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Being a thrifty mom doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself and your family of the finer things in life. Some of the best things are free or, if not free, can cost very little. In today’s world of busy activities, birthday parties, and sports, moms need to be extra savvy when it comes to saving money and making ends meet. It’s not always easy but, with a few helpful tips, moms can learn to give the best to their families without skimping on the most important things. Even if you’ve never been much of a saver, it’s never too late to start learning how to get the most out of every dollar.
1. Make a Family Budget
Many families don’t use a budget at all. This is why many struggle to make it all the way through the month without running short of cash. With no budget, many moms are flying blind all month with no idea where or how the family’s income is being spent. Just by paying attention, moms can save money on everyday expenses. By building a budget, they can save much more!
The process of building a budget requires that you gain a working knowledge of exactly how much money you’re bringing in each month, and how you’re spending your dollars. If you need help building a budget, you can find many places online to assist you at no cost.
In order to create your budget, you’ll need to pull together your financial information such as your bank statements, bills, and pay stubs. It’s important to know how much money you have to work with each month, so check pay stubs to see how much net income you’re receiving each month. Net income means the money actually paid to you after taxes and any other paycheck deductions.
Once you know how much money you’re bringing in each month, you should look at what money you’re spending on your bills, such as credit cards, utilities, rent, and car payments. After that, you’ll need to gain a good understanding of how much money you’re spending on food, entertainment, gas, and other variable expenses. You’ll find that these expenses provide the most opportunity to save money.
Once you have a clear picture of how you’re spending your money, it’ll be easy to find ways to save and stretch your dollars. Just making some small changes can yield some big impacts. For instance, if you’re stopping for a $5 coffee every morning, you’re spending a $100 a month on an item you can easily make at home. Take a good hard look at your cable, Internet, and telephone bills and see if you can eliminate any frivolous add-ons you’re no longer using. Also, look for things such as old subscriptions to magazines or online entertainment that you forgot you had or services that you no longer need. You’d be surprised how much money is going out the door without you realizing it. Building your budget will help you ferret out unnecessary expenditures.
2. Buy Stuff Used
Buying things secondhand is a great way to be a money-saving mom. Shopping the consignment shops, thrift stores, garage sales, and antique malls can save you bundles of money, and it can be tons of fun. By buying things used, you’ll pay way less for them than if you bought them new. This is particularly true if you’re buying expensive items such as cars, appliances, and furniture.
For instance, think about how much you’ll save by buying a used car rather than a new one right off the lot. Everyone knows that new cars depreciate almost immediately when you drive them off the showroom floor. Let someone else take that hit! Buying a car that’s slightly used will save you thousands of dollars. This is also true when shopping for furniture, electronics, and appliances. The bigger the ticket new, the more you’ll save when you buy it used.
However, you can save big money on everyday items as well. Yard sales and thrift shops can be a great place to find, baby items, name-brand clothing, toys, and other useful items. Because children grow so fast, these items are often barely used and in very good condition. This can save moms lots of money, as keeping kids equipped with even the basics is an expensive proposition.
Buying things new requires that you pay a premium for the things you want and need. Take advantage of the ability to save a huge percentage on these items. This could add up to big money in the end.
3. Be Smart When You Eat Out
Restaurant meals can eat up a large amount of your food budget each month if you’re not paying attention. It’s easy to fall into the habit of grabbing a quick bite out, ordering in a pizza, or even picking up fast food without thinking about how it affects your monthly finances. However, habits like these can add up to lots of money over the course of a month.
When you do decide to eat out, make the most of your dollars by finding restaurants that’ll give you more value for you money. Check to see which restaurants in your area offer a family night or offer kids meals at half off or free with an adult meal.
Just eating fast food every day for lunch can be expensive and add up to hundreds of dollars each month. By replacing that fast food meal with a packed lunch, you can save a lot of money and eat healthier too. This is also true when it comes to kids’ lunches. While school lunches aren’t terribly expensive, if you have several kids in school, the lunchroom dollars can really add up. Sending them to school with a packed lunch can help you save money and keep them healthier.
4. Manage Your Food Budget with Meal Planning
Planning your meals is a terrific way to save on your food dollars. The Internet is a great place to find budget-friendly recipes that can really help you when you sit down to plan out your week. All you have to do is find the recipes you like and then create a shopping list. By using a shopping list, you’ll buy the things you need for your planned meals and avoid buying things you don’t need. It’s easy to fall victim to those junk food offers and impulse buys, so having a list will help you avoid unnecessary spending. Most grocery stores will advertise their sales in a weekly circular, so be sure to utilize that as well as coupons, sales, and buy-one-get-one deals. If you can, design your meal plan around what our grocery store has on sale. Also, don’t forget to check your pantry to see what you have on hand before heading off to the grocery store.
When you’re shopping, be disciplined and stick to your shopping list. It’s not necessary to shop every aisle if you don’t have to. This will help you avoid buying things you really don’t need. If you can, make friends with your store’s department managers so they can give you the heads up on great buys going on now and in the future. Planning meals is a smart and healthy way to save money.
5. Have Fun on the Cheap
Entertainment dollars spent each month represent true discretionary spending, meaning the money you spend is not necessary but at your choice. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be allowed to have any fun. In fact, you can have lots of family fun with very little money. Taking a family of four out to the movies and a meal can be very expensive, but catching a movie at the park with a picnic is practically free. Check the monthly calendar for your community and that of the communities around you. You’ll be amazed at all the free or almost free events available to you.
Try to find fun events such as street fairs, festivals, farmers’ markets, and events at your botanical gardens or libraries. If you live near the coast, spend a day at the beach with an umbrella, a blanket, and a packed lunch. If you live inland, visit a local lake or spring.
In addition, don’t forget that you can have a lot of fun in your own backyard. Invite your friends and their kids over for a BBQ and an afternoon of fun with water toys. Or, watch a movie at home and make homemade pizzas with the kids. If you really want to be creative, think up a fun arts and crafts project and make it special with ice cream sundaes or other treats. Bottom line: you don’t have to spend lots of money to have family fun. With just a little bit of effort, you can find many fun and rewarding things to do.
6. Shop the Sales and Clip Coupons
Savvy money-saving moms know how to work the sales. If you’re in the market for a particular item but are looking to buy it on sale, ask the store manager when it might be marked down. Sign up for email alerts from your favorite stores to catch the sales on things you might want or need in the future. Just be sure not to buy things you really don’t need just because it’s a good deal. It may feel like you’re saving money, but in reality, if you don’t really need it, you’ve just spent money you shouldn’t have.
As mentioned, check your grocery store’s circular and website to see what you can get the best deals on. It’s also smart to stock up on staple items, meaning things you use commonly and consistently if these items are on sale. Just be sure you’re rotating your pantry so you don’t waste money by letting items go out of date. Several mobile apps are available for download that’ll help you find great deals at your local stores. Also, don’t forget to join the loyalty clubs of the stores where you frequently shop. This can pay off with exclusive deals, rewards, and coupons.
Don’t forget the power of the Internet. You can find discounted offers and promo codes that can save you tons of money, and utilizing the Internet makes comparison-shopping easy so you can find the best deals on the things you need.
Don’t shy away from generic products either. Many times, generic products are really name brand items packaged under a private label. Most of the time, they’re much cheaper, but you should be sure to comparison shop.
7. Go Green and Save
Who says it’s not easy being green? Utilizing sustainable products not only helps the environment, it can also save you lots of money. Cutting down on paper products by using things such as hand towels and cloth napkins is a great way to save money by not spending money on expensive convenience items. Instead of using bottled water that’ll leave those non-environmentally friendly plastic bottles in their wake, use a refillable water bottle. Replacing your old incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents will save you money by lasting longer and burning cheaper. Turning down your thermostat can save you money on your electric bill. There are many ways to save money by introducing green practices into your daily living; you just have to look for them.
You have tons of opportunities to save money in your everyday living; it just takes a little investigation and effort. By applying these practices alone, you can save yourself hundreds if not thousands of dollars each year. Be creative and learn how to be the money-saving mom of your dreams!