Today’s moms now understand what our mothers meant when they said, “I’m not made of money,” every time we asked for a box of name brand cereal or a pack of gum or candy at the register. With six kids of my own, I am definitely not made of money, and neither are either of their dads! If I bought each kid even one item they wanted every time I took them to a store, I would be more broke than I am already! Seriously though, when you have a household and a limited income, I want the most for my buck. Bottom line, cost counts! Here are the top five areas a family can look to save money without losing out on living the American Dream.
- Food — I want my family to eat well but I don’t want to pay top dollar. We like fresh food and cook at home almost every night. That being said, groceries can add up to hundreds each week. Not to knock the big box stores, but I do not shop them unless I cannot find a “specialty” item at Aldi’s. I save half the money shopping there, and our diet hasn’t changed at all. With over 1550 stores nationwide, it is worth your while to check them out if you can!
- Child care — My children are precious and I am very careful about leaving them in the care of others. When I do, I usually find a dual-purpose person or activity for my kids, to keep them all busy, get the most bang for my buck and use my family’s limited time and resources wisely. One way to do that is having my caregiver do more than just babysit, like help the kids with homework, chores, preparing a meal or snacks, or something I’d like to do but don’t have the time or energy after finishing all my responsibilities.
- Classes/Lessons — Whether dance, gymnastics, piano, basketball camp, softball or rec football, my kids want to try everything. Naturally, there has to be some limit, unless it is a school-sponsored sport which provides most of the gear and transportation (and it fits our crazy schedule). It is natural for kids to want to join a sport or take a lesson. I let my kids try one year of something in Kindergarten or first grade and then try to limit organized sports until middle school. Frankly it saves my sanity. But when I have given in, like you will, I asked family and friends for references and have been very happy with the results. It also works very nicely to help nip fresh behavior in the bud with a mention of Thursday evening (open gym night).
- Services (phone, cable, oil change) — Shop around people! Seriously, too many of us take it for fact that we can’t get a better price or a better deal (or we just don’t care), but take the time to call around to competitors and see if you can save. If you don’t need the bundle, don’t get it! Try this with companies you pay each month, like phone, cable, internet and cell providers. Read the fine print if you try this with credit cards. Many homeowners are finding that going solar can save hundreds each month on energy bills! Look into a few ways to save and you might be surprised.
Of course, there are more ways to save and I could go on. I hope you find this advice useful and timely. Spend money on necessities first and never be afraid to check around for a better price. Our mother’s knew what they were doing when they shopped around. We have become a bit lazy and wasteful. Save a few dollars and give the kids that extra experience or pay off a bill. As I always say, better to be known as frugal than fruity!