The Big Money Saving Article
A guest post by Angie Bailey Grimes, owner of Wiley Mom, an expert money saving consultant.
Statistics say that it will cost an American family (single or dual parent) between 125 to 250 thousand dollars to raise a child. That means from birth until age 18, you’ll be shelling out an extra $579 to $1157 a month per child. These figures don’t even include college expenses, or if little Johnny lives with you until he’s 35. Wow, that’s a lot of money! Unlike most people who are worried about earning all of that extra cash, I see many opportunities to save money. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) breaks the added expenses down into the following categories: Food, Health, Transportation, Clothing, Child Care/Education, Housing and Miscellaneous. I see many fun ways to save money in almost all of these areas!
I feel the area that can have the largest and fastest impact on most family’s budget is food savings. With a bit of conscious effort, I was saving our family between $800-1000 a month right away. How? Okay, we’ll start with coupons! You knew that was coming right? There are just a few rules to following to make couponing work for you.
Start by clipping and keeping only the coupons for items that you already use or like. Also, take note of coupons that say the product is new. If the new product looks appealing to you, keep that coupon as well. Here’s the trick, hang on to the coupons for a week or two (sometimes three or four). This is when most of those items will go on sale. This leads me to the next point.
Stock up on items when they are at their cheapest. Yes, it may seem silly to buy 8 more packs of toilet paper when you bought a case last week, but if you might only pay $.25 a pack. I’m sure you know the average price off the top of your head for most of the products you purchase on a routine basis. Therefore, it’s easy to recognize a good deal when you see one.
To maximize both the coupon clipping and store sales, be willing to shop at a different store each week. Keep this part simple as well, there’s no need to read the circulars for all 6 stores within a 5 miles radius of your house and drive all over town. Pick between two or three stores, and shop at one. That is good enough; saving money shouldn’t drive you crazy.
Please, don’t forget the internet! There are plenty of blogs and forums devoted completely to grocery store deals and coupon matching. It’s free, so go ahead and let someone do the work for you. Sites like the Grocery Gathering link up to bloggers featuring most national and local grocery store’s weekly deals, complete with coupon match ups and links for online coupons. If you like forums, Hot Coupon World is a good resource. In addition to newspaper coupons and internet print coupons, there are eCoupons that you find online, and download to your store loyalty card.
To wrap up couponing, clip the coupons you like, check the circulars and pick your store for the week and then check your favorite blog or forum for the couponing 411 for the week. Keep it SIMPLE and you can easily save 15-25% on your grocery bill. Make a list and stick to it, you could probably save another 10-25%.
We all like to eat out on occasion. The ability to grab a quick bite here and a quick drink there makes life for busy families so convenient. Thus, it’s often ignored. But, eating out is way too expensive! Try this, for just one week. Keep track of all the money spent at sit down and fast food restaurants, convenience stores, coffee shops, etc. Now ask yourself, is this an area I could try to cut back on? If it is, there are so many fun ways to do it.
First off, all places issue coupons, but only clip and save the ones you like. If you never intend to eat at Frank’s All You Can Eat Hot Dog Palace for $2 per person, don’t keep the coupon for it. Keep all the eating out coupons in an envelope in the car.
Eating at home is easier said than done; and, like couponing it’s going to take a few minutes of planning. Think about your day the evening before or in the morning and try to plan as many meals at home as possible. Brew your own coffee and grab a muffin and banana from the house. Take water bottles and snacks in the car for the kids. Not only are these ideas cheaper, but they are healthier than “on the go” options. Maybe make dinner at home, and splurge on just dessert and coffee out. Packing a picnic is my favorite way to cut back on eating out. Before heading out, check online for a park or area you’ve never explored. Even running errands through town can be fun. Kids can find adventure with something as simple as eating a picnic at someplace new. Again, try to keep this all simple. Only make one or two changes a week. We started saving about $100 a week when we cut out one sit down dinner and two fast food lunches a week.
Consolidating errands can save a lot of gas (ie, money). Keep a running list of errands that need to be attended to and try to do as many as possible while you’re already out. Also, consider shopping online. Last Christmas, I had an 80 pound sports center shipped to my house for free. Not only did I not have to drive 25 miles round trip in my gas guzzling SUV, saving maybe $6 or so. Not huge. I didn’t have to even mess with loading and unloading such a huge box with 2 kids in tow. I simply dragged it into the closet once the UPS guy brought it to the door. So I also saved myself some hassle and over an hour of my time!
Look at the whole picture. Could you use online customer service or call the bank first before driving up there? And, yes, you can receive good online customer service from a bank! Have you considered Netflix or HBO instead of trips back and forth to the video store? How about, inestad of driving at all, walk or cycle to your destination? Little trips here and there might not seem like much, but over the course of a year you could save up to $1000.
Shopping for Kids
Alright, let’s talk clothes shopping and kids supplies. Unlike adults, as the seasons change, kids can’t just reach way in the back of the closet for an old sweater or some shorts. No, usually this means a trip to the department store of your choice with a budget pre-set. “Alright, we’re heading to Kohl’s and are going to outfit little Suzy and Billy for back-to-school and spend $250 each.” No, no, no, this is all wrong!
Just like stocking up at the grocery store when things are at their cheapest, you’ll want to do a little of the same thing with the end of season sales. Again, I’m not suggesting you go crazy and spend $300 because Dillard’s is running an extra 40% off their clearance this weekend. But stopping in and getting each of your kids an outfit for next season in their next size up is a great idea. Get an outfit or two at 2 or 3 different stores over the course of the season’s end clearance, and guess what? When the seasons change again, they’ll have several things to get them started.
Clearance shopping can go one of two ways. Either you saved $36 on something you needed and used , or you wasted $8 on something you now can’t find or forgot you had altogether. So, stay organized! I only purchase things about one full year in advance, so I’m only buying clothes or birthday gifts a little at a time. You don’t want to try to guess sizes and likes much beyond that anyway. Go ahead and put new clothes in the closet, off to the side. Keep all gifts together in a clear tub (a mere $5 investment) and label them, “Aunt Mary – Christmas” and “Billy – birthday” when you put them in. The point here is, find a simple system that works for you and stick with it.
One of my personal favorite money savers for families is buying clothing and kids stuff gently used. Sure this is great for clothing since kids outgrow many things before they get worn out. What about all that baby gear you bought and never used (ie, wipe warmers)? Or how about all the hockey gear you got for little Jimmy and he decided to run track after 3 practices. Used gear is way cheaper and will give you a chance to get familiar with the new activity and products available. Some “used” gear is actually brand new. Ideas where to look for such treasures are children’s consignment stores or thrift stores. Sports gear can be found at the above mentioned or at stores such as, Play It Again Sports.
And lastly, don’t forget to do a little networking. Talk to other parents, look on the message board at the rec. center for other families selling gear, or put up a “looking for” note yourself. On the flip side, when you find yourself on the opposite end of this with the wipe warmer and hockey gear, be sure to find an avenue to sell or donate these things . Another family will appreciate your efforts!
Since we mentioned sports gear and activities, how do you save on kids’ activities? I’m a strong believer in extracurricular actives for the family. But goodness, you have 2 kids and they each want to do one or two activities and its starts really adding up, not to mention if mom or dad was interested in something. Don’t give up right away on this one. Like all money saving activities, this one will take a little work on the front end. But, networking and research can help you save here. Ask around and check the internet for deals. Check with your city, and the ones right next door. Many cities have quite impressive extracurricular activities offered at a discounted rate since they will be held in a city building (no facilities/overhead fees). Many times, the same instructors & owners from expensive private studios/centers will come and offer the same lessons for the city at half the price. I’ve heard of school-districts offering ballet & tap for $100 a semester (I pay more than that a month), city based pre-school programs for $70 a month. How about just starting your own weekly t-ball practice for your kids and a few other neighborhood boys? Maybe one parent can make t-shirts and another hold the “practices”. This brings me to my next huge money saving suggestion.
This one goes along the same lines of the convenience of fast food. Busy families get into a busy routine and rarely come up for air. How many services do you pay for that you can do yourself? Think of all the services you pay for, lawn mowing, housekeeping, pest service, dry cleaning, etc. Now how many do you have time to do yourself? The first to go in our house was dry cleaning. I wasn’t working outside of the home any longer, so we figured I could easily find time to iron a few shirts and pants a week for my spouse. We immediately started saving $100 a month. And our housekeepers, sure they were awesome when I worked full time outside the home with an infant and a toddler, but now I stay home and my kids are a bit bigger. I cut the cleaners (a bit hard on my part) but now we’re saving another $160 a month. Again, like most of my examples, look at the big picture and find what will work for you. If it takes you all day to mow the lawn and you miss a full day with the family, by all means pay $40 and have it done. But for me to continue to use the dry cleaners and housekeepers was just plain lazy on my part.
Use the same idea for big jobs around the house. Maybe help a neighbor paint his house and he’ll help you next month, saving you each a few thousand dollars. I once sewed a bumper pad for a friend’s crib in exchange for her coming over and painting 2 murals (freehand) on my nursery walls. I feel I got the really good end of that deal, but do you see my point? Find something you like to do and swap out a job with a friend or neighbor. Use a local message board, post a request on Facebook, send out an e-mail at work, but ask around!
My last suggestion is another that most people might overlook. Review you monthly utilities! Things like telephone and cell phone services are being updated every few months due to advancing technology. If you haven’t called the phone company to review you plan in a few years, you need to! I’m sure you can upgrade you plan and lower you bill as well. Electricity – shop online for other rates. I’ve lived in the house for almost 7 years, and I have changed electric providers 3 times. Money talks! How about you security system? Some cities offer free monitoring service, that’s about a $40 savings a month. How about car insurance? (Use caution when getting quotes from anyone who pulls credit, I’d advise checking these kinds of things no more than every 2 years). I’m embarrassed to say that I saved us over a $1000 this year by switching back to my old car insurance provider. The point here is, things change! Your personal circumstances might have gradually changed as well as the price structure of your providers. Just, don’t wait around for them to call you (they won’t), you need to call them!
I truly hope that you found at least one or two money saving ideas for you and your family. Just remember to keep it simple, and find ideas that work comfortably into your existing lifestyle. Because, a penny saved, is a penny earned!