by Martina Mercer

As a journalist, copywriter and author I work very long hours and like every working mum I have this nagging guilt in the back of my mind that I’m not spending enough time with the children.

Over the years I’ve tried to find the right balance, setting up an office from home so they don’t grow up as latch key kids and using lunchtimes to cook a meal that we’d all sit around the table to eat at dinner time yet it’s in the summer holidays that I really feel the guilt. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without my house husband as he takes care of the toddler, the eight and twelve year old making sure the day to day issues of school runs and appointments are dealt with, yet still although I work to feed and clothe them I feel as though I should be doing more.

Budgeting helps with this. As a freelance writer if I don’t work I simply don’t get paid, so every hour is accounted for as I spend time away from the family. Yet if I budget well I can gain an early finish or an extra day off a month, or even use my lunchtimes to indulge in a wonderful hot bath.

I’m sure any working mother will agree that now we resent paying a penny more than we have to for items as every working minute is time spent away from our families making every penny we earn all the more precious. Unfortunately the cost of living has skyrocketed and now many of us battle with the childcare costs that make disposable income almost obsolete.

I’m not ashamed to say that now I’ve become a savvy shopper. Although ten years ago I may have been embarrassed if caught handing over vouchers at the supermarket checkout, these days I’m actually proud as it shows I have the brains to think before I spend my hard earned cash.

The bank now seems like a series of numbers to me as I rarely have cash in my hands, it’s simply a game where I make the numbers stay higher for longer whilst still ensuring the foods on the table and the necessities are paid for.

Yet budgeting does help me unwind, as I can scan for discounts while watching CBeebies, I’ll give the children some scissors to cut out the coupons and if there’s something they want I’ll send them on a mission to find the cheapest item.

I’ve also found that shopping online saves the impulse buying. A new study shows that supermarket giants prefer shoppers to come into the store so they can be tempted with the array of goods on offer. News also broke this week that those offering the home delivery service are actually operating on a loss as the delivery fee of up to six pounds doesn’t cover the packing, processing and delivery of goods.

This is no surprise as I’ve found I not only save a fortune on petrol and time shopping online but some discount voucher sites also give me free delivery. This way I can cuddle up on the sofa with three children at my side, browsing the aisles and picking out treats that are half price or buy one get one free.

Now and again with the money I save I will treat myself to a new bubble bath, a box of chocolates or a new book and recently I booked us a trip to LEGOLAND for next to nothing but made sure the hotel had a beauty salon and spa!