Free McDonald's and toys for £1 – how YOU can be a money-saving mum
GEMMA Bird loves treating her two children to new toys, stylish clothes and family days out – but she does all of this without breaking the bank.
The 39-year-old super-saver, who has never earned more than £25,000 a year, reveals how YOU can save on parenting essentials in the second of her six-part exclusive series with Fabulous.
Gemma, who lives in Billericay, Essex, with husband Adam and their kids, son Brody, eight, and two-year-old daughter Bronte, says: “You do not, I repeat DO NOT, have to spend a fortune or get into debt to treat your kids and enjoy family days out.
“I live and breathe deals. I don’t care how much money you have, people always love a bargain. I hope my tips will inspire all the Fabulous mums out there.”
Gemma, who counts Stacey Solomon as a fan and shares tips on her Instagram, says her golden rule when it comes to parenting is knowing when to say “no”.
I am always happy to say ‘no’
I give my kids what I can afford to give them – that is my number one rule. I am also more than happy to tell them “no” – and you should be too because it’ll save you money both now and in the long run.
I thoroughly believe that in life you aren’t going to get everything you want – and it’s important to teach your children that from a young age.
Every time we go into a shop, Brody will ask me for something and I just have to be strict and remind him that he’s got his toys at home, and do you know what, he doesn’t ask any more.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a mean mum and I love treating my children but I am on a budget.
Never leave the house without a packed lunch
Whether you’re spending a day at the theme park or an afternoon at soft play, my top tip is to always take food and drink with you.
Every time I leave the house with my two I have a bag full of packed lunches, snacks and bottles of water so I don’t spend money when I’m out.
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While small amounts of money may not seem significant at the time they add up to a lot.
Spending £5 on snacks every Saturday for your child would add up to £260 a year – you could put that towards a holiday!
I will occasionally take my kids to McDonald’s or buy them an ice cream as a treat – but that’s the important thing to remind them:it’s a treat so don’t expect it every time.
If I am going to McDonald’s I always check the app first as there are loads of deals on there that you don’t get in store.
If it’s your first time downloading the app you can instantly claim a free hot drink, so it is definitely worth doing.
I always buy food off the Super Saver menu so that I am paying £2 for a cheeseburger and chips rather than almost £5 for a Big Mac Meal – it’s even cheaper than a Happy Meal!
Scour websites for money off on family days out
If you are heading on a day out that needs an expensive ticket then do your research beforehand.
Toys are five minute wonders when it comes to my kids so I am not prepared to spend lots of money on them
Buying your tickets online is a huge money saver as zoos, theme parks and adventure playgrounds often offer discounts on their websites, so it pays to book ahead.
I always make the most of The Sun’s family vouchers and I keep an eye on cereal boxes as you can often find discounts for days out throughout the year, so it is worth saving those up.
It is sometimes worth buying an annual pass as it can take as little as two trips for you to make your money back and passholders will often be given discounts on food and drink at the venue.
Never pay more than £1 for toys
Toys are five minute wonders when it comes to my kids so I am not prepared to spend lots of money on them.
I tell my kids that we’re going to the toy shop and that toy shop is Poundland.
Brody has no idea that these things cost a pound each but I will never let him get more than one. It’s instilling in him that he’s having this one treat and that’s enough for him.
Puzzles and Lego are really expensive so I often pick them up in charity shops – and once Brody has done playing with them I sell on the sets for far more than I paid for them.
Swap pricey parenting activities for free baby groups
If you’ve got a little one like me, you’ll know how expensive baby groups can be.
But you’ll also know how important it is to not only socialise your baby, but to get out of the house yourself. I take Bronte to church groups rather than pricey baby classes.
Before you do start forking out for new clothes for your kids, remember to get rid of the old ones first, and by that I mean sell them
They never cost more than £1 and I get to have a coffee with different women, I get to socialise as well as Bronte and it’s not costing a fortune.
They’re so easy to find, just Google groups in your local area, I guarantee there will be loads to choose from.
Dress them like they’re kids
My kids do have some designer outfits, but I buy those for me rather than them as they don’t care what they're wearing.
Brody wears more Primark than he does Ralph Lauren and that’s absolutely fine by me as I don’t want to spend my time worrying about him ruining his clothes.
When we go to the park, he’ll wear a cheaper coat so there’s no danger of it getting spoilt and he can just be a kid without me nagging him.
And before you do start forking out for new clothes for your kids, remember to get rid of the old ones first, and by that I mean sell them.
Even if you fetch a couple of quid for your old bits at car boot sales that is something to slice the cost off their new wardrobe.
The same goes for school uniforms. My kids’ school has a second hand uniform shop where you can buy and sell old items and save yourself hundreds over the years.
I would always recommend picking up uniform in a size up at the end of season sale so that you’ve got it to hand once next term rolls around, and for a lot less.
Feed your kids and your finances
Obviously one of the biggest expenses we have as mums is feeding our kids, but there are little swaps you can do that can shave pounds off your food bill.
Gemma’s favourite discount sites for parents
What better way to save money than to get something for free? There are so many websites offering freebies to new mums so why not make use of them?
Make sure you install the app Honey on your browser, which will automatically find discount codes and vouchers for you as you shop online.
I also recommend signing up to the Boots Parenting Club as you get half price off loads of essentials in store and extra points on your Boots card.
I love the Instagram account Emma’s Diary, simply by joining the club you get a free gift package and the account is full of information on free samples, promotions and discounts.
Meat and fish is very expensive so if I am on a tight budget I will try to substitute those where possible. For example if you’re cooking a bolognese try adding more blended carrots in there, you can pad it out and make it last for two nights.
I always recommend bulk cooking meals as this can reduce your energy bills, and then you can freeze meals without anything going to waste.
Most importantly buy for the people you’re feeding – bulk buy if you’ve got a large family but don’t buy too much if you’ve only got one child because you’ll end up throwing things out and wasting food.
Introduce kids to saving early
Brody is eight and has a little piggy bank. I am trying to introduce him to the value of money without ramming it down his throat.
He even has a savings account that I will show him every now and again. He will always pay his Christmas and birthday money into his savings account at the bank.
We use the Halifax children’s savings account, which I would highly recommend as it has a four per cent fixed interest rate for an entire year.
Meanwhile Barclays offers just under that at 3.5 per cent as an alternative.
It’s so important to me to teach my kids about saving, I want them to grow up with the same values as me.”
Follow Gemma Bird @MoneyMumOfficial
Previously, Gemma revealed how she saved £10,000 on a £12,000 salary.
Plus Gemma shared how she paid off her £250,000 mortgage on a £25k wage.
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