Help Budgeting

Updated on June 18, 2009
S.K. asks from Crystal Lake, IL
25 answers

Hi Moms-
My husband and I just got the horrible news that he will be losing his job within the next 60 days. Although he has time to look for another job before this one is done altogether, in this economy, we can't count on anything happening too quickly. We just had another baby two months ago, and we were also forced to buy another car in the past month too, so our expenses have just shot up. I have always been able to spend as I please, although I never really spend too outragiously anyway, but I know that this will need to end NOW, and we need to start saving every penny. My salary alone doensn't even pay our mortgage.
Do any of you have money saving ideas that you could share with me, just even as far as taking shorter showers, open windows instead of using the air, etc.
I also have a young children, and I feel horrible, but I am going to need to pull my son from park district classes this summer now... any ideas on free summer entertainment?
Also, are there any websites that might be able to help me learn to budget meals, where I can say I only want to spend $5 per lunch and $10 per dinner, and it will give suggestions on what to make? I am terrified.

3 moms found this helpful

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond to my posting. The outpour of support and suggestions was far more than I expected--- you moms really are great! I have made a list of the various websites that were recommended and I plan on investigating those over the next several days, as my sons nap. I also have already implemented several of the money-saving suggestions: I returned any unneeded purchases that I have recently made, turned off the air and opened the windows, have opened all the blinds instead of using lights, unplugged all lamps and small appliances while they are not being used, as well as discussed the many planned changes with my husband to make sure he is on board. I am going to make the best of this.... there is no other choice.

Featured Answers



answers from Chicago on

Try going to I'm not going to say much as a whole bunch of people have already said a lot. But hang in there!

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Chicago on

I'll echo most of what's being said here. We are also on a very tight budget, so every bit counts. We RARELY go out to eat. Seriously, like, never. It's a luxury, not a necessity.
--I do all of my meal planning for a whole month and then do the majority of my grocery shopping in one large trip with the occasional trip to the store each week to get milk. For my family of 4 (two little ones under 4), I can get groceries to under $250 a month, usually. I will be more than happy to share what I do with you!
--Only buy things on sale. The exception might be milk, but Meijer and Jewel have it on sale all the time--or at least Meijer kicked back their price to $1.98.
--I usually only buy store brands because it's a whole lot cheaper--even when the name brands are on sale. Chances are, they're made by the same manufacturer with a different label.
--We don't drink much soda at all. I make iced tea. Or Kool-aid, if you want. Just reduce the amount of sugar you put in it.
--Buy meat in family packs (on sale) and divide it up and freeze it. If you have a Meijer, they often have reduced price meats (Tuesdays and Saturdays in the morning seem to be the time) for 20% or 40% off the price. As long as you use it right away or freeze it right away, it's all good.
--Buy bread at the outlet. I can often get 2 loaves of bread for 99 cents. was a great idea. We use Microsoft Money and track everything. I rethink purchases when I know I have to keep track of it.
--Make your own coffee. You can even make the fancy stuff. Starbucks is a rip--it's good, but it's a rip.
--Buy laundry detergent by the bucket at Sears. It's good stuff and it's worth the savings.
--We only turn our AC on when we have to, and then we set it to 82, no questions. We have ceiling fans to help circulate the air. We spend more time in the basement to keep cooler.
--I grill out as much as I can during the summer to save that cost of energy. Or use a crock pot. Or the microwave. I have a ton of great recipes that cost very little (grilled pizza, anyone?). Frozen fries even work on the grill.
--I make a lot of meals from scratch. It may take a little more time, but it saves a lot--and it's healthier!
--Go to Kraft online and sign up for their free Food & Family magazine. You can get some great meal ideas (and not even necessarily use their products).
--ALDI is another great place to shop, though you can't use credit card. (we use our credit card for a lot to get the cash back but pay off the balance every month)
--If there's a Caputo's near you, check it out for produce--great prices and good stuff!
--SuperTarget is the cheapest place for canned pasta sauce. So what if it's in a can? The Hunt's stuff is still good! They often have comparable prices for juice, frozen potatoes, canned tomatoes and fruit, cereal, etc.
--Our church has a free kids' event the third week in July for ages 3-grade 6. Absolutely free. Lunch included. It's something to do!
--Go to the library. Especially on hot days. Gail Borden in Elgin has a great play area for the kids. Free movies to borrow--and you can often get the recent ones.
--Redbox is another great deal if you like movies. Okay, it's $1 a day and if you sign up for you can often get promo codes for a free movie. Why spend money you don't have to?
--We don't have cable. With the HD stuff we get tons of channels for free. We have a good antenna in our attic, which helps.
--I don't have a cell phone. You probably need yours. We have a landline combined with internet. If you search for CUB online they can help you determine if you're paying too much for your phone bills.
--We signed up for Real-Time with ComEd. Theoretically, we're saving money by not using much electricity during peak hours.
--The newspaper is a "splurge" for us, but we do the automatic payment for $6 a month and then we get info on potential events (free) in our area, garage sales, and the Sunday coupons.
--Check out or

I'm sure I have more tips, but this is long enough. :-)

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Firt of all when there is a will there is a way. My husband brings home about $1750 every two weeks and we have a $1471 mortgage plus a $358 van payment. Then all the normal bills like water, basic phone, gas, and electricity.

Here is how we make it:

1.) No cell mom actually put me on her plan recently for $10 a month so I do have one now, but I'm 41 and this is my first cell phone.

2.) No tv...we have a tv but no pragramming. We check-out movies from the library and watch one a week from Redbox for a $ can rent them online and then go pick them up and then return them at any redbox location. My kids don't beg for things because they don't see commercials. My husband and I get a whole lot more done because we aren't sitting in front of the boob tube for an hour, two hours or more everyday. And we don't have to explain every overly sexual commercial or show to our six and four year old children.

3.) The park district has lots of free activities to do with fishing days, nature hikes, and so the park district in your county and sign up for a newsletter and they will send you stuff about events.

4.) Our local library always has activities and crafts going on for free.

5.) Woodstock Classic Cinemas has a movie every Wed morning at 10am for $1 that's PG or G rated....check out the Classic Cinema in your area to see their movie schedule for Wednesday mornings. They are pretty inexpensive all the way around.

6.) We shop at Aldi for 90% of our groceries. We then shop a little at Costco and occassionally have lunch there since it's cheap in the food court. We also shop a little at Woodman's. I keep my reciepts in an envelope so I can compare the prices of things we buy all the time because I have a terrible time remembering what things cost.

7.) We rarely eat out. Once every two weeks at Costco food court when we shop. Maybe a trip to McDonald's every few months. Cooking at home is much cheaper than eating out...and my hubby always takes food to work...he Never eats out unless someone else is willing to pick up the tab and he has some good buddies at work that will do that from time to time because they know we are living on one income.

8.) We buy our clothes on sale or clearance. Most of which comes from places like Walmart, Target, Kohls or the Outlet Mall. My MIL picks up the cutest dresses at the thrift store for the girls for $3 and $4 dollars. Some even still have the store tags.

9.) We do our own lawn...we can't afford a service.

10.) I plan out a menu every two weeks then write my grocery list...I include a few snacks as well. I stick to my list and that saves us a huge amount of money and waste at the grocery store.

11.) I buy Walmart laundry detergent and it works great.
I make my own cleaner for the kitchen from 1 oz vinegar, 1 oz lemon juice, and about 4 oz of cleans very well if I spray and let it sit a few minutes and it shines my black stove way better than any of the store bought cleaners I've used.

12.) I use baking soda with my toothpaste to polish my teeth.

13.) I don't get my nails done or my hair done. I actually whack my own hair. A curling iron covers a multitude of sins. :) I would love to get my hair done, but we can't afford it. My husband looks for coupons to get his hair trimmed so he never pays more than about $10 and he pushes out his hair cuts to about six weeks instead of every three or four. If I could buzz his head right, we would do that, but he has a peanut shaped head with a big knot at the back and it's not easy.

14.) I always look in the clearance aisles at Walmart for craft items that I can do with the kids...same with Jo-Anne Fabrics, Micheals, and Hobby Lobby. You would be amazed at what you can find for a buck.

15.) I planted a few veggies around the girls playhouse to teach them some lessons about growing things and help out with the fresh veggies in summer.

16.) I check books out from the library or my MIL finds great deals at the thrift store for 50 cents if I find the time to read.

I think pride is the biggest thing that gets in the way of many families saving money and living within their means. Honestly I don't care what other people think. My kids wear shoes from Payless and they haven't suffered any foot ailments...nor have I growing up because my parents were military and couldn't afford much either. We don't wear name brand clothing unless it comes from a relative that gives us girls are at the age that they don't care. Wouldn't matter if they did because we have to live within our means and that's the way I was taught and that's what my girls will understand as well.

I'm sure that my neighbors think I'm a redneck skin-flint because we live in a neighborhood where some seem to think they are better than others and look down their noses at those that try to only spend what they make. But my family is doing well. I'm home with my kids and they are better off for it.

Does it get depressing sometimes? Yes, but I keep thinking about how great it has been for me, my kids, and my family in general.

I can cook for them really healhty meals...not whatever I can throw together in my tired haze after coming home from work.

I can do things with my kids like read with them nightly, do activities, projects and go for walks.

I can do home improvement projects because I have the time.

I can research things that will help my family when I need to.

I can take my kids to neat activities and events because I"m home. My kids aren't stuck at a daycare with a million other kids fighting for a minute of individualized attention from ladies that really don't know or love my children the way I do. I can raise and instruct my children every minute of the day and thus they learn lessons faster than if they were at daycare and I was trying to instruct them in the two or three hours at night after I got home from work.

The benefits of being home with the kids is great and your husband can do all of these things too. Maybe if he can find a better job than he had before, you can stay home with your kids and enjoy the pleasures of raising a family rather than the rat race to get things shoved into a few minutes each night.

You can make it, but you have to be willing to sacrafice....put the credit cards away. If you don't have the money for it, then you probably don't need it. Don't carry them in your purse or you will be tempted to use them for unnecessary expenses and thus run up some major debt while your husband is looking for a job.

Good luck!! My husband is facing a possible layoff in July...we are preparing as well.

check out the for budget meals....REader's Digest also has budget meals each month (go to the library and check them out)

Here are a few recipes that are good and inexpensive (remember most meals made from scratch are way cheaper than packaged stuff and more nutritious too):

Chili Con Carne
(The New Junior Cookbook from Better Homes and Gardens)

1 small onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 15 ½ ounce can kidney beans
1 15 ounce can tomato sauce (I use two little cans)
1 tsp chili powder
¾ tsp salt
Corn chips (optional)
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Jalapenos (optional)
Sour crème (optional)

Brown the beef with the onion and green pepper. Drain the fat from the pan. Add all the ingredients except the corn chips and mix well. Heat on high heat until it comes to a boil. The simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally so it won’t stick to the pan.

Serve in bowls with corn chips, cheese, jalapenos and so forth if you wish.

Makes 4 to 5 servings.

I usually add a 1 (15 ½ oz) can of diced tomatoes as well for body and more nutrition.

And if you don’t keep fresh bell peppers in the fridge because they go bad before you can use them, then cut up a few and keep them in the freezer for you to take from when you need them.




Garlic Chicken Bites

2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized strips
¼ cup garlic olive oil *
½ tsp black pepper
½ cup bread crumbs
¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Marianade chicken strips in garlic olive oil and pepper for 30 minutes or more. Drain off excess marinade. Preheat oven to 475 F.

Mix bread crumbs with cayenne. Dip both sides of chicken strips in mixture**. Arrange strips in one layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes; turn and bake 5 more minutes. Serve warm and dip in honey mustard sauce.

* I made my own garlic oil with olive oil and a few
cloves minced garlic.
**I just shook strips in a bag with bread crumb

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
(a Kraft Magazine recipe)

½ cup Kraft Classic Caesar Dressing, divided
(I used Marzetti’s Creamy Caesar)
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut up into bite size pieces
4 thick slices Italian bread
1 clove of garlic, peeled and cut in half
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 cups torn romaine lettuce
3 Tbs Kraft grated Parmesan Cheese

Pour 2 Tbsp dressing over chicken in a resealable plastic bag. Seal the bag; turn to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to marinate. (I just let it set while I prepared everything else….like veggies on skewers to grill along side)

Heat grill to medium heat. Remove chicken from the marinade; discard the marinade. Thread chicken onto 4 skewers. Grill for 6 to 8 minutes or until done, turning occasionally (I turned once).

Add bread to the grill; cook 1 minute on each side or tunil toasted on both sides. Rub toast with garlic; brush with oil.

Arrange toast and lettuce on platter; drizzle with remaining dressing. Top with chicken skewers and cheese.

Substitute Ranch for Caesar if you like.

I just served the chicken with grilled veggies. I think some corn on the cob or grilled asparagus would go nicely as well.

I also did not use additional dressing or cheese. It was great and the kids loved it as well.

Calories 380 calories with the bread and extra dressing…probably more like 200 for just the chicken. Protein about 31g Fat 19 total 4 saturated

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Hi S., My family had a major change in its financial picture about 2 years ago (70% decrease in monthly income). While you are trying to cut costs, you can try what we did:
-Before creating a budget start recording every single expenditure (use a notebook or a spreadsheet). Save every receipt and write down the amount spent, what it was for and how you paid. Especially important are all the little things you pay cash for. Start making a notation about how frequently the expense occurs: daily, bi-weekly, weekly, monthly, semi-annually, one-time, as needed, etc.
-As you record what you are spending write down anticipated expenses that occur infrequently. These are things like oil changes, doctor co-pays, gifts, parties, the trip to Sam's club, etc.
-After a few months the pattern of your expenditures will emerge. This is when you can start creating a budget that you can really stick to.
-Even after your financial situation improves, you should have a monthly budget. This way you will do a much better job of saving for emergencies, vehicle purchases, vacations, etc.
-What really worked for us was tracking our spending for about 4 months until we really figured out where the money was going. Then we got a credit card that pays us 2% of the balances into a 529 college savings fund. We use the credit card for everything possible (even the $1.25 purchase at Walgreens). (Before this I had a Starbucks credit card that helped support my coffee habit).
-We have two budgets: monthly revenue & expenses and non-monthly revenue & expenses. It took about a year to really get into the budget habit. But it's been so worth it. We've cut our monthly costs by 25% and our non-monthly costs by 80% (initially non monthly expenses were about one-third of all expenses).
-Everyone has given you good advice about using coupons, shopping at lower cost grocery stores, etc. The thing is, though, until you start religiously recording every single penny in and penny out you'll never get a feeling for all those purchases you make that seem so necessary, but really might not be.
-A common trap: great sale prices and bargains. We were surprised at how much we were spending on things that were "on-sale". You don't save money by spending it, no matter how great the price. Advertising is meant to make you spend your money, so try not to react to it.
-Your library will have lots of good books about having an organized financial life. Take out several books and leaf through them and use the ideas that work for you.
-I know you said "NOW", but being financially organized takes time and lots and lots of patience. Patience with yourself and your spouse. Keep talking to each other about this and focus on being completely honest about what and where each of you are spending the money. "Accidentally" not recording a purchase is just going to make your budget a lie.
-Budgeting was initially very hard and time-consuming, but ultimately very rewarding not just for our bank account, but for our marriage. You're forced to really discuss everything! One thing we did do to stop some of the stupid fighting was to allow each of us $100 in cash/month that was "free" money--that didn't needed to be accounted for. The way we did this was open free checking accounts and had the money direct deposited from my husband's paycheck. My husband saves up his money and buys big stuff. I treat myself to nice lunches or manicures and always run close to $0 before the next deposit.
-Incidentally: at the same time our monthly income dropped 70%, my sister's family income increased more than 5x due to a job change. A year later my sister said that it didn't matter that her husband got this great job with loads more money because they just started spending it and she suspected that maybe they were spending more than they were making (their income situation gets complicated by annual bonuses). So she asked me to help her set up a budget. She's still in the early stages (about 4 months into it), but she's already discovered that she's spending about $200/wk at her country club's restaurants (she thought it was closer to $50) and has huge monthly bills from Costco for bottled drinks. Her husband was being very resistant to accounting for what he spent--and very, very defensive, so they compromised and he gets $1,000/month in non-accounted for money and she gets a few hundred. This way he doesn't have to disclose how much he's really spending on cigars and whatever else!
-I was in the same boat as you: we made plenty of money and were saving and I never worried about what we were spending. Then the $ change and the need to really get a handle on expenses. We have developed so many good habits and important life lessons for our 2 children (they were accustomed to getting a toy or treat every time we went near a store!) that the whole thing has really been a blessing in disguise.
-You can do this and it will ultimately make your life easier.
Warmest regards, S.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on


I feel your pain. My husband is a carpenter and we own our own business and finances have been a problem for the last year for us also. We have a son who just finished his first year of college and we are not sure if we will be able to help him at all next year. Praise God he got a summer job with our Cities Park District and he can walk to work instead of spending gas money.
First thing is to start couponing when ever possible. check out these websites.
You can get some very good coupons.
Also check to see if there is a freecycle program in you local or surrounding town. . At the website people give items away that they wish to get ride of or you can make requests for items. Some one might just have an item and give it to you.
Many meals can be made very inexpensively if you just plan out your meals in advance and plan meals by what is on sale that week. Don't be afraid to make larger meals and then freeze some for a quick microwave lunch.
Don't always think cheaper is the best way. Example: If you buy Apple Juice NOT from Concentrate you can always add a little water to it because the the juice is not reconstituted it is straight juice.
Milk - Don't be afraid to buy store brand. Most store brands are bottled buy the company as the name brand they sell. For instance if the store sells Deans Milk, Deans more than likely bottled the store brand too. My uncle told me that when he worked for Deans in Chemung IL.
Make your own pudding cups. Buy a pudding mix and some small reusable containers and make up some individual pudding cups. You can do the same with jello cup. Buy cheese in larger blocks and cut it yourself instead of getting the precut at the deli. You can do the can with Ham. Try making soups from scratch instead of buying the canned. Make extra and freeze some for a lunch. Can do the same with chili. If you have a bread maker use it. You can also make good pizza dough using your bread maker. I could go on and on. Just ask friends for ideas, most everyone has some good ideas.
Couple other ways to cut back: Do you have cable that you spend over $30 a month. You need to cut back to the basic cable or satellite. That is a luxury and you should not be spending more that $20-$30 for that.
On your cell phone do you have all the frills, some that you could do without and lower your bill. You can always change providers and possible get a better rate?
When your car insurance comes due. Check around for better rates and you do not need the lowest deductible. You also should check your house insurance each year.
Do get regular manicures or hair colorings done. these again are frills you might be able to do without. i learned how to color my own hair and my husband/friends think it looks just like the color my hairdresser gave me for $60 more. I choose also to only get my hair cut 3 times a year but I am a SAHM and I know it is different if you need to go out and work.
Again i could go on and on because I learned over the last year how to economize and now that I know I will never go back to using the credit card or spending money without thinking first do i really need that.
as far a the Park District is concerned, as if they offer scholarships to families that need assistance. Or do free library programs instead of the more costly sports programs.
All will hopefully go well. Hopefully I was able to help a little. Feel free to email me if you want more helpful ideas. Like I said I could go on and on if I just sit and think of things I have done.
God Bless,

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Other people have posted some great ideas and links. I do wholeheartedly recommend checking out some of the money saving/coupon blogs out there. I started reading them last year, and it took me a few months to really "get it", but now I've gotten much better about saving money on groceries and toiletries. I don't think I can be as hardcore as some of these women, but it's a start! Since you specifically mentioned dinners, you might want to check out $5 Dinners too:

It's important to keep in mind that this woman makes such cheap dinners by getting lots of food on sale/with coupons, so if you don't plan to do that you may want to look for more recipes that use ingredients that are always cheap (lentils, beans, making food like bread from scratch, etc).

And check out the other sites all these blogs link to as well. There's a whole network of people out there who give lots of tips and useful info.

Finally, if things get unbearably tight, there's no shame in using social services designed to help people who are struggling. You can look into food stamps if you're eligible, or find a food bank. Here's one search for finding food banks:

Your local public library may also be a good resource. Often they have lists of phone numbers or websites where you can get all kinds of help in your community. (And don't be ashamed to ask for help--I'm a librarian and we sadly get these questions very often.)

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on


I am so sorry to hear this and wish you and your family all the best!

It sounds like the women listed already gave a ton of great suggestions! So, I will just add: We hit the garage and rummage sales each Sat. morning. It is a hobby for us and we go as a family and have loads of fun finding treasures like clothes for the kids (25 cents each!), books, sports equipment, clothes for me, even a brand new Trek bike for my son for $25!

So, perhaps that might be a way to save money on clothes and household items. Also, could you have your own yard sale? Let us know if you need tips for how to do that. I have seen a number of recent posts here on that topic. Last weekend, my mom earned $500 in two days at her sale. is a good resource and everything is FREE. You sign up to the one in your zip code and then the people in your town can offer/request items. We have over 2,000 people just here in Oak Park. It is a great way to find new homes for left-overs and also request items that are out of our budget (like I got some Legos for the holiday gift for my son and he loved them! Also, a loft bed for my kids to share: FREE!) is a good site to learn how to use coupons. I assume that you already have a Jewel Fresh Values card, or whatever similar in-store discount card for your local grocery store? We limit the amount of processed food. We try to eat fresh, so we have to shop often, but we are careful to limit waste. Left-overs get used the next day.

If you purchase items on-line, always go to to get the %-off codes.

My favorite save money website: www.TipHero.Com

Also, go to They have weekly give-aways for concerts, toys, books. We have won some great things!

I also like the idea for part-time jobs to supplement your family's income in the period between your husband finding new work. But, don't let it interupt too much your family's routine. If both parents are tired, then it wears on the kids! Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My husband lost his job a little over a year ago. He is employed again with a much better job than he lost now so there is hope. I was a SAHM with a 5 month old so I was scared to death. We had no income and because they gave my husband a small severance we didn't qualify for unemployment. We cut ALL non-essentials and things that weren't under contract. We would have cut the contract things but we couldn't spare the fee to get out of it. I called WIC (Women with Infants and Children) which is a government program that provides food. I qualified because I was nursing. They provide eggs, milk, peanut butter, beans, tuna, cereal, etc. I have to say that is was difficult at first to have to ask for help because I was like you in that I could go out and buy if I wanted to, but they made it painless and not embarrasing at all. There is an income cap, but each state is different so you would have to find out what yours is. I believe I found the phone number in the phone book under the government pages. The other posts below also offer Great tips, so I am not going to repeat them again.

Good luck and God Bless

H. L.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Hi S.,

I completely understand your situation. What helped me with saving some money was shopping at Aldi for my groceries. I was able to go from spending almost $250 - $300 every 2 weeks to spending around $80 - $100 every 2 weeks! It's not name brand food, but my husband and I were very surprised at how good the food tasted. He is usually pretty picky with how things taste, so to get his approval and save money was nice. Hope this helps a little bit.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Rockford on

S....first off, I'm so sorry that you are facing this. Sadly, so are my husband and I. So, thank you for asking this question. I am frugal when I need to be, but found some wonderful information here for myself also. I have to agree w/ what other posters said, trim the fat, discount and coupon shop whenever you can and stay positive! (haha...I think I am trying to keep my own spirits up...husband just txt me to tell me that they are laying off more people Friday.) This is a truly scary time, but everything will be ok! It will...there is unemployment and while your husband may take a bit to find a new job, he will and it will be ok! Best of luck to you through this! Hang in there and if you find something that really helps or works...let me know!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Coupon clipping and meal planning are very good at helping cut costs. Also, buy generic brands when shopping for food. Set up a budget every week and STICK TO IT. Allot a certain amount for gas and stick to it - if it doesn't fill the tank, then you wait until next week (Make sure the budget is realistic too).
Go to your local park district's website and check if they have a calendar of events. Schaumburg has it and they list all the programs going on including the free ones. You can also look for free movies at certain theaters, the Schaumburg Nature Center and Heritage Farm are free. Many places have free or discount days - Chicago museums have free days too.
You can do a search for meals under $10 and get some good ideas - I like to buy the roaster chicken (already cooked at the store) and then have the chicken breasts with veggies one night, shred some chicken and use it for tortillas or BBQ sandwiches the next and use the remaining for chicken noodle soup.
I just got laid off and we have a 4 year old and a little one due in September. We have been on a budget for a while since we were aware the layoff was coming as well. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I use It's free, secure, and an excellent tool for managing all your accounts. It even searches for and suggests areas in which to save on all different services, including checking and saving accounts. I have really gotten a lot out of using mint. I did a lot of research before going with it, and it is secure and reliable.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Go to and order the book America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right on The Money. This book was of enormous help to me. It is very frugally extreme, but it should help. Also, check out Mint. com and track each and every expense with the Quicken program. For cheap meals, go to scroll down and just type in whatever ingredients you have on hand. It will whip up a delicious recipe for you in 1 minute flat. Only use credit cards for airline tickets. These are some of the things I have been doing since I lost my job 2 years ago. I earned almost as much as my husband.

If you get any other helpful information, could you please send it to me? I am always looking for more ways to save and conserve.

I have 3 kids also, 12, 9 and 5. All are extremely active and social. I spend way too much on sports. Unfortunately as they get older, it gets way more expensive. That is where the book I mentioned comes in handy.

Good luck and please respond back.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I would check the library as they always have free summer outings like reading in the park. And some of the park district activites are free, such as movies in the park. Also check out "Parents as Teachers". I know that they provide free breakfast and lunch in the parks in Hammond for children in the summer. If you are not near there, I assume there are chapters elsewhere.

Be sure to talk to your mortgage lender as soon as things start to get tight. There are so many programs out there now that can help you. Possibly you will qualify for one due to the loss of a job.

I would also take a look at all of your bills such as the phone bill, and determine if there any ways to cut the bill as well as your cable and internet bill too. Sometimes just a phone call to them mentioning you are looking to possible cancel can save you some money each month.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

First off, you WILL make it work. It will be hardest not picking up silly extras, like down the $1 isle of the Target. I find when I stay home, I save money.

Summer free activites, include FREE splash pads usually connected to a play ground/park. There is one in Streamwood and one in Bartlett, as well as Geneva. I don't know where you are located but they are out there. Also, the library has excellent summer programs, usually with a reading program where the kids earn prizes for reading. My library has outdoor concerts during the summer. There is a butterfly garden in Geneva and the Willowbrook wild life haven in Glen Ellyn. Possibilities are endless if you know where to look.

Check into She is a coupon clipper to the extreme. Her website will tell you how to use coupons and the weekly sales ads to get stuff for free or practically free, and you sometimes get paid to shop.

Finally, I don't know how old your kids are, but setting up a weekly playgroup might make the summer go buy quicker.

Good luck,

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I'm sorry that your husband will lose his job. I hope he's able to find something quickly!

I found this doing a quick google search:

It has worksheets and calculators that you can use to create a budget. You really need to sit down with your husband and find out where the money is going first before you can start cutting things.

Here's another site I found by googling "moms on a budget"

It seems to have everything from recipes to shopping tips to home-made cleaning supplies.

Hope this helps.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Hi S.,

Sorry to hear about your husband's job. This economy is awful. You've received a lot of good advice here, so I'll just concentrate on the free entertainment for kids. For that, I have a great answer - check out my website, - it's "The site to know with kids in tow". There, you can find kid-friendly events, activities, restaurants (there's even a Dining Deals calendar in the Restaurant section where you can find out where kids eat free), shops and services throughout the Chicago area and suburbs. There are TONS of free options on there, from libraries to park districts to free days at museums. You can search for free events, too - just use the search box at the top of the screen. You can narrow your search by date by using the Advanced Search option. You can read parents' reviews of places they've visited and write your own (if you become a member, which is free). You can also get search results sorted in order of distance from your house (again, you must be a member for that benefit). Check the box to join our mailing list, and we'll do the work for you on finding fun things to do - we'll email to you a weekly newsletter with links to upcoming fun, family-friendly events. We've received tremendous positive response to our emails - moms love them! We also run weekly prize drawings on the site for things like free products, free tickets to shows or Kiddieland, etc.

I hope this helps. I wish you well!


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Peoria on

Have you ever checked out Homemade Gourmet has hundreds of meal kit ideas you can prepare ahead of time in Ziploc bags and can then be cooked in your slow cooker or oven. It is a real time and money saver. In the catalog they have their single meal mixes broken down into price per serving and most are $2 and under and that is including your meat and side items. You can save even save more money by becoming a Preferred customer. You save 20% off all purchases and it is delivered right to your door.

If you are looking to make money, you may also want to consider becoming a distributor. There is a very small set up fee, right now the promotion is $17.76 to sign up. Even in a down economy, everyone has to eat. People are looking at eating in more and as a result Homemade Gourmet is doing better than ever. I am very happy with my decision to be a Homemade Gourmet consultant. I am not just selling a product, I am helping people learn to save money and prepare healthy meals. I can also set my own hours by doing events around our families schedule. By doing a few in home Gatherings or catalog events for friends, you can save 40% on your families food and write off home office expenses on your taxes.

You can also try having a consultant do a demonstration or Gathering in your home to learn more about Homemade Gourmet. This would give you a chance to sample product before buying and you can earn lots of free product. Email me if you have any questions.

Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

First thing first: trim the fat. You are already pulling your children from classes, which is great, but there is likely to be a lot of other areas of fat you haven't considered:

1. Cancel cable, satellite TV, etc. With DirectTV you can place a 3 month travel hold on the account. Even doing that until you know where you stand financially would be a great move.
2. Cancel subscriptions to newspapers, magazines or any other extras.
3. Rethink your cell and home phone bills. Can you get by with only the mobile? How about switching to Vonage? What can you do to reduce how much you spend on your phone every month?
4. Is your house as energy efficient as it can be?
5. Rethink how you use air conditioning. Every degree is 2% of the bill. We only use the air when it gets to 80 or 82 in the house, and then, I usually set the air conditioner at 78. 76 with guests. It saves us tons of money.
6. Can you rethink your car situation? Did you pay cash for your new car, or do you have payments? Can you sell it and buy something cheaper?
7. Think about all the non-essentials: do you get your nails done, does your husband golf..where does your money go? List out all your expenses and then cut everything that isn't essential. Then, when your financial situation stabilizes, you can gradually add things.
8. Consider cloth diapering and making your own baby food.
9. Stop buying processed foods. Make up a big dish of homemade mac and cheese and freeze lunch portions for the kids, for instance. I make 12 lunch size portions with expensive cheese for 10 dollars. Sometimes I throw organic ground beef in there, for an extra 3 dollars. Make soups and free them too. Buy whole chickens, rather than parts, butcher them for what you need and use the carcass to make broth.

The most important thing is to seriously, and immediately, cut the fat. Leaving lights on costs money. Running a partly filled dish washer costs money. Leaving the sink running while you brush your teeth costs money. Start thinking about what you do that costs money and think about what you can do to save it.

Free entertainment: Library story time. Cosley Zoo. Join a meet up group and join others at the park.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I'm sure your husband is already on the internet and getting his resume updated. Having said that, I heard that most car dealerships will take cars back now because of the economy. You have to have proof of him loosing his job and the dealership could probably put you into a like-new used car from their lot. At least then you wouldn't have that big payment. Maybe you could "take in" a child or two for daycare to supplement the income. Best of luck to you honey.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Hi S.-

You got some great responses! How about have your own garage sale... This is the perfect season! Or sell stuff online. It's time consuming but you can make some $.

I cut my husband & one of my boys hair, they get buzz cuts. You can also go to a school for cheap cuts. They always have someone supervising.

You'll get through this, you may learn a lot in the process! Stay positive! Best Wishes.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

First of all, sorry your husband lost his job. Hopefully he will find something soon. I would start looking for things you can make extra $ at, research companies love moms with little kids. Maybe your husband can sign up too and bring in extra cash. Go to the web and look up research companies + your city. Some I suggest (depending on where you live) Smith Research (Deerfield), Peryam & Kroll (City n/w side), AIM, Tragon (Lake Cook Road/Buffalo Grove). Alot of them have websites you can fill in and register.
Kraft has alot of good recipes that save you money too. Casseroles that you have for 2+ days will save. Shop at Aldi. If you are really desperate, try the food pantries in your area. Probably be alot of people in line, but it's worth a shot. If he's off this summer, keep the kids home and have him watch them. That would save alot on classes. Or check to see if they have a sliding scale now that your income has dropped.
I was the only wage earner for 9 years (working 2 jobs) trying to make ends meet. Hopefully things will turn around soon. Good luck to you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Hang in there you'll get through and good for you for making a plan. One of the best energy saving things my husband and I have done is that we set our entertainment center the tv, satellite box, radio etc on a surge protector that is controlled by a light switch so that when it is not in use it does not pull any power at all. I was amazed at how much the little light that waits for a remote takes up, we also bought inexpensive light sensors for our outdoor lights they are motion sensors so our outside lights only go on when it is dark and if someone pulls into our driveway. Plus the CFL bulbs and just keeping lights off as much as possible. We cut our energy bill in half with those little tricks.

Also the food network has done great things with meals on a budget. I like farmers markets for budgeting you can get fresh produce really good and only as much as you need. I often find a buy more produce then I need at the grocery store because of the way it is packaged.

We don't turn on our A/C until it is consistenly over 80 degrees out fans are our friends at night.

And we grill in the summer to avoid heating up the house or using the energy for the oven.

The Local Libraries have great free programs, especially the Naperville Library and keep your eyes peeled for the free days at the museums they all have them.

Another huge money saver let your grass go dormant in the heat of the summer the cost of the water to keep grass green in the summer is crazy!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Un employment coverage is for 9 months now so try to relax. You will get through this. Start enjoying the simple things you do have. Can you refinance? Does your mortgage include property taxes? Do you pay PMI? can you get rid of it? Have you called to see about homeowners insurance somewhere else?Is it bundled? If your husband isn't working then maybe you can get a deduction for car insurance because of the close to home discount.Can your husband cut grass, do landscaping this summer? Ask older folks if they need an odd job done or a ride somewhere. Shop at Aldi. Go to kidwinks .com to find out about free stuff to do. Hang in there. it will be ok:)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I"m sorry to hear about your situation. My husband was in the same position 2 years ago. One of the things I did that really helped was I started hanging up as much laundry as possible. I only used the dryer for bed linens, towels, and undergarments. We went to Menards and put in a removable umbrella clothes line (costs about $40, very easy to install)and I hang up the clothes on drying racks in the winter and rainy days. We even put a rod between two floor joyces in the basement so that I could hang the clothes on hangers. It cut our Nicor bill in half. Hang in there... things will work out.


For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions

Related Searches