Frugal Living Tips for Families: Save Money and Have Fun
How Can Families Save Money and Still Have Fun?
Let's face it: raising children is costly. From grocery shopping to buying clothes, entertainment, and much more... it all adds up!
Experts estimate that the cost of raising a U.S.-born infant to age 18 is approximately $200,000-250,000. If you have more than one child, multiply that figure accordingly.
As a mother of four children, ages 9-14, I am constantly looking for ideas to save money as a family, but still have fun. Until 2008, my husband and I both worked full-time. Then the recession hit and we went to a single-income family. While I had always been good at pinching pennies, we had to quickly adopt a more frugal living style. Before long, we realized that we could save hundreds of dollars each month with a few simple tips. What's more, it was actually fun to watch the savings add up.
Clipping coupons is only part of the equation here. I've never been that good at organizing all my coupons anyway, so we've streamlined the process of saving money for busy families.
Saving Money as a Family: Teamwork!
A good friend of mine always reminds me that when it comes to family, we're all on the "same team."
This applies to rules, chores, and disagreements concerning everyday matters. The bottom line is that we all basically want the same things: a stable household, food on the table and a place to sleep.
Saving money as a family helps to ensure these fundamental needs are met, in most cases.
Minimize disagreements on money issues by calling a "team meeting" at which you ask for ideas from each person as to how to save more. Talk about what expenses can be cut out. Ask what trade-offs each is willing to make. How can you save more energy or hot water? Perhaps even set a long term goal to set aside part of the monthly savings for a special family outing!
Whether or not you have tight finances, the exercise of saving money as a family helps establish good habits and responsibilities concerning making and sticking to a budget. These are lifelong lessons that will follow your children into adulthood.
One Frugal Family Saves a Bundle
Be Frugal: Save Money at Meals
One of the easiest ways to incorporate frugal living into a family routine is to save money at meals. Homemade lunches and dinners are less expensive and usually healthier than take-out meals.
Collect some cheap, fast, and easy family recipes, shop smart at the grocery store, and follow these tips:
- Purchase discounted groceries and freeze for future use (meat, bread), or incorporate into a meal immediately.
- Never throw away leftovers.
- Stretch your shopping dollar stocking up on staples when they are on sale.
- Double your recipes and put one in the freezer for another day.
- Have your children help with meal preparation (there are many great children's cookbooks!).
- Shop for seasonal produce and pantry essentials; skip items that are out of season.
- Grow your own vegetable or herb garden.
- Make dried fruit, can fruits and vegetables, make pickles, make your own jam or jelly.
- Bake from scratch instead of buying pre-packaged items.
- Make popcorn on the stove top, instead of buying microwave popcorn.
- Clip and use coupons or, if you have a smartphone, download free coupon apps.
Be Frugal: Save Money on Clothing
My four children seem to grow overnight! Clothes and shoes that I purchase in September are often too small by the holiday season.
To stretch our clothing dollar, I use these frugal tips to save money on clothing:
- Purchase new clothes on clearance and/or at the end of the season; stock up on essentials in larger sizes such as t-shirts, socks, undergarments and jeans and pack away for 9-12 months.
- Repair clothing where possible: patch jeans, sew on buttons, replace zippers.
- Organize hats, gloves, socks and underwear in easy to see bins; have children help you match pairs of gloves and socks.
- Save, wash and organize older siblings' clothes to hand down to younger kids.
- Ask friends with children older than yours if they have outgrown items that can be passed along.
- Shop at consignment shops, Goodwill, and garage sales.
- Check eBay or Craigslist.
- Organize or attend a clothing swap party with friends.
- Avoid purchasing premium brands, unless for a gift, or where the child has earned the extra money themselves.
This Frugal Mom Is an Inspiration!
Be Frugal: Save Money on Entertainment
Entertainment expenses are often the first items cut when a family is working on a budget. But, while you are saving money, you still want to have fun!
Fortunately, there are many options for family entertainment on a shoestring budget—some are even free!
- Check out books at the library instead of buying new.
- Check out DVDs or CDs, instead of renting or purchasing.
- Borrow books, DVDs and CDs from friends.
- Watch for special inexpensive or free movie screenings for families—our elementary school offers these quarterly; during the summer, our city has outdoor movie nights once a month.
- Organize a movie night with friends and their kids to share the costs of entertainment.
- Attend public lectures or book readings at the library.
- Attend high school plays or concerts—even if you don't have a child that attends the school.
- Spend time outdoors walking, hiking, bicycling, or swimming.
- Go to the playground or park.
- Attend local sporting events, rather than professional games.
- Organize a toy exchange and swap items that your children have outgrown or are no longer interested in.
- Print out coloring pages from the Internet, rather than purchasing coloring books.
- Tell imaginative tales with your children during "story night" at your home.
- Enjoy traditional, inexpensive games such as dominoes, playing cards, cribbage, checkers, chess, marbles, and jacks.
- Entertain your children while also having them help out at home, saving even more money: enlist their help gardening, folding clothes, preparing meals, walking the dog and much more!
General Frugal Living Tips for Families
It's not hard to save money and have fun as a family. In addition to the tips above, reducing your monthly living expenditures will can add up to significant savings.
Whether you minimize energy use at home, increase fuel efficiency of your vehicle, or pay less for services through a barter system, consider these general frugal living tips:
- Use a programmable thermostat to reduce heating and cooling costs.
- Unplug appliances when not in use.
- Reduce frequency of running appliances (dishwashers, laundry).
- Hang clothes to dry.
- Wash in cold water.
- Drive your vehicle less often.
- Maintain your vehicle to increase fuel efficiency.
- Consider having your teen take a part time job to earn his or her spending money.
- Consider bartering/swapping services with a friend: i.e., you color their hair and they fix a plumbing issue at your home (note that the government may determine a bartering scheme to be taxable—confirm with your CPA before proceeding).
What general frugal living tips have you found most useful?
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© 2012 Stephanie Marshall