When someone embraces frugality they often view it as a common sense way to live. Frugal methods and tricks quickly become a daily routine. However, it is much easier to make frugal habits permanent when the whole family is on board. One of the easiest ways to do this is to make frugality fun and to practice it together.
Here are some ideas for practicing frugality as a family.
- Start teaching early. Even a child as young as 2 or 3 can be taught to turn the lights off when leaving a room or to not let the water run unnecessarily.
- Present a united front. Dad and mom need to agree on how frugality will work in their family, or at least they need to pretend like they do. If one partner or the other is discontent and looks down on frugality, the rest of the family will as well. If there is no unity when it comes to frugality, do your best to find a happy medium so that everyone in the family can work as a team.
- Menu plan together. This is one that everyone can really get involved in together. Work together to plan out meals, perhaps letting one child pick out all of their favorites for a certain day of the week. (However, if the favorites don’t fall into the frugal category, you may need to present them with acceptable options first.) Make sure every voice is heard, from the oldest to youngest, and carefully consider each suggestion. If there are suggestions made that will not be added to the menu plan, make sure you explain why. This will prevent hard feelings towards both menu planning and frugality.
- Form a coupon-clipping team. As soon as a child is old enough to use scissors correctly, let them begin clipping coupons for you. Many children take real pride in this task and even view it as a fun way to spend some time. With older children who are less inclined to enjoy this project, let them make some of the choices. Tell them if they can match up coupons with sales on some of their favorite items that are not ordinarily purchased, you will purchase that item if it comes in under a certain amount. They will quickly learn the thrill of the bargain-shopping chase.
- Make lists together. A grocery list is the easiest way to teach the value of a list as well as the importance of sticking to that list. Even young children can grasp the concept that only things written on a grocery list will be purchased at the store. But once that skill is understood, move on to other lists. Encourage your spouse and children to write lists for things that they really need. Use this as an opportunity to teach what “real need” really is. Then together watch for sales on those lists.
- Create a set of “Frugal Family Rules” together. Frugality looks different for every family and is not one size fits all by any means. So decide together what is important to your family. Write those rules down, let the kids decorate the paper they are written on, and post them in a place where everyone can see them as a reminder. If there are financial or other goals tied to your frugality, make sure those are included on that list as well.
- Shop together. There is no better way to teach real world frugality to children then to have them shop with you. They can learn to price compare and quickly realize the difference between quality and price, brand names, and doing things from scratch or using second-hand items versus costlier options.
- Teach the importance of saving money. When a child really wants something, have them save up the money to purchase that item. Together, look for the lowest price. Help your child understand that immediate gratification isn’t such a good thing if they can save money by delaying a purchase or going to a different store. Encourage them to look for cheaper alternatives on other items, and if they find a great deal, give them the difference in price to bolster their savings.
- Show the benefits of hard-work. This can go hand-in-hand with #8. Show children that their hard work will be rewarded with an allowance or special treat that doesn’t cost money.
- Display a cheerful attitude toward frugality. When you are trying to instill frugal attitudes in your family, it is important to keep your own attitude in check. Do not let your children hear you bemoaning the fact that you can’t purchase something because it isn’t frugal. They will follow your example.
- Brag about yourself. There is nothing wrong with letting your family know of your frugal successes. This is really easy in the kitchen. For example, if a restaurant is advertising a dinner special of $8.99 per plate and your entire dinner for the whole family cost less than $5, tell them! Give them a break down of how much it would cost for the whole family to eat out and the savings of eating at home.
- Remember it’s easier to stick to a task when there is a goal in sight. Even if your goal is intangible for the children, such as getting out of debt or building up a savings account, let them know your frugality is serving a purpose. Share as many of the details as you are comfortable sharing. And if necessary, relate your goals to something more on their level.
- Work together to maintain your belongings. Teaching children practical, frugal skills is a great life lesson. Teach them to, or let them watch you, remove stains, mend clothing, maintain household appliances, or even fix “broken” toys. Stress the importance of properly caring for their belongings.
- Turn price comparisons into a game. Frugality doesn’t have to be boring. Put a fun twist on frugal shopping by challenging children to find the lowest price on an item. Give the winner a reward, even if it’s just a big smile. Let older children have a mock competition with the ads from a few different stores and a list of products you need. Whoever gets the lowest total once the “shopping” is done wins.
- Divide and conquer. Just like most household chores, certain family members will gravitate toward certain types of projects. Take advantage of that and use it enhance your frugality. If your spouse is great at finding the best deals on electronics or furniture, let him or her have that job. If a child likes to cook, teach him or her how to cook from scratch.
- Have free or low-cost fun together whenever possible. Visit the library together, take a picnic to the park, explore museums on half-price days. If someone in the family discovers a great frugal activity or outing, do your best to make sure the whole family participates together.
- Sometimes, let the kids have a final say. If you are planning a vacation and there are two options – say, staying at a hotel but not being able to go to a costly attraction vs. camping and being able to afford costlier attractions, discuss this as a family. If the end result is inconsequential to you or your spouse, let the kids decide which option makes the most sense. There is real pride and accomplishment in having a little power.
- Don’t be afraid to indulge on occasion. Rewards help maintain a cheerful attitude. On occasion, treat the family to take-out pizza or an ice cream cone. You deserve the treat, and so does the rest of your family!
We all know that eating out costs much more than eating at home no matter how you look at it. Therefore, a great way to save money, is by recreating your favorite restaurant-style meals at home, allowing you to eat them more often, and save money at the same time.
The following are ten restaurant-style meals that you can easily create at home:
1. Chinese takeout. From fried rice to stir fry Chinese takeout can easily be recreated at home, especially with the vast array of items available in your local store’s international foods section, you can practically be in a different country every night of the week.
2. Mexican Fiesta. Let another night create your own Mexican fare. Anything from tacos, to nachos or enchiladas, each can be recreated at home to calm your craving without paying restaurant prices.
3. Gourmet Sandwiches. There are dozens and dozens of them out there today from the gyro, to the muffaletta you can pick your sandwich apart at your favorite local gourmet deli, take a mental note and then recreate it next time at home.
4. Greek food. Greek food is hearty and contains some key healthy ingredients including spinach, meat, usually lamb or veal, feta cheese and every Greek’s favorite, garlic, and lots of it.
5. Homemade Pizza. Many times you can create a better pizza than you can buy as take-out. You can test and try until you create one that is as yummy as take-out or better.
6. Gumbo. It is a Cajun tradition and a stick to your bones type food. You can find some yummy recipes for it online or can even buy the boxed variety, though homemade is better. You can choose to create the seafood type or just use chicken and sausage, either way you’ll have a yummy meal for less than the restaurant.
7. Better burgers. You know every restaurant has it’s own variety and you can create your favorite at home, grab your grill, the meat, special buns and other condiments and build your best burger ever!
8. Catfish Dinner. In the deep south especially, a meal out at a catfish house is quite popular. Fried catfish is yummy but can be costly if eaten out. Whip up your own catfish dinner at home, and don’t forget the fries, hushpuppies and slaw.
9. Steak Dinner. Firing up the grill and preparing your own steak can result in a wonderful meal. Most times you can buy two steaks for the price of what you’ll pay in a restaurant, sides included.
10. Appetizers as a meal. We all have a favorite appetizer. Whether it be the buffalo wings or the spinach and artichoke dip. Why not create a whole meal based on your favorite appetizers? It could turn out to be a family favorite.
Even when you don’ t Valentine’s have much cash on hand, you can have a special dinner for Valentine’s Day. You can create a special Valentine’s Dinner 2 people for under $7.00. The secret to a frugal romantic dinner is the setting so lets start with that. If you were thinking ahead purchase 75% off on clearance after Christmas 10-15 red and white taper candles. You can also purchase red napkins, lace tablecloths, and red ribbon after Christmas for .50 – $1.00
Look at thrift stores and garage sales for one or two place settings of china for 50 cents each. If it’s to late this year remember for next year after Christmas to purchase you Valentines’ items. You can also purchase things on sale 50% after Valentine’s Day and keep for next year. Of course if you’re with the one you love, who needs food for Valentine’s Day!
For the menu
French Onion Soup
Tomato Basil Salad
Red Velvet Cake
Water with lemon slices
tea or coffee with desert
French Onion Soup ( $1.15)
2 onions, thinly sliced (yellow works best) (.25)
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine (.10)
2 cups beef stock (made with bullion cubes or beef bones) (.10)
1 bay leaf
2 slices day-old French bread (.20)
1/2 cup mozzarella or Swiss cheese, grated (.50)
Melt butter in a skillet. Saute onions until slightly brown. Add onions to beef broth in saucepan. Simmer slowly for 10 minutes. Pour into bowls. Place bread on top of each bowl of soup, and sprinkle the cheese on top. Then set under broiler and cook until cheese is melted and brown. This soup will simmer in the crockpot on low overnight.
Tomato Basil Salad ($1.44)
4 large peeled tomatoes (.79)
salt and pepper (to taste)
1 Tbsp. wine vinegar (.10)
2 Tbsp. oil (.05)
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped into small pieces (.50)
Dice tomatoes and combine with salt, pepper, vinegar, oil and basil. Serve. You could also add cubes of mozzarella cheese.
Maple-Glazed Chicken ($2.14 )
1/4 cup maple syrup (.05)
4 tsp. lemon juice (.05)
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine (.05)
salt and pepper (to taste)
4 pieces chicken ($1.99 purchased on sale at $1.99/.lb)
Preheat oven to 450. Mix maple syrup, lemon juice and butter together in small saucepan. Simmer for 5 minutes. Spray a baking dish and place chicken in it. Salt and pepper the chicken. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and pour on glaze. Bake for 15 minutes more or until juices run clear.
Glazed Carrots (.37)
1/2 lb. fresh carrots or baby carrots (.12)
1/2 stick margarine (.05)
6 Tbsp. brown sugar (.10)
1 tsp. cinnamon (.05)
1 tsp. ginger (optional) (.05)
Clean carrots and cut into bite-size pieces. Steam 10 minutes in a small amount of boiling water just until tender. Melt margarine in a large skillet over low heat. Add brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Cook 1-2 minutes. Add hot carrots, stirring well to coat. Remove when shiny and well glazed.
Lemon Potatoes (.75)
6 new potatoes or 2 medium potatoes, cut in halves or quarters (.50)
2 Tbsp. margarine (.05)
1/2 tsp. lemon peel, grated
1 1/2sp. lemon juice (.05)
1 tsp. chives, chopped (.10)
1/4 tsp. salt
dash of nutmeg (all spices)
Clean and steam potatoes 20 minutes (until tender). Heat remaining ingredients just to boiling. Pour lemon butter over potatoes and serve.
Red Velvet Cake (.50 for 2 servings)*
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cocoa
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
2 tsp. vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla
1-2 oz. red food coloring
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup buttermilk
Cream together butter, eggs and sugar in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients except the flour and buttermilk. Mix well. Add flour and buttermilk alternately. Beat until all the lumps are out. Pour into a greased and floured 9×13 inch pan. Bake at 350< for 30 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes clean. Frost with Red Velvet Frosting.
Red Velvet Frosting
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Cook milk and flour until thick, stirring constantly. Cool thoroughly. Beat milk and flour for 1 minute until fluffy. Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add to milk and flour and add vanilla. Mix well. Frosts 1 Red Velvet Cake.
*Or purchase a box mix on sale .79 and canned frosting on sale .69. plus .50 for eggs etc. to make the cake $1.48