Last Updated May 8th, 2019

20 Simple Money Saving Tips And 3 That Aren’t Worth It

20 Simple Money Saving Ideas And 3 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. 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?

how many phones do you need?

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.

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.

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.

You can get so much from the 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.

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.

Yes, sometimes you’ll miss out. Odds are that it will be okay.

13. Don’t buy your kids so many toys.

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. 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.

money saving ideas can pay off

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.

insure your car

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.

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.

Last Updated September 27th, 2018

6 Keys to Smart Frugal Living

6 Keys to Smart Frugal Living

I prefer to live a fairly frugal lifestyle. While it’s in part due to the limitations of my family’s income, it’s also a personal preference. Being careful about how much you spend, even when you can easily afford it, is just sensible.

Be sure you’re doing smart frugal living, however. It’s not just “here’s the cheap way, let’s do that!” The immediately cheap way isn’t always the cheap way in the long run, after all. You have to consider the long term, at least as much as you can fit it into your budget.

1. Go for quality.

Within reason, you have to consider quality when you buy things. The cheapest product can cost more in the long run if you have to buy it more often than you would a more expensive product.

I’m fond of how Terry Pratchett has Samuel Vimes explain it in the Discworld novel, Men At Arms, in terms of the cost of boots. A cheap pair of boots would cost him $10, and last about a season or two. Better boots would run about $50, but would last for years. This leads him to reason that the rich don’t have to spend as much money on such things because they can buy products that will last longer and cost less in the long run.

Of course, most of us can’t always afford the things that will last best. Still, when better quality and longer lasting products are within your budget, it can be more frugal to spend the extra now, rather than spend more over the long run.

This is especially true for expensive things such as furniture and cars. You want these to last as long as possible, and some extra money spent now can save you more in the future.

Kids clothes, and shoes in particular, on the other hand, you should think about how long it will be until they grow out of them. Some things you really don’t want to overspend on. Buy better quality if they’re something that can be handed down, but if you know your child is going to ruin it, go for the quality that should last until they outgrow it.

We pay more attention to the quality of my son’s running shoes, for example, than my daughter’s, because he uses them hard and can wear them out before he outgrows them. He needs better quality so they last and we don’t have to buy more in the same size. By the time my daughter wears her shoes out, she usually needs a new size anyhow.

piggy banks

2. Buy only as much as you need.

This rule is especially important when it comes to food. About 40% of the food supply in the United States is thrown away every year.  That’s a lot of food wasted, and of course money wasted too.

Think about how you handle your grocery shopping. Do you buy in bulk because that’s what you’re going to use, or because it’s a lower price per unit, and you hope to use it before it goes bad? Are you only buying the fresh meat, dairy and produce your family will use before it goes bad? Do you eat the leftovers you put back in the fridge, or do you throw them out a week later? Do you know what the sell by dates really mean or when the expiration date really matter?

Food waste happens when you eat out too. It’s not just that eating in a restaurant costs more, it’s that the portions often result in a lot of food waste.

If you want to figure out how much you’re spending in restaurants, keep track for a month or three. You might be surprised. My family doesn’t eat out very often, but it adds up fast when we do. Eating at home is a much more frugal choice, and likely to be healthier as well.

This goes for other things too, of course. Think about what the right size wardrobe is for your needs. Rethink that next gadget, and so on.

Are you overspending on your home?

Buying as much as you need goes for the home you live in too. Your rent or mortgage is probably your biggest monthly expense. Cut this one down and you can slice hundreds of dollars per month off your expenses.

It can also be one of the most difficult to cut. Moving costs money. Finding a less expensive place to live that suits all of your needs can be difficult. But if you can make it happen you’ll do your finances a huge favor.

frugal living cat

3. Get repairs done right.

When something in your home or car needs repairs, get the job done right. This doesn’t mean be a sucker for every suggested repair, but to spend enough to have the job done right the first time so that you won’t have the thing break down again in a month or two. Mechanics and repairmen can sometimes suggest a cheaper alternative to what really needs to be done when you’re concerned about price, but that may only delay the work that really needs to be done.

Whenever possible, get it done right the first time… and know how they warranty their work in case something goes wrong again. I’ve had my mechanic repeat a repair for free because something didn’t go quite right the first time he did it.

Think carefully, however, before buying an extended warranty. Make sure you know what you’re really getting before you pay for it. Often they’re nothing more than an added expense and don’t give you anything in return. How often have you had something break during what would have been the extended warranty period?

I have bought the extended warranty for a few items, and for a couple, it was even worth it. My laptop developed a bad line across its screen just a few months before the extended warranty ended. The store had to install a new screen for me. I probably would have purchased a new laptop rather than replace the screen otherwise. Laptop screens are on the pricey and difficult side to replace. The store really grumbled about the whole process.

4. “Sale” doesn’t mean “buy now.”

We all love a bargain. Sales are wonderful ways to save money on the things you need, but they’re also great for getting you to spend more money than you should. Just because you see a good deal doesn’t mean you should forget to consider whether or not you need that item right then.

I find it helpful to remember that most items will go on sale again at a later date if it’s something I might need later, but not right now. Stores often have a cycle they go through for their sales. If you know how often things go on sale, you can buy them at a good price when you need them, not just because you saw the deal and didn’t want to pass it up. And if you don’t really need it, even a great deal on it shouldn’t matter at all.

This also goes for any dollar stores you visit regularly. I belong to a Facebook group for my favorite dollar store, and it amazes me how much stuff some people buy there. I mostly get food there (they have an amazing fresh produce section), but many people get all kinds of home decor and other stuff there. Some even get to the point where they know they’re overspending, but they can’t resist the bargains.

Overspending, even on super good deals, is not a part of smart frugal living. No matter how good the deal is, think about whether you need the item or not.

frugal garden

5. Consider your health.

Don’t be so frugal that you damage your health. Don’t be too cheap to eat right, go to the doctor and dentist, take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself in general now can save you a lot of money and discomfort in the long run. This can include simple activities such as taking regular walks to keep fit.

Unless your doctor says you need them, skip the vitamin supplements. Most do little more than give you expensive urine. Some vitamins can even damage your health if you take too much of them.

Make sure you pay attention during open enrollment times for your health insurance.  If your employer offers a variety of selections, you should review your coverage choices every year. You can save a lot of money if you switch to a cheaper plan that still offers all the coverage you need. You won’t find a cheaper plan every time, but it can be a huge deal when you do.

If you have space, starting a garden can be a wonderful source of fresh produce. Even an apartment balcony may be used to grow tomatoes and other vegetables in pots. Think about your favorite vegetables and see if there’s a way you can grow them. So long as you don’t overspend on supplies, this can help you save money.

We planted fruit trees when we moved into our home as a way to save money in the long run. The trees are still young and don’t produce a lot yet, but in years to come, they’ll give us a lot of fruit to enjoy.

And of course, gardening is a nice form of exercise. It’s not terribly strenuous most of the time, but it gets you outside and doing things. That’s good for your health too.

growing money

6. Remember that smart frugal living only takes you so far.

Smart frugal living can help you reach a lot of financial goals, but it may not take you as far as you’d like. There are more important things to consider.

Increasing your income, for example, can do far more for your financial situation than most steps you take to live frugally. A raise from your current job can be a help, but sometimes finding a better job will do far more.

What you do with your savings matters as well. If being frugal is the only thing keeping you going financially, you may not have a lot of options. But if your frugality leaves you with money beyond what you need to live on, consider doing one of these things with it:

  • Pay off any remaining credit cards.
  • Pay off student loans.
  • Set up an emergency fund.
  • Put money into a 401(k).
  • Put money into a Roth IRA.
  • Contribute to a Health Savings Account (HSA).
  • Save toward a down payment on a home if you don’t own one.
  • Save toward a vacation.

Also remember that no matter how frugal you are, spend money on things because they’re fun once in a while. Take a family vacation. Go on a date.

These things don’t always have to cost a lot of money. A trip to a local campground can be a wonderful, memorable family experience. The same goes for a day at a local museum.

If you want to spend more money on experiences, have your family come up with ways to save money up for it. You can make that family vacation to Disneyland all the more memorable if you give the kids the pride of having helped save up for it.

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.

Last Updated July 18th, 2018

Are You Falling Into Frugality Traps?

Are You Falling Into Frugality Traps?

I love being frugal. Saving money is a constant goal of mine. But there are a lot of challenges to this. Make sure you’re aware of these frugality traps as you try to live a more frugal lifestyle.

Most of these frugality traps relate to failing to think about the long term. It’s easy to say that this item costs less than that item. But does the difference really justify buying the cheaper item? Not always, and that is what you have to think about.

Trap 1: Cheap Or Better Quality?

There are times where being frugal means spending more rather than less. Think about how long you are going to be using the item. If you’re buying generic rather than name brand foods, in most cases that makes good sense, especially since sometimes the two are made by the same company. Just different labels.

But other times you are buying things that you want to last. Then paying a bit more now means you will not be paying more later.

A simple example would be the cheese slicer I bought a while ago. The wire on the old one had broken and we couldn’t find a replacement wire. So off to the store for a new slicer.

One model had replacement wires in the box with it, while another cost a dollar less but had no replacement wires or obvious way to replace the wire. The wires themselves felt about the same. So I bought the one with the extra wires so that we won’t have to buy another the next time the wire breaks. And in my experience, they do break.

pennies

Trap 2: Overbuying

This is the danger of the warehouse store and the really good sale. You buy more than your family can use because darn it, it’s just such a great deal! How could you possibly go wrong?

In a lot of cases stocking up isn’t all that bad. You just don’t want to stock up on things that will go bad on you or take up more storage space than you can spare for it. As you shop, pay attention to when the food will expire.

In the case of clothing, think about whether or not all the stuff you are buying will really be worn. It can be especially easy to overbuy for babies and toddlers, who just look so cute in everything. Just remember that overbuying is why resale shops have so many clothes available with the tags still on them or clothes that look like new.

I always balance how much I buy with how often I’ll have to drive a significant distance to get more. Regular groceries, I know I can get more easily, the store is less than a mile away. I don’t buy more than I need over a short time, usually about a week.

Great deals I may get some extras anyhow. When meat of one sort or another is on a good deal and I have space in the freezer, it makes sense to buy extra and freeze it. If there’s no room in the freezer, it doesn’t matter how good the deal is. I don’t buy extra because we can’t use it.

But if it’s something I can get a better deal by going to Target or Costco, I often buy more. They take 20-30 minutes to get to, and then the same back. That’s a lot of gas for the car and time for me. If I head out to those places, the goal will be to get enough that I can avoid another trip there as long as possible.

My storage for such things is planned accordingly.

I still pay attention to how much I buy on such trips. There’s only so much space in my pantry and other storage spaces.

Trap 3: “But It’s On Sale!”

Similar to overbuying, buying something just because it is on sale is a big mistake. Think instead about whether or not you really need it. All too often, you won’t really need it.

Buying things you don’t need at discount stores is the same trap as buying things just because they’re on sale. I go to my local 99 Only store regularly. The main thing I buy there most trips?

Produce.

Their produce department is almost as good as the one at the regular grocery store, but the prices are significantly better for many things. I can get a bag of bell peppers for $2, usually with a mix of green, red, orange and yellow bell peppers.

I belong to a Facebook group where people share their finds from this store. Many of the members shop daily, some more than once. Some even say their husbands or significant others have had to limit how much they spend there because they buy so much.

I get it. The deals are often amazing. But how much do you really need?

money peanuts

Trap 4: Giving In To The Wrong Things

There are a few ways to give in. One is to go shopping while hungry. It’s said that you will buy a lot more food if you grocery shop while hungry. Your hunger just makes it easier to give in to temptation.

But if you’re shopping with the kids, it’s easy to give in to their ideas. “But Moooooommy!” If you’re a mom, you know the rest of that routine. Just remember that you are the example for your kids and that if you buy everything that they want, they’ll never understand why you talk so much about spending your money wisely.

I don’t mean that you shouldn’t ever give in. There are better and worse times to do so.

For example, we love to take our kids shopping with us when we go to Costco, and we always try to go at lunchtime.

The pizza and hot dogs at Costco are extremely affordable, as are the sodas. The kids feel like they got a treat, but we’ve spent a fraction of what we would have at a fast food place.

And then there are the free samples to top things off.

When my kids start wanting to buy a lot of treats is when I start reminding them to bring their own money. Sometimes the treat isn’t worth it if they’d have to spend their own.

Don’t forget the occasional, reasonably priced treat for yourself as well. It’s much easier to maintain self control if you allow yourself reasonable treats. You won’t feel so deprived that you just have to splurge on the big one.

Trap 5: Repair Or Replace?

This is one that can be true torture. The washing machine breaks. Is it time to replace it?

The main reason this is difficult is because so many things are designed these days to be cheaper to replace than to repair. But I would always suggest looking at the repair costs, especially if they turn out to be minor. Not every breakdown means a huge repair. Just think of all the little stuff you have to take your car to the shop for.

Once you decide to repair, make sure that you get it done right. Having to get a repair done over again is guaranteed to increase the cost.

For your car, this means picking a really good mechanic. Ask around. You can generally find a friend or neighbor who knows a truly wonderful and affordable mechanic.

For other repairs, do your homework. Get quotes for really big repairs, and don’t ask for the shortcuts if it means the repair won’t hold up.

money umbrella

Trap 6: Focusing More On Saving Than On Earning

Saving money on the things you need or want makes sense. Know what makes even more sense?

Increasing your income.

In the long run, if you want to have more money saved up for the big things you want in life, a larger income may do more for you than being frugal. You still can’t overspend when you have a larger income, but it will give you more flexibility.

Earning a larger income also helps as the cost of things go up. Frugality won’t beat out inflation. Increasing your income might.

Let’s assume your family’s monthly expenses are $3,000. That may be low or high, depending on the size of your family and where you live. The average cost of living depends on a lot of factors. This includes mortgage or rent, groceries, insurance, car payment, phone, utilities and so forth. All the things you have to spend money on every month.

You spend some time bringing some of the individual costs down. You find a way to cut your monthly expenses by $400. It was tedious but feels really good. You now have a little more flexibility in your budget.

The problem is that once those expenses are cut, there’s nowhere to go.

If you want to have more money available to your family, you have to earn more money. You have a number of options to do this.

Improve Your Career

For parents who work, putting some effort into improving your career can pay off very well.

This doesn’t have to be at your current job, of course. If your current job is going nowhere, the improvement you need to make to your career is to get into a better one. It’s time to upgrade your skills.

But if you have good opportunities at your current job, find out how to make the most of them. Look into what it takes to get the best raises. Figure out which promotion opportunities interest you. Discover how to get from where you are in your career to where you want to be.

Sometimes you can stay in your industry, but change employers to improve your career. Current employers don’t always value employees as they should. If you should be earning more in your current job, or you aren’t getting the promotions you think you deserve, it’s probably time to move on.

Don’t quit your job to look for better opportunities, however. Most employers want to see that you’re currently working. It often improves your value in their eyes.

Have Both Parents Work

If your family has one parent working while the other stays at home, having the stay at home mom or dad start working can be a quick way to increase the family’s income.

This can be difficult when the kids are young enough that childcare is an issue. It’s not at all uncommon that childcare expenses will take up an excessive part of the family’s income, or even exceed the total of one parent’s paycheck.

Sometimes this means it’s not worthwhile to have both parents work outside the home. Other times it means you need to look at the long term.

If the income issue is short term, for example, it can be worthwhile to take the financial hit for a time, with the understanding that a future increase in income will take care of that problem.

Other times you may need to look at alternative arrangements. I know families where one parent works during the day and the other at night while the children are young. It’s hard on the marriage seeing each other so little, but it can be a worthwhile sacrifice to keep the family financially afloat.

You may also be able to find friends or family who are willing to help with childcare as needed at little to no cost. Don’t push someone if they aren’t willing – this works best when someone comes forward to offer and you discuss the arrangements in detail.

Or you could always…

Start A Side Gig Or Find A Way To Work At Home

Starting a side gig or finding a way to work at home is my favorite way to help out a family’s income. You may or may not need more childcare when you do this, but you can plan this out to deal with the fact that you have kids.

Some side gigs and work at home jobs really aren’t good if you must have the children with you. You don’t want to drive for Lyft if you don’t have enough time without the kids.

Customer service jobs and other jobs over the telephone can be problematic if you have children as well. Some of these jobs require absolutely no background noise, or you’re likely to get fired. You don’t want to lose your job just because the kids didn’t understand that they needed to let you work.

Fortunately, there are a number of side gigs and other ways to work at home that are flexible enough that you can do them even with the kids around. Fewer distractions are better for productivity, but not an absolute must for some of these positions:

  • blogging
  • transcription
  • social media management
  • website testing
  • software development
  • website design
  • babysitting
  • selling crafts on Etsy or similar
  • writing
  • mystery shopping

While having kids underfoot can make these jobs more difficult, they don’t make it impossible. That’s a huge help when you need to earn money from home and can’t pay a sitter.

Invest

The younger you start investing in things such as your retirement, the better off you will be in the long run. Even stay at home moms and dads should plan for retirement whenever possible.

It’s rarely easy to find ways to add to your investments when you’re on a tight budget. But do what you can.

If you have a job that offers a 401k, for example, make the most of it. This is especially important if your employer gives matching contributions to whatever level. If you can max that out, the money is out of your reach before it hits your bank account, and that’s often easier to deal with.

If you have the self control, consider contributing to a Roth IRA or Spousal IRA if you have a spouse who doesn’t work. This money will make a huge difference to you later in life.

I hope these tips help you to avoid the most common frugality traps. It’s sensible to be frugal, so long as you don’t take it to extremes. Be sure to balance it with progress toward a higher income so that you don’t run out of ways to save money when you need them most.

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.

Last Updated April 5th, 2018

What Things Should You Buy In Bulk?

What Things Should You Buy In Bulk?

Have you ever noticed how much you can save when buying in bulk? When you do it right, the price per unit savings are amazing. Do it wrong, however, and you waste a lot of money. What things should you buy in bulk?

Let’s start with the most important things you should NOT buy in bulk. That’s anything you aren’t prepared to deal with. If you can’t store it and/or use it in time, bulk buying it will be a waste of money. Okay? That’s just the beginning of what not to buy in bulk. There are a few more things you should consider before buying anything in bulk.

What To Consider Before Buying In Bulk

While you can save a lot of money buying in bulk, you can also waste a lot if you do it wrong. Start considering the financial angle before you buy a bunch of anything.

This includes if you can afford to buy in bulk, of course. If bulk buying is going to ruin your budget, it’s just not a good idea. It’s as simple as that.

You keep buying in bulk from ruining your budget by being sensible about it. Don’t buy everything you can in bulk right away. Spread your purchases out so they’re more affordable. And always, always watch for sales and other good deals.

You also need to consider how long your purchases will be good for. You don’t want to buy fruits and vegetables in bulk, for example, unless you’re ready to preserve them. Even then, you’re usually best off canning produce you’ve grown rather than bought unless you got a very good deal.

Other products expire too, of course. Make sure you know not only when the package says it expires, but when it really goes bad. A lot of expiration dates on packaging don’t mean all that much. Other times, they mean a lot.

Do you know where you’re going to keep all your bulk purchases? Storage is a huge problem when buying in bulk.

My husband likes to buy rice at Costco, for example. Those 50 pound bags aren’t exactly convenient to use or store. But we have a pretty good plan for using them. We break the rice up into smaller packages, some of which go into our earthquake kit. Doing it this way means the earthquake kit rice gets switched out regularly, keeping it fresh, and the huge bag of rice becomes manageable.

Make Buying In Bulk Make Sense

It’s easy to go overboard when buying in bulk. That huge package has to be a good deal, doesn’t it?

Bulk isn’t always the best deal, however. If you aren’t checking the price per unit in comparison with smaller purchases, you might not be getting the best deal. This is especially true if you consider weekly store deals and coupons. Sometimes smaller is better.

You can also keep from going overboard by planning your bulk buys with someone else. Find a friend or family member who would be willing to split larger purchases with you. This will allow you to get some deals that might otherwise be unreasonably large. Be sure to check in with them before you make a purchase so that you don’t find out after that they weren’t interested.

Bulk buying isn’t always about large packages, of course. Sometimes you bulk buy several normal size packages and put the extra in storage. I do this quite a bit when the dollar store by me has a great deal. Do your buying in bulk right and it will help you save on groceries.

What Goes Bad Easily?

Some things go bad in storage more easily than others. It’s just their nature. Here are some examples. I’m not going to list fruits and vegetables – you know those won’t last unless you work to preserve them!

Medications: It may seem like a good idea to keep a stash of medications, but make sure you know whether they’re safe if kept around for a while or not. Some merely decrease in effectiveness. Others become toxic. Read up on the particular medications you want to store so you know what happens to them over time.

Flour: Flour lasts for approximately a year in the pantry, less if it’s whole wheat. Whole wheat flour, in particular, may develop a rancid scent when it has gone bad.

Nuts: Nuts make a great snack, but they don’t last forever. If they have been stored too long, the oils in them will go rancid.

Spices: Lots of people have no idea if the spices they have in their cabinets are really all that good anymore. Spices lose their flavor over time. If the spice doesn’t smell as strong as it used to, it’s not as good as it was then either.

Soda: Soda may seem fairly shelf stable, but it’s awful if it manages to go bad. Besides, it’s not good for you. Keep your supply of soda limited. Besides, soda goes on sale pretty often. You don’t need to store that much of it.

Okay, okay, on to the things that you should consider buying in bulk.

What Should You Buy In Bulk?

The basic rule for things that you should buy in bulk is anything that’s a good deal, you can store, and it won’t go bad. Here are just a few things you can consider.

toilet-roll

Toilet Paper: You know you’re going to use up however much toilet paper you buy eventually. It won’t go bad, but it can be a pain to store if you buy more than a few packages. I keep our excess under the laundry room sink.

Detergent: Whether for the laundry or the dishwasher, you can often get your best deals on detergent in larger packages.

Soap And Shampoo: Soaps and shampoos don’t tend to go bad. If you can get a good deal, go for it. Watch your price per unit, though. Sales and coupons can make smaller amounts a better deal fairly often. I like to buy large containers of liquid soap and pour it into smaller containers for use.

Dry Rice: I mentioned above how we buy the 50 pound bags of rice at Costco. Dry rice lasts indefinitely if properly stored. It’s well worth buying in bulk if you have large containers you can seal it into.

rice

Dry Beans: If your family eats them, anyhow. I keep some around, but my kids don’t like them at all, so I don’t bulk buy these personally. They are in my earthquake kit because they can be stored indefinitely.

Dry Pasta: Pasta, on the other hand, my kids will eat. Dry pasta is easy to make but doesn’t go bad quickly so long as it’s dry.

cereal

Cereal: I love it when I spot a really good deal on a cereal my family enjoys. The box size is usually the same as normal, so you just have to buy more boxes when a good deal comes around. I’ve often seen boxes that are normally over $4 each drop to $1.25 each at times. It keeps well so long as the package is sealed.

Canned Food: Most canned food will still be good beyond the best by date printed on the can. You probably don’t want to buy canned food in extra large cans unless you have a need for that quantity all at once. It won’t stay good forever once that can has been opened.

soup cans

Cooking Oil: With a caveat. Don’t buy more cooking oil than you can use before it goes rancid. Different types last anywhere from a few months to a couple years once opened.

Meat If You Have The Freezer Space: If you have the freezer space and can seal the meat up properly, you can get a much better deal on it in bulk. Some people even buy a whole, half, or quarter cow. It may cost more than prepackaged beef, but it’s usually a higher quality beef. For most of us, the warehouse store is just fine.

Pet Food: Most pet foods are dry or canned. They keep pretty well. Dry pet foods should be kept in a sealed container after opening, not only so that it stays fresh, but so that it doesn’t attract pests.

Printer Paper: My kids can go through a fair bit of printer paper for school projects at times. Some are turned in online, but there are times that they have to hand assignments in after printing them out. I also keep a small supply of printer cartridges on hand – the off brand ones are cheap and work just fine for our needs. Keep a supply of binder paper on hand if you have kids in school too. You never know when they’ll need more… aside from about an hour after the office supply store closes the night before the assignment is due.

Pens And Pencils: Kids in school go through a lot of pencils, and pens love to get lost. Put those together, and you could probably use to keep a supply of these on hand. Extra pencils are also nice if your kids’ teachers sometimes send supply requests home. Pencils are almost always on the list.

There are many other things you can buy in bulk. Many household supplies, office supplies, and personal care items can be bought in bulk. Some will expire; others won’t. Make sure that if the container is too large for convenience that you have a way to move the product into a container you can use. Think about toothbrushes, dental floss, pads or tampons, light bulbs, storage bags, and your preferred cleaning products for around the house.

Where Can You Buy In Bulk?

You can buy in bulk many places. Warehouse stores are a popular option for buying packages that are actually larger than normal. However, you can also buy in bulk at your normal stores. Just watch the sales and coupons. Normal size packages can be worth buying in bulk when the right deals come along.

If you have a good dollar store by you, they can be great for bulk buying as well. The one by me gets some amazing deals… you just have to catch them before the product runs out. That happens fast when the deal is really good. Sometimes it’s snack foods such as granola bars, but healthier items come in as great deals too.

Don’t forget to check online. Some products are cheaper on Amazon than they are locally. Prices vary over time, so you will need to look at the things you buy and compare prices for yourself. They sell some products in bulk sizes.

Take a look around in your area and figure out what places are your best options for you to buy in bulk. Much of your success with this will depend on what’s in your area.

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.

Last Updated March 22nd, 2018

How to Save Money on Children’s Clothing

How to Save Money on Children's Clothing

How much do you spend on children’s clothing? It’s easy to spend too much. They outgrow clothes so quickly, especially during growth spurts. Finding ways to save money on children’s clothing can be a help to your budget.

Some tactics are easier when the kids are younger and don’t much care about where their clothes come from. Older kids may want more say in what they wear and where their clothes come from.

The first rule is, of course, to avoid impulse shopping. Buying only what you need will always help you save money.

Infants and Toddlers

Infants and toddlers are in many ways the easiest to shop for, if also the most tempting for dressing them up cute. Most parents end up with far too many clothes for their kids at this age after baby showers. They’re so easy to buy for and the clothing is often just so cute.

If you had a baby shower, take a good look at what you really have for your baby before you start buying. You may not need that much. Keep doing this as your kids grow and you fail to realize just how many clothes they have received as birthday presents or at other times.

It’s also a great time for shopping thrift and resale shops. An amazing amount of infant and toddler clothing makes into such places unworn or so close to it you’d scarcely notice the difference. The savings can be a real delight.

Don’t stress about sizes on baby clothes. They vary so much! Go by what fits your child, not by what the tag says. This will be true to a degree as kids get older, but is especially an issue in baby clothes.

Shopping for Older Children

As kids get older, shopping for them gets more difficult. Even preschoolers may start to develop a distinct fashion sense or start to prefer name brand clothing. Gently used clothing that still meets their preferences becomes more and more difficult to find.

You can still find some good clothing at resale or thrift shop for your kids. As they develop an interest in how they are dressed you will need to let them help you pick appropriate clothing. Some kids can develop a real sense for the bargains to be had at resale shops.

As long as you can, discourage them from wanting only brand names. And if brand name isn’t in your budget, consider it a lesson for your children on living within your means. There is no rule saying children have to be dressed in brand name clothing, no matter how much they want to be like their friends.

Outlet shops can also be a great resource. When you give in on brand names, try the outlet shops rather than the department stores. You should be aware of the regular price as well as what you could get the items on sale for, so you know what a good price is at the outlet.

Shopping at the right time matters as well. You won’t always have your choice with kids – if they have a growth spurt and outgrow the clothes you have for them sooner than you are ready for them to do so.

But whenever you can, be prepared to shop at the right time. Good times to find the best deals include the end of the season and after holidays. Just be careful about buying too much in advance – you might end up buying items that never get worn.

Then there’s the piece of advice my son’s pediatrician gave at his most recent checkup. My son is at that age where he is getting tall! She told me to buy shorts rather than long pants as much as possible for him. Long pants are outgrown much more quickly than shorts.

Handmedowns

At any age, don’t forget the value of handmedown clothes for children. My sisters and I passed so many clothes down through the years, starting when the kids were babies. Some outfits made it through five kids, and there’s one jacket, still going strong, that is nearly 20 years old now. It’s still beautiful and every girl has been reluctant to give it up even after outgrowing it. Yes, that’s it in the snow picture above.

Handmedowns went so well for us that the younger kids had almost too many clothes at times, as each family would add just a few new items to the batch. It was pretty amazing how well this worked for us.

You can do handmedowns with friends too. All you need is a group of people willing to pass kids’ clothes back and forth, and kids with the right age separations to make it practical.

Some kids will get grumpy about handmedowns as they get older. The big thing I do is make sure that there are some new clothes for each child, and not just handmedowns.

Timing of handmedowns can help as well. My kids have to wear uniforms to school, so they get their handmedown clothes at the end of the school year, when they can actually wear them regularly. This makes them a lot more exciting. They get out of school and have a whole new wardrobe for summer!

Kids who don’t have school uniforms are more likely to appreciate new clothes when school starts. There’s something so nice about having new clothes for school, and I think most of us remember that. Even if it’s just new to your child and not new from the store.

Online Shopping

Shopping online with a trusted merchant can be a fair deal as well. You can find quite a range of clothing at Amazon, for example. The one disadvantage is that the clothes cannot be tried on beforehand. If you have Amazon Prime, it’s usually not much of a problem, as many clothes will have free shipping.

There are a lot of other places online where you can get children’s clothes for cheap. If you want used clothes, ThredUp may be an option.

Rarely Worn Clothes

Some clothes your kids will wear only rarely. Sometimes you can get away with buying an extra large size in rarely worn clothes, so that you get an extra year or so out of them.

Think about winter jackets in places with mild winters. My kids need a heavy jacket no more than a couple times a year, so if I have to buy one, I get it in a larger size than they need. Same for snow boots. Boots can be worn with extra socks to make them fit better, which isn’t a bad idea in cold weather anyhow.

Don’t buy oversize in things that oversize will be uncomfortable or awkward. You want your kids to use the clothes, not hate them.

Sell Old Clothes

If you aren’t doing handmedowns, selling old clothes can be a great way to get some money back on anything your kids haven’t completely ruined. Many will go through phases where they ruin a lot of clothes, but anything still in good shape could be sold.

You can go the traditional route and have a garage sale every year or two, for example. You can sell some clothes on eBay or Poshmark, or sell them to ThredUp or Swap.com. Just make sure you understand what you’re getting into if you send your clothes to ThredUp so that you aren’t disappointed in what they give you.  And of course you can shop for clothes on any of these as well.

Some people do well selling their clothes on Instagram. The advantage here is that you don’t pay a commission, although you may have to deal with Paypal fees.

Avoid Single Use Items

When it comes to special occasions, it can be easy to want to buy something special for your child. These special items can cost more than regular clothes, yet you might only use them once.

Special occasion clothes were always my favorites for handmedowns or thrift stores. They don’t cost much that way.

I also do what I can to find special clothes that can be worn more than once. Don’t choose a super Christmas-y outfit for a child if there’s one that could be used for other holidays as well.

I also suggest buying fancy shoes for kids as rarely as possible. Kids want to run around, and fancy shoes make that more difficult. Sure, they’re cute, but they scuff up too easily, or the decorations get ruined. Kids don’t need really dressy shoes for most occasions. Take some time to consider if this is really one of those times.

It’s not always easy to save money on children’s clothing. Doing so can mean you teach them not only about how to look nice but also how to live within your means. Both can be valuable lessons.

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.