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20 Money-Saving Hacks for Parents

20 Money-Saving Hacks for Parents

Regardless of your marital status, income, number of children or the amount of debt you carry, you want to save money. There are countless ways to save, but it helps to take a general, broad look at the ways parents can save throughout the year, in different areas of their lives. The following 20 hacks will help you save money across the board, from groceries to travel to gift giving.

Groceries

American families spend an average of $146 to $289 per week on groceries. Begin saving today with the following hacks:

1. Plan Meals Around Deals

If you want to save at the grocery store, everyone knows that planning is essential. Do your research and find out what will be on sale for the upcoming week. Plan meals around those sale items and use a recipe website if you’re lacking creativity.

2. Use Couponing Websites

Couponing is a time-consuming art form, but one way to ease into it is to use couponing websites. These sites remove the need to sort through pages of circulars and cut out what you need. Instead, you can search the databases for what you need. Try The Krazy Koupon Lady or Passion for Savings.

3. Create a Cooking Group

If you’re close with your neighbors, consider creating a cooking group. Each family in the group cooks dinner one night per week for the other families in the group. This way, you can enjoy a few nights off from cooking, as well as added savings from buying cooking items in bulk.

4. Order Online

Be honest with yourself and admit if you’re an impulse shopper. If you are, it might be wise to get your groceries delivered. Or, you can order ahead and pick up your groceries to avoid going into the store altogether. While these services come at a cost, it might be worth it if you’re prone to impulse buys.

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Gift Giving

Does it seem like your budget is shot every month because of birthday parties? Your kids won’t have to miss the parties if you consider the these hacks:

5. Stock up on Gifts for Birthday Parties

Toys go on sale every January, so use this time of year to stock up on a variety of inexpensive gifts. Keep a stockpile and add to it whenever you spot a good deal. Set a limit for yourself, such as no more than $5 or $10. When the inevitable party invitation arrives, visit your stockpile instead of the store.

6. Have Your Kids Hand Write Cards

Instead of paying $3 or $4 for a birthday card, have your kids create one. Kids love to get craft and people love handmade cards. Plus, your wallet will appreciate the added savings, come the end of the year.

7. Opt for Christmas Wrapping Paper in Solid Colors

Purchase Christmas wrapping paper after the holiday season at a discounted rate. Choose papers in solid colors like green, blue and red, and then use it throughout the year for birthdays and other holidays.

Kids’ Clothing and Toys

Clothing is a necessity and toys are important, too. Save money by purchasing clothes at the right time and finding toys in the right places. Consider the following tips:

8. Shop During the Off Season

Clothing is expensive. Smart shoppers gauge their children’s sizes and shop in August for the next warm season and at the end of February for the next winter season. Get into the habit of doing this every year, and the savings will be significant.

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9. Join a Toy Library

Toy libraries rent or lend toys to families. It’s a great way for your kids to receive something new to aid their development — and it also teaches them responsibility. As they care for the toys, they learn the concept of borrowing. Plus, they get to experience a variety of toys at very little cost to you.

10. Embrace Consignment

There are many different ways to consign today. Clothing exchanges, consignment stores and online mom swaps make it easy for anyone. But online consignment stores likely provide the most options.

Vacationing

Planning a vacation usually comes with some anxiety as you consider the costs involved. If you want to save money on your next vacation or make your vacation dollars stretch as far as they can, consider these hacks:

11. Join a Home Swap

Instead of paying hefty hotel fees, opt for a home swap. You can explore other countries and live like a local. The experience will be rich, and your dollars will stretch much further. Websites like Home Exchange match you with an appropriate swap family.

12. Avoid Busy Travel Days

This is a simple hack, but it’s an easy way to save. Flying Monday through Thursday is cheaper than flying over the weekend, but Wednesdays are the cheapest. Plan your trip from Wednesday to Wednesday to get the lowest fare.

13. Plan Early or Late

Planning early comes with many perks, such as being the first to book at the lowest costs. As soon as you get your child’s schedule for the upcoming year, plan vacations around days off. Opt for non-holiday days off from school, such as teacher in-service days, to avoid spiked rates. On the flipside though, spontaneity is sometimes rewarded through last-minute deals.

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Social

Children become involved in more activities as they age, and parents immediately notice how expensive it is to stay involved with social activities such as sports and clubs. Consider the following tips:

14. Make Playdates

Instead of opting for “Mommy and Me” classes that cost money, socialize with other moms and babies by creating your own group. Use social media to connect with area parents or try Playgroup Meetup.

15Implement a One-and-One Rule

There are many free activities to participate in if you look in the right places. When your children become interested in joining clubs and sports groups, implement a “one-and-one” rule. This means they can join one paid activity and one free activity every season. Examples of free activities include reading groups or story time at the library.

16. Create a Babysitting Co-op

Check out local churches and community centers for babysitting co-ops, or groups of parents that agree to help one another babysit at no cost. If there isn’t one available in your area, create one. Also, there are sites to help connect families such as Babysitter Exchange.

Bills

You don’t have to like them but you can budget for them. Get your monthly budget in the green with these simple strategies:

17. Check Your Family Plan

Cell phone bills are a big expense, and they typically grow every year, especially as your children become responsible enough for a phone. Check out the site My Rate Plan to see if you’re overpaying. And be sure to shop around for better rates every year.

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18. Cut the Cable

There are many ways to enjoy television without paying a hefty bill. Streaming video services like Netflix and Hulu offer more economical options for TV than cable.

19. Minimize the Water Bill

Reduce your water bill by replacing leaky faucets and adding aerators to them. Aerators reduce water flow by up to 60%, which can equal a huge potential saving. Fill a plastic milk container with stones and place it in the back of the toilet tank if you don’t have a low-flow toilet. This technique will minimize the amount of water needed to fill the tank.

20. Only List Teen Drivers Under One Car

To save money on your car insurance, only list teen drivers under one vehicle. List them as occasional drivers on the least expensive car to pay the lowest rate.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to cut costs throughout the year with minimal effort. What are some of the hacks your family uses to save money throughout the year? Share in the comments!

Featured photo credit: Steven Depolo via flickr.com

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Published on October 8, 2018

13 Incredibly Useful Tactics to Help You to Stick to Your Family Budget

13 Incredibly Useful Tactics to Help You to Stick to Your Family Budget

Are you having trouble sticking to a family budget? You aren’t alone.

Budgeting is difficult. Creating one is hard enough, but actually sticking to it is a whole other issue. Things come up. Desires and cravings happen. And the next thing you know, budgets break.

So how can you stick to a family budget? Here are 13 tips to make it easier.

1. Choose a major category each month to attack

As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” With that in mind, one approach to help you get into the habit of sticking to a budget is simply starting slow.

Spend too much on Starbucks runs, eat out too often, and have an out-of-this-world grocery bill? Choose one bad habit and attack.

By choosing one behavior to focus on, you’ll prevent yourself from being overwhelmed. You’ll also experience small victories, which help you gain positive momentum. This momentum can then carry over into your overall budget.

2. Only make major purchases in the morning

If you’re making large purchases in the evening, there’s a good chance you’re doing so after a long day and you’re probably tired.

Why does this matter? Because our judgement tends to be off when tired – our willpower is compromised.

Instead, only make major purchasing decisions in the morning when you’re energized and refreshed. Your brain will be firing on all cylinders and your resolve will be high. You’re less likely to give in and settle at this point.

3. Don’t go to the grocery store hungry

Have trouble with impulse buys at the grocery store? If so, there’s a good chance you’re going grocery shopping while hungry.

The problem here is that when you’re hungry, everything looks good. So you’re more likely to make split decisions on things that aren’t on your grocery list.

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Instead, make sure you eat prior to your grocery store trip. Then take your list, along with your full stomach, and go shopping. Notice how food doesn’t look quite so good when you’re not fighting cravings.

4. Read one-star reviews for products

Is there a product you just have to have (but maybe not really)? Check out the one-star reviews.

By reading all the horrible reviews, you may be able to basically trick yourself into deciding that the product isn’t worth your time and money.

Next thing you know, you didn’t make the purchase, you saved the money, and you feel good about the decision.

5. Never buy anything you put in an online shopping cart until the next day

If you are making a purchase online, it’s typically a two-step process. First, you click “Add to Cart” and then you go in to review your cart and pay.

The problem is that there not typically much reviewing during step two. It’s generally click pay and there you go. However, this is the perfect point to stop for reflection.

Once you add to your cart, your best bet is to step away until the next day. Let the item sit there and grow cold, so to speak.

This gives you a night to “sleep on it” and decide if you really want and need to spend that money. If you wake up the next day and still find the purchase viable, then perhaps it’s time to go for it.

6. Don’t save your credit card info on any site you shop on

One of the other pitfalls of shopping online is that fact that most sites ask you to save your credit card information.

While the sites will frame it as a method of convenience, the truth is they know you’ll spend more money in the long run if your credit card information is saved.

The “convenience” takes away one last decision-making point in the purchasing process. True, it’s a pain to get out your credit card and enter the information every time. But guess what? That’s the point. If that inconvenience helps you stay on budget, then it’s worth it. Which leads into the next tip.

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7. Tape an “impulse buy” reminder to your credit card

Credit cards make spending much easier than cash. When you spend cash, you can literally see your wallet emptying. A credit card comes out, then goes back in. No harm, no foul.

That’s why it’s a good idea to tape a reminder to your credit card. Customize a message that is something along the lines of “do you really need this?” or “does it fit the budget?”

That way when you pull out the card, you get one last reminder to help you question your decision and stick to your budget.

8. Only use gift cards to shop on Amazon

Amazon is probably the easiest place online to blow money. It’s just so easy to click and buy. However, one way you can slow the process down is buy only using gift cards. Here’s how it works.

If you plan on making a purchase on Amazon, go to the grocery store and purchase a pre-loaded Amazon gift card of the proper amount. There’s no convenience fee, so you literally pay for the money you’ll spend.

Now take that gift card home and load it to your Amazon account. There’s your money to spend.

Why does this help? It makes you have to purposely go to the score and purchase the card in order to purchase the item. That’s a pretty deliberate thing that takes some time, commitment, and thought.

This process will effectively kill the impulse buy.

9. Budget using cash and envelopes

As mentioned earlier, it’s a lot harder to spend cash than swipe a credit card. You can take this even farther by using only cash, and separating that cash by budget category.

Create an envelope for each category and stick the cash in there at the beginning of each month. When the envelope is empty, no more spending on that category, unless you borrow from another (be careful of that approach).

This can be pretty helpful for people that have a hard time following transactions in their checking account, or keeping a budgeting spreadsheet.

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The envelopes simplify the tracking process, leaving no room for error. Nothing hides from you because it’s tangible in the envelopes in front of you.

10. Join a like-minded group

Making the decision to stick to something like budgeting is difficult. It takes long-term commitment.

You’re going to feel weak sometimes. And sometimes you may fail. That said, support from others can help strengthen resolve.

Support can come from a spouse or a friend, but they won’t always have the exact same goal in mind. That’s why it’s a good idea to join a support group that’s likeminded.

No need to pay here, as there are tons of free communities that fit the bill online.

For example, reddit has multiple subreddits that deal with budgeting and frugal living. You can follow, subscribe, and get active in those communities.

This will open your eyes to new tips and strategies, keep your goal fresh on your mind, and help you realize there are others dealing with the same struggles and being successful.

11. Reward Yourself

When you set a budget, it’s usually with a large goal in mind. Maybe you want to be debt free, or perhaps you want to see $10,000 in your savings account.

Whatever the case, the end goal is great, but the end is often far away, making it hard to see the end of the tunnel.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to set mini-goals along the way. This helps you still look at the big picture but have something that’s attainable in the short-term to help with momentum.

But don’t stop there – set rewards for yourself when you reach that small goal. Maybe it’s an extra meal out. Or a new pair of shoes.

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Whatever the case, this gives you something in the near future to look forward to, which can help with the fatigue that can result in pursuing long-term goals.

12. Take the Buddhist approach

You don’t have to be a Buddhist to recognize some of the wisdom in the teachings. One of the tenets of the philosophy involves accepting that we can’t have everything we want. And that’s okay.

Sometimes you won’t feel good. Sometimes you’ll have cravings. You can’t deny them. But you can recognize them, accept them, and let them pass by. Then you move on.

Apply this to the times you want to do things that will break your budget. You’re going to have the desire to eat out when you shouldn’t. You might want to stay out and spend too much at happy hour with your work friends.

The feelings will come. Recognize them, accept them, but let them go.

13. Set up automatic drafts to savings

If you wait until you’ve spent all your budgeted money to deposit money into savings, guess what? You probably aren’t going to put any money into savings.

It’s too easy to see that as extra money and end up using it to treat yourself.

Instead, set up automatic savings withdrawals. That way, the money is marked and gone before you can even think about it. It becomes a non-issue. It’s no longer “extra.” It’s just savings.

Conclusion

Sticking to a budget can be difficult. No one is denying that.

However, if you can do a few things to set yourself up for success, and put some practices in place to curb impulse buys, then you can (and will!) be successful sticking to your family budget.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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