Like most middle-class working parents, saving money seemed impossible to us. After living expenses, bills, kids’ extracurricular activities, gas (a big one!) and paying past debts, saving money was the last thing on our minds. We made it a point to have an automatic draft to our savings from my husbands paycheck of $25 a week, which is nice, but somehow we ended up dipping into those funds as well for emergencies and other unprecedented expenses.
So like any other resourceful mother, I decided to surf the web for new ideas on how to save money, but we could not relate to any of those. Most articles seemed to target people who already had SOME money and wanted to save more. They would talk about saving money by taking less expensive vacations or shopping at different stores or D.I.Y on home improvements instead of hiring someone. We couldn’t even afford the materials, much less hire someone else!
So one day, I decided to go the old fashioned route. I had an old 5-gallon jug of water that one of my bosses gave me years ago as a piggy bank for my kids that I never looked twice at. I thought to myself, “I wonder how much money in quarters I could save in that? Working as a cashier at a pizza place, I had a lot of access to those thanks to my tip jar. So instead of turning loose change into bills at the end of the night, I would keep it and make it into quarters. I would drop my tips (which would average anywhere between $2 to $7 dollars a night) into the jar, since it was just extra money I did not necessarily depended on. Eight months later, I have $3,028 dollars, which could be a down payment to the minivan we so desperately need, closing costs to a new house or even a really nice family vacation. And I didn’t have to go out of my way or even think about it! It was easy savings that we didn’t have to sweat over because it did not take away from our daily income.
But here’s the thing. You don’t necessarily have to go the same route we took. There are so many undercover ways to save money that will not cut into your daily spending because if you are anything like us, you don’t spend a lot to begin with.
Keep an all change jar to use on shopping trips – I have another jar that keeps the other loose change that is not quarters, and whenever it is full enough, I take it to the nearest coin changing machine and use the voucher for my groceries. I have saved up to $59 dollars in a small jar, and I fill it up about once every two months. That is like a $59 coupon on your groceries!
Buy non-perishables in bulk – Although we end up spending about $100 on our Costco trips, we purchase canned goods, soap, paper products and other dry goods in large portions and end up saving. Even milk and eggs are cheaper!
Don’t use liquid softener, just sheets – I used to use liquid softener, but it doesn’t last as long as dryer sheets, and in the long run it actually weakens the fabric in your clothes, therefore causing you to replace articles of clothing more often.
ALWAYS GO TO THE GROCERY STORE WITH CASH – AND a calculator. I cannot stress this enough. I used to have a budget for my spending, but sometimes an extra item here and there comes out to $50 over your budget. It makes it acceptable when you have a debit card with the funds available in it to go over. So I would overspend ALL the time. I started taking cash with me, and if I took $150, that’s all I spent. The calculator will keep a tally so you don’t have to leave things at the checkout line.
Be a one-car family – This is a tough one. Not everyone is capable of doing this. But think about all of the expenses you will cut by having one fewer car to fuel, maintain, insure and register. We are lucky enough that my husband only works 2 miles from our home, so he rides his bike to work. I know what you are thinking, “What if I have to dress up for work? I work in an office, you know!” So does he. He installed a small motor so he doesn’t have to work up a sweat in his button-up shirt and trousers every day.
When you have get-togethers with family or friends, have everyone bring something – I don’t mean a pot luck per say. Sometimes we forget necessities such as napkins, sodas, chips, etc. I always do the cooking, and whoever comes over can bring one of those items. It can save quite a bit.
Buy generic – Seriously, it tastes the same and more than likely is manufactured in the same plant.
Aldis and Save-A-Lot- They don’t pay for shopping bags, so you can save a ton
Have a leisure fund for your family – This is necessary for everyone’s sanity. It does not need to be fancy or frequent. We use ours once a month, and typically it is dinner and a movie, bowling or visiting a water park.
And last but not least…..
Subscribe to a Sunday newspaper – Ours cost us $20 for an entire year, and we get coupons galore. On average, I will save anywhere between $50 and $75 a month with coupons. It is a great investment, and you can use the actual newspaper in place of paper towels when cleaning glass, windows and knick-knacks.
Not all of us are made of money, but that doesn’t mean we can’t provide our loved ones with a decent quality of life, no matter what our income is. Once you start following all of these steps, you may even have enough money to put more into an actual savings account or college fund for your children. Happy savings!