Living Large on a Small Budget

Save more and spend less seems to be the mantra of most families these days. But how do you cut spending without cramping your style?

It’s actually easier than you might think.

One of the easiest ways to live big on a small budget is to spend some time each weekend preparing meals, baby food and snacks for the week. Snacks can take a huge chunk out of your grocery budget, and by making things like cookies, granola, tortilla chips, and cracker packs you’ll save a bundle.

Sit down with your family at the beginning of the week and make a meal plan before you go to the grocery store to avoid impulse purchases. Baby food is easy to make at home and store in the freezer. And most importantly, clip coupons and don’t purchase everything at the same store! These simple steps mean you’ll eat out less and also eat more nutritiously.

Purchasing in bulk? Be sure it’s really saving you money. There have been many studies indicating that when products are purchased in bulk, they’re actually consumed even more quickly; in the end, you don’t end up saving any cash.

Get familiar with the library. From books to music and movies, you can find nearly everything at the library these days. Save on rental fees and the cost of purchasing music and movies as well as movie tickets and concession food. Don’t live near a library? You can save on movies by investing in a plan like Netflix or Blockbuster online and video games via services such as Gamefly.  Another bonus to services such as Netflix is the ability to stream movies and television shows online and through your TV.

Shop off-season and on-sale. This may not work for older-kid clothing, but when it comes to things like little-kid clothes, school supplies, and wardrobe staples like socks and underwear, stock up while they’re on sale. Shop after-Christmas and holiday sales to stock-up on gifts for birthday parties and gift-giving occasions.

Cutting utility bills can also be a snap. Switch off lights when you leave a room, wash laundry on cold water, line dry your clothes, use dryer balls to speed up drying time, turn the heat down and the air conditioner up. Involve the kids in mapping out your route for the day so you can get all your errands done at once and save gas in the process.

Shop around for the things you use most like cell phone plans, car insurance and Internet services. Decide what services you really need. Do you really use unlimited texting? Caller id? 5000 anytime minutes? Can you bundle your home phone, internet and cable services to save on the monthly fee?

Plan family vacations well in advance and use local community lists to find free events for the kids. During the summer months, many movie theaters offer free movies, and concert series and local libraries often have story hour all year long. Some school districts reward students with free passes for skiing, ice skating and other winter sports as well as grant money to help pay for the cost of summer camp.

With a little bit of digging, there are many ways you can enjoy the finer things in life without spending a bundle. The nice part is that, once you’ve figured out what works for your family, saving money on everyday things will become second nature!

photo credit: Alan Cleaver