Many families are on tight budgets these days, and that can hold particularly true for families with a stay at home mom or dad. Getting by on a smaller income is challenging at times. Sometimes it’s the simple money saving tips that can help you get started.
Not all of the ideas here will be useful for everyone. If your budget is super tight, you’re probably doing most or all already.
At the same time, there are things you can do to save money that aren’t the best idea. These can cost you more money in the long run, and that’s a problem. Sometimes you have no choice, as it may be a choice between doing the thing and eating, but do your best.
20 Simple Money Saving Tips
1. Make a list before going shopping.
A shopping list is a great way to control what you spend at the store. If you can discipline yourself to sticking with the list, you can cut out those impulse purchases that add the small amounts that add up so quickly.
This idea is best combined with the next one:
2. Plan your meals for the week.
Having your meals planned out allows you to more easily make your shopping list and helps you avoid food spoilage, as you know what you’re going to use. Plan to use foods that spoil quickly earlier in the week.
This will also encourage you to eat more often at home, as you’ll know what you were planning on making. You’ll have less reason to eat out because you can’t decide what to make.
3. Make the most of leftovers.
Many people dread leftovers, but they don’t have to be that bad. Some can be frozen so that you eat them a while after you had the meal, rather than so close that you’re tired of that meal. Others can be made into entirely new meals.
4. Buy in bulk when it makes sense.
Buying in bulk does not always make sense. Sometimes it’s one of the worst moves you can make. But when it makes sense, it’s a good money saving move. Canned goods, rice, personal care items and so forth can be cheaper if bought in bulk. Be sure you compare the price per unit (ounces, for example) so that you know for certain that you’re getting a better deal. Sometimes the bulk price difference isn’t worth having to store the extra.
We buy rice at Costco, for example. It’s a huge bag, and most of it goes into our earthquake kit. That excess runs down as I go through the bag, but it ensures that at least some of the food in my earthquake kit is rotated regularly.
5. Just how many phones does your family need anyhow?
Lots of families have more than one phone these days. Cell phone for mom, cell phone for dad, maybe even a cell phone for each of the kids, plus the landline phone for the house. Just how many of those do you really need?
The answer to this will vary depending on your family, but if you need to cut back on expenses, it’s worth reconsidering how many phones you have. Some families get by with no landline phone, but if it’s bundled in with your television or internet service you need to look at what you’d really save by cutting that line.
You may be able to replace some paid options with cheaper or free options. Look at the plan your cell phones are on, and make sure you have the most cost effective one for how your family uses them. My family uses Ting, and our combined bill is rarely over $40. We have four phone lines with them.
Look into services such as Google Voice for when you don’t need a cell phone. It’s a great way to have a free phone line for your home business. Keeping business and personal calls separate is a huge help.
6. Cancel subscriptions you don’t need.
Sometimes subscriptions and memberships are well worth the money. Other times they’re a waste of money you keep paying because you swear you’re going to use it again eventually. If you’ve been promising yourself that for a long time, it’s probably time to save your money and give up the subscription.
One thing we like to do is rotate through a variety of video services, such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and so forth. There’s only so much you can watch at a time. Subscribe to no more than one or two at a time and you’ll have plenty to watch without paying for every service out there. Do it right, and you may be able to comfortably cut your cable subscription to save a bunch of money.
Do you really need to drive everywhere you go? If you’re going someplace close and the weather is right, try walking instead. It takes a little more time, but it’s healthier and cheaper to walk.
If possible, have the kids walk to school. You can go with them if you like.
When we lived close enough, my kids always walked to school. Now that we aren’t so close, I miss it. Not only do I use a lot more gas now, but it takes more time out of my day… and I don’t even get into the pickup line early.
8. Use your local library.
Libraries are a great resource that many people don’t take advantage of often enough. You can get books of all sorts to read for pleasure or to learn from. You can often order in books from other branches if your local branch doesn’t have a title you’re after.
Many also offer DVDs for rent. With all the streaming services available, the library may not be as appealing as it once was, but it may still be a good option for movie rentals.
9. Keep your car maintained.
Cars can get expensive sometimes. Basic maintenance adds up fast, and breakdowns can be even worse. Even so, that maintenance is important, as it keeps your car running longer and more efficiently.
Some things you can handle on your own, such as keeping tires properly inflated. This helps them wear more evenly, and improves your gas mileage.
Sometimes you will have to decide if a repair is worth doing before it’s urgent. My husband’s car had a transmission fluid leak that wasn’t causing problems as such yet, but eventually could have. It cost $400, but that’s better than what it might have cost later.
10. Sign up for free customer rewards programs.
Stores love customer rewards programs, as they give them a lot of data about your shopping habits. I don’t think the privacy lost is too big a deal, but not everyone likes sharing their shopping habits like that. In exchange, you get discounts on certain purchases. These can be quite significant.
That said, my favorite stores give you discounts without requiring the cards, but when the discount is offered, why would you skip it? You can keep some of your privacy by using a Google Voice or other number to sign up, rather than your home or cell phone number. Alternatively, get friends or family to agree on a single phone number to use, and all shop through that card.
11. Make the most of handmedowns.
If you knew how rarely I bought new children’s clothes when my kids were little, you might be shocked. I didn’t buy them much at all, despite having three children. I got plenty of handmedowns, and that solved most of their clothing needs.
They weren’t all from family either. I had friends with children give handmedowns as well. I don’t think I could add up how much handmedowns have saved me. Just be sure to reciprocate as possible.
If it’s not an immediate need, try waiting before you buy. This is a great way to control impluse purchases at the mall or online.
Wait at least a couple hours, but several days is better. Get past that initial reaction so you know why you want to buy that item. The less it matters, the less likely you are to even remember that you wanted the item in the first place.
Yes, sometimes you’ll miss out. Odds are that it will be okay.
13. Don’t buy your kids so many toys.
Kids will beg for just about any toy they see on television or online. Most won’t be played with all that much and won’t be worth the money they spent.
If you want your kids to be happy, spend more time with them and do things with them. Show them how to do things that don’t require so much equipment. There are lots of free ways to play with your kids.
14. Combine errands.
Gas prices have been pretty painful of late, making it all the more important that you use your car efficiently. The more errands you can take care of in a single trip out, the less gas overall you should be using, plus it’s a more efficient use of your time.
I do grocery shopping after dropping my kids off at school, for example. Not only does it help me save gas, as the store is near the school, it saves time since I’m not going out twice.
15. Find free places to go in your area.
It’s fun to get out as a family, but tickets to get into things can really add up. Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do for free.
Pay attention to free events in your area. Your city’s website will often have a calendar of things that are going on. My area, for example, just had a music festival that was free to get into, although it would be all too easy to spend a fortune at the booths.
Take your kids to the park if you want a simple way to have fun together, or look for local hikes. You can make fun time out as a family without impacting your budget.
16. Hide your credit cards and debit cards.
Only carry these cards when you need them. You’ll need the debit cards sometimes to get cash, but other times you won’t need to have them with you.
Carrying these cards leaves you more tempted to spend extra money. You can’t do that if you limit yourself to the amount of cash you need at the moment.
17. Pay down debts.
This is especially important for any high interest rate debts such as credit cards. Interest rates really eat up your minimum payments, so the more you can pay down your credit card debts, the better off you’re going to be in the long run.
Paying down credit cards is often difficult. When you’re carrying a balance on a credit card, there’s often a reason. If it’s due to poor spending habits, it’s time to work on that. But if you used them when your income wasn’t enough, it’s more difficult. You may need to find a way to make more money so you can pay off your credit cards.
18. Avoid bank fees.
Banks love fees. They make good money off some of them. It’s to your advantage to be aware of what’s going on with your accounts so you can avoid ATM fees, overdraft fees, monthly fees and so forth.
Take a good look at your monthly statements to see when you’re getting hit with a fee by your bank. Decide if it’s worth sticking with that bank if it’s a fee you can’t avoid, or how you can avoid that fee in the future if you could have avoided it.
There are a lot of online banks to choose from. Many offer better benefits than traditional banks. Look over the possibilities to see which would work for you.
19. Swap babysitting when you need a night out.
If you don’t have willing grandparents in the area available for babysitting, swapping babysitting with friends or family members is the next best thing. Trade off taking care of each others kids so you can all get breaks without spending a fortune on the sitter.
20. Learn to do basic repairs around your home.
If you have basic tool skills, there are a lot of repairs you can handle on your own around the house rather than call in a professional. Add in the resources available on the internet, and you may be able to fix things you didn’t realize you could.
YouTube is an amazing resource for learning how to do basic repairs in your home. I’ve used videos to do a variety of plumbing repairs. I’m too chicken to mess with electrical, though.
3 Money Saving Ideas That Aren’t Worth It
Not every money saving idea is brilliant or worth the trouble. Here are just a few that usually aren’t worth the money saved.
1. Dropping car insurance coverage.
In many states, car insurance is required, making dropping the insurance even less worth your while, as you may have to prove you have it in order to register your car. But even if it’s not required, car insurance is worth the money it costs if you have an accident.
If you want to save money on car insurance, compare plans and make sure you have the best price for the coverage you need.
2. Buying bulk items you can’t use or store effectively.
Buying the right items in bulk is a great plan. On the other hand, buying bulk items you won’t use fast enough or can’t store properly is a huge waste of money.
Some bulk items will need to be broken down into smaller portions so that you can use them effectively. This costs money in the form of packaging, and so may not save you as much as you think.
If you buy meat in larger packages, for example, you need to have the freezer space to store the excess until you’re ready to use it. A large pack of toilet paper, on the other hand, is much easier to break up and store.
3. Buying the cheapest appliance with no regard for quality.
Whether it’s a blender or a washing machine, you should consider quality when buying an appliance for your home. It usually costs far more over time to buy several of the cheapest quality than one of a decent quality. You don’t necessarily have to go for top quality or the highest price, but buying appliances that do the job well and are expected to last should save you money.
You won’t always be able to buy better quality, of course. That’s one of the costs of being poor, that sometimes you have to spend more money in the long run because you don’t have enough money to buy better quality from the start.