-founder and COO of pocket money app GoHenry, Louise Hill, says: “At some point, we’ve all experienced the consequences of giving in to impulse buys or spending our money too quickly, and it’s a tough lesson when learned the hard way! 

“But spending less doesn’t mean that you and your family can’t have fun. Try and introduce fakeaways on the weekend or have your very own ‘Come Dine with Me’ experience with your friends. There are plenty of ways to spend time together without the need to spend money - like taking walks around your local area, exploring places you might not have been to before or even a simple arts and crafts day with the kids in the house on a rainy day.”

Couple sitting in front of the sofa at home looking at a laptop together

(Image credit: Getty Images)

3. Avoid paying for convenience

Anything that cuts the time it takes to get lunches packed or dinner on the table is an easy sell to frazzled parents. But before you throw ready-grated cheese or pre-prepared veggies in the trolley, check how much you’re paying for someone else to do the prep. It could be more than double the price. Take a bag of frozen diced onions from Sainsburys for £1.30, for example. It might not sound like a total rip-off, but when you look at the price per kilo it’s £2.60, compared to just 95p for regular loose onions.

If you really miss the convenience, you can always grate your cheese or chop your veg in bulk and keep an easily accessible supply in the fridge or freezer. Our money editor tried it with grated cheese and is a complete convert!

4. Focus on reducing your debt

If interest rates rise again, your family's debt will become more expensive - squeezing your budget tighter. So if you’ve got credit card balances, loans or overdrafts to clear, it’s time to give them some attention and consider how to pay off debts fast to ease the burden on your family.

Lucy Sherliker from car finance marketplace Zuto, told us: “Although paying back loans and credit will prevent you from saving as much money as you might like, the quicker you can get these loans paid off, the more money you’ll be able to save in the future. Start by paying off your high-interest loans first, as these cost you the most in the long-term, and pay off your credit cards so they can be used in an emergency.”

If you can, shift any expensive credit card debt to a zero percent balance transfer credit card to benefit from interest-free payments for several months (read our guide to how credit cards work to find out more about the types of credit card available). You’ll tackle your debt faster and save hundreds of pounds in interest. Just watch out for the transfer fee of around three percent.

5. Work on building up your emergency savings pot

To ensure you don’t build up more debt in the event of a financial emergency such as a boiler or car breakdown, it’s important to have an emergency savings pot for your family to fall back on. “Many of us make the mistake of saving what’s left at the end of the month, which often means very little or nothing at all,” says Ben Faulkner from EQ Investors. “Instead, make saving some of what you earn a monthly priority. Start with a small sum at the beginning of the month. Then, when you don’t notice that money not being there, increase it slightly until you get into the habit of saving a decent amount each month. A good rule of thumb is to aim for the equivalent of 3-6 months outgoings in cash.”

Setting up a monthly standing order to transfer a set (affordable) amount is an easy way to ensure you do this. You could also kickstart a savings habit with the 1p savings challenge, and it's worth finding out whether you qualify for the Help to Save scheme where you can get a boost to your savings if you get into a good long-term savings habit. 

Pregnant couple talking about money at home

(Image credit: Getty Images)

6. Be a savvy shopper

There are stacks of ways you can save money when shopping. Seeking out the cheapest supermarket for your family's weekly food shop is one option, but you can also use a supermarket loyalty card, and make the most of discounts and vouchers or by using sites such as our sister brand MyVoucherCodes. 

You can also claw some of your money back by using cashback websites such as TopCashback and Quidco. These let you earn a sum of money whenever you go to a retailer’s online store by using an affiliate link from a cashback website. You’ll save even more by checking you’re getting the best price for your chosen item by using price tracking sites like idealo.co.ukKelkoo or Camel Camel Camel before you buy.

7.  Pause before upgrading your phone as soon as it comes up for renewal 

Mobile phones are essential for families, but when parents and kids are faced with heavy marketing to upgrade to the most up-to-date handsets, it can be monumentally expensive. So it pays to be wise and drill down in to what you, and your kids, actually need rather than what you want.

Laura Suter, head of personal finance at money management company AJ Bell, explains: “Automatically upgrading your phone every year or so is one of the most common ways people get sucked into spending hundreds of pounds without realising it.

“Most people could easily keep their current handset for another year or two and switch to a SIM-only plan for a far cheaper rate. The savings can be huge: if you get a brand-new iPhone 14 on O2 with 30GB of data on a three-year contract it will cost you just over £600 in your first year alone. In comparison a SIM-only deal with 50GB of data will cost just £216 a year, saving you almost £400 just for keeping your handset for another year.”

8. Don't let contracts auto-renew

It’s so easy to let your car or home insurance automatically renew, but don’t. It might seem like a hassle, but it’s easy to use price comparison sites like our sister site Go.Compare to check whether you can find a cheaper deal. You’ll only need to do it once a year for each policy, but it could save your family a significant chunk of money. 

Ryan Fulthorpe, a spokesperson for comparison site, Go.Compare, says: “We found that shockingly, the majority of people – 56 percent – allow their car insurance to auto renew, and of these, one third don’t shop around for different quotes before accepting their renewal price. With home insurance, 14 percent of people admitted spending just 10 minutes or less to renew their policy – which may or may not have included looking at the other options available.”

Couple standing in kitchen at home looking at bills

(Image credit: Getty Images)

9.  Don't forget to budget for self care

As parents, it's far too easy to get into the habit of spending money on the kids and neglecting yourself. But it's important to set aside some money if you can for some self care, whatever that may look like. 

Maddy Alexander-Grout, founder of the Mad About Money app agrees: “It’s important to prioritise your needs as much as the kids’. Start a self-care fund, and allocate money to you and your well-being, your social life. It’s important for parents to have an identity of their own. I was guilty of spending money on the kids over myself for years. Now I budget so I can do both and it benefits the whole family.” 

10. Make sure you have written your will

If you have children or other dependents and haven’t yet written a will, make 2024 the year you do. Hoxton Capital Management’s head of wills and trusts, Jessica Thambiappah, says: “It’s very easy to put off making a will until it is too late, which can lead to many problems. It is important to make a will so that all of your inheritance goes to who you want. It enables you to plan exactly what will happen to your estate.”

If your will is simple, you can use a will template online or buy one in stationery shops. Alternatively, you can use a will-writing service or a solicitor - using a solicitor will be more expensive, but it is the best option if your will is more complex. Read our guide if you're not sure how to write a will.

11. Don't succumb to guilt spending

Parents should be careful too about falling into the guilt-spending trap, which can quickly tot up. But in the long term, the money you spend in this way could be used to save for the family or ease money pressures elsewhere, on the weekly food shop for example. 

Sarah Coles, head of personal finance at Hargreaves Lansdown warns: “You might feel bad because you’ve been away, busy, or working, so you want to ‘treat’ the kids. They’re not going to say no, but they don’t really need whatever you’re buying. You can ditch the spend – they’ll still be happy to see you.”

New mum at home in kitchen, holding her baby while looking at her laptop

When you become a parent, it's even more important to cut out those toxic spending habits that can become harmful to your family life

(Image credit: Getty Images)

12. Resist letting influencers influence your spending

Social media isn’t just addictive, it can also end up expensive. More and more brands are using social media influencers to sell their products, and they do it very well. But this temptation can be really difficult to avoid, especially if you tend to scroll through your feeds while tired, when your defences may not be as strong. This can be an important lesson for any children who use social media and may feel pressure to shop beyond their means.

“It’s very easy to be scrolling and get sucked in by a new outfit or a great discount code that spurs you to buy,” warns personal finance expert Laura Suter. “But a discount is only good if you were planning to buy that item anyway, and just because an outfit looks great doesn’t mean you need to buy it. A good tip is to leave the items in your basket for 48 hours – if you then decide that you still definitely want them you can click buy, but you’ll often find you’ve lost interest."

13. Switch up your TV streaming

There are so many good box sets to binge watch across Netflix, Amazon, Disney + and all the other streaming services. But it is possible to spend less on your telly habit without you or your kids missing out on your favourite shows.

Instead of signing up to them all, put them on rotation.  Get the rest of the family on board and agree to one service at a time, watch everything you fancy and then switch to another service in a month or two’s time.

And while more and more streaming services are starting to charge more for ad-free watching, it's a good idea to resist the urge to pay extra for ad-free TV. Go old-school and use the ad-break to make a cuppa or discuss ‘whodunnit’ instead.

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Rachel Wait
Personal finance expert

Mum of two, Rachel is a freelance personal finance journalist who has been writing about everything from mortgages to car insurance for over a decade. Having previously worked at Shares Magazine, where she specialised in small-cap stocks, Rachel developed a passion for consumer finance and saving money when she moved to lovemoney.com. She later spent more than 8 years as an editor at price comparison site MoneySuperMarket, often acting as spokesperson. Rachel went freelance in 2020, just as the pandemic hit, and has since written for numerous websites and national newspapers, including The Mail on Sunday, The Observer, The Sun and Forbes. She is passionate about helping families become more confident with their finances, giving them the tools they need to take control of their money and make savings. In her spare time, Rachel is a keen traveller and baker.

With contributions from