I find that when we have a budget and we're sticking to it, I'm compelled to find ways to stay within the spending limits we've set for our family for various categories of expenditure. Following are some of the ways (big and small) that we save money in our family.
- Use what you have. Rather than rushing to put that item on the shopping list, make it a habit to consider what you already have that could be used for the need at hand. Be creative with what's left in the fridge and pantry to stretch your grocery budget. Re-purposing is also a big money-saver. I made storage containers for the pantry by sprucing up some empty jars. I also "shop" for flowers around my own house rather than picking up bouquets. Flowers make me (and therefore my family) happy —and even happier when I don't have to pay for them!
- Use coupons whenever possible. It's rare that I buy clothes for any of us (my husband, me, or our three children) without some kind of coupon. Planning ahead (knowing my daughter and son will need clothes for the next season) helps me take advantage of the times when coupons come to my mail or email. (Note: I don't tend to coupon for groceries because we "shop the perimeter," and many food items that are discounted don't fit our food choices.)
- Wait for sales. Along the same lines, I'm usually keeping my eye out for sales. BUT — and this is a big one — I do my best not to shop just because there is a sale. That's how they get you! Keeping our family's needs in mind (the boys need new jeans) and then spotting a sale that fits (haha) allows us to take advantage of low prices without being taken advantage of.
- Combine coupons and sales. This is the best and what I aim for. Combining coupons with a sale allows us to get high quality items for a fraction of the cost. For us, this usually applies to clothing and often to art or hobby supplies as well. (For instance, I used a 50 percent off coupon during a 25 percent off sale to buy upholstery fabric). Check the fine print to make sure your coupon can be used on sale items.
- Buy high quality items whenever possible. High quality means you won't have to spring for another item when the cheap one falls apart. With clothing, high quality items still look nice when handed down to younger siblings.
- Buy used when possible. I love combing through our local kids' consignment shop for clothes for my boys. Prices are better than coupon-plus-sale prices — and I can still get high quality. Thrift stores are also a fantastic option for furniture. (Check for bed bugs.)
- Wait on larger purchases. When our Roku broke, we instinctively wanted to replace it right away. But we decided to use the native applications within the television, and though it's not quite as great, it works and we still have that 90 dollars.
- Turn bigger family purchases into gifts. Here's what I mean: We grill a lot and we only have a tiny little Weber purchased from Craigslist a few years ago. But rather than just buy one even though it's a legitimate need, we decided it would be our anniversary present to each other (and maybe Dad's Father's Day gift as well). We save money on gifts and these items are imbued with a bit more sentimentality, at least for me.
- Use refillable water bottles. I admit to a tad of self-righteousness indignation on this one — but why oh why spend money and landfill or recycling resources on plastic water bottles?? For the convenience of not filling your own water bottle? So you don't have to carry a water bottle around? I really don't know, but I'm glad we don't spend money on something we can get from our fridge and put in containers that (bonus!) keep our water cold.
- Ditch the landline. We've survived perfectly well without one for seven years.
- Eat before you go and bring snacks. A family of five, including children with truly voracious appetites, is not cheap to feed when we're out and hunger strikes. I try to plan ahead by filling everyone up before going on an outing and always having a few emergency apples or granola bars ready for distribution.
- Make a menu — but also have items on-hand for quick meals. Planning meals and shopping accordingly ensures that we have what we need, not more (which could go bad before it's used) and not less (which could mean trips to the store that almost always result in some additional unplanned purchases). I also like to have staples around for some super simple meals I can throw together when I don't feel like full-on cooking or when company comes last minute. Favorites include: pesto pasta and chicken fajitas.
What do you do to save at home?
(Image credits: Shifrah Combiths)