Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How to Save Money

Since becoming a full-time, stay-at-home-mom some 15+ years ago, I have had to learn ways to save money.

Just recently a friend asked for some of my 'tips'.  It spurred me to write this post.

I am not claiming to be the most frugal individual, but I have discovered a few great ways to pinch a penny.

I'd like to be able, at this point, to wax eloquently about my use of coupons and how I get $200 worth of groceries for $16, but alas.....  I.....   can't!  I've never been successful at couponing. I WISH I were better at it.  Ultimately, I end up wasting hours of my time cutting coupons which I NEVER use because I forget them, don't have the patience to sort through them in the store, OR when we lived in Ohio I shopped at Aldi - a discount store that didn't accept coupons.

That said, I have however, found other ways to S-A-V-E MONEY over the years.

First:   As I just mentioned, shopping at Aldi -- a discount grocer in many parts of the country.  Unfortunately, it's not located out here in the West.  I could buy an entire cart overflowing with food for what a mere bag or two at another grocery store would have cost.  We just started using Bountiful Baskets - a very reasonable food co-op - for our produce and bread.  It's FABULOUS!!

Second:  I almost always buy clothing at thrift/second hand stores.  WHEN I do shop new, I tend to stick to sales.  Not to say I NEVER buy new, non-sale items, but that event is few and far between.

Third:  I began cutting the boys' and Techno-genius's hair and now trim the girls' hair as well.  This saves TONS.  Especially now that we have no 'beauty schools' in which to go for a VERY discounted price.  (That's what I used to do for the girls.  $5-$10 cuts at a beauty school.)

Fourth:  I recently began making my own cleaning products.  Laundry detergent, dish washer detergent, all purpose cleaner, bathroom cleaner -- I'm certain this saves me quite a bit.

Fifth:  I also learned how to make facial cleanser and a homemade hair rinse.  Both save plenty compared to the expensive salon products.

Sixth:  I use a menu and meal planning.   This keeps me in budget when I shop, prevents waste, and forces me to use up the ingredients I have on hand.  It's amazing how much this can save.

Seventh:  A big money saver is NOT eating out much.  When we lived in Ohio, I was inconsistent (to say the very least) at using a menu and meal planning. That often resulted in grabbing fast food, take-out, or simply going to a restaurant far too often.  Now that I've implemented our meal planning this happens much less frequently.  Unless we have sickness or a dramatic increase in busy-ness, the unplanned meal out is rare.

Eighth:  Incorporating left-overs into meal planning.  I used to end up tossing tons of left-overs simply b/c I hadn't 'planned' for their use.  Now, we have 'left-over days' implemented into our meal plans.  It makes sure we use up the food not eaten during previous meals and prevents it from going bad.  I also use leftovers as ingredients in dishes later in the week so it's not so 'bland and boring'. Everyone still thinks it's a 'new menu item' even though it's yesterdays hamburger meat.  :-)

Ninth:  At-home entertainment is a HUGE part of our money saving strategy.  We don't 'go to the movies' and other 'expensive' entertainment outings. We've discovered it's just as fun to pop popcorn at home, close the blinds, and have a family movie night in, than it was to spend tons of money and go 'out' to a movie.  Plus, you can pause the movie when you want more popcorn or need a drink refill.  :-) We've also been known to put up a sheet on the front of the house and watch movies outside -- much better than a drive-in.  Another fun favorite - that we do far to infrequently - is family game night.  Pull out some board or card games and have fun.

Finally, tenth:  Finding fun free/cheap activities to do as a family outing or date night.  This has proven to be fun and challenging at times.  We will go to a park; have a picnic; visit a free, local museum; go for a walk or a bike ride; scour the paper for 'free' community events - like movies in the park or music in the park etc.; visit the library and pick up 'new' books and maybe even a DVD; now that we are in Wyoming we'll be heading up the mountain range for many of our 'free family fun nights' out.

These are a few things I currently attempt in the name of saving money.  With 6 kids, a dog, a cat and ONE income, I'm always looking for even more money saving ideas.  If you have some great ones, or SUPER E-A-S-Y advice on using coupons, I'd love to hear them.

How do you save money? What's your favorite free or cheap family activity?

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