January 19th, 2012

5 Ways to Cope When You’re Tired of Being Frugal

Living on a budget and trying to save money isn’t always fun. Sometimes you just wish for a splurge, but you know you can’t afford one. Other times you’re just tired of always thinking about ways to spend less. What do you do when you’re tired of being frugal?

It’s not always easy. There are so many temptations to break the habit, whether it’s hearing from friends and family the fun things they’ve been doing or what they’ve been buying, or the commercials you can hardly avoid on television and online. Still, there are ways to deal with it when you’re tired of it all.

1. Allow small splurges.

What is it you miss most? Is there a way to get it more cheaply?

You may miss going out to see movies, for example. Movie ticket prices have gone up quite a bit, and don’t always fit well into a frugal budget. If you’re lucky enough to have a discount movie theater near you, however, you may be able to see movies somewhat later than others for quite a bit less. There’s a theater in our area, for example, that has $2 tickets, far more affordable that what we’d pay elsewhere.

You can also think about the little treats you enjoy and set a budget for it. If you miss chocolate, for example, you may be able to get chocolate chips and put them in the freezer. Nibbling just a couple rather than having an entire candy bar can save you money so long as you have the self control to not eat too many a day.

2. Tell people what you want if they’re looking for a present for you.

If you miss going out to eat, suggest gift cards to your favorite restaurant as a gift when you have a birthday or Christmas coming up. This may not feel as personal as some people would like, but if that’s what you want more than whatever else someone would buy you, it’s a good gift.

If there’s some other splurge you want that’s within the range of a gift from someone else, let them know when they want gift ideas for you. Sometimes it works out.

3. Look at free ways to get what you want.

It’s amazing what you can get for free sometimes. Libraries are wonderful if you miss getting new books to read, for example. Just how wonderful depends on the libraries in your area and the selection they have in the types of books you like to read. Remember that many libraries are networked to others in your area, and you may be able to order books from other locations.

Also see if there’s an active Freecycle group in your area. You can ask for things you’d like to get. I’ve seen people in my local group ask for things like exercise bikes and get them.

4. Review your financial goals.

You’re being frugal for a reason. It can help you deal with the frustration of being frugal if you remind yourself why you’re going through all that. Are you saving so that you can pay down credit cards or other debts? Think about the benefits of getting rid of those. If you’re being frugal because it’s the only way you can pay all your living expenses, think about how your situation would change if you weren’t managing your money so carefully.

5. Take joy in meeting your financial goals.

Don’t just think of being frugal as a long term goal. Think of your short term goals too. It may be to save a particular amount over a particular month or to cut a particular expense. Having goals where you can see the results is a big help in making frugality more interesting.

Make sure your goals are something you can achieve and you know how you’re going to achieve them. If they aren’t realistic, you’ll be more frustrated than happy with the process.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

July 21st, 2011

What Can Stay at Home Moms Do When a Money Crunch Hits Their Family?

Having one parent, usually the mom, stay home with the kids is often seen as a benefit to the family. One parent is always there for the kids, you don’t have to spend money on daycare, it just sounds better.

The only problem is that when finances get tight, you have less flexibility. There’s a certain financial sacrifice already when you have one parent stay at home, and when the one income drops or disappears suddenly, your family may be in trouble. How can you, as a stay at home mom or dad, help?

I’m going to assume at this point that you’ve already cut back on spending in the usual area. It’s the most obvious and simplest step to take, even if it’s not without discomfort. When money’s tight, don’t spend on the things your family doesn’t need, and know the difference between needs and wants. There’s a lot of ground in there, but you can find what works for your family.

Here are some other ways to help out with a money crunch while still being a stay at home mom.

Find a Way to Earn Money From Home

Whatever you do, don’t be desperate about this one. It’s easy to get scammed when you’re trying to get a work at home job or start a home business. You have to pay attention to what you’re getting yourself into.

Don’t expect miracles. Most people earning money from home don’t earn millions, or even thousands per month. If you find some good work to do, it’s still something you can contribute financially to your family.

I have a post on how to earn money from home if you’d like more ideas on how to get started.

Increase the Income You’re Already Earning

You might be earning money from home already, in which case it’s time to step things up and bring in more money. That can mean increasing your rates if you’re a freelancer, working harder on getting more sales if you’re an affiliate or if you sell your own products, or asking your employer for more hours if you have a work at home job. Find a new affiliate product to offer that complements the products you’re already offering.

The thing to remember if you’re already earning money is that you can find ways to increase it. It may not be easy, and may add to the stress in your life, but that’s often what it takes to dig yourself out of a bad financial position.

Get a Job Outside the Home

This can still be compatible with one parent staying at home. If your spouse is still working, just with a decreased income, consider taking on a job at night, and being the at home parent during the day. Working opposite shifts from your spouse sucks big time, but if that’s what it takes to support your family, you may have to do it.

If your spouse is completely out of work, it may also pay for both of you to look for work. It might just be that you trade who’s the one at home, assuming the parent who had been working can stand the switch. Not all can.

Sell Things You Don’t Need

Selling things you don’t need only takes care of the short term, but that can be important in the long run. When my old car broke down, we didn’t have the money to replace it, but we also realized we didn’t really need it. Selling it for the little bit it was worth not only brought in a little money, it cut down on insurance and gas costs. I almost hated replacing it when the time came that my husband’s car was no longer enough.

Garage sales can be pretty easy to organize, although you do have to be aware of the over enthusiastic bargain shoppers. Some areas require you get a permit in order to hold a garage sale. The money is quick, and you get rid of things you truly no longer need.

Same for selling on Craigslist. It’s a fast way to get some money, but probably not a complete solution.

Try Not to Rely on the Credit Cards Too Much

While it may be necessary to put more than usual on the credit cards when times are tight, do what you can to minimize that. Credit card debt can take a very long time to pay off, and can keep the financial stress up even after your income improves.

The most important thing you can do when your family has money troubles is to find a way to work through it together. These things don’t last forever; they just require some extra effort to find your way through.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

June 23rd, 2011

20 Simple Ideas for Saving Money and 3 Ideas That Aren’t Worth It

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. Most family budgets have places where you can easily save money, and other areas that are more difficult.

20 Simple Money Saving Ideas

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. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

ING is a good choice of online bank. They also offer accounts for kids, if you’re ready to get them started.

6. 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. Look into Skype or Google Voice for when you don’t need a cell phone. Either can be a good choice if you need a line for your home business.

7. Walk.

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.

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 now also offer DVDs for rent. With Redbox and similar machines renting movies out for $1 a night, 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.

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 buy new children’s clothes, you might be shocked. I don’t buy them much at all, despite having three children. I get plenty of handmedowns, and that solves most of their clothing needs.

They aren’t all from family either. I’ve had friends with children give handmedowns as well. I don’t think I could add up how much handmedowns have saved. Just be sure to reciprocate as possible.

12. Wait.

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.

13. Don’t buy your kids too 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.

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.

15. Limit the video games you buy.

Kids love video games, as do many adults. The only problem is that many cost $50 a pop. They add up really fast, and when the next console comes out, you get requests for a bunch of new games plus the new console.

You may be better off renting some games rather than buying them. Save the purchases for the ones that will be played over and over. Also be aware of any subscription costs for online play.

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. Cancel memberships you don’t need.

Sometimes 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 membership.

18. 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.

19. 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.

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.

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. Buying bulk items you won’t use fast enough or can’t store properly is a huge waste of money.

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.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

April 16th, 2011

Come Back Later – A Simple Money Saving Tip

Most of us like to shop. It’s fun to see all the things you’d love to own, whether it’s new clothes or the latest gadgets. The only problem is that looking often leads to buying, and that’s bad for most budgets. How can you keep your impulse shopping under control.

My own preferred method of handling impulse shopping is to control the impulse part of it. I rarely allow myself to buy on impulse. I have to think about it first.

If you can get past the urge to buy right away, it’s really not too hard. Build the habit of walking away from something you want to buy on impulse. Go look at other things. Maybe even give it a day or several.

The idea is to give yourself time to think if you really need the item or if it’s just a want, and if a want, if it’s worth giving in to that want.

The thing to remember is that pretty much anything you see while out shopping will still be there later. Very few things are all that limited, and most really limited things you might buy on impulse aren’t things you really need. The things you need are more likely to be there day after day, week after week. Even if you don’t buy them right away, they’ll probably be there later.

Coming back to a potential purchase later works pretty well if you have a few options to consider. It’s time to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the things you’re considering. You might find that a feature that attracted you immediately doesn’t matter as much as one you notice with a little more thought.

This even works when it comes to buying snacks when you’re out grocery shopping. This can be good for your grocery budget and your waistline, depending on the kinds of impulse buys you tend to make there. Of course, better yet for controlling your grocery shopping is having a list and sticking to it.

Of course, if impulse shopping is a problem for you, the first step may be finding ways to limit how often you do any sort of shopping that can lead to impulse buys. If you like to just wander shopping malls or online shopping sites, or if you get easily tempted when you see an online review for a product, it helps to find ways to avoid those situations. Look at when you’re getting tempted and how often the temptation is to buy something you’ll be glad you bought in the long run. If you’re getting tempted into far more bad purchases than good, it may be time to find something else to do.

A little patience and a little planning can help you quite a bit when it comes to controlling your impulse shopping habits. What works for you?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

October 19th, 2010

What to Do When Your Expenses Are More Than Your Income

Most home business owners will have months where their income isn’t so great. It’s a part of growing your business. The problem comes when your income isn’t enough to meet your expenses for the month. Suddenly you’ve got trouble. What can you do?

Cut Back

The first thing you can look at is cutting back where possible. How much of this you need to do depends on how often you aren’t meeting expenses and by how much.

If it’s just by a little and not too often, you can probably make it up next month without too many worries. Just don’t rely on those credit cards too much, as the interest adds up rapidly.

Figure out where you can cut back by writing out all of your expenses, both personal and professional. This list will give you a visual reference to see what you don’t need to spend money on while your income is down. Some of the little things, such as eating an occasional meal out, can be cut with little trouble.

Business expenses are more challenging. Some things you cannot cut without seriously damaging or destroying your business. Other things are a help, but depending on how your business is doing, you may need to cut them for a time. This may include tools that make your life a bit easier but require a monthly subscription, services you use, or freelancers you’ve hired. If you don’t have the money at the time, you may need to quit using them until things pick up.

This is a classic problem for any business, as it’s easier to make money with all the right tools. You’re more productive with the right kind of help, and cutting back can slow down your recovery. Think carefully and decide if the cuts are the right ones to make, or if you need to find a better way to handle your money flow problems.

Look around for free options for things you pay to do now. They won’t always be there, but there are amazing things available online for free. You may lose some features, but so long as you can get the most important features for free, the switch can be worthwhile. That won’t be true every time, so think carefully before you make the switch.

Earn More

Yeah, this one’s obvious. If you aren’t earning enough, you need to start earning more. Easy to say, hard to put into practice.

Sometimes you can do it. It may mean taking focus away from your core business for a time, but you may be able to do it.

You can write articles for other people, for example. You can offer something that takes minimal effort for you to do on sites such as Fiverr… very minimal effort, as the pay is minimal. Find some sort of freelance work you can handle for a time, ideally work that won’t take all of your available work time, so you can still run your business.

If things are really, bad, you may have to consider the dreaded job. It’s not pretty, but sometimes to make your business work you have to deal with a regular job for a time. Just make sure the job pays enough to be worth the added expenses you may face, such as childcare if you have children. Not all jobs are worth it.

If you have anything you can sell, that’s another way to bring in some quick money when you really need it. Selling excess stuff you own also helps get rid of the clutter around the house.

Work extra hours on your core business if at all possible. This is where you want your income to be coming from in the long run. All the things you do to get some quick money so that you can survive can be dropped once you have your core business where you need it to be. It’s hard work, but if you’ve chosen your business well, it will be worth it in the long run.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.