It always comes back to money, or cash money as Tad would say. There never quite seems to be enough for everything we want to do. I'm not even close to a master saver (although since Tad almost has a masters in accounting I'm hoping he'll do better than me) so I'm always on the lookout for good tips! Here are some of the things Tad and I have been doing:
CHILDCARE It can be so expensive to hire nannies and babysitters. My favorite fix is just to trade off with other moms. Find someone with kids in age close to yours and offer a swap. Most likely she'll jump at the chance. Truth be told my kids are easier to handle when there's another kid there to distract them from me! It's a great, guilt free way to have a night out.
I love discount stores like Ross and family dollar. Ross is great for household items (dishes, picture frames, decorations, towels, bathroom toiletries, and tons more), small furniture (chairs, ottomans, tables, small dressers, etc.), clothes (of every age and gender, I especially love to get cheap but cute and sexy lingerie here), toys for kids of all ages, kids room decor, shoes, purses, perfumes and lotions, so many other great things!
Family Dollar has some of the best deals! They sell basics in food (milk, ravioli, cookies, rice...), baby care (diapers, wipes, medicine...), and things like shampoo, lotion, paper plates, aluminum foil. They also have greeting cards, home decor (clocks, cute signs...), lawn care items (soil, weed killer...), tupperware, trash cans, and a ton more. Some of my favorite things to get from here is big toys. They often have great deals on children sized tables and chairs, kid size play kitchens (normally kitchens like this cost around $100, but we got one for Wes for $20 here. Granted we had to put it together ourselves, but it was worth it!), even 4-wheelers big enough for kids to ride. Family Dollar is the best place to look if you're trying to find a big present for a kid. They rarely cost over $25. PS- Craft Stores like Michael and Roberts always have great dollar bins that are full of great stuff like pads of grocery list that have a magnet to hang on the fridge, recipe boxes, markers, signs, kid crafts....Second-hand stores like DI, Good Will, and Salvation Army are full of hidden treasures. You can often find great clothes for young and old, electronics, shoes, fabric, dishes.... My favorite DI finds are books and furniture. They've always got a great supply of used desks, stools, tables, dressers, bed frames, pretty much anything you might look for. The great and hard thing about second hand stores is that their stock is constantly changing. So if you're in the market for something specific check back often, but when you find it don't hesitate long because things at these prices don't last long. Chances are what you're looking for will turn up sooner of later! Not to mention the great stuff people sell for a steal at yard sales! This weekend I found a recipe book full of '4 ingredient recipes' for $3, and for the same price Wes found a Scarlett sized Curious George stuffed animal! Check out your local newspaper classifieds, craigslist, or just go cruising around town to spot yard sale signs.
For grocery shopping everyone knows there are great coupons out there. Sadly, I don't have much patience for them. As an alternative I'd suggest 3 things. 1- If you're in a position to qualify for programs like WIC (program for pregnant Women, Infants, and Children) take advantage of it! They are great programs that not only give your wallet a break on your grocery bill, they keep track of your kids health and give you access to information and resources for every stage your kids grow into. 2- Have you heard of Bountiful Baskets? If not it's a great community program that allows you to get a basket full of fresh fruits and vegetables every 2 weeks or so. Everyone I know who gets one loves it! Although there are a couple of draw backs. They've very large so sometimes it's hard to eat it all before it goes bad, and you don't get to pick what kind of produce goes in the basket so sometimes you end up with weird things, or things you don't like. I would suggest either splitting the basket with another family. Or you could talk to some local produce suppliers and start your own basket if you can get a big enough group together. That way you'd have more control over what you get and how much. 3- You can always check out farmers markets and local produce stands. They usually have quality products, plus you are supporting your local economy!
TV, INTERNET, & PHONE
Tad and I also tried to find every way to cut monthly budget. For instance we use Netflix and Hulu instead of having cable/satellite TV. Hulu is free if you just want to watch current TV episodes, although they do have a HuluPlus that is a lot more like Netflix Instant Play. I love the instant play feature on Netflix, it's so convenient, especially for people with kids. That way I can watch the show when I have time to watch it without little voices in my ears and little fingers pulling on my leg. The only sacrifice on that is Tad's sports channels (he makes due with ESPN.com but I know he misses it). If you do have Satellite TV I know DirecTV, Verizon, and Qwest all work together to give you a break. If you use those 3 (or are free to switch) I believe you can get a discount for each service just because you use all 3 of them. Check it out!
We also make sure we keep in close contact with our insurance providers to take advantage of any discounts they offer. We found out that we got a discount on our car insurance if we got renters insurance too(which aside from being smart to have is insanely cheap. I think it averaged to be like $11/month). The discount was so good we ended up paying less with both car and renters insurance than we did with just car insurance. We use Sorensen Insurance that is based out of Heber City, UT. They handle and keep track of all of our insurances (car, rental, you name it) They are so great, I recommend them for sure!
Tad and I also decided to sell one of our 2 cars. We realized that we didn't really need them both, and that it would save us a ton of money. Between upkeep like oil changes, and yearly fees like registration, not to mention the cost of gasing up 2 cars it really adds up! We are fortunate enough to live within walking distance to Tad's work and school so we rarely have a problem sharing. I realize for most people this isn't the case. However if you have a bus/subway/trax/or train system near you should look into it. I would wager it's cheaper to buy a pass than it is to keep a second car. Plus you don't have to pay for things like parking passes. In the fall Tad will need to travel an hour 2 days a week to commute to his new school, but he's going to carpool for a group of other accounting students who will be doing the same thing. That way he'll only have to drive once a month.
This one is a little extreme, but we're so glad we did it. In order to be within walking distance of work and school we had to move. We were able to cut our rent by $100 by moving from a 3 bedroom house to a 3 bedroom apartment closer to campus. It is quite a bit smaller, and we had to well some of our larger furniture to make it work. Though we more than covered our moving expenses with our craigslist sales. I realize that this is not in the realm of possibility for everyone, but it saved us a ton. Utilities alone are 2/3 cheaper in an apartment, plus there are maintenance men working regularly who come and fix any issues we might have instead of trying to get your landlord to take time out of their schedule to come take a look at it.
TREAT YOURSELF SOMEWHERE
That's all of the tricks I can think of right now, but I'm sure there are a ton more. We basically try not to spend money on things we don't need. Although I think everyone should have SOMETHING they get to do for fun. For Tad and I it's movies. We love going to dinner and a movie, and I think it'd take some drastic circumstances to get us to stop doing that at least once a month! So make sure you're not depriving yourself of EVERYTHING! But keep your wallet in check from BUYING yourself everything.
PS- We did make a point of setting up life insurance, a mutual fun, and a Roth IRA. They are automatically paid each month and we don't really think about them much. But when we're in a jam and need some extra cash there's always a little to be found.
If anyone has a tip for me please share!