10 Ways to Save Money This Month

There are many ways to save money. We are currently working very hard to pay off our debt. By making a few short-term sacrifices we can make a huge impact quickly. Do you have a credit card or student loan that you want to pay off? Maybe some of these ideas that helped us will help you too.

1.) Cook your way into some extra cash – We had a problem with eating out way too often. We did a lot of the grabbing something on the run without ever thinking about it. I never thought twice about grabbing dinner on a weeknight just because I didn’t plan ahead or I was too lazy to cook. We bought lunch on work days and sometimes breakfast too. It is cheaper to make things from scratch but it won’t save you a dime if you don’t cook it. Be honest about who you are and plan your meals accordingly. Throwing in a couple frozen pizzas on a busy night is cheaper than ordering it.

2.) Shop the PantryWe had many odd things hiding away in the pantry. I went through our pantry, freezer, fridge, and cabinets to come up with as many options for dinners as possible without buying anything. When I could come up with no more meal options than I looked for ways to make meals with the smallest amount of added items. This helped to cut down our grocery bill for a couple of weeks which gave us additional money to pay toward our debt.

3.) Leftovers are Your Friend – Use up your leftovers. Take leftovers for lunch. Use them in another dish or as part of another meal. We use the bottom of the cereal bag to top yogurt. Plan for leftovers sometimes. I will often make extra chicken to throw in a salad the next night. Whole chickens, turkeys, and hams can save you a ton if you use your leftovers appropriately. A whole chicken can easily feed our family of five for a few days. We made a large ham last month because they were so cheap per pound. That ham made us multiple lunches and dinners for two weeks. We had ham with potatoes and vegetables a couple of nights. We made sandwiches, casseroles, and even ham and cheese omelets.

4.) Use it all before buying more – Waiting to buy items until you are out or almost out can help you to save more money in the short-term. Depending on your habits you may save money in the long-term as well. You will not have money wrapped up in things just waiting to be used. If you are the type of person who begins using the new item before finishing the old one you will save quite a bit with this approach. Can you get another week or month out of your mascara? Do you want to buy another lipstick or eyeshadow but you have ten already? Can you squeeze a few more days out of your toothpaste or cleaning products? These little things can really add up.

5.) Delay, Delay, Delay – Anything that you want to buy should be delayed. Did you see an ad online and now you simply have to by a llama or whatever? Put that thought aside. Try to delay everything not necessary to basic living for the month. You may change your mind about the llama. Impulsive buying is not your friend.

6.) Get Back to Basics – Simply pay your bills, pay your transportation costs for work, and don’t starve. What is the bare minimum that you can get by with? Can you go without buying anything that you can live without?

7.) Break the Rules – This is extra fun if you have kids! The only rules about food are the rules that we have learned from society. Breakfast food is cheap and easy to make. Try having breakfast for dinner once a week to give your budget a break. Think pancakes, eggs, toast, and fruit. There are not many meals that are cheaper or easier than an omelet. They are also great for using up leftover meat, cheese, and vegetables. Vegetables and rice is a perfectly acceptable meal and so is PB&J. Do you want to eat only a banana for breakfast? That’s fine. We love peanut butter, banana, and cereal sandwiches. Really get inventive with low-cost options.

8.) Cancel subscriptions Are there any subscriptions that you are paying for that you don’t need? Do you have multiple television options? Do you need cable? Netflix? Hulu? Amazon Prime? Could you just use one of them? Could you give one of them up for 6 months? We tend to cycle between them. Do you have a gym membership or anything that you don’t use? Anything that you have been meaning to cancel and haven’t yet? Even $10 a month helps. That’s $120 a year. If you are paying that on a credit card every month, you are also saving even more on the interest you would have paid.

9.) Tell Your Friends & Family – You will be surprised by how supportive people can be. You don’t want your friends to think that you are avoiding going out with them because you are upset with them instead of just trying to save some money on dinner. They may invite you over instead of out to dinner and be much more understanding when you suggest that they come to your house for a drink instead of going out to a bar. They may also help in unexpected ways. An amazing friend of mine gave us a ton of clothing for our youngest. A complete wardrobe, even for a toddler, is a small fortune.

10.) Be Boring – You can save money by being extremely boring for a month. Stay home. Watch Netflix or work your way through your DVD collection. We signed up for a free month of Netflix and binge watched a few shows. You could also watch YouTube or rent library movies for free. If you want to get together with friends, invite them over for a pot luck or coffee. Play free games on your phone. Read that stack of books you have been meaning to.

Try some or all of these to help make a difference in paying down your debt or building up your savings. By making these little sacrifices, we were able to pay off some of our smaller debts so that we could snowball the payments forward to the next debt. Every little bit counts when you’re on this journey.

Making a “What Will We Do in Summer?” Jar

We began with a family sized spaghetti sauce jar that we washed out, removed label from, and dried throughly. I used card stock scraps to make bright-colored squares (about 1×1) and rectangles (about 2×1). All were cut free hand and varied slightly in shape and size. I put the scraps in a small shopping bag.

We all sat at the table and took turns pulling out a paper scrap without looking. The green scraps are for weekend ideas and the rest are for weekdays. After we pulled our scrap of paper, we would write something to do that day. (We used sharpie markers to write because the pen did not show up as well. Except Isabella who scribbled on hers in ink pen.) We could write a place to go, an activity to do, a craft to make, something to learn about (Learn 5 words in Italian or Learn something about Bee Keeping) or a question to answer (“What do they eat in Japan?” or “Where is Belize?” or “Who is Tony Blair?” or “What is the tallest mountain in the United States?” etc, etc, etc). It was then folded and placed in the jar. Ivy was so excited when she would get to pick a weekend option! There were a few rules for picking outings. Weekday outings and activities had to be less than $5 to do. Many of ours were completely free! Weekend outings had to get approval. We agreed to things that were not too expensive and were not more than a couple of hours away. I also made sure that there was educational value in at least 90% of the ideas.

Every morning during summer break, the kids will pull one thing out to do that day. The scrap of paper will then go into a small bag. At the end of summer we will use the scraps of paper and some photographs taken to add to our family scrap-book so the girls will always remember what they did the summer of 2012.

P.S. Toddler Note: We wanted Isabella to feel included in the process so she put hers in too. After we had finished I dumped them in a bag and fished hers out before replacing them. When she had a true idea we included it. She came up with color pictures and see fish. She loved being part of it!

5 Things To Do With Your Kids On The Cheap No Matter Where You Live

Here are 5 ideas for spending time with the kids on the cheap:

  1. The Local Park –Kids of all ages (including 29, Wink, Wink!) love to swing and play on the monkey bars. The park is a timeless outing! Depending on where you live it is either free or very cheap. It is a fun way to pass the afternoon. I love to bring a picnic & plenty of drinks to make it a whole day event.
  2. Historic Site – Be it a small town or a big city something important happened within a short drive. Everywhere we have lived we have found cool historical sites. Some are locally important but many are important on a state or country level. Many sites are free or under $5 to visit. The best way to approach a historical outing is to learn a few key points before visiting. It is very hard for a child or even an adult to get excited about seeing the childhood home of a President if they do not know who they are.
  3. Art!- Be it a museum, a local exhibit, or a public piece, art is just plain cool. Art can spark all kinds of questions and interesting conversations with your family. The only rule to this is to make sure the place allows children (Many art galleries allow kids during the daytime.) and that the art is child appropriate. I once took my kids to the Contemporary Photography Museum in Chicago. The place was great and Free! The only issue was a large photo collection depicting murder that was a little disturbing. Consider a walk through or ask the front desk if you are concerned of what your children may see.
  4. The Public Library- Any of you that follow my writing know how much I love a good library! We have been to so many! Over the years we have enjoyed train tables, block sets, car tracks, puppet theaters, toys, computer games, board games, puzzles, story times, classes (from Origami to sea creatures including a real penguin), a petting zoo, magicians, belly dancers, contests, ghost stories, and a butterfly release, not to mention quite a few great books.
  5. The Bakery- If you are in a small town there is likely only one known simply as “The Bakery” and everyone I have ever gotten the joy of visiting was amazing! If you are in the ‘burbs or the city then there are many but I’m betting you have a favorite. Take your kids in for a cookie or donut. Sit down with them and listen to them talk. This time with them is priceless. They will be grown before you know it and you will look back on this time as a treasured memory.

Tips For Traveling With Children

  1. Bring a bike lock for the stroller. They are not welcome in many restaurants and some shops. Best to be prepared.
  2. Check to make sure that restaurants are kid friendly before you visit. If there are no high chairs it is best to know up-front. Also kids and long lines do not mix. Make reservations for places you want to visit that have long wait times whenever possible.
  3. Do not over plan! You need a plan with kids but it must have additional time in it for the inevitable issues that come up when traveling with kids.
  4. Be flexible! (We once went to a restaurant for dinner only to find that they closed at 4pm! We had 2 hungry, cranky kids and we were 6 hours from home! We walked up the block to the first place that looked kid friendly. It turned into one of our favorite places.)
  5. Pack their “special” item. It is a common tip to bring a small child’s lovey or blanket but nobody ever mentions the importance of bringing something for older kids. Your tweens and teens need their favorite items to feel secure on the road. Don’t forget their Ipod or DS! You want them to be comfortable as well.
  6. Many hotels have crib rentals. It is often not only cheaper but more comforting for your child to bring a pack & play from home. I must stress this is only an option for car trips. Do not try to bring one in a plane!
  7. Pack a spare. Bring a spare of all basics when kids are involved. Spare outfit, shoes (we once lost a shoe while strolling around), socks, toothbrush (new in the pack for whoever loses theirs along the way), and a memory card for the parents! Nothing like a full memory card to make you mad!
  8. Do not let your kids eat drastically differently than they would at home. If you do not normally allow junk food and sweets than you must limit them when on vacation as well. Kids have sensitive little tummies (as do most adults!). When you change their diet to all fast food or way more sweets a day; you are asking for trouble! Nobody has a good time when part of the family does not feel well.
  9. Consider how active your family is. I have no problem with active trips! We are a very active family. That being said: If your family or even one member of your family is inactive or very out of shape then taking them on a highly active trip may indeed be too much for them. Think of the whole group when picking out what to do. Also consider a child’s abilities. Even children can go hiking as long as you pick an appropiate place to take them.
  10.  Learn about the history or culture of a place before visiting. This helps to turn the trip into a learning experience like no other. Make sure to see one historical or cultural point that goes with what you have learned.