These days it seems that everything costs a small fortune. Generations ago, a large family could live on one small income to survive. Think of all the old television sitcoms. The fathers worked in a factory or office, and the mothers stayed home cooking, cleaning, and raising 6 kids all while looking perfect. There was always food on the table and the bills were always paid. Flash forward to now, and real life. Not going to happen. So regardless of what your household looks like, it is always good to learn some tricks to saving money. That is why I have put together a guide to saving money on almost everything!
Saving Money on Groceries
Know your Prices
The first thing you need to do when saving money on groceries, is learn the prices of things. Compare prices at different stores local to you. Pay attention to who has the best quality products for the best price.
Shop Multiple Stores
Though it is convenient to have one-stop shopping, it isn’t always the most cost effective. I have gotten into the habit of shopping at several stores. Here is an example of my routine.
There is a Kroger grocery store about 4 minutes from my home. I try to rarely shop there because the prices tend to be higher than some of the alternatives. My shopping routine consists of 3-4 different stores. I shop at Aldi, Meijer, Sam’s Club, and a local small market.
Aldi is where I get a lot of our snack type of foods, and frozen foods. Meijer is where I buy the bulk of my ingredient type of foods, and things like deli meats. Sam’s Club is great for specific items or bulk items. Our local small market has the best butcher, and the best quality meats for way cheaper than the chain stores.
Utilize Coupons or Cash-Back Apps
I am not great with coupons personally. There are many people who are, but its just not for me to be extreme about it. I do use them on occasion when I can remember to clip them or bring them with me.
One of my favorite things is using cash-back apps on my phone. There are several out there. The ones I use are Checkout 51 and Ibotta. The way they work is the app will show you the offers available at select stores, and you can upload your groceries receipts to the app and it will apply the offers. The money you earn will sit in your account until it hits a certain amount (that can vary depending on the app) and you will receive a check in the mail once it is available to cash out.
Take Advantage of Loyalty Programs
Every store has a loyalty program these days. They all want your phone number or email and to give you a small plastic card for your key ring. Sometimes, these are totally worth it. I’ll give you an example. Meijer offers a program called MPerks. You can download an app to your smartphone and scroll through tons of coupons. Save the ones you think you’ll need to your account. Then, when you are checking out in the store, you simple enter your phone number and password at the register and it will apply any coupons that you’ve saved that can be used on your purchase. Way easier than trying to shuffle through paper coupons. Also, this particular program offers “rewards”. As an example, when you spend $100, you might earn $3-$5 off your next purchase. That comes in handy a lot. Also, these rewards are cumulative. You don’t have to spend the $100 all at once. If you spend $50 this week, and $50 next, they will add up to qualify for the $100 spent. Check into the programs at your local stores, because they can be great for saving money!
I am going to be honest. I shied away from these types of stores for a long time. First of all, there is a membership cost up front. As someone working at saving money, it seemed crazy to spend a chunk of it just to be able to shop at a store. However, I was gifted a membership to Sam’s Club last year, and let me tell you, I am sold! For me, the cost of the membership is worth it. Also, not everything is sold in a huge quantity. I always kind of imagined having to buy 200 rolls of toilet paper at once, and then having to store it all, just to save a buck. It isn’t quite that bad. Yes, sizes may be larger than at a typical grocery retailer, but they are mostly manageable. And my house doesn’t have a ton of storage space. Yet, it still works for us.
Make a List and Use It
One thing I used to be horrible about was making a shopping list. I never took the time to do it. Off I’d go to the store, and just grab whatever I felt like buying in the moment. The problem was I’d end up buying way more than I needed, or miss essentials and have to make another trip. This is a quick way to spiral into spending a ton of money unnecessarily.
Make your list. Either write it out on paper, or download a list app for your phone.
Use that list! Don’t leave it on the kitchen counter, or forget to look at it on your phone. Now actually use that list. Having that list will ensure you get all the essentials, and cut down on additional trips and ultimately additional chances to impulse buy. Saving money is easy when you have a list of what you need and don’t waiver from it.
Saving Money on Clothing
Watch for Sales
I rarely buy clothing. When I do need to buy something, either for myself, my husband, or my child, I always watch for sales. I recommend the Shopular app on your phone. It will provide you with the weekly sales ads for your favorite retail stores. That makes for a great resource for finding the deals and saving money.
Say Goodbye to the Names
Name brand stuff is nice. However, it is often insanely overpriced in my opinion. Also, I feel like once you’ve hit a certain point in your life, wearing all name brand, high-end clothing makes you look kind of ridiculous. I mean, picture a soccer mom in the Midwest wearing Versace. It is just unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong. If you have an event, or a corporate job, you absolutely want to look nice, and its okay to splurge. But for the day to day, and sitting around the house, the name brands are kind of a waste. Your baby wont know the difference if they are spitting up on Prada or Target. That’s all I’m saying.
Anyone else hearing Macklemore in their head right now? Just me? Anyway, I am a huge fan of thrift stores for saving money. Especially on children’s clothing. Kids tend to out-grow or destroy clothing at an alarming rate. Thrift shopping can be great. You can read more about it HERE.
Saving Money on Monthly Expenses
Cut the Cable
This may not work for every family. However, cable was a huge financial suck in our house. My husband and I started paying attention to the amount of cable we actually watched and found that it was just not enough to justify the expense. We cut the cable cord, and haven’t looked back.
Instead, we spend a fraction of the money on services like Netflix. We have Amazon Prime Video included with our Amazon Prime membership, and on occasion, we splurge $20 on Sling TV if there is a show we want to watch live.
Get on a Budget Plan
Many utility companies will offer a budget plan for your monthly expenses. The added benefit to this is that you will know each month exactly what your gas or electric bill will be. There will be no surprises. However, at the end of the year, there will be a catch-up month, where you will have to pay the difference if you’ve exceeded your expected usage during the year.
Consolidate Credit Cards
One thing that has been amazing in helping us with saving money is consolidating our credit card debt. Mind you, we didn’t have an excessive amount. Most of our credit card debt was from improvements we made to our home. However, many credit cards have high interest rates. Often times, exceeding 25%.
We consolidated our credit card debt into a personal loan. All of the cards were paid off, and now we have one monthly payment on the loan with around 5% interest, instead of several payments that are all gaining 25% interest. This move has allowed us to pay down our debt way quicker than we ever thought we would.
Be Conscious of Usage
This one is pretty simple, but it does make a difference. We make sure we turn off lights and electronics that we aren’t using. We don’t take excessively long showers. My husband also invested in a thermostat with sensors for different rooms of the house. We have a split-level home and found that we had to keep our temperature up really high in the winter in order to keep the downstairs warm, and had to turn the air conditioner temperature really low in the summer to keep the upstairs cool. The sensors have helped us manage this better. They average the temperature of the different rooms of the home, and allow us to keep the thermostat at more reasonable levels.
We also invested in appliances that were energy efficient. Even things like energy efficient light bulbs have helped cut our bills quite a bit.
Saving Money on Cleaning Products
Buy Store Brands
Listen, I grew up watching the cartoon man with the bald head promise to get my floors clean too. But I have found that the store brands or off brand products get things just as clean. Often the products inside the bottles are basically the same, just with different packaging. Don’t be a cleaning snob.
Buy from Discount Stores
My favorite secret for saving money on cleaning products is not buying them at the big box stores. I have a Family Dollar store near my home. It sells many of the brand name cleaners, and off-brands too, at a much lower cost than at the bigger chain retailers. A couple dollars here and there will end up saving money in the long run.
Make Your Own Cleaner
Pinterest is a great resource for all things DIY. There are tons of articles on ways to make your own cleaners with items you already have around your home. This can also be great for saving money.
Saving Money on Gas
Many stores offer their own brand of gas station. Typically, their loyalty programs will also extend to gasoline. Sometimes, gas will be cheaper for members. Other times, your purchases will earn you points that you can use to get a discount when filling up your tank.
Limit Your Driving
I know many people have a daily commute that is unavoidable. However, it is helpful when saving money to limit unnecessary driving. Look for alternate modes of transportation, take more walks or bike rides, or simply stay home when possible.
Another way I manage to limit my driving is to plan out my errands. When I know I have to go out and make several stops, I figure out a route to take so that I am not driving back and forth. I try and make my outings into a loop whenever possible. Or I start with the furthest point from my home and work my way back.
Saving Money on Dining Out
Look for the Specials
Many chain restaurants will offer specials for customers who dine there. Sometimes you can get special deals on meals and appetizers. Some restaurants offer a day where children under a certain age dine for free. If you are planning to have a meal out, take a few moments to look into places and what they offer.
Some restaurants offer huge portions. If you find that you aren’t finishing your meals, consider splitting a meal with your significant other or your children. You can also have children split meals. Sometimes it costs more to purchase individual kids’ meals than it would to purchase one adult meal and have children share.
Skip the Beverages
Another key to saving money when dining out is to avoid ordering beverages. Soft drinks at restaurants can add quite a chunk of money to your bill. As someone who used to work in the food service industry, specifically dealing with food costs, I am here to tell you that the glass of soda you are paying $2 for only costs the company about $0.11. And that is assuming you drink 3 refills. So in order to keep your hard earned money in your own pocket, order water to drink when dining at restaurants.
Another thing that has helped our family with saving money is packing lunches. My husband works Monday through Friday. He was going out to eat daily for lunch and spending an average of $12 per day. Do the math, and it is about $240 per month. That’s a huge amount of cash.
We started packing his lunches and it has been huge in helping us financially. And as an added bonus, the lunches I pack for him are typically healthier than the fast food he would get if he went out. Packing lunches for your school-aged children will save you a ton of cash and probably be healthier in the long run as well.
Avoid it All-together
Cook at home. Dining out on occasion is a nice treat. Lord knows I enjoy any meal I don’t have to cook myself these days. However, for saving money, dining out can be very detrimental. If you can manage to cut out restaurants all-together, or at least a majority of the time, your budget will thank you.
Saving Money on Health and Wellness
Skip the Brands
Just like with cleaning products, over the counter medications have name brands and off brands. If you compare the ingredient labels, many times they are the exact same ingredients and dosages. Skip the fancy name brand meds, and go for the store’s brand.
The medications are the same and will work the same way for your family despite what the label looks like.
Cut the Gym Membership
This may not be the best choice for everyone. If you are an extremely dedicated gym member, and work out frequently, then your membership is probably worth the money. However, so many people have pricy gym memberships that they rarely find time to use. Instead, that money just goes out the window each month.
If you aren’t using your gym membership, let it go. Find ways to get your exercise at home. I personally HATE exercise. However, I find its easier to deal with if I incorporate it into my daily routine. Take walks with your kids, or go jogging. Do some yoga at home. There are plenty of ways to get a work out in for free.
Saving Money on Activities
Consider Buying Passes
Many places offer passes for families to return as frequently as they’d like. Places like zoos, museums, state parks, and even children’s play places all offer these kinds of things. If there is a place your family likes to frequent, consider coughing up the cash for a pass. If you go enough times, it will more than pay for itself. Also, it will save you having to come up with entry fees on days or weeks when you weren’t planning for them.
Do Something Free
There are many activities you can enjoy with your family that wont cost anything. Saving money is easier if you learn to embrace the free things in life. Have a picnic, take the kids to a playground, go for a walk, just spend time together.
You can have a family movie night. Or spend an afternoon playing board games. Learn to enjoy the activities that don’t cost and you will save much more.
Find the Off-Peak Times
Some places will offer cheaper prices or bigger discounts during non-peak times. For example, on occasion, my husband and I will go to the movie theater. However, movie tickets, popcorn, soda, candy, and whatever else can get super expensive. However, we have found that if we go early on a Saturday or Sunday morning, the ticket prices are discounted.
Other Tips for Saving Money
Create a budget for your family and try and stick to it. I know that things will come up from time to time. That is just life. However, if you try and stick as closely to your budget as possible, you will end up saving money.
Create a Plan
If you have things that will be larger expenses, like an upcoming medical procedure, or home improvement project, plan for it. Come up with a game plan for how you will manage that financial obstacle.
If you have debt that you want to pay off, a plan can be crucial for that as well. For example, we paid off one of our cars. The payment was a pretty large one. Once it was done, we rolled that money that used to go toward the car into paying toward credit cards. When those are paid off, we will roll that money into paying toward our mortgage. We are used to living without that money. So instead of pocketing it and spending it on frivolous things, we are continuing to use it to pay off our debt. The idea is that we will eventually be debt free and then all that money will be ours to have fun with
Make Side Money
Some people have certain skills that can translate into side work. My husband is in IT and can often find side work involving that. Some people I know do direct sales. Some are bloggers like me. I know some babysit, or have opened in-home daycares. There are always ways to make money on the side. You just have to be willing to put in the work.
Sell things you no longer need. Have a garage sale. Sell old baby or children items on swap sites. Not only will this put extra cash in your pocket, but it will help eliminate clutter in your home. I call that a mom-win!
Use What’s Around
Here in Michigan, we can return our recyclable pop bottles for a deposit. By simply returning empty bottles, I can usually fund a few fun activities per week for me and my toddler.
Take your loose change to a bank or coin machine and cash it in. Many people disregard change. However, it can add up quickly. We typically save all of our coins in a large jug and that jug has paid for entire vacations for our family.
What are your favorite money saving tips? Leave them in the comments below!