On all the blogs I read, I can find many different ways to save money. Now to some people, these ideas may not seem like a lot. But, if you combine and use many ideas you can save a bundle of money on your household expenses. Here are some ways I have cut some bills and budget line items...
First: have a budget. It works. Sometimes I don't like it. Mostly I do. Its helpful to know how much you can spend in a certain category and not cause a huge budget crisis! I am not hesitant to call Greg and have a "cell phone emergency budget" meeting if I find a great deal and need more money. We follow the Dave Ramsey approach and it works! Give it a try!
Second: be realistic about what you can economize on in your budget. I can adjust the thermostat for heat down in the winter or the thermostat up for air up in the summer. This is where the realistic part comes in...at 95+ degrees & 100% humidity, I am willing to adjust the air but NOT turn it off. Not everyone can economize in the same areas and get the same results, it varies from family to family.
Specific areas we are working on are...
Groceries: We try to buy less proccessed stuff. I would rather have real food than fancy packaging. We make our own bread, pancakes, waffles, muffins, etc. We do buy some breakfast cereal (I have loved Cheerios for years). Google (or swagbucks) is a great search tool for finding "mixes" so you don't buy the packaged ones. We make our own taco seasoning, seasoning salt for grilling, hot chocolate and spiced tea. They save money, are easy to assemble and aren't full of artificial junk. We usually bake our own treats. I buy meat in the "meat managers special" section at Kroger. Also, look after Thanksgiving & Christmas for specials on Turkeys & Hams. The stores are trying to get rid of them + I have a freezer = perfect combination! Sometimes buying in bulk is not cheaper, you need to be very familiar with prices of items you buy regularly. We buy 100% juice and not punch for drinking...not cheaper but healthier! Combine store sales and coupons whenever you can for huge savings. Stock up when you can. Make a menu, make a grocery list, pull your coupons, and go to the grocery. I posted in Jan. that I wanted to cut $100 off our grocery budget and was successful for Jan. & Feb. using the above ideas. I usually grocery shop on Friday morning (fixin to go!) or Tuesdays after I drop the girls off for dance. Our sales change here on Wed., so Tuesdays are usually to pick up more bargains or Fridays are to get deals before they are gone.
Garden: Try growing some vegies & fruit for your family. This is usually cheaper than buying, even from a farmers market. We are starting a lot of plants from seeds this year. The kids and I had fun at Walmart picking different things. I will buy my tomato plants, I just don't have good luck starting these from seed. We are going to try to eat our own blueberries this year, instead of the birds eating them. We've got seeds for hot peppers, bell peppers, cantaloupe, bush beans, pole beans, peas, cucumbers, yellow squash, flowers & many more. Our peach tree is full of beautiful pink blossoms, so hopefully that will equal some peaches for eating and peach jelly. A .99 package of seed could equal many pounds of produce.
Household: Besides adjusting the thermostat, you can cut off the lights. Do you need all the lights on downstairs during the day when its sunny outside? In our living room, we don't, over the school table in the kitchen, we do. Remind the kids to turn off lights, radios, tv's, cd players, etc. when they leave a room. We don't have anything on during the day for "background" noise. A mom, 3 teenagers, and 2 dogs provide enough noise! Unplug some rarely used appliances. I only preheat the oven for baking, everything else, I just turn it on and stick the food in. Your freezer works better if its full. Also, keep in mind your freezers job is just to freeze food, not to cool it down and then freeze it.
Laundry: Make your own laundry detergent & fabric softener. At the most, it takes 10 minutes for the detergent and 2 for the softener. And you save a boatload of money. Sales and coupons are great for these things but I can spend $8 and have the supplies for laundry detergent for a whole year. Unless you have a source for free detergent, you can't beat that. In the spring, summer, and fall we hang our clothes on the clothes line. At the end of the day, I usually have one small load of really stiff clothes that I tumble in the dryer for about 15 or 20 minutes: jeans and bath towels. But that 15- or 20 minutes uses much less electricity than 4-5 hours for the dryer to be on for all the loads of laundry. Plus, it helps keep the house much cooler.
Homeschool: We buy ALL our school supplies in August & September. Then we pull them out as needed during the year. Crayons, markers, pencils, glue, notebook paper, dividers, spiral notebooks, etc. They are dirt cheap at stores like Target, Office Depot, Walmart & Staples. And, after school starts back sometimes they reduce them even further making these things cost pennies apiece. If you don't need it all for school, fill your shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, or backpacks for the needy or take it to a Childrens Hospital, or donate it to your childrens ministry at church, or make art kits for nieces & nephews for Christmas. Look for used school books on ebay, amazon, book sales or paperback swap. Not everything has to be brand new from the manufacturer. You can find lots of free worksheets, word searches, etc. for studies on the internet. Have fun...be creative...enjoy your time...they will graduate before you know it!
Eat at home. Sometimes for me, this is hard, I really like to go out to eat. But this is an area that many families spend hundreds on weekly or monthly. We do have a eating out budget and sometimes we stay on budget,but not consistently enough. This is where having a menu, fully stocked pantry & freezer and time, come in handy.
Here is a biggie.....STAY HOME! Saves gas, money, your nerves, etc. I try to bundle errands together. I am gone longer but only make one trip. I would love to get back to 1 day per week for errands, but haven't accomplished that in a long time. We do limit our trips into stores...just to look. If I am going clearance rack shopping, we go to a bunch of stores in one day. Somedays are very successful (like our .99 shirts at Penneys in the fall) but most of the time we just look. Greg & I run family errands on Sat., we make a list and go to every store and buy whats on the list (mostly!). I usually grocery shop on Friday morning (fixin to go!) or Tuesdays after I drop the girls off for dance. Then we are home for the rest of the day. We are not big movie goers. He recently joined Netflix so we can catch what we missed at the theater. We try to only go on "shopping sites" online when we are looking for something specific.
So why save money? You never know when an emergency will happen (ER visits, work layoffs, cutbacks, etc). these emergencies have all happened in our family in the past year. You can give to others, charities, churches, missions, food banks, etc. You can pay off a large item (for us, its working on the house mortgage). You can go on some awesome vacations...we are leaving in a month and driving to the Grand Canyon. You can invest in your family!
Please go to www.lifeasmom.com for more Frugal Friday ideas! Hey, it you are already paying for the internet....visiting the site is free!