Having been a stay-at-home mom for three years, I think I do a good job of saving our family money — we shop at discount grocery stores, don’t have expensive gym memberships and use energy efficiently. But with my husband’s recent unemployment, we need to further reduce our household expenses. I turned to social media find out how other families save money.
Cutting the cost of living is crucial for most households, let alone for people over 50, who are hit harder in the pocket when prices rise. Older people spend a larger proportion of their income on household bills, fuel and food, which means the real rate of inflation is much higher for them. Reducing your monthly outgoings even by a few dollars each week can go a long way over the course of the year.
If you have two vehicles, consider selling one of them. Is the expense of insuring, maintaining and fueling up a second car worth the convenience? With annual insurance premiums in many states averaging $1500, and one tank of gas costing $40 — plus the expense of regular maintenance — dropping the second vehicle could save you up to $5,000 per year. Many families (ours included) own one vehicle and choose public transportation or commuting by bicycle.
“We were bad before we had kids! We would eat out Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” confesses Jillian Larson. “When we had our son, we ate out only on Saturday. And now that we have two children, we eat out maybe once per month.” Even if it only costs $25 for a family of four to have lunch at a fast food restaurant, no longer eating out is a quick way to trim hundreds of dollars from your budget. Besides, eating at restaurants with children isn’t fun.
Stick to a budget
Saving money on everyday costs is great, but unless you have a solid budget, you will still face many months where you are overspending. Take the time to carefully review your bills, budget for unexpected bills and emergencies, and of course, budget for fun too. Try a budget template if you are new to budgeting. Certain habits can easily derail a budget, like eating out too often and accruing unnecessary fees by not paying attention to your credit card or bank fees.
If you already have a budget but you are having a hard time sticking to it, there are many ways you can get back on track — Howard Clark at clark.com specializes in budgeting issues, so check out his website. If you’ve had a change in income or bills, you need to update your budget; many people’s budgets suffer because they assume they can keep operating under the same budget even when circumstances change or prices go up. Plus, you need to make realistic expectations: if you budget too little, you won’t be able to stay on track, and you will get frustrated. If you budget too much, you won’t save as much as you should.
There are many ways that you can save money on everyday costs, but each money saving tip requires careful planning. So take the time to determine how you can turn off more lights, conserve more water, be more careful at the grocery store, save money on child care, make some items yourself at home, and most importantly, stay on budget.
Books and magazines
“I had to stop buying art and coffee table books when I had children. Luckily, my husband is the fiction buyer for Indigo so I still get the odd novel, which I hope to read someday,” says Denver mom Erica Carlson. Indeed, many moms said that opting for free public libraries for movies and books was a way to reduce household expenses. Even buying one less paperback a month can save over $100 per year. That said, library books are only free if you return them on time. I’ve had to schedule due date reminders on my calendar because I’m guilty of racking up library fines.
“I always found meal planning to be one of the best ways to cut the grocery budget. So, if something is on sale I make sure I use it in multiple meals to use it all up,” says Jennifer Green. At the grocery store, coupons and smart purchasing decisions can trim your bill, as does where you shop. Our family shops at a food discounter and our weekly grocery bill comes in at $170. Momprenuer Alexis Dunham does the same at her house. “I made better choices on what items to buy and I also use coupons. Not a crazy amount but when I saw them, I used them,” she says.
I’m fortunate to have naturally curly hair that tolerates neglect. Combined with a talented local hairdresser who charges less than $20 per cut and dyeing my hair at home, I am as frugal as can be when it comes to beauty expenses. However, my friend Katie is the queen of cutting out hairdressing expenses — she cuts her husband’s and children’s hair herself! But what if you want to indulge in a manicure or pedicure? At $50 per visit, even at budget spas, Cindy Hawthorne opted to teach herself how to do manis and pedis. “I found out that with a little work, they can be done at home with great results. And there is some satisfaction to knowing you can do it yourself,” she says. What is great about Cindy’s suggestion is that, as a fellow trail and ultra runner, she understands how battered a running mama’s feet can get — and a little tootsie TLC at home can go a long way.
Phone and TV
At debt.org they point out that many families have long been a cable- and satellite TV-free, relying on DVDs and Netflix for at-home entertainment. We fit into that group. No expense is spared, and even the $8 per month Netflix costs us will be cut. I’m not alone in cutting cable. On Twitter, @Mom2BeMN said her family has opted for a basic TV antenna with Hulu Plus and many other parents I talked to admitted television and cable costs were the first to be cut. However, our rural location means we only have one choice for our Internet provider and our bill is a staggering $95 per month.
Three years ago, we canceled our landline which saved us approximately $100 per month. Instead, we use one cell phone between us, which costs $70 per month. Twitter mama @Kristinakins went one step further and cancelled the data plan for her smartphone. If one phone or dropping your data plan isn’t an option, call your cellphone provider and ask them to give you the best available promotional package.