How to budget for your family and save more every day

8 May 2024

Despite working three jobs between them, teacher Sophie and electrician Luke found themselves struggling to stay afloat financially with mortgage increases and three small children. 

At the end of last year, Sophie and her husband, Luke Threlfo, say they were struggling badly with the increased cost of living. Feeding their family of five went from about $180 each week to easily more than $300. “Our family goes through a $2.90 loaf of bread each day,” says Sophie.

Their struggles were not for lack of trying. Sophie is a full-time teacher and Luke is a full-time electrician who runs an events business on the side. He’s working seven days a week and, Sophie says, the kids miss him. “It would be great to cut back on the time that Luke’s away from the house while still being able to meet our budgeting needs and saving for a big family home.”

How Sophie and Luke manage the family finances

Start out with a simple family budget – and review regularly

To gain control over their situation, the couple sat down and made a projected budget based on both of their salaries and what they need to cover their necessities: mortgage, petrol, electricity and groceries. “Money is on our minds quite a bit,” says Sophie. The couple revisits their budget every six months and whatever’s left goes into small accounts for things like Christmas, birthdays and spending money. “We have three kids under seven and we’ve reduced their activities,” says Sophie. “I cut Luke’s and the boys’ hair and recently started grooming our poodle at home, too.” They stopped swimming and soccer lessons and cancelled all their streaming services. “We’re doing everything we can.”

Talk to the kids about money

The three kids are learning about money early by watching their parents. “They understand that things cost money and that we can’t just buy what we want when we want,” Luke says. “The boys really wanted a new Nintendo Switch game so, with our encouragement and help, they rounded up toys they no longer play with and sold them online to raise funds.” Sophie adds: “Sometimes they’ll be like, ‘We feel like chips today!’ and I say, ‘Well, do you have chip money?’ and they go, ‘Oh, no.’”

Three ways save money every day according to a personal finance expert

CommBank’s personal finance expert Jess Irvine shares more simple saving tips to help families ease cost-of-living pressures.

Use cashback offers

Get paid to shop for things you need. CommBank Yello offers eligible customers discounts on everyday items, such as groceries, petrol and electricity. Tap ‘CBA Yello’, then ‘View all’ in the CommBank app to see your personalised offers. For CommBank Yello Cashback Offers, simply activate them in the app, and redeem the offer using your eligible Mastercard. You’ll receive your cashback directly into your account, usually within 14 business days.

Try the CommBank app Benefits finder

This free-to-use tool in the CommBank app can link you to rebates, concessions and other unclaimed money that you may be eligible to receive. You’ll be asked to answer a few questions, such as ‘Which concession cards do you have?’, ‘Are household bills in your name?’ and ‘Do you have children under 18?’. Benefits finder then generates a list of potential rebates and benefits, which you can tap on for a quick overview. There are currently more than 360 benefits available, from the energy rebate for families, to the wage subsidies rebate for businesses.

Check price comparison tools

The government’s Energy Made Easy website can help you find a cheaper energy plan and it’s worth reviewing your insurance to make sure you’re getting the best deal there, too. Then there’s Fuel finder, in the CommBank app, which predicts when you’ll need to next refuel your car and locates nearby petrol stations offering the best fuel prices. You’ll even get alerts for the cheapest option in your area. Be sure to check before you fill up.

For more of Jess’s money saving tips and support available to help you navigate the rising cost of living, visit:

Jess Irvine, CommBank’s personal finance expert is an economist, author of Money with Jess and a respected journalist with nearly two decades of financial reporting experience. Her personal passion is helping people with their money.

Related articles

How to find out where you stand financially
Why you need to set time aside for money decisions
How to save time and money by automating your finances


Things you should know

This article provides general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as personal financial product advice. The views expressed by contributors are their own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of CBA. As the information has been provided without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs, you should, before acting on this information, consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement and Terms and Conditions, and whether the product is appropriate to your circumstances. You should also consider whether seeking independent professional legal, tax and financial advice is necessary. Every effort has been taken to ensure the information was correct as at the time of printing but it may be subject to change. No part of the editorial contents may be reproduced or copied in any form without the prior permission and acknowledgement of CBA.