Ideas for Saving Money, Budgeting and Meal Planning

Updated on February 02, 2010
E.B. asks from Denver, CO
6 answers

Hi moms!

I am new at being a mom, and even more so at being a SAHM and not bringing in the income I used to. My husband and I have tried working with a budget to help ease some of the financial challenges with being a one-income family but so far we haven't found anything that works well for us.

I would love to hear how other SAH Moms like you cut costs, keep realistic budgets, where you shop to save money, and which products are cheaper (but just as good) as other name-brand items.

A big thing for us is food — plan-ahead, make-ahead meal ideas would be great to hear!

One other thing I'd like to know is how you balance time and money ... Are there certain things that you will buy to save yourself the time and trouble ... because time with family is worth more than spending the time to shop around, cut coupons, etc. ?

Thanks in advance for reading and any advice/tips you can give me.

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S.H.

answers from Detroit on

I found that a great way to save money is buying value-branded items when it comes to help products. It is annoying how much retail brands charge for their products! My husband and I recently started an e-commerce site called eHealthSource.com you can buy over 400 products that are all FDA approved. The categories range from adult pain relief, diabetes care to children's pain relief and baby care. We have a 100% guarantee so you can try us...worry free! From one mom to another, I hope things are going well and all these tips are helping with your budgets!

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P.D.

answers from Denver on

Hi E.,
First off, congratulations on being able to stay home with your little one! There are definitely lots of changes to make! I have been a SAHM for almost 15 years, and I have come a long way from where I was back then! One thing I can recommend is to incorporate changes gradually. It can be pretty tough to overhaul your life at one time! Just remember that every change you make in this direction is progress. And also remember that things that work for others won't always work for you, and not to feel guilty if perhaps you cut more corners than the next person, or if your budget looks different from someone else's. You have to make things work for YOUR family, and it will take time to find your rythm. I will share a few things that have worked for us, perhaps even to just get the ball rolling for you.
If you are not already members, places like Sam's Club and Costco can be a great help. As you get to know the set up, it's easier to plan a list and by-pass the aisles of things you don't really need, which will save both time and money. Actually, that works well at the grocery store, too. Make that list and stick to it! It's so easy to justify a purchase you don't need. The obvious exception to that is if you spot something you honestly need and forgot to write down. In terms of brand name vs. store brands, that really is a matter of personal taste. You have to try things out and see. I do comparison shop, and sometimes with a sale the brand names are cheaper and sometimes not. If I really love a particular brand, of course I stock up when it's on sale. Oh, and by the way, I would never pay brand name prices for over the counter meds. There are regulations about drug levels in items like ibuprophen cold meds, etc. They are no different fom one brand to the next! If you have the time and inclination, clipping coupons can save a tremendous amount. This is one of those areas I just haven't gotten into for the sake of time, but there are people who have made it into an art! We have a 2nd freezer which is worth it's weight in gold, especially now that I have 2 teens and a 9 year old. I do cook in bulk, and when I'm at my organizational best I try to cook for a month at a time. (On a Saturday, when my husband's home.) This may be hard for you to do with your little one being so small yet, but may be worth trying later. There are lot's of good books on how to do this. Meanwhile, if you have access to a second freezer it's a great place to stock up on meat that's on sale, etc. Plus even now when you do cook something like lasagne, spaghetti sauce or anything that freezes well, go ahead and double or triple the batch and pop the extra in the freezer for the future. I even do this with things like taco meat. As long as you're already cooking, it really doesn't take much more effort to do this. Also, you can by things like shredded cheese and butter in bulk and pop them in the freezer as well. Even without an extra freezer, if you organize the space you can get at least a few extras in your regular freezer. Well I don't want to overwhelm you with ideas, but I hope this might at least give you some ideas. Good luck!

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A.S.

answers from Denver on

There is no greater gift you can give your child than you! Congrats on staying home and making the commitment to raise her. Its a tough road, no doubt both mentally and fiscally. In the long run, the driving older cars, eating more ramen and living in jeans pays off because you *know* your children.

For us, I was the big breadwinner and going down to DHs salary flat out stunk. We cut back on everything:
-I quit buying clothes for us and DD. I took hand me downs very graciously.
-We don't eat out. Maybe lunch on the weekend.
-We don't get convenience foods. I have a recipe list to die for now because I make everything from scratch. I google recipes with the 2 or 3 ingredients I center my meals on.
-We go to the park, hikes, buy museum memberships, etc for entertainment.
-We baby sit swap to avoid high fees there.
-I get my hair cut once a quarter and have an easier to maintain style.
-The library is my friend. Its a great resource for entertaining the kids, me, checking out books, DVDs, storytimes.
-Look at every recurring bill and decide if you need cable, land line phone service & mobile phone (we went mobile only), cutting energy bills by keeping the house warmer in summer, cooler in winter.
-dollarstretcher.com

Most of all, good luck! Enjoy your daughter and know you made the best decision possible for her best interests.

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S.W.

answers from Denver on

You are a stay at home mom of 1. Trust me...you have time to cut coupons! And they are very worth it. Any store brand has turned out just fine when I have used it, although I'll admit store brand tomatoe sauce in the can is a bit runny and the applesauce doesn't taste quite as good if you go outside of the natural nothing added kind. I take hand-me-downs for clothing for my girls, shop at thrift stores and love finding the great deals and knowing how much I'm saving. For 'mad money' for the family, we have a huge piggy bank...and I mean huge! The girls love to find change in parking lots and bring it home to the piggy bank. I put change and money I find in the laundry into the bank...we didn't miss it then so we won't miss it now, know what I mean? Anyway, with all the random change and money we put in that thing, it didn't take us long to fill it up, count the money and buy 4 season passes to Elitch Gardens for the family (about $216 with money left over). That was awesome because we NEVER would have spent our regular money on those. I shop at Safeway. They have a gas program where you get a 10 cent discount for every $100 spent...they keep track so it's accumulative, not one at a time. As long as I use coupons (they double them), store sales, etc., I make up for the higher cost it might otherwise be and with a family of 5, we get the discount all the time...so I usually pay about $3.69 a gallon. I do my own nails, etc. and only go beyond that if it is a gift from someone for something or a very special occassion. I'm not that big on places like Sam's because you can think you are getting a good deal just because it's Sam's or Costco, but you really aren't...have to be careful with those sorts of stores. Anyway, trust me, I stay at home, have 3 kids with busy schedules (well, the oldest two, that is) and my husband and I have our own outside family schedules as well. It all fits in. I can get overwhelmed at times, but time always works itself out. My house is pretty messy, but never bad enough that we can't all pitch in for a good straightening/cleaning before we have company or whatever. I use family for babysitters or swap with our neighbor so we still have date nights without spending a million dollars, although we do have a service for backup if needed (hasn't been needed so far). Let me tell you...balance is a funny word. There is no daily balance but more like over-time balance. One day is heavy with one thing (such as family time and the house gets really messy!) and one day can be heavy with calls to the dentist, garage door repair man, playdate setups, housecleaning, bill paying, whatever. But it all balances out in the end. I am in sort of awe about people who have perfect balance everyday because I don't believe it. I don't believe it a bit. Life changes, schedules change, a set of bedsheets gets peed on after the 7 year old has cleared out the entire towel inventory to play odd games with before I'm aware of it and the laundry is suddenly a mountain...this stuff just happens. I don't try for balance, I just live life and it all works out. My set in stone schedule is simple: feed the children breakfast, lunch and dinner...make sure they get and have had time and help with their homework...bedtime (and even that is pretty darn flexible). Honestly...don't compare the time you had before baby to the time you have now...you might kid yourself that you don't have much time for everything...trust me, you do! Oh, and about meals, I can plan ahead, but I can't tell you how often something in the schedule changes and I find those fresh veggies rotted before I got to cook them. I have let go of thinking I must always be Betty Crocker for meal times. Sometimes I am, sometimes it's a trip to Chick-fil-A or Boston Market and there is everything between (hot dogs, Kraft Cheese and Mac, etc.) Good luck! I found becoming a first time mom plus staying at home to be...quite the adventure!

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K.D.

answers from Denver on

If your new to a budget, going cash is a great way to start. I read a book once by Larry Burket that explained it in great detail, but basically just pay everything you can with cash. When the cash is gone, no more spending. It's about the ultimate in accountability. We did just about everything in the small town we were in in cash until we got in the habit. Teri's List is a great resource. I think it's www.theshoppinggame.com I saved tons while I was signed up on it. As far as generics, I think it's a matter of personal preference. There are some things we really like, but found friends don't and vice versa. A big key is looking at unit price. The biggest isn't always the cheapest. If I recall right, Teri's list tells you which size to buy with the coupons. Using that site, it really is possible to get things for free, and sometimes even get paid for "buying" the item. Also, check to see if your Walmart will honor competitors prices and coupons. Most will match. It sure saves on gas for shopping around. Something else I did when we had just one, was if I needed just a few items I had forgotten, I would walk rather than drive to the store. Kills two birds with one stone, exercise and saving gas money. The advantage to getting a budget book is they will tell you how to break down your budget by percentage of your income. The one big thing I do buy to save time and waste is precut apples. They last much longer with the calcium added to keep them fresh than if I cut them and treat them myself, and then the kids always have something that they know they can go and eat anytime. GL! Enjoy being at home!

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M.N.

answers from Denver on

I have been a stay at home mom for a little bit of the year. I have found clipping coupons and checking out adds to see where the best deals are. I may find a store with a best deal this week and on my list I need theres a couple of items that may be a few cents more than another but I pick it up where I am at since gas is so high. I buy my meats at costco and my veggies and fruits at kings. The rest just depends. I bought the reynolds freezer pack and the machine to seal it and that has saved alot of meat from freezer burn.I babysit a toddler to help out with a little extra here and there and my 2 year old loves it. I also picked a swimming class and 1 art class to take my dd for the summer to give her a more social atmosphere with the baby sitting money (especially since shes a go go go baby =). We cut back on eating out unless its some ones house and we take turns on that. I have a friend who will make a double batch of a casserole shes making and her neighbor does the samething with whatever she is making and they switch one of there makings. They just helped out with the next dinner. I hope this helps and gl. I know it will be alot of trying here and there as you go.