Stay-at-home mum Leonie* runs a pretty tight ship.

As a mother of two young boys under two, and on a single income, Leonie and her husband are faced with the challenge of providing for their family with just A$580 ($633) a week.

It hasn't always been this way.

Leonie and her husband Nick*, who didn't want to be identified by, once brought in almost triple what they do today.


Working as a postmaster, and without children, the pair lived budget free and didn't give a second thought about where their money was going each week.

"It was much easier than it is now," Leonie told "We didn't need to budget, and we always had money left over."

But since having children and Nick starting work as an apprentice mechanic, their income has dropped significantly and they've had to change how they handle their yearly income of A$53,500 ($58,400).

"It is hard … but it is very doable," the 23-year-old from Leopold in Victoria said.

"When you have kids you don't realise how ongoing all the expenses are. And their development differences change, so they need more stimulation with different toys, which are expensive."

Since having children, Leonie and Nick's income has dropped significantly and they've had to get by on a very tight budget. But, they make it work. Photo / Getty Images
Since having children, Leonie and Nick's income has dropped significantly and they've had to get by on a very tight budget. But, they make it work. Photo / Getty Images

Each month, they will spend A$1,484.67 ($1,621.64) on rent, A$120.08 ($131.16) on electricity, A$589.50 ($643.90) on groceries, A$87.33 ($95.39) on home and internet, and A$48.03 ($52.46) on coffee. It's a tight budget, but it will need to work until the end of 2019 when her husband finishes his fourth year apprenticeship.

Until then, Leonie says her financial plan is calculated down to the last cent, and even allows them to save around A$200 ($218.45) a week for their house deposit.

"I compare energy once a month," she said. "We are very obsessive about turning power and taps off, because there are more things we would like to spend money on than electricity and water.


"We don't buy clothing as often as we could, but we are happy to wear shirts with holes in them. My partner and I are happy to wear the same stuff over and over.

"I always shop at multiple supermarkets, Coles, Woolies, Aldi and our local IGA, and I always research everything I buy to ensure I am getting the cheapest price I can."

Each month, Leonie will spend around A$590 ($644.43) a month at the supermarket. And while her bill is almost half the national average for a family of four (with two kids under five), she still believes they overspend at the checkout.

"But I don't want to compromise on quality," she said of her monthly spend.

"For example, we will only eat meat from the butcher, which we are able to [use] Afterpay. So we will pay A$500 ($546.13) for a whole sheep to go in our freezer, but that lasts longer than the eight weeks it takes to pay it off."

According to Australian Securities and Investment, the average family of two adults and two kids under the age of five spend A$1833 ($2002) a week on housing repayments, fuel and power, food and drinks, medical expenses, clothing, entertainment and alcohol.

As part of the Cash Confessions series, Sydney mother Stef said she found it challenging living in Sydney while bringing in a combined income of A$250,000 each year.

"My husband and I don't know how families on one income do it," she said told in August.

"The cost of living and the bills, electricity is going higher and higher."

Stef says it's her kids' extra-curricular activities, as well as weekly childcare services, that burn the biggest hole in her hip pocket.

"Every adult aspires to give their kids more than they had," she said, revealing she pays out A$135 per school term on ballet, A$120 a season on soccer for her son, A$490 for guitar lessons, A$80 per month on cheerleading practice and about A$200 a month on swimming lessons.

When asked to respond to other households who say they struggle a six-figure income, Leonie says it's all about sacrifice and living within your means.

"There's a lot of contributing factors, but if you can afford a certain lifestyle why would you cut back," she said. "But people do live beyond their means, so it is their own fault. When people say they can't not get their hair done every six weeks, that's vanity holding them back.

"I've never dyed my hair, and I cut dead ends off myself and pluck my own eyebrows."