I have noticed that the biggest drains on our family budget lately are groceries and gasoline prices. Lately I have been reading different blogs about what others are doing to combat these issues. There are some really good suggestions out there and then there are the absurd suggestions that come from folks that live in communes or live out in the woods. I do not think these will work for us and I don’t believe my family would appreciate (even remotely) some of these suggestions from the latter. I have however found some ideas useful and some that I am still mulling over in my head. I am going to share some of the things I personally have been doing to save money.
Clothing I have very seldom in my life bought anything full price when it comes to clothing. I am a proponent of quality in clothing. I will pay for quality, but it must be on sale, a good sale! I typically wait until the end of the season sales to shop, when everything is drastically discounted. In some degree it depends on the part of the country you live in to how precise you must be in estimating how much your children will grow by the next season. In my part of the country it’s only cold about two to three months out of the year so it isn’t quite the science it could be. And for myself, I hope I am not growing! I have found a department store that really knows how to put things on sale. There are some who make a mockery out of sales, they know who they are. It depends on the area in which you live but I have also found that some of the discount clothing stores are worth looking into. I have had the greatest success in finding my teenage son’s clothing there, mostly casual things. On the subject of teenage sons, I know many kids are concerned with name brands; my son went through a phase. I didn’t want to deprive him and make him feel left out with his peers so I did buy him a name brand here and there. I did find, as I braved those ever so loud stores where these items were located, that if you go to the clearance shelves you can find some pretty nice stuff. Another way I save in my clothing budget, especially for very young children, girls of any age and myself. (Boys are not so blessed but usually make out like a bandit at the end of year sales mentioned above so it evens itself out.) Depending on where you live, whether a large town or small, this may or may not help you. In our town we are blessed with many, many resale shops. If you go to the more affluent parts of town you can find the most precious baby/toddler resale shops with unique little outfits that show no sign of wear and tear. They usually carry everything for babies and toddlers. (The same can be said for garage sales in affluent areas.) Our town also has some really great resale shops for women, from pre-teen to adult. I noticed they did have a pretty nice men’s resale also but it seems the boys have been forgotten. I was thinking about why this might be and it occurred to me that their clothes probably wear out or get torn up too fast to resell! In the last few years they have come out with a resale shop just for teens called Plato’s Closet that has tons of clothes for teens but as I have shopped around in there I haven’t been terribly excited. It may just be the one near us but the clothes seem a bit too worn and for the ones that aren’t they seem a bit pricey. They have tons of name brand jeans at reasonable prices but you have to make sure your child is there to try them on. Every brand fits different and every few minutes things go out of style.
As far as grocery shopping goes I have a routine that I pretty much stick to. I have tried looking at all the flyers to see who has the best deals and run around from store to store but then I waste so much gas and wear myself out. I know that Wal-Mart says they will match any price but I don’t want to spend that much time comparing. I’m trying to reduce stress in my life also and this doesn’t seem to help. So my existing plan centers primarily around two stores I frequent. One which is very close to home which makes it convenient and uses less gas and another store which is centrally located. I have found out which store has the best prices on the brands and products I buy on a regular basis. Just two, it has to be a pretty special deal to get me to go somewhere else. The store that is closest has a card for extra discounts, while this is not always a savings, it can be if you buy the store brand which gives you extra savings. I happen to shop at a store that has quality products in their brand name; I buy almost everything that is their brand except a few specialty items we like. They also send me coupons for the products I buy most there which saves me even more money. You can’t beat that. My biggest problem when it comes to the grocery store is not going when I’m hungry or really stressed out. I buy crazy things. This is where some of the ideas from blogs come in. I read a very well written blog that suggested that you make up a weekly menu, buy only the things you need for preparation and stick to it. It helps you to have a plan so that you don’t purchase a lot of things you don’t need for daily meals. It says in the article that it will keep you from going to the store as often and in this way will save you money also. So it’s twofold, don’t buy more than you need and don’t go as often. Meals don’t have to be extravagant either. You can prepare really good, comforting meals that the whole family will love for not much money. There are recipes all over the web that take a few ingredients and make a great meal. I have a go to meal around my house that my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother have been making for years. I will share it with you, we call it Goulash. Almost everyone has a goulash recipe of some kind. Ours goes like this.
• 1 pound of hamburger • 1 small package of macaroni • 1 small onion, chopped • 1-2 cans of diced tomatoes • Chili powder to taste
• Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
1. Cook the macaroni according to directions. 2. Chop your onion and fry it up with the hamburger in a large skillet. 3. Pour off the grease; add 1 or 2 cans of tomatoes depending on how much you like tomato and how juicy you like it.
4. Add the macaroni, as much as the skillet can hold, then add the chili powder to taste.
Try it; you will be surprised on how good it is. Serve it with a veggie and some biscuits or crescent rolls. My kids and husband love it. Another thing my family likes is when I make macaroni and cheese, except I make a basic cheese sauce (flour, butter, milk and cheddar cheese and sometimes both cheddar and mozzarella), and add diced chicken (which you can by frozen and heat up in microwave), and chopped broccoli (microwave). This is truly comfort food and it has your meat and veggie all combined.
Something else we are trying at our house is limiting gifts on birthdays and Christmas. It has gotten out of hand in the last few years; seeing things that you know the kids will love and you just have to give it to them. When I was growing up we received one large gift of something we really wanted, a new outfit, and two or three small gifts that our folks thought we would like. We had wonderful Christmases and didn’t know the difference. Birthdays were usually one outfit and one request (not that we could request anything absurd either). Children will be happy with a lot less if they don’t get indulged early on and if they have been already, most are willing to help out when the family has needs. Saving money really depends on each individual family and what their particular lifestyle is like. Everyone has different areas of expense. I believe the best way to find out how to save money for your family is to sit down and write all of your bills and expenses down on paper. Check them one by one and see where you can make sacrifices or perhaps cut out altogether. Call up your phone plans, internet services, and cable or dish companies and see if you are on the best plan, ask them how you can save. They often have plans for newcomers that they can extend to you. The first step is to know exactly what you are doing with your money and then work on it according to your own family’s needs. Your family is unique and your budget should be too.
Ken Myers is the founder and contributor for http://www.longhornleads.com/. He frequently researches and writes about a variety of topics like education, Technology, Health and many more. He welcomes your comments.