In my circle of friends and family I have a bit of a rep for being cheap, I mean frugal. This was originally born of necessity. When I was single in LA (an expensive city) doing a variety of low paying jobs, I had to be creatively frugal to survive; I had to learn how to save money.
Years later, I gave up my income from work to become a SAHM. As we suddenly had to rely solely on my husband’s income, we had to be mindful of how we’d spend and save money. After all, in addition to a mortgage, we both still had student loan debt to pay off.
Now I’m lucky to have more abundance in my life. But it turns out, I can’t stop my frugal ways, much to the chagrin of my husband who sometimes hates my hyper-focus on what everything costs. I find this a bit ironic, who doesn't love to save money?
To his credit, my husband has taught me that there is a difference between sensibly saving money and buying cheap junk that has to be replaced in a few months. Sometimes you have to think about quality over quantity and how long something will last. However, learning how to save money is an art and one that I understand well.
Here’s a list of my favorite frugal living tips for saving money
Cancel Your Gym Membership
Is your gym membership worth $30 or more per month when you can get fit without it? Check out Amber’s post on how to lose baby weight here. You might be able to take walks instead. If you live in bad weather you can work out in your living room with a YouTube yoga video or dance mix-up. I’ve also got a few inexpensive pieces of workout equipment in my house.
Get Rid of Cable and Stream Instead
If you have satellite or cable and you get rid of it, you can save a bundle. There was a time we were paying almost $80 per month for Satellite TV. When we cancelled it we got a few streaming services like Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix and it brought our monthly costs down to $20 per month.
Make More Consume Less
I told my kiddo the other day that I want him to balance his time between making and consuming. For example, we make holiday and birthday cards instead of buying them. I sometimes make baked goods instead of buying them in the store. So if you focus some of your time on making instead of consuming, you will automatically save some money.
Pay off High Interest Debt Before Saving
One way to save money is to pay off debt before you start saving. Interest rates are going up, which means your savings account might start paying you more interest. Put on your math hat and figure out if your interest rate on your debt is higher than what you may be earning in your savings account (it probably is). Next, come up with a plan to pay down debt before saving your money.
Wash Your Own Car
Why not give your husband and neighbors a thrill by putting on a bikini and washing your own car? I’m kind of kidding on the bikini part. If you live in a house and have a hose this can save you money by not going through the carwash. I did this over the weekend and made my kiddo help me out with the drying off part.
Cut and Color Your Own Hair
Hey, if you know me you might have seen my hair and not want to take my advice. Regardless, cutting and coloring your own hair can save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a year. And guess what, there are YouTube videos that show you how to cut your own hair. Are you sensing this is how I learn everything? Hey, I read books too!
Use the Library
Stay in for a Game Night
Instead of going out bowling or out to eat, stay in and have a family game night. It might take some time to agree on a game, like it does in our house but it’s a great way to bond and save money. You can even make a new rule if you don’t want to play Monopoly for hours. Say this: “We’ll set a timer for one hour and whoever is ahead when it beeps is the winner.” You’re welcome!
Host a Babysitting Swap
One smart frugal living tip is that you might want a date night but paying a sitter can be costly. If you happen to know another mom or dad with a similar number of children, you could arrange to do a monthly swap. This way everyone saves money and still gets a break. I mean the downside is having to watch someone else’s kids, but think of the savings!
Shop for Clothes in the Off Season
I recently bought a winter jacket in late spring that was cheaper because stores are getting rid of all the winter clothes to make room for summer stuff. Lots of items can be found on clearance during this time as well. To make this work, you’ll just need to plan ahead for what you and your kiddos will need.
Organize to See What You Already Have
It’s easy to buy something you already have if things aren’t organized and in their places. Taking time to purge a few times a year and put things in their place will save you lots of coin over time.
Clean on the Cheap
One of the best frugal living tips is to use vinegar, dish soap and baking soda to clean your house. All you really need to clean most everything in your home are simple cleaning products. It’s also a non-toxic/kid friendly way to clean. If you like a better fragrance, you can add a few drops of a scented essential oil. But the vinegar smell fades in minutes and kills germs almost as well as bleach. That said, I have bleach handy and stored up high for tough mold and mildew stains.
Use Fewer Paper Products
Use washclothes for your houshold cleaning tasks. You can put them in the washing machine afterwards and save lots of money by not using paper towels to wipe things down. For parties, you can also cut out the paper plates and just hand wash a few dishes afterwards.
Shop at Cheaper Stores
Depending on where you live, there may be a store with better prices than whatever grocery store is most convenient. Where I live, in the Northwest it’s Winco or Grocery Outlet. You may have to drive farther and bag your own groceries but the savings can really be worth it to get lower prices on everything you buy. Note: Be careful buying in bulk at stores like Costco. Do the math first to make sure you are actually saving money over what you’d pay at a regular store.
Pro tip: Being good at math or traveling around with a calculator, if you aren’t can help you save a bundle when you shop.
Only Use Coupons for Food You Need
It’s easy to be like, “I can save $1 on these peanut butter pretzels, must get them.” Then you get home and realized you never buy them and nobody really likes them. They might get stale and thrown out. In order to save when using coupons, just clip the ones for products you buy every week anyway. Following frugal living tips means not buying stuff you don't need. I’ve been guilty of buying something new and hating it and it goes to waste.
Use Local Deal and Coupon Sites
Here in the Pacific Northwest there is an awesome local deals site called Frugal Living NW . She posts local sales deals for all the stores and at Christmas time features all the best deals on gifts. Money Saving Mom is a similar site with coupons and deals but not specific to one region.
Meal planning really does save a lot of money. Prior to being a wife and mom, I never meal planned, I’d just pop open a can of soup or eat a bowl of cereal. Now that I’m married to a meat eater and have a hungry little boy to feed I have to meal plan. If you look at ads, you can see what’s on sale (especially meat) and plan meals around that. Having regular staples, like frozen veggies and fruit for smoothies, rice, pasta and beans makes it easy to throw something together.
Use Your Freezer (Don’t Waste Food)
Did you know in the U.S. there is a huge percentage of food that goes to waste? No wonder some people get by on dumpster diving. When you waste food, it’s money down the drain. Try buying more frozen produce or freeze food from your garden and just buy a few things fresh that you’ll eat within a few days. You can also find a meat sale and cook a bunch of chicken in the crockpot, shred it and freeze it batches to create new meals in the weeks to come. Most leftovers can be frozen if you aren’t going to be able to eat them within a few days. Check the food safety rules online.
Shop Thrift Stores
Do like Macklemore advises. One of my favorite finds in a thrift store is furniture. When I was pregnant, we found a glider rocker for $20 at a Goodwill Outlet store and a dresser for $15. We painted the dresser and put new knobs on it to spiff it up. Thrift stores are also a great place to find jackets that are so expensive when purchased new and at full price. Sometimes I’ll buy clothes there too, because I love a bargain.
Buy a Modest House
It’s a smart frugal living tip to buy a house you can afford or qualify for. There are many home costs outside of your mortgage payment. Property taxes and normal regular repairs should be accounted for. Once you figure out what your mortgage payment will be, add $300 per month to realistically prepare for what you’ll spend. Next, make sure that number is around 25% of your take home pay.
For example, if your take home pay is $4000 per month and you find a home that would have a mortgage of $700 per month and you add $300 per month to account for property tax and repairs, you know you can afford it and not be “house poor.” Your bank will likely let you qualify for a more expensive house, you need to be the one to decide what you can really manage over the long term.
Make Kids Buy Their Own Toys and Books
If it’s not Christmas or a birthday, I make my son buy his own books and toys with money from his piggy bank. This is money he’s gotten as gifts or earned from doing extra hard chores. We don’t pay for regular household chores. But we will pay for something extra that I don’t want to do. It’s like when the school sends home the book order forms or we’re at the Dollar Tree and he says he wants something, I say, “do you wanna spend your own money on that?” Then he has to think about how much he wants it.
Scale Down Holiday and Birthday Spending
I wrote about ways to save and create a holiday budget here. Planning ahead and deciding what you will spend on each person helps a great deal. When it comes to birthdays, you might do what a friend of mine did. Ask your child if they would rather have a more expensive gift and no party or a party and something small as their gift.
Buy Gifts with Promo Codes or Credit Card Rewards
People like Dave Ramsey may not love this idea. But if you are easily able to pay off your credit card monthly and stay on budget and you have a credit card with no yearly fee, you can earn points toward gift cards or other bonuses with some of them. We earn hundreds of dollars each year by doing this. At the end of the year, we cash in the gift cards at Christmas time to give them as gifts to family and friends.
Use Online Promo Codes
Another way to save when you are sending a gift online is to Google for promo codes. Enter the code when you check out and you can save that way too. Sometimes companies like Wolferman’s and others give you a chance to sign up for the email list and then they’ll send you special offers and promo codes.
Sell Stuff Before You Buy Something New
We round up our books and sell them at Powell’s Books (our local used book store) and then we can buy a few new books with what we earn. Another ways to sell things is to have a garage sale to get rid of stuff you don’t need before making another big purchase. It’s also just a good way to de-clutter your home. There are tons of other modern ways to sell your stuff: Amazon, Ebay and other smaller sites offer way to give you cash for your clutter, I mean stuff you don’t use anymore.
Take a Staycation Instead of a Vacation
I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled a fair amount before and after having a kid and I’ve grown to prefer the “staycation” over the “vacation”. Without footing the bill for hotels, gas and airfare you’ll save a bundle. You might enjoy exploring your town more in depth than you’ve done before.
How would you like to save money on birthday party gifts? One of Amber's favorite frugal living tips is to regift. Sometimes you may get something that you won’t use for whatever reason. If you genuinely know someone who would love it, re-gift it. You can choose to tell them or not. I’ve got a rep so everyone is suspicious of me but I’m shameless so this can be a way to save a little cash. The caveat, don’t forget and re-gift it to the person who gave it to you. Doh!
Skip Camps and Classes
Honestly, we do a one week summer camp each year. But they are pricey and sometimes my son complains he didn’t even enjoy it. Perhaps you can come up with a fun way to do something camp-like at home. Skipping on classes and camps will definitely help you to save money.
For example, my kid is really into art right now. So I can put on a Bob Ross video and give him some paper and paint and he’ll go to town making stuff. If you are good at baking you could spend a week teaching your little one how to bake some simple things. You might also volunteer to watch another kid for a few days and dump a bin of Legos out on your carpet and have them make stuff.
You could also tell them to play outside and lock the door until dinner. I’ve never done that but it worked in the 70’s, right?
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How do you save money as a mom? We love to hear about your frugal living tips in the comments.
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