What Do You Do to save Money? - Modesto,CA

Updated on October 13, 2011
L.D. asks from Modesto, CA
27 answers

With salary cuts, skyrocketing health insurance costs and inflation, our one salary household is getting squeezed pretty hard. Looking for ideas to save more money. We have already changed all lights to flourescent, changed planter areas to drip systems to prevent overwatering, keep heat at 68 in the day and off at night in the winter, in summer we hang dry clothing to offset air conditioning costs (dryers cost a bundle to use), i am strictly watching my food budget by planning my meals and shopping weekly only for the stuff I need, keeping lights turned off when not in use, stopped coloring my hair, reduced newspaper to weekend service only, bundled our phone/tv/internet service and downgraded to DSL from cable (we need to have internet connection for my husbands work so we can't get rid of it all together), we do not pay for premium (HBO etc.) tv service, we do not have "smart phones" that are costly, I buy mostly store brand/generic food and detergents. We do not have enough equity in our house to refinance otherwise we would. What do you mama's with tight budgets do to save money? I'd love to hear your ideas!

PS- We also purchase part of our clothing through second hand or consignment stores.

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answers from San Francisco on

I hope you get good ideas, although it already sounds like you are doing just about everything you can. The truth is, there is a limit to how much blood a person can squeeze out of a rock.

I want to go off on a political rant but I will refrain.

Good luck with it.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Louisville on

Salvation Army has good stuff - some with tags still on them.

Can you barter services with neighbors? If you are good at doing something they need, and they are good at doing something you need, you can strike a deal.



answers from New York on

Buy in bulk when a sale strikes for for non-perishables.

I.E. When I see laundry detergent on sale for $1.99, I stock up. Ditto with cheerios.

Sounds like you've taken some pretty major steps already!

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answers from Boston on

One thing my family did was eliminate vampire electric usage (electricity that is drawn through the appliance even when turned off). At target, or I am assuming any store similar, they sell these energy saving electric strip panels. They have a button that u press that shuts off the electricity drawn to the panel. We put one behind the living room entertainment center which houses the tv, xbox, and dvd player.. one behind each of the kids rooms tv/dvd set up, and one with the computer/printer.. So 4 areas of the house we eliminated vampire usage. Initially the strips were $15 a piece, but my electricity bill went down $40 a month! Totally worth it over time for us!!
Also I always do the store surveys that give you 10% off your next purchase why not!


4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I read the posts in answer to your question. I'll try and not repeat. For your grocery budget, I have a garden. The first place I go to in a grocery store is where they put their marked down cans and bread and such. The second place is the meat section for their mark downs. I've learned to look at the expiration dates on the packages of meat and make it a point to come back when they mark the meat down. If I find produce that is partially spoiled (one bad apple in a three pound bag) I bring it to the produce manager's attention. Most of the time they will sell me the bag at half price.

I make out my weekly meals based on what is on sale. If we have hamburger on sale, then we use hamburger. If they have steaks on sale or chicken on sale, then we have steak or chicken, but not expensive steaks. I don't buy boneless/skinless chicken breasts unless they are on sale for $1.29 lb or less. Why? Because if chicken breasts are $.99 lb, then the boneless/skinless breasts would have to be no more than $1.41 lb to break even. I cook most of my food from scratch. Hamburer Helper is extremely expensive when you consider what they actually sell you. I seldom buy meat at Sam's or Costco. I can't remember the last time they were cheaper than the sales at grocery stores.

I know when certain seasonal items go on sale and I buy several at that time. Example: I like corned beef. Corned beef is cheapest the week or two before St Patricks day. I buy several at St Patrick's Day and have them throughout the year. Flour is cheapest just before Thanksgiving. I buy enough to last several months. I paid $.20 lb for flour at Thanksgiving. I saw it in the store yesterday for $1 lb. The same with turkeys.

There is a myth that says that you will save more money if you buy all your groceries from one store because gas costs so much. WRONG!!! I shop at three stores for the most part. And some friends and I call each other when a store has and unbelievable bargain. Example: Ralphs had chicken (whole fryers) on sale for $.98 lb. BUT their distribution center sent them twice as many cases than they ordered. When the chicken arrived, the butcher noticed they all expired before the sale ended. He put the fryers on a manager's special for $.45 lb. I bought 7. I would have bought more, but 7 filled my freezer. I always buy the heaviest chickens I can. Why? Because the bones of a 4 lb chicken and a 6 lb chicken weigh about the same. So I get a better meat to bone ratio when I get the heavier chicken. I do the same when I buy ribs. I hardly ever buy chicken wings. Their price is horrible. One store in our area has chicken breasts for $.99 lb. The wings are $2.39 lb. Go figure. If I want wings, I'll buy whole fryers and cut the wings off and save them for later.

Hope that gives you some ideas. Good luck to you and yours.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

We do a lot of the same.

Weekend papers only. We changed our TV service to another company, save $50/month (with faster internet), and dropped the premium movie channels we weren't using anyway.

My DH has installed solar on the house, so after we pay it off (with help from state and government grants and green programs), we save money on our utilities. We have also continued to insulate this old house, and replaced most of the windows and the leaky old doors. My DH has a smartphone but mine is not and we do not have any frills on our plan.

We use rain barrels for watering the lawn and garden and the garden provides a lot of fresh food for the warmer months, helped along by compost (we have a backyard tumbler).

We shop with a list and have also taken to using those handheld scanner things because it tells you right there how much you are spending and it keeps me (and the kids - shopping without SD is much cheaper - if she just gives a list it's better) in check. Even something like bringing your own bags helps b/c many stores give you 5 cents off. 5 cents x 11 bags times 52 weeks a year is almost $30. We got them from promos and over time so they have long paid for themselves.

I admit I'm not so great with coupons but I look for online coupons whenever I shop (often can find free shipping). While we don't do a lot of fundraisers, we do support our local firefighters and church. We shop responsibly for weddings, baby showers and birthdays. I look for sales all year for birthdays and holidays. One of my nephew's gifts was from a charity auction - brand new, still with tags, $3. I shop thrift stores, but I also troll stores for sales. I've gotten off-season items at Old Navy for $1 and socks for 50 cents. I've gotten dresses for DD at Children's Place for $2. We also freecycle vs putting useful things in the landfill and have exchanged children's clothing with family and friends. DD has a friend a size head of her and I have had to buy very little this year because between the friend and the friend's cousin, we got 4 bags of very nice clothing.

We drive older cars that we maintain so that we don't have big repairs or a car payment.

Almost all our lights are LED or CF and we have our thermostat set on a schedule. Our shower heads are the kind that conserve water. We put a brick in the toilet tanks to save water there, too.

Movies? Not often. Usually a matinee. It's cheaper to either let SD go on her own with her friends or to OnDemand a movie we can all watch at home for $5 or whatever the price for that film is. When our old TV died we shopped around and got a bigger wide screen. It's not jumbo, but it does make movie watching nicer.

I also use points for gas. Then when we can we line up the cars and fill all 3 tanks (if SS is home) for whatever amount off. Once we'd forgotten for a while and had 70 cents off per gallon x 3 cars. It was good.

There are always more things you can do. We try to balance responsible spending with fun because if you never allow yourself that fancy coffee creamer now and then, life gets dull.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I'm an insurance agent in AZ and you didn't say you shopped your home/auto insurance. You can do that at any time, you don't have to wait until your policy is up for renewal. I'm an independent agent so I have many companies I can get quotes thru (unlike the agents with State Farm, Allstate, Farmers, etc). So if you have one of those companies, find an independent agent that is local and ask them for a quote. I can usually save my clients at least $100 or more per month without lowering their coverage. Good luck!

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answers from San Francisco on

Hmmm...well, here are a few of things I do (single parent of 3 teenagers - one in college, and two pay cuts over the last two years)

Cell Phones - We mostly use Tracfone, At one point my family of 4 had cell phone service for only $22 a month on their family plan, and their phones are inexpensive too. I recently switched to Virgin Mobile's $25/month plan because I needed a bit more than I was getting from Tracfone, but my kids are still on Tracfone.

Home Phone - I bought an Ooma a few years ago and it paid for itself within a few months. It's a box you plug into your internet router, then you plug your phone into the Ooma box. COMPLETELY FREE HOME PHONE!!! I haven't paid a penny for my home phone service in several years. Pretty cool!

Groceries - I've figured out the cheapest place to buy almost everything we need. Here are some highlights: Smart & Final has 5 lbs. of frozen ground turkey for only $6.00; Costco has 2 HUGE loafs of Kirkland whole wheat bread for only $3.99; Eggs (5 dozen), lettuce, milk are really cheap at Costco; Onions, potatoes, bananas, spices, other produce are usually cheapest at Grocery Outlet; Flour is cheapest at Trader Joes. I hardly ever set foot in a regular grocery store any more, but sometimes shop their sales. Also, I never make a special trip for groceries. I shop at each of those stores on the way to or from someplace else (school, work, etc.).

Newspaper - read it online!

Hair - I've colored my own hair for a long time (Wella - recommended to me by a beautician friend) and buy it at Sally Beauty Supply. I cut down to getting my hair cut twice a year at a strip mall salon for $20, but recently started letting my 15-year old cut it (actually, she cuts the back, and I cut the front). I'm amazed, but it turns out pretty good, I can cut it every couple of months, and it's free!

Clothes - Kid's clothes on eBay can be really cheap. By buying "lots" of clothing you can sometimes buy a whole season's wardrobe for only $1.00 - $2.00 a piece. We also shop Goodwill and Salvation Army, but I don't seem to be able to find everything I need there, so then it's off to Kmart or Walmart.

Extra Money - At the age of 12, each of my kids took the course to become a soccer referee, and they each earn enough money each year to buy all of the clothes, video games, etc. they want. That definitely helps MY budget. I also started doing online surveys to earn a little extra money. I earned almost $200 last year on Opinion Outpost that I used toward Christmas presents. I do surveys on e-Rewards to buy magazine subscriptions.

Dollar Tree - This can be an invaluable resource. They have good equivalents to Oxiclean, dandruff shampoo, toothpaste, Febreze, shower cleaner, toilet cleanser, bleach cleansers, sponges, make-up, etc. - all for $1.00. I was there just last night and found a bottle of 32-load laundry detergent. Haven't tried it yet, but hey - it was only $1.00!

Vitamins, supplements drug store stuff - Sometimes you can find amazing deals on the internet. I find that different sellers have different sales at various times for vitamins. But I also find good deals at Costco and Grocery Outlet. Ooh - also, box of 99 bandaids at Grocery Outlet for only $1.00. Deodorants are often also a good deal at Grocery Outlet. Shampoos and lotions - Grocery Outlet or Dollar Tree.

Everything else - For almost everything I buy that's not groceries (light bulbs, household goods, gifts, etc.) I always check eBay and Amazon. It's amazing how cheap used things can be! I don't always find what I want there, but it costs nothing to check.

I'm sure there's more (I've become quite the penny pincher!), but that's what I can think of for now.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I coupon

Check out Couponing101.com

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answers from New York on

I guess I'm just of a different mind set. I just grew weary of cutting, cutting cutting and couldn't cut any more. So my response to prices getting higher is to figure out ways to increase my income outside of my job. Every person has some kind of skill talent or ability to do something which some one else would pay for. You have to decide and determine what works for you and when and then work it. It doesn't even have to be complicated or difficult or particularly time consuming just income producing. Here are some things me and my circle have done in the past.

Off hours day care
Baking breads, cakes and/or pies
Fish Fry
Chicken Lunch or Dinners
Laundry service
Car detailing
Sewing (curtains, pillows & quilts)
Party Planning
Party decorating
Shuttle service to local malls and airport
Handmade soaps, lotions, and creams
Holiday Gift wraping

What are some things you can think and do to bring in more income

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answers from Tulsa on

Do not window shop. Stop buying gifts for anyone who is not your child. Stop sending flowers to funerals and instead send a memorial. A donation can be made in their name to a charity for 5 or 10 instead of a 30 minimum floral arrangement that just gets tossed anyway. The charity sends a memorial card and you can send a personal card. We also stopped giving to weddings, graduations, etc... We buy NO fundraisers.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Don't laugh, but I've been making my own laundry detergent for almost 4 years. I started when my twin grandchildren were babies, living at our house. I wanted to know what was going into the washing machine with their clothes. Plus, my husband has sensitive skin, and some detergents caused him skin irritation. Add that he was laid off at the time. The recipe is easy to find. I make the powdered version. You have to get used to not having mountains of suds, but I have a front loader, so it was no problem. Cleans great, no skin flare-ups. I make a batch every two weeks. The "hardest" part is grating 2 bars of Ivory soap. Costs pennies per load instead of 85 cents or more per load. I'm saving over $400 per year on laundry detergent in a household of 3 adults. AND we never run out of detergent, because I buy the ingredients in bulk and can whip up a batch in 10 minutes.

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answers from Roanoke on

We shut off our cable completely and only pay for internet ($40/mo). And no landline. We put up bunny ears in the attic to get the channels over the air. We have about 12 channels, most in HD. FREE.

We are going to cancel Netflix in the near future. Amazon is getting much better and we will be going with them. A much bigger selection, more free, and better quality.

We eat at home often, making simple meals with lots of beans, rice, lentils, pasta, etc. Cheap and healthy. Buy fruits and veggies that are in season! We also buy some items in bulk to save in the long run. And we have an herb garden, so no need to put up $3 for a small bunch of basil.

If there are items around you house you don't need, sell them on ebay or craigslist. Take shorter showers, keep electricity off during the day, wash dishes by hand in the sink, recycle and re-purpose items (used dryer sheets make great dusters, grocery bags for wastebasket liners). That's all I can think of for now. OH, and I totally agree with MzKitty--shop around for new insurance companies! We just saved $150 changing our car insurance.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I know you said you don't have HBO or whatever, but do you need cable at all? Can you further reduce or eliminate your cable and cell phone bills? We just use rabbit ears. Not only does it save money, but I actually watch a lot less television because of it. And my kids only watch DVDs or PBS, which means they have a LOT less exposure to commercials.

If you are comfortable with it, you could also look into increasing your insurance deductibles. That would reduce your monthly bills, but the downside of course is that the deductible is higher if you do need to make a claim.

For both cell phone and auto insurance, depending on your or your husband's line of work/industry, you may qualify for some discounts. Teachers and people who work in health care especially get some significant ones.

I'd also get rid of the newspaper altogether. Most major papers have an online version, and you can get coupons online as well.

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answers from Denver on

If you really want to save a good amount of money, you have to evaluate what you can live without. You can get rid of cable completely. You can order Netflix for $8.00 a month to watch instant streaming and can watch shows on the internet and use red box. Always plan meals for the week and make lists that way you don't buy stuff you don't need so much. Use coupons and don't just buy stuff because you have a coupon (I guess unless your couponing!!! whoa!). Get rid of the paper, you can read on the internet. Unless you get coupons in the Sunday paper. Sell stuff you don't need on craigslist or ebay. Garden, garden, garden!!! Make sure things are well insulated, door cracks, attic, etc...I know economic times are tough but can't you try to find part time work to help with the bills?? Nights or weekends when the working parent is home? Best of luck.

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answers from Chicago on

We're in the same boat & have done the majority of the same stuff. We're also looking into lowering our car ins but uping the deductible & possibly refinancing our mortgage to a lower interest rate but that's kind of coming up empty because our house has lost value. We UNBUNDLED our services & took our phone down to practically nothing, no frills 911 & we pay if we make a call from it but we rarely do w/ our cell phones and we did keep our internet but we ditched TV service altogether. we have a digital antenna box & netflix for movies. We also switched to month to month cell phones (Virgin) that cut our bills there by about 2/3. If you think of anything else, speak up!!!1 we're always looking!!! Good luck!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

When my husband was laid off, I started making all of our own bread, buying the bread flour at Costco and splitting with a friend. We buy our gas at Costco and switched TV to Dish as it was much cheaper than cable. Initially I cancelled the paper but I realized I was better off continuing it and finding out about sales and getting coupons, saved more than the subscription cost and found out about free community events, etc. We don't put our heat above 67 and it's always turned down manually whenever we leave the house rather than relying on the thermostat program. Rely on free activities for kids, look on line for free days at museums, etc. Shop for Halloween costumes at Goodwill or other thrift stores. Sell things you don't need.



answers from Salinas on

Recycling help!! We have 3 seperate bins, glass, cans, plastics. It can help bring in anywhere from 20-60$ depending on the month!! And that can be a big help in the grocery fund etc. We down sized to one car household also and lowered our auto coverage limits, no to the lowest but just enough to see a difference of 20-30$ a month!!


answers from Redding on

I just made 3 loaves of bread. Way cheaper than 3 bucks a loaf.



answers from Pittsburgh on

You might think about switching your cell phones to pay-as-you go or pre-paid.

Library instead of buying books, RedBox for $1 movie rentals.

A large part of a lot of people's disposable income is often car payments. This may or may not be true for you, but we don't "do" car payments...and if we do--we pay off the vehicle in 12-18 months. For too many, a car payment is considered an "expected, monthly" expense.

Buy at Costco, Sam's, etc and split up food with someone else if that's too much bulk for you.

Once you get everything cut back to a certain point, then it's time to look at the flip side of the "savings" equation--the income side.
Extra job(s), PT things, selling things that you own (outgrown clothing, toys, books, etc.), extra electronics that might be gathering dust.



answers from San Francisco on

i don't know if you've gotten this idea yet, but you could do coupons. my dad was in a local club where people traded. it took time but was worth it. sometimes he would get a full basket of groceries for under $20! also, we get our meat at Costco and freeze in small quantities.



answers from San Antonio on

No cable, no land line phone, no magazine or any type of subscription.

This is kinda hard core but we have gone mostly vegetarian. We eat chicken one night a week and fish one night a week...and the rest vegetarian. Cutting the cost of meat out of our budget dropped our grocery bill a lot.

The only things we have left to cut is internet (which is our entertainment and we watch tv through it), our kids martial arts classes, and our cleaning lady twice a month (we are dropping her to once a month...and would drop her all together, but with my bad back she is cheaper than me re-injuring myself mopping).

I can't wait to read the other responses and see if I am missing something else I didn't think of...


answers from Dallas on

The majority of my discretionary spending is on food. If I am not careful I can blow a lot of money on groceries, convenience items, drive throughs, and expensive menu ideas. That is where I have the most control over the budget. If I am super careful I can cut our food bill way down, if not, it gets out of control quick.
We've also cut out all the uncessary car trips. I used to be on the go with the kids on the weekends, now we stay close to home to save gas and from eating out.



answers from San Francisco on

I heard that turning off and on the fluorescent light constantly can cost more that keeping them on. It takes a lot of power for them to start up. I do find myself still sticking to my old regiment of turning them off when not in use though. We got rid of our landline. We also don't use a heater. We have a wood burning stove. I don't color my hair and my husband cuts his hair, mine (or I do it myself), and my son's. We don't get a newspaper at all. I get a lot of hand-me-down clothing. It's great, totally free!
I recycle aluminum for cash. You get more $ than for plastic and glass and I don't have to deal with separating it. Good luck!



answers from Cincinnati on

What about turning down you water heater? Most are set at 120 but 100 or even 95 is hot enough. also if you cook more using a crock pot you save more then using a stove. I am not into the energy efficent light bulbs because they are more costly and the average house saves $8 a year. that's less then 7 cents a month. We did get a free energy and water saving shower head when we did a consulatation on ways to conserve energy. I love it not only did I notice a difference on both electric and water bills but the water pressure that comes out is better then are old shower head.



answers from Los Angeles on

clothing swaps, do own sewing repairs + alterations, cut kids paid activities.

I know some might flip out on me about cutting the kids activities. However, when money is tight we play at the park, make play dates etc instead of participating in ballet, gymnastics, art classes. Coordinating fun kids activities with other moms instead of paying for extracurricular activities is another (less expensive) way for parents and kids to socialize.


answers from Omaha on

Sounds like you have it all covered! We don't go to the movies. If we do it's a matinee but that's rare. At our grocery store we get points for gas. So we'll get .30 per gallon off of gas. Our neighborhood recycles so we get points for that. You go on the recyling site and redeem your points. Last year we got 5 free magazine subscriptions, or we'll get a coupon for free santizing wipes or something. Don't have to buy anything. You can just take the coupon and pick up some sanitzing wipes for free.

Our cable bill crept up after a few months. We fell into that trap of a discounted rate for free HBO, Starz, and Showtime for 6 months. Well after that 6 months they of course don't contact you and you forget. Other cable things creep in so the cost gradually goes up. Before you know it your bill is super high. So we went back to basic cable and got rid of all that other stuff.

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