- Sign up for customer rewards programs in all stores in which you shop, even if you don’t shop there often. Yeah, I know this is a pain. I have had to add an extra ring to my key chain just to hold all those little key cards. However, I just found a GREAT site to fix this problem: http://www.justoneclubcard.com/ where you can add up to 8 barcodes from your various cards and create just one card! Also, set up a Gmail or Hotmail account for the email so you don’t fill your email account with spam.
- Don’t charge anything that will not outlast the time it takes to pay it off! Boy, I wish we had stuck to this rule when I read it years ago!
- Try to avoid spending a large amount of money to entertain children (see below for some great ideas), except on the rare occasion. Kids, especially younger ones, can be entertained rather cheaply (remember how much fun you had with just a large cardboard box when you where a kid?). Besides, if you start them out with an appetite for entertainment that costs a lot you will be well over-extended once they are teenagers! see: 90 cheap or free ways to entertain your kids and a NY Times article on entertaining your kids when you are out of energy
- Clean out those closets! If you don’t like the idea of having a yard sale, head to the consignment shop or ebay (how to sell on ebay link). This will give you more space, take away some of that guilt for not fitting into those pants, and simplify your life a bit.
- Avoid convenience foods (premade foods, microwavable, etc.). I know, this is a hard one if you work outside the home. But, try to move towards freezer meals you make yourself. “Once a month” cooking is a great way to save money AND creates less insanity during dinner-time on the weekdays after work (also can help you buy less take-out and ready-made meals). http://www.once-a-month-cookingworld.com/ When I was working full-time I did a lot of this type of cooking. Now if you have CFS or fibromyalgia, it might not be the best choice to spend the weekend cooking a months worth of meals (can you say: F-L-A-R-E?!) however, one good alternative is: when you do cook a meal, make it double or triple what you would normally do & freeze the balance. Eventually, you will have a nice stash in the freezer, and buying in bulk (larger packages or meats, etc) can help you save money as well.
- Invest in a few (well-reviewed) books that offer budget tips, investing tips, etc., that fit your lifestyle – One that seems to be really well-respected is: The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey. I actually just ordered this on Amazon and I am anxiously waiting for it to arrive.
- My new favorite site is CRAIGSLIST! It is amazing the things you can find on there. Not only a plethora of yard sales and some free stuff, but lots of other stuff that you might need for your home & family. There is also a “barter” section where people can let you know what they have & what they would like to barter for. We recently got a great (and large!) dining room table for $40 and some retaining wall bricks (we have been wanting to put a small one in since we moved into our house) for less than half the price in the store. They were new, the people just got too many for their wall. We got almost our whole wall finished with these bricks (we need 17 more)!
- I guess we have all thought about it, but I think there is no avoiding it any longer…it is time to start clipping coupons again. I used to do this a lot of in the late 80s, early 90s, but had stopped until recently (I didn’t have the time, it was too much of a pain, didn’t want to mess with the organizing, etc). Since I have started collecting coupons again I have found that a lot has changed! We are no longer limited to the Sunday paper inserts. There are many coupons you can print online. My favorite site is: http://www.couponloop.com/id133.htm (this site has most every coupon online at any given moment; saves a lot of time searching). Also, I found out you can buy coupons on ebay as well. Well, not the coupons per se but the “labor of clipping.” You can regularly get 100 coupons for $1-2 (plus shipping, which can range from $.50-2.00 – so, pay attention to shipping costs). In fact, while I was writing this I just won 100 coupons, all over $1.00 ea for $.99 + .59 shipping. Also, try doing some coupon exchanges with neighbors, friends, and relatives. This is something you can even do through the mail. But, make sure you are using the coupons wisely...see: http://www.grocerycouponguide.com/
- Buy a membership to your local children’s science & technology museum. They usually have great kid-friendly exhibits and a cool playground. You can then visit there as often as you wish AND, the pass usually allows you free (or 2 for 1) entrance into tons of other museums all over the country. Many museums have scholarships as well if you cannot afford the yearly pass.
- Speaking of scholarships: back when my girls were younger (and I was a single mom) we have very little money to do any kind of recreational activities. The city parks & recreation department often had not only affordable activities, but scholarships. I usually ended up paying a very small fee or nothing for them to participate in swimming lessons, ballet, karate, art classes, etc.
OK, this post is getting rather long! Let’s call it “part one” and I will add a “part two” later.