Tops on Saving Money

Updated on February 10, 2010
V.C. asks from Peyton, CO
20 answers

In this rough economic time, I am just asking other moms to send me some of your money saving advice. What do you do to save money. Any advice would be helpful!!
Thanks!! :)

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A.F.

answers from Salt Lake City on

When our cell phone contracts were up, we switched to prepaid. We put $100 on the account (1000 minutes, plus the extras they give for free), and it's lasted for 5 months so far. I still have 729 minutes left. At this rate, I'll only be spending $100 for an entire year of cell service! Of course, we don't do texting, picture messaging, emailing, etc from our cell phones. I have a PDA with wireless access for that, and use it at home, or where there's free wi-fi when I'm out. My husband doesn't use his cell for work, so it's easy for us to ration minutes. Although I really never feel like I'm rationing.

I stock up when non-perishable grocery items are on sale.

When produce is on sale, I stock up and can or freeze stuff. Make jam, can sauces or vegetables. Make and freeze sweet breads (banana breads, muffins, etc.) I make freezer meals when vegetables or other things are on sale. That not only saves money, but time when I'm in a crunch for dinner.

Find what generic brands work for you, and compromise on the ones you can. Buy only name brands that really matter (like for me, it's cooking sprays and ziplock bags. The certain name brands work better than others or generic, in my opinion... But other things don't matter so much, like toilet paper or flour.)

I use coupons when I can, but don't pay for the paper subscription just to get the coupons. In fact, we don't get the paper. Why? I can read everything I want to online.

Speaking of online, we switch our internet service provider periodically based on who has the best deal at the time. Most of the time, we get in on a promotional rate (usually very cheap), and switch or get them to extend the rate when the time period is up.

We don't have cable. It's a waste of money. TV is FREE people! If I don't want to watch what's on the airwaves at the time, I go to www.hulu.com and watch whatever I want online for FREE. Less commercials, shorter time, can watch whenever is convenient for me. If hulu doesn't have the show I want, most likely, the network website does. Since I don't pay for phone either, I don't need to "bundle" or whatever all the cable/phone/internet people always want you to do. All I pay for is internet, and it's always whatever is cheapest. If you don't want to watch online because you have to watch on your nice big screen HDTV or whatever, well, if it's LCD, then most likely you can hook up your computer to it and use it like the monitor anyway. Then you can watch whatever you want in whatever size you want! Just a side note...

Check out Google Voice and see if it might work for your home phone service. Right now, I pay nothing for my home phone. That's actually why my prepaid cell works so well for me. I don't need to use it unless I'm out. Then I can choose what calls are important. At home, all my calls are free... including long distance. I'm not sure if it's set up yet for "everyone" to have it free. We got in during beta testing and have had the service ever since, but it's worth looking into.

This one's not as easy as it sounds, and for me the timing was right, but I potty trained my twin boys. Yay for me! It's saving me about $100/month in diapers. If you have any in diapers, maybe switch to cloth? Or potty train? Just a thought...

If you're really into saving, you could start making your own household cleaners. I hear you can make laundry soap and other everyday items that tend to cost a lot for very little. I haven't tried it, by my neighbor swears that a vinegar/water solution just gets everything spic and span in her house. That's a very inexpensive solution to buying those expensive cleaners. But if you must have something, try and stock up when it's on sale.

I recently switched to drinking water with each meal instead of drinking milk, soda or other beverages. Mostly because I wanted to cut back on drinking my calories, but the savings from not drinking something else is nice, too. My kids drink enough milk for everyone here anyway. We all know how expensive milk can get!

I don't drive my car very often. Only when I really need to. My oldest is a preschooler, so it's not hard to not drive. I just take her to school twice a week, and that's all I really need to plan for. I go to the grocery store in my husband's car (small car vs. SUV) instead of taking the family car and wasting the gas. I try and plan all my errands for the same day so I don't have to go out multiple times in a week. That saves on gas, as well as saves on impulse spending. If I'm not out, I can't spend, right? At least not in the physical store... There's always online. Which can be good sometimes. Check out www.pinchingyourpennies.com. They have a lot of good deals to be found. They send you a list of them along with a list of grocery deals each week. I can consult the grocery deals list for whatever store I'm planning on going to before I go, and plan to buy what is actually on sale, rather than just "browsing" once I get there. It makes it easier to stick to my list. I don't even go down the aisles where nothing is on my list.

The most important money saving tip for us is having and sticking to a budget. I always know exactly how much I have to spend in one month for whatever category, and do my very best to stick to it. Another thing that really helps with that is that I have a separate checking account just for groceries. I can't spend money that's not there! It's really kept me paying attention to how much I spend and when. I have to make it last until the next deposit (we do it twice a month - half the monthly budget gets deposited on the first, and half on the 15th.) I'm sure I could think of more, but this list is way too long already. Hopefully you can find something on it that can help. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful
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M.R.

answers from Provo on

sign up for savvy shopper online, it will tell you what coupons you can use where if you live in utah. If not, it is still a great resource to teach you how to spend and use coupons wisely. I started this for food and supplies about 1 1/2 months ago, and on average save at least $20 a week on food

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B.

answers from Boise on

Couponing is great for saving grocery money!

www.athriftymom.com
www.coupons.com

Great sites to find tips- there are a million more, I'm sure!

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M.L.

answers from Colorado Springs on

You may get a million answers, because everybody's thinking about this. I'll only add two ideas to theirs, because these have helped me.

The first one is this: We are all constantly (and I mean constantly) called upon to buy, buy, buy! There's nothing advertisers can't make seem good and necessary. Close your mind to the hype as much as you can. You know what you NEED. When I stopped reading all the ads in the daily paper and the magazines, and turned the sound off as many TV commercials as I could, all of a sudden I started being in control of what I wanted to do. When I want to check certain sales of certain items, then I'm controlling the search. But choose not to listen to all the "you can't live without this!" - and you've chosen to be more in charge of your money.

The second I learned from my mother, who, if she were still living, would be 104 this month. It worked then and it works now: Pay yourself first. Before you buy your groceries, your children's new shoes, and the other things you know you must have, take a certain amount and put it in your savings account or even a hard-to-open piggy bank in your closet. Keep it apart - there, but out of sight. What you don't see, you won't be as likely to spend. You'll still be able to get what you need for your family! Do this every pay period. Like turning off the advertising, it does take some getting used to, but it's a winner. :^D

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S.H.

answers from Detroit on

Hi V.!
I am not sure if you are still looking for advice but I wanted to offer you a tip. Buy generic when you can! Especially on your healthcare products. My husband and I started an e-commerce website called eHealthSource.com. We have over 400 high quality, value-branded products that are all FDA approved. You can save up to 75% on some items! Band-aids, asprin and cough medicine are just a few of the things we carry. Check us out!

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N.W.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I was surprised that no one mentioned the iwillteachyoutoberich.com website. He just came out with a new book (only $11). ...but you can learn alot from just the website.

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A.P.

answers from Denver on

The best thing that has worked for me and my husband is going back to the basics. I plan my meals for the week(this includes my husbands lunches) and make a list of the groceries we need to make that and only get those items when grocery shopping. This keeps are food bill low and from eating out, which is a huge expense anymore. I am the cassarole/left over queen, making extra and freezing it helps when you need a quick meal on the go. I also do a budget and use spreadsheets to make sure I stick to it. Make sure to budget for some fun though as you will never be able to stick to a budget if you don't get to do anything once in a while. We plan for a meal or some fun time out once a month in between trips to the park and other free entertainment keep us from slipping into budget depression.

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J.W.

answers from Pueblo on

We all but stopped eating out, use a lot of generic brands, and shop from a list (and stick to it!!). I shop sales and use coupons - today, I spent $100 at the grocery store and saved $60. I also make a list of what fresh fruits and veggies I have and put it on the fridge. This helps me remember what I have and I am not throwing it in the trash.

We also got rid of voicemail, caller id and call waiting on our phone. We have an answering machine. It is kind of hard to not have caller id, but I have gotten used to it. We are downgrading our cable to save too.

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C.C.

answers from Salt Lake City on

check price per items on things especially if you buy bulk. I shop Sams Club but often don't buy the bulk because it is cheaper at other stores.
I only clip coupons if it is something we already use.
I make a menu up for the entire month making sure if we are going out of town for the weekend or eating at my mom's or sister's it is on the menu. I put all the recipes we are using that month in a folder on the computer so I have them right there on hand, and I go through and make my grocery list. I buy everything but produce and milk in one shopping day. I make sure I have just eaten and that I have carrots or another healthy snack and water in the car for if I get munchie at all. and I stick to the list. my produce list is made up for each week the same time I make the calander and the main grocery list. So each week all I do is pull out my grocery list and buy those produce items and the fruits we want for the week.
I save a lot of money this way and there are no questions, what are we having for dinner tonight. I plan for our busy days to have crock pot meals. and there is a free night once a week for leftovers to be eaten or last night for our free night we just did french toast--breakfast for dinner.
I look at my menu the night before and get out any meet from the freezer I might need and prep veggies etc. if I can.
It sounds like a lot of work but only until you have a system down. I spend a few minutes a day for about 4 days getting the menu together for the upcoming month so I'm not scrambling at the end of the month to figure out what the next month will look like.
I print out a copy of the Month menu too so when the kids ask what's for dinner I can say well what's on the calander?
this is our number one money saver.

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T.K.

answers from Fort Collins on

I started buying all our kids clothes at 2nd hand stores. Also, my DH rides his bike to work, when the weather is good. And.....NO MORE EATING OUT. We now take our family out to dinner once every other month...instead of once a week. All in all, we have about $400 extra dollars.

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K.M.

answers from Denver on

My husband lost his job and although he got another job, it was about $50K less than his old job. Needless to say, we are hurting financially. Here is what is helping us: 1. If you can find a class called Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey, take it. Also lots of info on his website. 2. Look on Craigslist for everything (baby and kid stuff, clothes for kids, furniture, bikes, everything). Also, sell some of your old stuff on Craigslist - we've made about $1200 this year just selling unused stuff. 3. Make a strict shopping budget and stick to it by putting the cash in an envelope. All food and household items like cleaning supplies come out of this envelope. No envelope, no shop. No money in envelope, no shop. Period. 4. Go to consignement stores like Once Upon a Child for kids clothes. Great stuff like Baby Gap and also name brand stuff for older kids. Good luck!

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W.T.

answers from Denver on

I really like couponcabin.com for coupons. However, I have also cut out meals out, coffee, and many other things. What's odd, is that I find it is pretty fun strategizing how to save money and where to cut back. When I am out shopping, I will pick something up, and I find myself literally, saying, "need vs want?" Inevitably, I am always putting things back. It's amazing the extra "things" we are used to having around. I'm also big on resale. Selling things I'm done with and buying things from other people vs first-hand retail. There is also a new website specifically for moms: themotherlist.com It's a great way to offload things that you no longer need for kids.

Budgeting with kids can also be fun. You can put each child in charge of a certain part of the budget and they can be the enforcer! These responsibilities are usually taken very seriously! I suggest putting one of the girls in charge of the clothing budget!!

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C.H.

answers from Denver on

Say "no" to things that seem like necessities, such as vacations and inviting lots of friends over for birthday parties. Don't buy any beverages except milk. If this is the kind of advice you're looking for, I have lots more. Don't enroll your children in sports programs for the time being (equipment, clothing, fees & travel cost a lot of money). Your children can easily survive two year of not playing league hockey, etc.

I have lived like this through "poor" periods of my life, and I'm glad that I did.

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L.B.

answers from Provo on

V.,

Don't buy prepared foods, including bread. Instead, purchase basic staples and do the preparation yourself. For bread, purchase your wheat (red or white) in bulk, grind it yourself, and make your bread. It is much, much, much cheaper than buying bread and isn't that hard or time consuming once you get the procedure down. You can also make your own baking mixes. There are some excellent books available on these subjects. Note that you will not only save money and time, you may also save your health because you will not be putting the harmful ingredients into your foods that frequently are put into commercial prepared foods.

Switch over to oatmeal, whole grain pancakes, germade, homemade granola, etc. rather than purchasing very expensive and nutritionally deficient breakfast cereals.

Stop drinking soda pop. It is not only expensive and empty calories, it is looking like a primary cause of diabetes and other degenerative diseases. I cut my food budget by 10% when I stopped buying soda pop.

The same goes for any so-called junk foods - chips, candy, cookies, etc. Buy them occasionally for special occasions, if you must. You might find, however, as you begin to prepare your own food from wholesome fresh and staple ingredients, that you lose your taste for many of these items, which are usually artificial and unhealthy, as well as expensive.

Plan your meals at least a week in advance, and, if possible, do some of the preparation in advance. At a minimum, at least figure out what you are going to prepare for dinner the night before. I found, early in my marriage, that if I didn't know what we were going to have for dinner when I walked out of the house in the morning, we would probably eat out that night. Eating out is a very, very expensive, time-consuming, fattening, and generally unhealthy option.

As a corollary, do not eat out, except for special occasions. This includes lunch. YOu can spend an immense amount of money eating out. If I ate out every weekday for lunch, I would spend nearly as much money just on my lunch as I spend to feed my entire family two to three meals per day for the same period of time. If you or your spouse work outside of the home, prepare a lunch for this person the night before. I usually prepare just a bit more food for dinner and use that portion left over from dinner for my lunch the next day.

If time is at a premium, as it is for most of us, you can spend part of one day each week doing advance preparation of meals for the week so that you do not have extensive preparation time the rest of the week. If you do this, you can cook a number of dishes that require several hours to cook for the week and only have to do one clean up. If you do this advance preparation, you can easily incorporate legumes and less expensive cuts of meat that take longer to prepare into your diet.

Along the line of convenience foods, it also saves money and time to make freezer meals in advance when produce is in season, if you have freezer space.

Don't waste anything. Only buy what you eat. If you have leftover vegetables, make them into soup or work them into dishes you make yourself, rather than throwing them out. Instead of buying expensive and unhealthly condensed soups, make your own for free from your leftovers.

Grow a garden and produce some of your own vegetables. Along with not wasting anything, use your vegetable kitchen waste, your weeds, and your grass clippings for compost to fertilize your garden.

Even if you don't have space for a garden, you can grow some veggies in pots. Regardless of your space situation, you can grow many of your salad greens and sprouts indoors with planters and sprouts.

Buy case lots of prepared foods that you cannot get along without when they go on sale. Prepared foods generally go on sale every six weeks or so. Replace what you have used since you purchased the case lot with the new sale items. Be sure to date each item as you put it away and use the oldest items first. In this way, you never have to buy any of your prepared foods unless they are on sale.

A few other ideas: Keep very careful track of what you buy, and use a budget. DO NOT make impulse purchases. Only have one open container of each item you use at a time and completely use it up before you open another. Turn off lights, TVs, etc. when you are not in the room directly using them. Turn down your thermostat a few degrees and put on a sweater. Meticulously keep your car maintenance up to date rather than being penny wise and pound foolish by failing to maintain your vehicle until you have a major breakdown. Walk or bicycle rather than drive whenever you can. Organize your errands so that you only have to do them once a week, you do not have to backtrack, and, if possible, you can do them as part of your normal travel routine rather than having to make a special trip.

Buy clothing off season during clearance sales for the next season. This works for gifts, too. As a corollary, time your purchases so that you never buy any routine item that is not on sale, absent an emergency.

Some of these ideas require a little planning and discipline, but they pay off in the long run by saving you money, stress, and from falling into the disorganization trap.

If you want specifics on any of these ideas, you are welcome to contact me.

Note that I work full time, am a half time PhD student at one local university, teach one college class as an adjunct professor at another local university, and maintain a large garden as well as a semblance of a social life. My time is tight, but I am still able to do this. I have used all of these methods extensively to save money on my budget and time, and they all work very, very well.

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K.L.

answers from Salt Lake City on

www.YouNeedABudget.com software. I'm awaiting the software for my Mac, but it works on any PC, and it puts you in control of all your money, instead of just recording where all your money goes.

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J.N.

answers from Salt Lake City on

Make a list before you go to the store, then go just once a week - it'll cut down on your impulse buys. It also means you have to plan for the weeks. But if you've got food in the house that's easy to fix you won't be as tempted to run to the burger place or order pizza.

Look for less expensive options. We almost never have pizza. So for a fun night we bought a frozen pizza and some cans of soda (also a rarity) and took them home. The cost was less than $10 and the kids loved it! (Far better than ordering pizza and soda).

You may not be interested, but there are some good ways to earn a bit of extra money. I do Mary Kay - I set my own hours and make more than if I was working a part time job, but I'm still available for my kids when they need me. There's also Pampered Chef, Scentsy Candles, Avon, Stampin' Up, and others. Just be well informed before you start of expectations and how much of the sales you get to keep. There are some scams out there - anything that promises a lot of money for very little work is suspicious. And avoid anything that focuses first on team building or recruiting - you don't want to get into a MLM company in most cases, you won't really make money in them. And make sure it's a product you like - it's much easier to sell that way. (If you're interested in checking out Mary Kay you can go to www.marykay.com for more info, or just contact me. For other businesses, see if they have a website or consultant finder.)

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S.L.

answers from Salt Lake City on

Walmart will price match groceries. So if you make your list and check the adds for sales, you have to take in the ads to walmart, they will give you the sale price. That way you aren't having to go to all the stores for the different deals.

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A.E.

answers from Salt Lake City on

One thing I've heard suggested is figure out how many times you eat out each week or month and cut that back by eliminating 2 or 3 times and eat at home.

Another one is to cut back trips to get a soda, coffee or candy bar. And save that money.

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A.K.

answers from Pocatello on

You already have a lot of great ideas and advice to try but I thought I would stress getting rid of things you don't need. Cable tv is a big one. We have an antennae and we pick up quite a few of the digital local channels. Plus it keeps me from watching a lot of tv.

Paying for both cell phones and a land line is expensive too. I think a lot of people just have cell phones and can use them anywhere. If you can live without all the extras on your phones then lower your plan. My husband really wanted a 3G iPhone last year so we both got them and we pay so much for our phone service. But we don't have a land line to turn too so we keep them.

Cut back on snacks, treats, pop, juices and eating out. All those things are extremely expensive. Just drink tap water if you can in your area and don't buy bottled water if you can avoid it. I keep a pitcher of tap water in the fridge so its cold and I drink so much more water that way. I know kids like to use the water dispenser on the fridge too. Use the same cup all day and for all your kids too. It will keep the dishes down and minimize how many time you run the dishwasher. Only wash full loads of clothes and dishes. Switch to warm or cold water for your laundry and lower your water heater to 120 degrees.

Wear more clothes instead of cranking up the heat. In the summer keep windows open at night and turn off the air. Only turn on he air if its to hot to get a breeze during the day.

By bulk foods and candy if you can. If you have a Winco they always have holiday candy in bulk and it is very cheap.

Put some of your kids unused toys away in a box or closet and switch them every month or two. They will play with their toys more because they feel new.

Consider sharing clothes and shoes with cousins or friends who have out grown clothes or need to move up a size. My sisters and I share baby and kids clothes and pass them along a Tupperware at a time. We also share maternity clothes.

Reuse things and store them out of season. Reuse gift bags, tissue paper and ribbons for gifts. Print or make birthday cards. Instead of buying expensive birthday gifts make gifts or help your kids make gifts. It might pay off in the end to learn a talent that can save you money. For girls presents I make hair bows. I haven't come up with anything for boys.

At Christmas we rotate gift giving to my siblings and my husbands siblings. Then we just give a family gift for that sibling's family.

Pay bills online and avoid buying stamps. I only ship things I have too. I use my debit card a lot or cash and don't write checks. Try to avoid bank fees and atm fees. Use the online banking to help you keep track of your spending.

Good luck and just see what you and your family can live without. You might be surprised.

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