It might seem counter-intuitive for a money-saving family advice blog to advise you to spend money to ultimately save it but sometimes it pays to think long term.
By investing a bit of money in a quality product that you know will get tons of use it often works out as good value and saves you money in the long-run.
Below are my top tips on what products it is worth spending money on in order to save money, time or just to improve family life.
Slightly more expensive things worth buying
I first bought some clippers over 15 years ago when my then boyfriend, now husband and I went travelling around the world. I figured if I learned to cut hair then it’d save us from having to spend any of our tiny travel budget on haircuts.
We have never looked back and now I still cut my husband’s and my kids’ hair which — considering they all three of them need a trim every 6 weeks or so — is a huge saving over the years.
It is surprisingly easy to learn to use clippers (just stay away from the grade 1 — unless you’re planning to have an army-worthy do!) and the more you do it the better you get. These clippers (pictured below) even come with an instructional DVD — all for less than £20.
I have managed to become pretty adept at creating the latest hairstyles for my kids from the Peaky Blinder to the neat crop.
Clippers needn’t cost a fortune, the ones we use are the Wahl 300 which come in at around £20, and include a carry case, comb, 8 different grades and a brush for getting rid of stray hairs.
Alongside the clippers I would recommend investing in a sharp pair of scissors too (I’m sure hairdressers would recoil in shock but I have to admit I use nice sharp sewing scissors like this as real hairdressing scissors cost a small fortune) for trimming round the ears and doing fringes.
We have only just replaced the original clippers which travelled the world with us so for an original investment of £30 (at the time) they lasted 15 years and likely saved us at least £15 every 8 weeks (or now I cut the kid’s hair too more like £45 every 8 weeks) saving us hundreds of pounds.
Some back of an envelope maths says we’ve saved over £4,000 in haircuts! A wily investment!
This one won’t save you any money but it might save your voice!
I don’t know about you but I seem to spend my life shouting up the stairs to tell my kids: dinner is ready; it’s time to go to school; or granny’s on the phone. Whether it is the layout of our house or my children’s selective hearing (I suspect more the latter) they never seem to respond to my yells, causing me to get louder and louder…
The solution presented itself when we were on holiday with family in a huge house in France. The owners had cleverly installed a doorbell right near the kitchen door which sounded up on the top floor (three flights up) of the house.
Every time we wanted the kids to come down we rang the bell and they came running! Once home we invested in one for our house.
We chose the type that can be plugged into a socket so needs no battery and even better it plays a variety of different chimes, from comedy songs to the traditional ‘ding dong’.
This means that we can set it to a different tune from our actual doorbell. This is one investment that has certainly made my life a lot easier. You can even adjust the volume, in case their selective hearing gets a bit too selective…
3. Balance bike
Learning to ride a bike is a great life skill for kids to have and not only that but by riding a bike it saves getting the car out and so saves you money as a family.
We live just outside town and so getting our kids riding bikes from a young age has been a great way to stay active and save money on travel costs.
My first child took quite a long time to get comfortable riding a bike, he found the bike too heavy and struggled to find his balance so he was 6 years old before he really got going.
Son number two however was keen not to be left behind by his big brother so from the age of 2 he rode everywhere on his balance bike.
We chose this lovely one from Puky as it was nice, light and small but there are also some other good cheaper models on the market such as this one from RideStar or this one from Bopster which comes in a range of colours.
By starting out on a balance bike so young our son got the principles of riding and balance really quickly. He was super quick on the balance bike too so was able to keep up with his big brother riding his pedal bike.
This meant that when he was 4 he seamlessly picked up his pedal bike and just started riding, no tortuous hours spent coaching him required!
Now don’t get me wrong I am well aware that a brand new piano costs thousands of pounds but that is not what I am recommending.
Pianos are so big that many people, when they decide to get rid of them, offer them up for free or a small sum. I found our piano on Gumtree when a lady was moving house.
The piano had been her mother’s so held sentimental value to her so she was really pleased to know that it was going to a home where three children were keen to learn on it.
I had to pay for a ‘man with a van’ to collect it (I used the AnyVan website to find one and chose the best quote) but essentially we got a piano for a fraction of its cost.
The children play the piano every day and it has been so wonderful for them to learn an instrument (especially now they are actually quite good!).
I can honestly say this was the best thing we ever bought for the children.
The kids spend hours on it every day, getting them out in the fresh air, using up their excess energy and just having a great time.
We did a ton of research before investing in our as we wanted it to last a long time (and so far it has lasted 6 years with only the ladder to climb onto it needing replacing).
We chose an octagonal shape (as they are most sturdy) and with three kids we picked a large size but if you have fewer kids you could shave a few feet off the width to shave a few pounds off the price.
Definitely get the safety mesh/enclosure — to save you having heart-stopping moments when they get a little too close to the edge!
Amazon have some decent ones (see right) but if you’re in the UK Trampoline Warehouse have a terrific range, starting at just over £100 — plus they all of them in stock and do free next day delivery across mainland UK.
It’s worth bearing in mind that they can be quite tough to assemble — ThriftyDad had to assemble ours almost single-handed as I was heavily pregnant with baby number three at the time — so rope in family or a friend or two to help.
This one is a big ticket item — but we made it a shared 3-kid-Christmas-present.
It has, without a doubt, been the best investment for the kids as they have spent so many hours on it.