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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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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

2. Keep Them Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

4. Short Term vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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5. To Each to His Own

The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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6. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

7. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

8. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

It is here where that classification will help.

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So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding,

Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

11. Measure, Measure, Measure

All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

The Bottom Line

This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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