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With the coming of the spring season comes a feeling, among most people, of renewal and of starting fresh. After the long, cold winter, it's only natural to want to break out of the doldrums and get a new start. That's why many people love to do a complete spring cleaning (including their finances), or take on special projects they've been putting off. It's a time of change, and there's no better time to put together a plan to save some money. It's time to harness that spring fever to make a positive change in your financial picture!
There are many creative ways to save money, and you can even have fun doing it! Tightening up your budget doesn't always mean depriving yourself. All it takes is a little commitment and imagination and you could be well on your way to saving a bundle of money this spring.
Cut your food costs
The cost of food is, likely, a much larger part of your budget that you even imagine. Most American consumers waste hundreds if not thousands of dollars on food costs every year simply because they're not paying attention. Here are some ways to rein in the money you spend on food.
Stop eating out
Dining at restaurants can have a significant negative impact on your budget. As many people know, eating out is more expensive than preparing food at home. However, many Americans are tired and stressed out after work and just too exhausted to cook. Most of the time, this is because they haven't planned and don't have ingredients or recipes readily available when it's time to make meals at home. For many, it's just easier to head to a local restaurant or order in a pizza or Chinese food.
Planning your meals can shave serious dollars off your monthly food costs. By finding recipes you want to make and shopping for ingredients in advance, you can resist the urge to spend too much money eating out or ordering in. Shopping from a list of pre-planned ingredients also helps keep you from wasting money on impulse buys and unnecessary items.
Pack your lunches
Many working people spend a lot of money on lunch out at restaurants during the week. Just spending $5 a day on lunch at a fast food restaurant every day can add up at the end of the month. Packing your lunch is not only cheaper but it's, most likely, healthier. Again, planning and having what you need on hand to prepare a delicious and nutritious packed lunch will go a long way in stretching your food budget.
Most local grocery stores will run weekly specials and offer deals and coupons to customers. By paying attention to your weekly circulars and the nationally promoted coupons for big retailers, you can save a substantial amount of money each week. Look for coupons that give you the most bang for your buck on items such as diapers and other expensive baby items, meats, dairy products, and other staple items for your pantry.
Shop the farmer's market
Most communities have a farmer's market that takes place on the weekend or on a specific day during the week. You can find many fresh or homemade items to add to your recipes and food pantry that are both nutritious and affordable. One of the great things about shopping at your local farmer's market is that you're supporting your local economy and helping your fellow citizens to make a living. In addition, shopping at your local farmer's market is a fun outing for the whole family!
Grow your own vegetables
One of the most nutritious and money-saving things you can do is grow your own vegetables and fruits. Few things are more rewarding than cultivating and harvesting food you've planted with your own hands.
Not only are the fruits and vegetables you grow cost-effective, they're also incredibly nutritious. Growing your own food allows you the opportunity to provide wholesome, organic food to your family at very little cost. In addition, tending to a garden provides good, quality fun for the whole family.
Don't vacation; take a staycation instead
Spring fever often produces a yearning for travel and for visiting far-away places. Before you book that expensive, exotic vacation, consider planning a staycation instead. You can save tons of money just by staying local and exploring all your community has to offer. Staying local also means eliminating those expensive travel costs such as airfare, hotels, and car rentals.
Explore your local resources
Many people are completely unaware of what their local community has to offer. Local lakes, rivers, and springs can provide for wonderful day trips and lots of family fun. If you're close to the coast, beach days are a great option for enjoying a day with friends and family.
Community events offer something for the entire family
For landlubbers, search your local newspaper or community websites for events such as movies in the park. These great events allow families to spend quality time together and enjoy a fun event that doesn't break the family piggy bank. Also, search your community bulletins for festivals and street fairs that offer free fun for family members of all ages.
Connect with your nearest botanical garden
There's a myriad of events happening at your nearest botanical garden. Not only are these events often cultural in nature, but they're also very economical. It's common for botanical gardens to hold several events each month. These can range from plant shows to educational events to classes geared toward children. Often, you can become a member of your local botanical garden for a very reasonable contribution that'll allow you to attend events there free or at a substantial discount.
Visit museums and other cultural centers
Most communities have something to offer citizens in the way of cultural events and gathering places. If you live in a small community, consider a day trip to a city nearby to take in a day of learning and exploration. Museums can offer a wonderful experience for families to explore natural science, art, and other cultures. They're also a good way for a family to spend time together in an often interactive and educational environment.
Check out your local zoos and animal sanctuaries
All kids love the zoo, and it has lots of fun in store for adults, too. Most zoos or animal sanctuaries have very affordable admission fees and can provide an entire day's worth of fun. Pack a lunch or some snacks to save even more money. Not only will your kids have a great time, they'll also enjoy a rich learning experience. The same goes for aquariums. These destinations allow your children a chance to see, first hand, animals that are rare, endangered, or native to lands far away, and learn about their natural habitats.
Every state has an amazing variety of state parks that offer incredible resources and fun ways to enjoy them. Taking a weekend camping trip can be an incredible experience for the whole family. State parks often boast beautiful lakes, springs, and rivers, or even access to the ocean. Inland parks often offer nature walks or hiking trails for the more adventurous types. Most state parks offer inexpensive entrance fees, and packing your own food will make the trip very economical. Best of all, camping offers families a chance to spend quality time together away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and the digital world.
Buy used and save big money
You can buy things that are slightly used and save tons of money. Often, you'll pay only pennies on the dollar for things that have lots of useful life left. By checking out your local thrift shops, consignment shops, and estate sales, you can provide your family with all kinds of necessities and even big-ticket items that you'd never be able to afford otherwise.
Big savings for baby
Raising children can be a very expensive endeavor. Providing clothes, baby furniture, developmental items, and other toys can add up to huge dollars. Before you spend your hard-earned dollars on new items, check out your local second-hand shops. Because babies and small children grow so fast, you can often find practically new items at deep discounts. These items can range from cribs and other nursery furniture to other necessary items such as car seats and strollers.
Something for everyone in the family
You can shop for clothing and other accessory items for the whole family at your local thrift stores and consignment shops. Usually, these shops take in only items in good condition and clean them thoroughly before offering them for sale. Shop high-end consignment shops for items for those special events such as weddings or balls and rein in your budget by buying clothes for your fast-growing children for far less than you'd pay in children's stores. Men can find great deals on all types of clothing, too, including everyday wear, suits for work, and outerwear such as coats and parkas.
Save huge dollars on big-ticket items
One of the biggest ways you can save lots of money is to buy those big-ticket items slightly used. Thrift shops and consignment shops are terrific places to look for all kinds of furniture that's often in excellent condition. Check the paper for estate sales and garage sales, too.
If you are in the market for a new car, you'll pay far less if you buy one that's even just a year old. New cars will lose a significant amount of value as soon as you drive them off the lot, so don't be the person that takes that hit. Find a low mileage car that's a recent model and in good condition and you'll save big bucks. Other used items you can get a good deal on are appliances, electronics, and tools.
Generate some extra cash to fund your savings account
A great way to build your savings is to find ways to generate extra cash. There are many ways to increase your income and give your savings account a big boost.
Get a second job
Sometimes, just getting a fun part-time position can have a big impact on your monthly finances, allowing you to put significant dollars into your savings account. Look for a job doing something you really enjoy, such as something connected with a hobby or a sport you're involved in. By keeping it fun, it'll seem less like work and take less of a toll on you. Second jobs can be tough on your lifestyle if all you're getting out of them is money.
Start a small business
Starting a business on the side can be rewarding and generate extra cash, but also potentially enable you to work entirely for yourself in the future. If you have a particular skill, have a good product idea, or can offer a service to the community, you may be able to build a small business that grows into something big in the future. It's even better if it involves something about which you're passionate.
Sell stuff you don't want
As the saying goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure. There are likely many things sitting around that you're no longer using or don't want. Monetize these items by selling them on sites such as Craigslist, eBay, or Poshmark. If you are in a bustling community, consider holding a garage sale. In addition, many apps and marketplaces exist that allow you to peddle your wares at no cost to you.
This new spring season can offer you many opportunities to save money and shore up your finances. Get started now on finding fun and creative ways to buy the things you need and spend time with your loved ones so that you can maintain savings year round.