As a stay-at-home Mom I feel that since I don’t earn an income, one thing I can do is look for ways to save our family money on a monthly basis. You can’t control unexpected expenses like a big auto repair bill or doctor bills, but you can have a bit more control of what gets spent on groceries, gas, energy, TV, cell phones, etc. Just for the heck of it I put together a list of ways that our own family saves each month. Here are some of the basic things I could think of off the top of my head. I’m sure some of you do the same things in your home, but here’s my own personal list:
1. Hang laundry out to dry. I’ve read that it costs 50 cents to over $1 to run one load of clothes in the dryer. One of the best things my husband has done for me over the years is set up this pulley-style clothesline (or in our area, called an Amish clothesline) that runs from our deck landing to a tree. I can literally stand in one spot with the wash basket and clothespins and hang out all the wash. For our family, it holds about two days worth of laundry. Not only is this a more green way to dry your laundry, you will save money on your electric bill by not running the dryer. With the exception of refrigerators, dryers eat up the most electricity. Except in the wintertime and very rainy weeks, this is what I try to do. As a bonus your laundry smells great and has a crisp feel.
2. Run the cold cycle. Unless I have something extremely nasty to wash, I typically run the cold water cycle on my washer. It still does a great job and keeps your hot water heater from having to fire up so much. (Just a plug for Maytag–we have had a Maytag washer and dryer for over 12 years and haven’t had a single issue with them.)
3. Make my own laundry detergent. One of my first posts featured the recipe I use for this. I make the liquid variety which usually lasts us for several months and costs less than $2 to make. (And it works great!) Occasionally I will buy some, but only if I see a really good deal and have a coupon for it.
4. Clip coupons. Up until last year I thought coupons must be a waste of time. Then I kept hearing about and seeing all these people who swear by couponing to save on their grocery bill, among other items. I subscribed to the Sunday paper, started clipping, and haven’t looked back. Yes, it does take a bit of extra time to clip and shop with coupons. However, I find it to be well worth the effort. And no, in case you’re wondering, I’m not one of those crazy people who stock up on like 50 bottles of mustard just because I have a million coupons for them. Some of my favorite websites dedicated to couponing: moneysavingmom.com, forthemommas.com, couponmom.com, hip2save.com, and thefrugalgirls.com.
5. Make dinner homemade. Eating out is oh-so-convenient if you’ve had a hectic work day or are running kids from one activity to another. However, just taking everyone to Mickey-D’s can really add up. We like family dinners at home whenever possible, though it’s fun to splurge once in a while. Plus it’s so much healthier to eat homemade and having time around the dinner table as a family is priceless.
6. Leftovers please! I still remember my brother talking in disbelief of a family that he discovered threw out all their leftovers every night. What a waste! We usually indulge in leftovers for our lunch and if we have quite a few left, on hectic days, I will serve up a leftover smorgasboard for dinner. One of my favorite blogs, thefrugalgirl.com, does a post on food waste every week to challenge others to reduce food waste. Using up all your leftovers also saves on those grocery bills.
7. Cut our boys’ hair at home. Little kids’ haircuts can run anywhere from $5-$10, sometimes more at a barber shop or hair salon. My husband has cut his own hair with a pair of clippers for many years and we do the same for our boys. Daddy is the barber and lines all 4 of ’em up in the bathroom. They even have a contest to see who is the most shaggy. I’ve also cut my daughter’s hair many times at home and get mine cut every couple of months, just a cut and no other services.
8. Buy secondhand. If you’ve read even a few of my postings before, you know I love to shop secondhand. Hey, I find really great stuff for my family this way and figure I pay a small percent of what I would at a department store. Just as an example, several months ago I was wanting to buy different curtains for my daughter’s room. Hers were still pretty babyish and I was on the hunt for something a bit more grown-up looking. I happened to be at Goodwill looking through the household linens and found a pair of awesome purple curtains for $2 that just needed to be hemmed. Ebay and Craigslist are also great sources if you’re looking for something specific.
9. Take advantage of the season. I feel so incredibly blessed when I open up my freezer or go down to my basement and see the plethora of fruits and veggies we have canned or frozen for the year. We usually make this a family event and get the kids in on the action. As they get older they really can be good helpers and learn to appreciate where their food comes from. Some of the items we regularly can or freeze: sweet corn, peas, lima beans, green beans, peaches, applesauce, tomato sauce, whole tomatoes, salsa, grape juice, jellies and jams (all kinds)….
10. Don’t pay for TV. Really, is there anything good on anyway? We stick to the old-fashioned antenna and are quite content with that. Mostly the kids watch PBS and a couple evenings a week there’s a show or two we may watch, but that’s about it.
11. No gym membership. I have comfy sneakers, a bicycle, weights, an exercise mat, balance ball, and some exercise DVD’s. Honestly, if I can’t get a good workout with those items around it’s my own darn fault.
12. Programmable Thermostat. This is something my husband just installed at the beginning of last winter. I think it cost around $30 and you can set it anyway you want during the day and night. I can’t pinpoint how much it saved us yet, but from what I’ve read it can really help you save on heating and cooling costs.
13. Basic cell phone. I tell people that I have an old person’s cell phone. Actually, I sorta do. It has the most basic functions and no bells or whistles. I’m sure if I got something new and fancy-schmancy I would probably enjoy it, but so far that hasn’t been necessary for me. And, can I be quite honest here? I am annoyed by people constantly chatting, texting, and whatever else on their phones. I know, I know, I sound like an old fuddy-duddy. Mine is about $10 a month which suits me fine and my husband gets his provided through work.
So, I’m curious, how does your family save in this crazy economy? I would love to hear from you!