Becoming More Self-Sufficient

August 4, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal · 1 Comment 

Often learning to living frugally means learning to be more self-sufficient and relying on others less. While this does require some skill, it’s certainly achievable. Here are some things frugal moms can do–if you’re not doing them already–to become more self-sufficient and learn to live a more frugal lifestyle.

• Evaluate Your Level of Self-Sufficiency

Visit the Self-Sufficiency Calculator to get an idea of how far your money really goes each month. While this site is designed for residents of the state of Washington, it will give you a clearer picture of your budget and expenses based on what you earn and spend every month.

• Grow Your Own Food

Start a garden and learn to grow your own vegetables. If you have room, consider adding a few chickens, and even a few head of cattle. Next to rent, food is a family’s greatest expense. Everything you can do to lessen what you spend on food each month will take you closer to your goal of self-sufficiency.

• Learn to Fish and Hunt

Nothing beats the taste of fresh fish that you’ve caught yourself. And while some frugal moms shudder at the thought of “eating Bambi,” if you’re a meat eater, venison or turkey that is cured properly and prepared well is delicious. If you’re on a very tight budget, remembering that any food gained from fishing or hunting is free, it may help you get past your aversion.

• Do It Yourself

Learn to do everything for yourself and your family that you can. Cut your own hair, mow your own yard, wash and repair your own car, cook your own meals, bake your own bread, sew your own clothes, build your own website and much more. While you may not be able to do it today, you can learn to do everything you would have to pay someone else to do for you.

• Barter for What You Need

Barter, or trading what you have for what you want or need, is as old as the ages. And while you may not have the money you need to repair the garage roof, or have a tree cut down in the backyard, you may be able to swap your skills with someone who can do those things. Barter can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars every year. Make the most of it by swapping your services and unwanted items with your neighbors, friends and family.

• Reuse, Rework, Recycle

Change your attitude toward possessions and begin to see them in a totally different. Consider everything you own–not as something that will be used and discarded–but as something that will last forever in one form or another. Empty two-liter bottles become bird feeders. Cool Whip® containers hold leftovers and lunches. Torn jeans become quilts, aprons, tote bags, etc. When you begin to notice that over half of everything your family acquires is reused in some way, you’ll begin to see what true self-sufficiency really means.

• Learn to Live with Less

Self-sufficiency involves providing for your family’s needs as much as possible and not relying on others. But it also involves learning to live with less and making do with what you have. You’ll be amazed at how little you really have to buy when you make an effort not to buy anything.

Free is Better than Frugal!

August 3, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal · Comments Off on Free is Better than Frugal! 

Obviously, when you’re trying to save money, everything you get free will save the most. The problem is finding things of value, or things that you need, free of charge. Most frugal moms are aware of some places here and that offer freebies, but few know just how many opportunities there are to get something for nothing.

Before you begin your search for free things, consider some of the types of items you can find. For instance:

• Games
• Clothing
• Furniture
• Computer software
• Samples of products
• New products
• Restaurant meals
• Books and magazines
• Posters
• Even cars!

Now, the fun begins to locate all these fabulous free things. Here are some places to begin your search:

• Friends and Family

The first place to look for free things is the people you know. Make friends and family aware of any needs you may have and ask them to keep you in mind if they plan to get rid of something. You may come across a gold-mine through this freebie avenue alone.

• Online

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of free things available online. And while many of them are printables, you will also find a ton of free – and almost free – physical items. Examples include books, CDs, coloring books, crafts, full-size samples, posters and more. Google “freebies” or “free stuff” to see what you can find.

• Government Websites

Most everyone will agree that the government wastes a lot of money on a lot of useless things. But they do produce some items of value as well. You can get a variety of books and pamphlets, posters, coloring and activity books, and more from the Government’s printing office absolutely free of charge. Google “free government publications” for a list of what’s available.

• Public Domain Ebooks

If you’re familiar with the copyright law, you know that after a certain number of years, typically 50, copyright on a document – unless it’s renewed – will go into what is known as public domain. This means that the document is then free for the public to use in any way they desire, including printing for personal use or even selling for profit. There are untold thousands of documents currently available in the public domain with more becoming available each year. Google “free public domain documents” to find enough reading material to last a life time.

• Restaurants

Hundreds of restaurants, coffee shops, ice cream vendors and more offer free email birthday clubs for their customers. Just sign up online and they’ll send you a coupon for a freebie on your birthday. These can range from a free appetizer to dessert, or even a full entree at some establishments. Google “free birthday club” to find the ones you like.

• The Library

Every frugal mom is aware of the value of her local library, but did you know just how much the library has to offer? Besides books, videos and DVDS, you can find CDs, audio books, maps, free classes, story hours, craft sessions, genealogy assistance, and more. Ask your favorite librarian what you may have been missing.

• Yard Sales

Did you think yard sales were only for buying stuff? Well, think again! You can often find a box of items free for the taking at garage sales and yard sales. Usually, the owner just throws some stuff in a box thinking no one would want or use it. But take the time to rummage through any “free” boxes you find. You might be surprised what lies hidden inside.

• Freecycle

Freecycle is modern society’s solution to leaving unwanted items on the curb. If you’re unaware, Freecycle.org is a directory of localized email groups that provide a venue for finding or disposing of unwanted merchandise. The adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is the premise behind Freecycle which allows you to offer items you no longer want to someone who would use them, while also finding things you need that another is getting rid of.

Freecycle can link you up with free books, TVs, furniture, camping equipment, gardening supplies and canning, tools, toys, and much more. You name it and you might be able to find it on Freecycle. Visit their website and join the group nearest you. Be sure to follow the rules for posting and take part. You may never want to go shopping again!

• Car

There are organizations that donate cars to people in need, and if you qualify, you could drive away in a decent vehicle. Check your phone book for social service agencies that donate vehicles. Or Google “free donated car” to see if there is one in your area.

Be forewarned that freebie searching can become a frenzy. You may want to limit the time and effort you put into your search, just so you don’t run out of room or places to put things!

You Can Live Frugally Without Being Cheap

July 31, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Stay at Home Sanity · Comments Off on You Can Live Frugally Without Being Cheap 

Some people still associate living frugally with being cheap, as in chintzy. But that’s simply not the case! Living frugally involves making the most of what you have, looking for – and taking advantage of – good deals on everything you buy, and stretching your paycheck as far it will possibly stretch. Being cheap, on the other hand, consists of disregarding quality, refusing to spend money on what you need, even at times taking advantage of others or a situation. No one wants to be, or even appear to be, cheap. But being frugal is a good thing!

Living frugally is about more than just becoming a bargain-hunter extraordinaire, although that’s part of it. Living frugally also involves:

• budgeting and planning for large purchases
• shopping around until you find just what you want at a price you can pay
• making what you do have last longer
• and even – in grandma’s terminology – learning to “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

Being cheap, on the other hand, is often:

• having a mindset that is more concerned about quantity than quality
• looking for ways to “beat the system”
• not realizing that having to replace an item sooner can cost more in the long run than buying a better-made item in the first place.

Here are six ways you can live a more frugal lifestyle without appearing cheap.

1. Realize that other’s expectations of how you live are not as important as your own. If your family thinks you should be able to go out to eat three times a week or give lavish presents for birthdays and Christmas, don’t let them pressure you into doing so unless you know you can truly afford those things. Live by your own expectations, not someone else’s.

2. Learn to find happiness in life itself – in your relationships, in simple pleasures – rather than in material goods. Anyone who has faced a terminal illness will tell you how little all those “things” mean when you truly grasp how short life is. Make the most of every day and find joy in people, not possessions.

3. Set limits on your frugality. If you’re truly concerned about appearing cheap, it’s not necessary to take your frugal lifestyle to extremes. Washing and reusing coffee filters may seem perfectly sensible to some, but if you’d “die of embarrassment” if your friends knew you did that, then don’t do it. There are many ways to save money. Choose those that work for you without making you feel uncomfortable.

4. If you truly have to live in extreme frugality for awhile, look at as 1) temporary, and 2) a choice. Dave Ramsey says that if you live like no one else, you can live like no one else. What he means is that if you sacrifice some of the things that others enjoy today, later on you’ll be able to live better than most because of your choices. Keep that in mind when the next time you pass up something you really want but simply can’t afford.

5. Consider how much easier it is to live with less. Less furniture and decorative items in your home means less cleaning. Less vehicle means less insurance. Even less food means less cooking! You can, of course, go to extremes… but you get the drift.

6. Shop for quality, even if it means buying used. Some people have a strong aversion to buying “another man’s junk.” But when you realize that you can own a much higher quality item for much less than was originally paid, you may find buying used to be your next best thing.

For instance, you may love name brand clothes but can’t afford the price tag. By shopping yard sales, thrift stores and consignment shops, though, you can buy top of the line clothing for you and your family at a fraction of the cost. And no one has to know they’re secondhand except you.

There are so many ways to improve the quality of your life while still living frugally. Learn to recognize them every day and make the most of what you have now.

Are Sales and Using Coupons Really Saving You Money?

July 30, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Frugal Meals · Comments Off on Are Sales and Using Coupons Really Saving You Money? 

There is a common misconception that to live frugally, you have to buy products from the grocery store that are on sale, or only buy with coupons, and that you should stock up on these products before the prices shoot back up again. Actually, this isn’t necessarily the case.

The majority of items that grocery stores offer at discounted prices are items that, generally speaking, aren’t at the top of a frugal mom’s shopping list, especially not when money is incredibly tight. These products are usually fattening sweets, cakes, cookies, convenience foods and similar items. And while the sale prices or coupons might seem good at first glance, they’re really not since you probably wouldn’t have bought that item in the first place. So, before you decide to buy lots of something before your coupon expires or the price goes up, consider the following:

• Would you buy it if it wasn’t on sale or if you didn’t have a coupon?

• Is it something that you really need?

• What are the chances that you will actually use what you’re buying?

• Is the product really a good deal?

• What kind of nutritional value does it offer?

Nine times out of ten, these five thoughts are enough to discourage you from buying an item only because it’s on sale or you have a coupon. So, if you shouldn’t necessarily buy products that are enticingly on sale, what should you buy?

• Buy what’s on the menu. Before you step foot in a grocery store, make sure you have planned every meal for your family for the coming week. Make a list of the things you need for each meal. A lot of moms complain they don’t have time to do this, but if it saves you precious money and a lot of wasted food, surely you can find fifteen minutes to write out a simple menu.

• Check your cabinets and pantry to see if you have products that are about to expire or that really need to be eaten. If something has been in the cabinet awhile, add it to your menu in some way. If needed, buy something to go with a product you have on hand that needs to be used.

• If at all possible do your grocery shopping the last thing in the evening. Get there about an hour before the store closes (or if you shop at a 24-hour store, try going in the late evening). This is the best time to great discounts on fresh produce and meat that’s about to expire. Stores need to get rid of these items quickly so they don’t “eat” the cost themselves and you can easily throw something in the freezer until you’re ready to cook it.

• Refrain from buying name brand products. Buy store brands instead. A lot of the time the store brands are the same high quality as the name brand alternatives, and are, in fact, often manufactured in the same factories. The only difference is that the store brand is normally a lot less in price.

• Don’t buy convenience foods such as frozen fries. They’re typically a waste of money since – not only are they expensive – but they only last a couple of meals and are full of fats and additives. Instead, opt for a large bag of potatoes and make your own. A bag of fresh potatoes can last an average family well over a week, so they’re definitely more cost effective.

• If you find yourself throwing out milk because you didn’t drink it quick enough, consider buying long-life powdered milk instead. If you mix it slightly stronger than the recipe calls for and chill it before use, you can hardly tell the difference. Especially if your family doesn’t drink a lot of milk.

• Only buy as much fresh fruit and vegetables as you know your family can eat in a week. And don’t be afraid to separate a bunch of bananas in the store, for example, if you don’t need that many. Providing them in a large bunch is often a ploy to get you to buy a more than you really need.

Feeding your family for less can be a challenge, but with careful thought, education and planning you will be amazed at how much you can save at the grocery store.

Making Room in Your Budget for Some Frugal Summer Fun

July 30, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Frugal Parenting · Comments Off on Making Room in Your Budget for Some Frugal Summer Fun 

Keeping yourself and your family amused throughout the summer when you’re on a tight budget can be increasingly difficult, but certainly not impossible. Here are some tips on how to budget frugally and leave a little money in the cookie jar for fun and frolicing:

• Don’t waste your money buying expensive books from a book store, instead visit your local library. All you have to do is join, which is usually a simple procedure. Once you’re a full-fledged member all you have to do is pick out some books you fancy reading and it won’t cost you a penny. Also, don’t forget that most libraries aren’t limited to books these days, but are also wonderful places to find DVDs and CDs.

• Thrift Stores are a frugal mom’s paradise and are an excellent haven for cheap second-hand DVDs, CDs and games. The most exciting thing is that you never know what you might find, and you are bound to find some nice bargains!

• Check out your local cinema. These days the majority of cinemas have different prices for different times of the day, and many even have one day of the week that is a bargain day. And, if you happen to have a cell phone on Orange’s network, you’re already eligible for their “Orange Wednesdays” offer that entitles you and a friend to go see anything you want on any Wednesday and only one of you will have to pay (or you could also be nice and split the cost!)

• During the summer, many local newspapers include offers for local theme parks, museums and attractions, so be sure to check them all and see what’s available. The offers are generally two for the price of one, or a free child’s admission with a full paying adult.

• Check the “bargain bin” in local stores. These are usually great places to find DVDs and CDs at incredibly discounted prices. They might not be “Disney quality,” but if it keeps the kids quiet for a couple of hours, everyone is happy.

• Take the family to the local park for a picnic. Everyone loves a picnic! Just make sure you include everyone’s favourite healthy snacks, a cheap Frisbee that you can pick up from your local dollar store if needed, and you’ve got cheap entertainment that will last for hours.

• Brush the dust off the bikes and take the kids out into nature for a family bike ride. Make sure you pack the kids’ backpacks with note books and pens so that they can write about, draw pictures of and collect anything they find. Make up games where they have to find certain objects, for example anything green or anything square. Or maybe you can all see how many different types of flowers or leaves you find.

• Check out your local arts and crafts shop. Give each of the children a little money to spend, or let them bring their own, and have the gather everything they’ll need to complete their own craft project. This could be anything from painting to making cards or even their own jewelry. Many craft shops have bargain bins that selling a variety of odds and ends. These are definitely worth a look.

• Check to see if your local arts and craft shop runs free classes that teach children how to make things. These classes are always fun and teach kids many valuable lessons and skills. Most classes also include allowing the child to take something they’ve made home with them, completely free so charge, so they’re always worth looking for.

Vacation Solutions for the Budget-Impaired

July 16, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Cheap Parties · Comments Off on Vacation Solutions for the Budget-Impaired 

Summer is the time our thoughts turn to getting away… lounging on a beach, sipping a long, cool drink, enjoying the surf and the sun. But then reality rears its ugly head and we have to go back to work just to make the mortgage payment.

Don’t despair!

There are frugal vacation solutions available. And while you may not be able to go exactly where you would like, stay as long as you want, or spend as much as you choose, you can use some of these ideas to save enough money to help you take that needed vacation this year.

Your vacation budget will, of course, include lodging, meals, transportation and entertainment costs, with the first three being the most costly. To cut vacation expenses, minimize what you pay in as many areas as you can.

Lodging:

• Stay with a friend or family member.

• Camp out or go RVing. Borrow equipment if you can since the costs to rent an RV, in particular, can be prohibitive.

• If you choose to go camping or RVing, try boondocking (staying in a campsite with few amenities) or opt for a state park which is always a cheaper alternative than the KOA-type campgrounds.

• Swap houses with a family in the area you plan to visit.

• Borrow a timeshare.

• Stay in a convent, monastery, or hostel.

• If you do stay in a motel, choose a mid-week visit rather than a weekend. It can cut your lodging bill by up to 50 percent.

• Book your room online and in advance for additional savings.

• Take a variety of day trips rather than staying overnight. This can be especially fun if you live near a beach, a large lake, or another attraction.

• Stay home! Commonly called “Staycations” because you never leave home, you can create a relaxing, enjoyable week of leisure for yourself and your family without ever leaving the house.

Visit local attractions, go on picnics, play in the park, swim in a nearby lake or go for a hike. Vacations are about having fun and relaxing.

Transportation:

• If you plan to drive, go somewhere nearby to minimize gasoline expenses.

• Travel with another family and split the costs.

• When flying, choose evening and weekday flights to get the best deal on airfare.

• Travel by train or bus to save money and enjoy seeing the country without the hassle of driving yourself.

Meals:

• Eat lighter meals, especially at dinner. Save your largest meals for lunch when you can usually find specials and discounts.

• Drink water rather than soda, and avoid alcoholic beverages.

• Choose restaurants where the kids can eat free. Take advantage of senior discounts if they apply.

• Stop by a grocery store and pick up sandwich items, snacks and breakfast bars so you only have to eat one restaurant meal a day.

Entertainment:

• Opt for as many free attractions as you can find. Consider museums, antique shops, local factories, etc. You can find them in almost every region of the country.

• Avoid resort areas and “tourist traps” where prices are usually much higher.

• When you visit local attractions, ask for resident discounts. Many of the businesses in resort areas such as Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, offer 10 to 20 percent discounts to county residents.

• Minimize your souvenir shopping. Send a postcard instead and save your money to enjoy the trip.

• While you want – and probably need – to save money on your vacation, be careful that you’re not so concerned about the costs that you can’t enjoy yourself. Save your money in advance and have enough to do the things that really matter to you. After all… you deserve a break this summer… enjoy it!

Thrifty Storage Solutions

July 15, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Cheap Home Decorating · Comments Off on Thrifty Storage Solutions 

Even the most frugal moms acquire more stuff than we can find a place for. And it becomes a real challenge to keep our homes organized when everything doesn’t have a place of its own. Here are some frugal storage solutions to help you organize (or hide!) the things you need to keep, but simply don’t use every day or which just don’t have a place they belong.

• Find a small wicker or wooden trunk or chest at a yard sale or thrift store. This is great for storing sheets, towels, blankets, etc.

• Use the space under the bed for storage. If you can’t afford the plastic under-the-bed storage bins, use cardboard boxes cut down to size, or plastic bags. This is a great place for keepsakes or memorabilia, off-season clothing, holiday decorations and other items that you don’t need very often.

• Fill baskets, tins, or plastic bins with small items such as extra pens, surplus office supplies, collectible or souvenir magnets, pin-back buttons or similar items and store them on top of your cabinets.

• Don’t forget the space under the sofa or living room chairs. While it may not be deep, you can store magazines, photos albums, and other shallow objects under there.

• Use shelves everywhere you can put them. Bookshelf units (the kind with two to five shelves) can be used for much more than books. Consider putting one in every room:

==> In the kitchen or pantry to hold canned goods and other food as well as seldom-used appliances like food processors, blenders, etc

==> In the bathroom to hold towels and extra bathroom items like soap, shampoo, toilet paper, etc.

==> In the guest room to hold books your guests might enjoy, family photos, a fruit basket, new toothpaste and toothbrushes, guest towels, a candy dish, and various other sundries to make your guest’s stay more pleasant.

==> In the living room to hold all your collections, candles and decorative items.

==> In the den to hold games, CDs, movies and DVDs.

==> In the office to hold business books, office supplies and equipment.

==> In each bedroom to hold… books! (A novel idea – pun definitely intended!)

• Don’t have room or the money to buy shelf units? Hang shelves on the wall. A board hung on simple brackets works great and you can hang them as high as you want to keep items out of reach or out of the way.

• Another shelf option is to buy thick boards and use them with cement blocks or bricks to create shelves. You can often find the materials needed free on Freecycle or Craigslist.

• If you don’t like the look of open shelves, make a simple curtain out of a twin sheet and attach it to the top. This creates a really cute country look and hides whatever is on the shelves.

• File cabinets can hold more than files, too, so make use of every inch of space they offer. Obviously, they’re great for office supplies since they’re typically in the office to begin with. But you can also use them for anything else you need to store and access easily.

• Hang toys from hooks attached to the ceiling in a child’s room. This creates a creative display and keeps the items reachable when needed.

• If your daughter collects dolls or stuffed animals, hang a shelf about 24″ from the ceiling and place all the dolls there. Or hang a “fish net” in a corner to hold them.

• Use canning jars to store buttons, marbles, pasta, rice, beans, etc. They not only create clean, dust-free storage, but they look good, too.

• Save plastic containers from butter, coffee creamer, yogurt, coffee, etc. and use them for small toys, craft items, scrapbooking embellishments, etc.

• Cover cardboard boxes and shoe boxes with colorful self-adhesive paper, fill them and create a “wall” of storage in your bedroom, guest room or anywhere else you need them.

• To easily locate items stored in boxes and bins, number each box in the top right hand corner. Record the contents for the box with the corresponding number in a steno book or spiral notebook. Keep your “box list” handy and you’ll never find yourself digging through storage boxes again.

There are dozens of ways to use recycled items and things you have around the house to create frugal storage solutions. Use your imagination and let these ideas kick-start your own.

Developing a Frugal Mindset

July 10, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal · Comments Off on Developing a Frugal Mindset 

Ever wonder why it is that some people can seemingly live so well on an extremely small income and others – who make a lot more money – struggle to just get by? A lot of the reason is in the way people think about money.

Regardless of how much money you make, frugal living requires a frugal and thrifty mindset. It requires you to evaluate, or possibly reevaluate, how you think about a variety of things such as the way you view money, your level of materialism, or your attitude toward consumerism. Consider for a minute what your core values regarding money and frugality are.

• Do you buy spend your paycheck on what you want then sometimes find you don’t have money to pay the bills?

• Do you think it degrading in some way to buy used merchandise, i.e., someone else’s “junk”?

• Do you insist on buying only brand name merchandise thinking that generic is in some way inferior?

• Do you feel that you and your family deserve the good things in life whether you can legitimately afford them or not?

Don’t get me wrong! This is certainly not said to condemn. It’s just that when money is tight or when financial hardship strikes, we may have develop a more frugal mindset in order to simply survive. Sadly, not everyone knows how to do that.

Maybe you feel the need to save money now in the current economic situation even though you’ve never had to worry about it before. Or maybe you see changes coming that will soon require you to be more frugal. Whatever your individual circumstances, you may simply feel the need to become more concerned about how much money you spend and what you spend it on.

If that’s your case, here are three simple things that may help you to begin changing your attitude toward money and frugal living in general.

1. Look at money as a tool, rather than a status symbol. While there are many people who might disagree, money is truly designed to be used to acquire what you and your family need and want. Period. While it can be used to help you appear prominent and it may gain you a measure of status and respect, the underlying truth is that money is a tool to help you create a comfortable life for your family.

If you have enough money to create a luxurious lifestyle, that’s all well and good. But if you don’t, then for your sanity’s sake and for your personal survival, you’ll have to learn to adapt your thinking and make your lifestyle the best it can be with the money you have available.

That doesn’t mean you’ve somehow failed, or that you should be less content with what you have right now. It only means that you have to work to save and earn the money needed to create the lifestyle you want. And until that time, living frugally will help you live the best you can with what you do have.

There is no shame in not possessing everything you want, or even everything you need. Learning to manage your money and your attitude toward it will only help in the long run.

2. Realize that to manage your money properly, you must first spend it on the things you need, and then – if there is any left over – you can spend it on the things you want. A lot of people get in trouble when they reverse the order of this basic money management principle. They want what they want, so they spend their money on their desires then have nothing left with which to buy food or pay rent.

You must learn to discipline your spending so that your family’s needs are provided for first. Sometimes the only way to do that and have anything left over for the “extras” you desire is to live more frugally than you’re used to doing.

3. Learn to distinguish between a want and a need. Once you realize that you must provide for your family’s needs first, you must then decide what constitutes a need rather than simply a desire. Need are things we can’t live without such as food, water, clothing, shelter, transportation so we can work to provide for our needs. Wants are all the extras – even if they feel like needs!

Junk food, cable TV, movie rentals, new or brand name clothing, a new car every couple of years, a fancy home, etc. are desires, not needs. American society, in particular, has led us to believe that everyone is prosperous and if we’re not, we deserve to live as if we are. Our consumer mindset has led us to expect so many more things than we actually need to survive.

If your family is struggling financially, look closely at everything you spend your money on and ask yourself, is this something I really need, or can I live without it? The answer may surprise you.

It may be hard for some of us to examine underlying attitudes toward money and thrift, but with so many people losing their jobs, prices rising continually and no quick fix in sight, it’s critical that we all develop a more frugal mindset. It may be our only defense in a world filled with economic upheaval and uncertainty.

Frugal Parenting Tips for Sending the Kids Back to School

July 9, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Frugal Parenting · Comments Off on Frugal Parenting Tips for Sending the Kids Back to School 

School will be starting up again before you know it. And with that comes a lot of added expense for budget-burdened families. But there are ways frugal moms can save on the cost of getting the kids ready to go back to school. Here are some ideas to help you begin.

Plan what you’ll need.

Look at every piece of clothing in your child’s closet to determine what still fits and is wearable. Eliminate what she can’t wear and make a list of what’s needed. Don’t forget shoes, socks, underwear, etc. when you’re planning and write down sizes to make it easier to shop when you’re alone.

Evaluate how much “new” is really needed.

While kids would try to coerce an entire “new” wardrobe out of Mom and Dad each year, many parents are coming to realize that just isn’t necessary. As long as the clothes your children wore to school last year still fit and are in wearable condition, it’s not a law that they have to have a completely new wardrobe. A few new pieces are a nice treat, but most parents wear their clothes for more than one year and no one says kids should be different.

Get an early start.

By watching your local sales papers, shopping garage sales and thrift or consignment shops and knowing what you need in advance, you can save considerably in outfitting your children for school. This will also give you time to get everything washed and ready to wear, and make any minor repairs you may need. Shopping for back to school things will cost, but you can minimize the damage to your family’s budget with preparation and planning, and a decent amount of leg work.

Ask the school for a supply list, if possible.

Many teachers or school secretaries can provide this early, if not, use one from the previous year to at least get started on the basics such as pens, pencils, rulers, etc. Some things you’ll be able to use from the previous year, but you’ll typically have to purchase some supplies. Often you can find excellent sales on school supplies by shopping early, so knowing what each child will need will be a tremendous help.

Swap with other frugal moms.

Read Save Money by Hosting a Swap and learn how to set up a kid’s clothing swap with friends and neighbors who have school age children. For the best results find families with kids both younger and older, or smaller and larger, as the case may be. That way you’ll all be able to share the clothing you have on hand while finding things to fit your own kids in return.

Check your local dollar stores.

Everything is a dollar stores always have great deals on school supplies and are usually the first place to look for such items. But know your prices! Sometimes you can find the same items in larger packages or better quality brands on sale somewhere else. Just stay alert to what the going prices are by watching sales papers and weekly ads.

Shop garage sales, consignment stores and thrift shops.

Good used kids clothes are a common commodity. The trick is to know what sizes you need before you go since you obviously won’ be able to t return what doesn’t fit. Be sure to check each item thoroughly for stains or damage before purchasing. And if you have a picky child, it’s best to take her along, especially if you’re concerned about something she may not wear.

Minimize colors.

Just as in shopping for your own clothes, you can save money by staying within a few basic colors, you can do the same for your children. Choose a few coordinating colors based on what they like best and search for a variety of pieces that can be mixed and matched. This will stretch your wardrobe budget and still provide your child with everything he needs to wear.

There are ways to send your kids to school without breaking the bank. Use your creativity and look for viable options that fit your family’s budget.

12 Ways to Shave $100’s off Your Budget Every Month

July 9, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Budgeting · Comments Off on 12 Ways to Shave $100’s off Your Budget Every Month 

1. Eliminate junk food such as cookies, snack cakes, etc. Your family will not only eat better and be healthier, but you’ll consume less calories and spend less on your food bill.

Minimum Savings: $15 week x 4 weeks = $60 per month

2. Make your own coffee and take it with you every day rather than stopping at your local coffee shop. You can pick up an insulated to-go mug with a sipper cup lid at a yard sale for 25¢ if you don’t have one and save a small fortune every month with this strategy alone.

Minimum Savings: $15 week x 4 weeks = $60 per month

3. Eat breakfast at home rather than stopping for a donut or sausage biscuit. Even a cheap breakfast out costs more, and contains more calories, than a bowl of cereal, a banana, and a glass of juice.

Minimum Savings: $15 week x 4 weeks = $60 per month

4. Pay your bills on time. Eliminating even one late fee every month can add up to savings. And often, paying bills late becomes a routine so the savings in this area can be much more than listed here.

Minimum Savings: $15 per month

5. Balance your checkbook and don’t let your account become overdrawn. This will eliminate insufficient funds charges from your bank which are outrageously high, as well as helping to eliminate late fees as mentioned above.

Minimum Savings: $30 per month

6. Eat out no more than once a week. When you do eat out, choose a less expensive restaurant, share a meal with your spouse and drink water rather than soda or tea. Also, if you take the kids, choose only restaurants where they can eat free.

Minimum Savings: $40 per month

7. Stop buying paper and plastic products whenever possible. Eliminate paper cups, paper plates, plastic flatware, paper towels, paper napkins, etc.

Minimum Savings: $25 per month

8. Cancel your gym membership and look for alternative exercise options that don’t cost anything. Ride a bike, go for a swim, jog, walk the dog, play volleyball with the kids, etc.

Minimum Savings: $35 per month

9. Borrow a movie from your local library instead of renting one each week. Once you’ve seen everything the library has to offer, swap movies with friends or start a neighborhood movie swap group.

Minimum Savings: $20 per month

10. Use your debit card instead of withdrawing funds from a bank where you don’t have an account. While banks promote access to their huge ATM network as a great benefit, “foreign” ATMs charge for every transaction made on their equipment by a non-member. And your own bank will charge you, too! Use your own bank or your debit card to save these fees when you don’t have cash.

Minimum Savings: $15 per month

11. Eliminate convenience products such as fabric softener sheets, disposable dust cloths, facial cleansing cloths, etc. and use wash cloths or cleaning rags instead.

Minimum Savings: $10 per month

12. Learn a craft such as knitting or scrapbooking and make your own gifts. Purchase supplies on sale or at yard sales and thrift stores for even greater savings. You can even sell what you make or swap with others for what you want or need.

Minimum Savings: $25 per month

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