We want it all—the big house, the fancy car, all while juggling happy kids and getting a home cooked meal on the table every night.
Unfortunately, life can get in the way—especially with kids—and we lose track of spending and end up in a rut.
Frugal living doesn’t mean making sacrifices to save a few pennies, it’s simply learning how to make smarter decisions with your money so that you can live the life you really want.
Saving a little bit here and there will allow you to save up for that family vacation you’ve always wanted to take; and easing the worry of financial troubles will allow for a more stress-free and happy household.
Make a budget & stick to it
Yes it’s tedious and sometimes a hard conversation to have, but take the time to sit down with your partner and break down your budget.
Pull all of your bills, bank statements, and other expense records for the last 3 months and separate your necessary expenses from your leisure expenses. Come up with a total number for your monthly bills then figure out where else the money goes. Seeing it on paper can make a big difference. If you spend $5 on your favorite coffee drink per day, that’s $35 per week or over $1500 per year! Imagining all of the things you could do with that extra money might make coffee at home a lot more appealing.
Just be sure not to sell yourself short; try to round your numbers up to give yourself a little more cushion—for example, if groceries vary from $250-$300 per month, give yourself that extra room so you’re not feeling stressed at the store.
Check out deal-a-day websites.
There’s a reason that sites like Groupon and LivingSocial are so popular—they offer great deals on everything from produce delivery to kids music classes. You may even discover an exciting idea for a much needed date night!
Deal-a-day sites allow you to treat yourself to something you wouldn’t normally buy by offering it at a fraction of the price. Sites like Deals for Mommy and Zulily offer huge discounts all things mommy-related like name-brand diapers or designer kids clothes.
Shop the sale papers.
I’m not telling you to go out and be the next featured star of “Extreme Couponing,” but you’ve got to admit that they’re onto something.
Coupons are everywhere nowadays and if you really need that one specific brand or item it’s a great way to get it on the cheap. Coupons.com offers free printable coupons every day. Some grocery stores even have double coupon days which can really bring in the savings.
Reward kids with experiences, not material things.
Kids want stuff, there’s no avoiding it. Taking a kid to the store is like… well, taking a kid to a store.
Grocery stores cleverly line the aisles with little trinkets and overpriced plastic junk that just screams out to every bored child stuck in a shopping cart. To avoid tantrums and save money, don’t give into the marketing ploy and offer the reward of an experience. Offer to stop by their favorite park on the way home or play their favorite game before bedtime.
Cheap plastic things lose their luster quickly if they don’t disappear under a couch first, but memories last a lifetime.
Don’t get stuck on brands.
Does the top-selling peanut butter really taste all that different from the store brand?
Stores like Trader Joe’s and Aldi can offer lower prices because they sell their own brands. Just a little secret insider tip, many of the off-brand products are actually overflow of name brands that are sold under a different label. This varies by store, but just goes to show you that you can get the same quality products for a lower price.
Don’t forget the list.
You’ve made your weekly grocery run, put everything in its place and realize—crap, you forgot the milk. It happens more often than we’d like to admit—you make a list on a sheet of paper and either leave it on the counter or lose it before it hits the store.
Avoid wasting time and money on several trips to the store by using a grocery list app for your smart phone. My favorite is Cozi, which combines a calendar, to-do list, grocery list, and even a journal to jot down notes. Keep everything organized and in one place and you’ll never forget the milk again—well, at least you’ll be less likely to.
Buy in bulk.
When you come across a good deal at the supermarket, stock up. Things like rice, canned vegetables, and dried beans can keep in the pantry for years, and meat can safely be kept in the freezer.
Be sure you stock up on staples, not fad or phase foods that kids may grow out of. Once you create a stock pile for yourself, you’ll spend less time and money on grocery store trips.
Shop the Farmer’s Market.
Alright, so it’s not always most cost effective to shop the farmer’s market, but when you weigh out the pros and cons it can add up.
The produce in the grocery store has been coated in petroleum, shipped from another country, and been sitting on the shelf for days or even weeks. Farmers are likely to have an oversupply of what’s in season in your area at harvest time (read about the Dirty Dozen to see what’s worth buying organic—basically anything you which eat the peel/outside).
What better way to get your kids to love produce than giving them the absolute best?
Learning to embrace the frugal live by saving a few dollars here and there because of smart shopping and proper planning can help you live the life you’ve always wanted.
Written by Sarah Antrim