- Family and Parenting
Frugal Living on a Tight Budget
With the current recession, it's very important that we all learn how to spend less. The American dollar is at an all time low, but the cost of food and other necessities is soaring. A cart full of groceries and house hold items which cost $80 in 2006 now costs $150.
The United States is a nation of consumers. We all know how to spend quite well. Saving and living frugally are not skills that most young Americans have today. Here you will find tips on how to live more frugally. It's time to tighten our belts and learn how to live on less.
Piggybank picture courtesy of gracey on morguefile.
Frugal Living Tips
Sage Advice to Help You Stretch Your Dollar
Here are some frugal tips to live by:
- Turn off all lights and fans that aren't necessary.
- Unplug appliances you aren't using. Toasters, coffee pots, stereos, and other electronics use power even when they are turned off, so unplug them when you aren't using them.
- If you cook more than your family will eat in a night, serve up everyone's plate and freeze the leftovers.
- Don't charge. If you put something on your credit card that you can't pay off the following month, then you can't afford it. If you currently have a credit card balance, don't add to it. Also, pay more than the minimums so you can get it paid off.
- If you enjoy reading, stop buying books and take advantage of your local library. You might also want to swap books with friends, neighbors, and family. I must admit though that second-hand books stores are my favorite shops!
- Many restaurants have nights when kids eat free. Find out which ones and which nights and don't eat out unless you can get your kid's meals for free.
- Keep your car maintained. It will last longer and use less gas if it's in good repair.
- Plan your meals in advance to avoid not having the right ingredients to prepare a meal at home
Tips for Saving Money in the Bathroom
- Use every last drop of toothpaste before throwing a tube out. Use the handle of your toothbrush to get the last bit out by pressing it on the counter and sliding it up from the base of the tube all the way to the top. You can also cut the bottom of the tube off to get the last bit.
- Cut your shampoo and conditioner bottles in half when it gets down to the end, that way you can get the last bit of the product out.
- When the bar of soap gets too small to handle, don't throw it out but just press it onto a new bar. If it is wet, it should stick.
- Don't leave the water running when you are cleaning your teeth.
- Use a timer when you are in the shower and set it to a realistic time.
Laundry Tips to Make Your Clothes Last
How to Save Money by Protecting Your Clothes
Washing the dirty laundry can really be a big expense. You don't want to skimp too much on the laundry because you want to take great care of your clothes so that they last longer. I have learned how to do a great job with the laundry for the best price possible.
Doing all of your family's laundry can really run up your water and electric bill. Be sure to adjust the load size each time you do laundry so you aren't using too much water. I wash everything on cold except sheets, towels, and clothes with tough stains. You can also save money by hanging your clothes to dry instead of using your dryer.
If you have a baby or toddler and need to use baby detergent, then I highly recommend All Baby detergent. Dreft is very expensive and I've tried many generic baby detergents that didn't get my baby's clothes clean. All Baby smells great and gets just about any stain out.
Some people who are allergic to Cheer or Tide have found that they great results with All concentrated (if you have a front loader they make an H.E.) and Arm and Hammer, and both are cheaper than Cheer or Tide.
Whether you have a baby or not, I highly recommend Dreft (yep it's pricey) spray stain remover. You can conserve it by using it on really tricky stains, but Dreft pre-wash stain spray has saved many of our clothes. It even gets out stains that have been set in with the dryer.
There is a simple trick to getting terrible odors out of clothes...toothpaste! Yep, plain old toothpaste (not gel) will get any odor out. Just wash the clothes as usual and when the washer is almost full with water, squeeze in a little toothpaste. Bad odors completely disappear! This has saved my husband's running and workout clothes.
Do you have trouble with your towels having a musty smell even after washing them in hot water? There's an easy way to save them. Add a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. Your towels will come out smelling as fresh as the day you bought them.
The final laundry trick I've learned is how to save money on dryer sheets. I've discovered that you can cut in dryer sheet into thirds and use just one third of a sheet per load. A third of a dryer sheet is enough to work on even a large load of laundry. So, go ahead and buy what ever brand you prefer and just cut each sheet into thirds.
Clothing Your Little Ones on a Budget
WalMart & Target are Your Friends
Money-smart parents buy many of their children's clothes at WalMart and Target. WalMart's and Target's clothes are good quality and wash very well. And your infant is not fussy about brand names like teenagers when it comes to clothes!
Every time you buy groceries, you could stop off at the infant/toddler clothing section of WalMart. They frequently clear out items that are still in season and you can grab up great deals that way. Target puts large amounts of infant and toddler clothes on clearance weekly. It's worth your while to go and browse once a week. Buying things that your children will need in the future in larger sizes can save you a lot of money too, so be be afraid to buy those larger sizes when you see them at a clearance price. You can buy winter things in the summer and summer things in the winter at a steal of a price.
One thing you need to know is Target and WalMart don't get more of basic items in when they sell out. So, for example, once they sell out of long sleeved pj's that's it. So, be sure to get the items that your child needs when available and not always wait for them to be clearanced.
Also, don't forget about consignment stores. Check your local phone book for children's consignment stores. You can get barely worn name brand stuff at great prices. If you think something is pricey at a consignment store, try and barter a bit. It's not like a retail store where their prices are set in stone.
My final tip for dressing your little ones on a budget is join some mom's groups. You just might make friends with a mom who has a kid a year older than yours and will be willing to give you her hand-me-down.
Clothing your older children on a budget
My children are both teenagers. Several years ago I came across an idea to give my children pocket money which would cover all their expenses, such as clothes, educational expenses or whatever I decided. I calculated an amount which I thought was sufficient to cover their clothes, shoes and a little spending money. I pay them this amount on the first of every month. This system has several advantages:
- I am not continually pestered about buying clothes
- This system is much easier for me to budget with
- My children are taught money management skills
My daughter is very creative with her clothes and has become quite the little bargain-hunter. My son would rather spend his money on other items far more important than clothes and consequently, will wear his clothes to the last thread of their existence. A phrase you can occasionally hear in our household: "You're not wearing THAT out in public are you?"
How much is a fair amount to give your children for a clothing / shoe budget each month?
Of course, this can be a little tricky to answer. This will obviously depend on how old your children are, which country you are from and if you live in the city or far from any clothing stores. But let's see if we can get a ball-park figure.
How much would you give your children (in $US) per month for a clothing allowance?
Great Guides to Living Frugally - Learn How to Live on a Tight Budget
Save Money on Cleaning Products
There's No Need to Buy Expensive Cleansers
Grapefruit Seed Extract is an all natural antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral cleanser. It's completely safe to use around pets and children, because it actually comes from the grapefruit. You can buy it in super concentrated liquid form. It can run around $10 for 4 oz, but that may last an entire year.
You dilute it in distilled water, because chemicals in tap water can alter it's effectiveness. You put in ten drops per one ounce of water in a spray bottle. Shake the mixture each time you use it. This makes a super effective, safe, cheap, and environmentally friendly cleanser. It leaves your house smelling fresh with no harsh chemicals.
What to Do With Left Over Roast
Make a New Dish with that Left Over Roast
Recipe idea from Thrivingmom:
I'm not a big fan of roast, but since it's easy to prepare, can feed a whole family, and can be munched on for days, it's a necessary evil. I don't want to have to eat it two days in a row though, so I've discovered a yummy dish to make with the leftover roast.
Turn it into beef stroganoff. I cut of the left over roast into bite size pieces and prepare it using a package of hamburger helper's beef stroganoff. Add a little extra water and some extra noodles to feed more people. If you put in a small container of generic sour cream and one quarter stick of butter, it's super yummy!
Save Money on Gas / Petrol - Great Sites with Tips on Saving Money on Gas
With rising gas prices, many families are feeling the crunch. There are some great online resources that can help you save money on fueling up. Here are some of my favorites:
- MSN Gas Prices by ZIP Code
This site is great. Just type in your ZIP Code and a map will display the gas prices in your area so you can go to the cheapest pump!
- Bankrate's Top 15 Ways to Save on Gas
This list includes many things that people tend to forget about, such as maintaining your vehicle.
- wikiHow - How to Save Money on Gas
This site provides great gas saving tips. It also allows you to comment on the tips. You can leave a comment or see what other visitors are saying.
Thrivingmom shares about her grandparents:
My grandparents lived through the Great Depression. Their tough experiences made a lasting impression on them, as well as the younger generations in our family. If we ate soup or chili and one of them didn't finish what was in the bowl, they would scrape their leftovers back into the pot. If they used a paper towel to dry their hands or wipe water off of the counter they used to hang it up to dry so they could reuse it. When I was a kid, this type of behavior seemed crazy, but with today's recession I find myself looking back to the frugal lifestyle of my grandparents. If our economy doesn't recover soon, we will all have to learn how to live a lot differently than we do right now.
Feel free to share your stories and experiences of money saving practices of your parents or grandparents here. Please do not add general comments here. There is a guestbook at the end of this page for those.
Beware the Dollar Store!
Sometimes it's a Good Deal...Sometimes it's Not
Be very cautious about the dollar store. I'm not talking about the ones where everything is actually a dollar, but the ones that are like mini WalMarts (like the Family Dollar and Dollar General).
Don't get me wrong. I'm a huge fan of the dollar store. I especially love to buy my daughter's books there (it is a super great place to buy affordable board books)! But, you have to really be mindful when you shop at these stores. I got really excited one day when I was at the dollar store and saw some super cute clothes for my daughter. I snatched them up and checked out and it was $56.17. "Wow," I thought to myself on the drive home, "I just spend over $56 at the Dollar Store!" When I got home I looked at my merchandise and realized that the outfits I bought were all $7 to $10 each. That is more expensive than the clothes I buy for my children at Target and WalMart.
The Dollar Store does have some really great deals and you can conveniently get in and out faster than you can Target or WalMart, but really educate yourself on pricing and watch what you purchase there. Make sure you really are getting a good deal. You can easily spend more than you have to by buying things at the Dollar Store.
Links to Frugal Resources
- Get Free Printable Coupons
This coupon site offers manufacturer coupons on various items, but they also allow you to put in your zipcode to get great local deals too!
- Coupon Mom
This free coupon site claims to be able to cut your grocery bill in half by offering you a free e-book on how to shop smarter!
- Coupon Cabin
This site offers free online coupon codes to various online retailers.
Have you mastered the art of frugal living or just stumbled upon a couple frugal tips that have been very helpful? Leave your frugal tips here.