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Quick & Easy Ways To Save Money As A Family

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano

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Anyone out there want to save money? We thought so. No matter if you’ve hit a rough patch financially, know that pinching pennies has never been your forte, or have watched having kids destroy your budget, you can always learn a thing of two about reigning in your spending. We asked blogger and author Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom for some quick and easy tips on saving money and setting a family budget. We suggest you commit these to memory. We have!

How can one save money on grocery shopping, especially if you still want to eat healthy?
“There are three things you can do off the bat. One is having a budget. Know how much you are spending, either by tallying up past receipts, or averaging $20-$40 per person, per week. Of course, this amount might vary if you have a child in diapers, any special diets, or pets. Stick to the budget you set—which will force you to examine what you’re buying—and then try to shave down that budget by 1%-3% per month. Another tip is to plan your weekly menu. If you don’t plan a menu, you’ll end up running to the store and putting random things in your cart, or eating out. There are lots of sites out there that can help you plan your menu. I like EMeals.com, which includes pre-planned menus based on the stores in your area, as well as any diet restrictions. It’s $5 a month and RetailMeNot has a discount code for the service. The third thing to do is look at an online coupon data base before you shop to find printable coupons of things you’re already planning on buying. It’ll take you 5-10 minutes each week, but can save you some real money. I have one on my site here.”

What about lowering non-negotiable household bills, like electricity?
“There are two things I would encourage here. One is buying a programmable thermostat. Try it out for a few months and see if it makes a difference. Even if you are able to change it by 2 degrees, you’ll see what that savings looks like. So many families I know have seen a huge difference by investing in one. Another tip is to tell your kids that if they help save money on the electric bill, you will split the savings with them. It ends up being a great hands-on lesson, showing them to start paying attention to how much electricity they are using and how much that costs the family, plus you end up saving, too.”

Any other tips on common monthly bills?
“For items like your phone service or cable and internet package, try calling your provider once a year and ask them what the best rate is that they can give you. Or if you get a flier in the mail that advertises a new offer and lower rate than the one you already have, call them up and ask for that rate. It usually takes about 15 minutes to call and ask, and it’ll often save you $10-$20 a month for the rest of year. As for saving on car payments and gas, right here and here are some useful resource from my site.”

What about saving on family trips?
“First, you have to decide what’s a priority for your family. If you want to go to Disneyland, maybe you only go every 3 years. And you can do a cheaper family road trip on the other years. If you figure out where you’ll be going fairly far in advance, you can save money every month until then and set it aside, so you don’t end up putting the vacation on credit card at the last minute. Once you’ve decided where you are going, pay attention to deals on sites like Groupon and Living Social. If you fly, go through a site like Orbitz, Kayak, or HotWire, and go for the package deal (flight, hotel, and rental car). If you have wiggle room in where you’re staying and when you are coming and going, that can really help with the cost. Planning in advance is really key. Start watching flights ahead of time to get the best price, especially if you have flexibility. It’s also worth it to shop through eBay’s cash-back site, since a vacation is typically a high expense and you can get 2-4% cash back on it.”

Children today have so many extracurricular activities, which also come with a bunch of costs attached to them. How can a family save there?
“I have children that are 10, 7, and 5. And what we’ve done is waited until they were 6-years-old to enroll in any extra activities. Then, once they show interest, we ask them to choose just one thing at a time that they can do. In addition to it being budget-friendly, I really don’t have the capacity to run them around all over the place, and I believe they need free time to just be kids and enjoy life. Overall, it’s been cool to see what they gravitate towards—in our case it’s swimming and figure skating. We explain to them that we will invest money into these activities, as long as they are putting in a lot of effort, too. We’ve really seen so much character development in them from these activities. Another simple way to save on extracurriculars is looking at sporting goods stores that have used equipment, instead of buying brand new. Bonus points if that store will also buy back your stuff and resell it once you’re done.”

What about saving on kids clothing?
“We keep it simple. I try to shop just twice a year, for spring/summer and fall/winter. I don’t buy any other clothing for my kids expect for those times. I also buy used clothes, oftentimes online from sites like ThredUp and Schoola, which offer great deals. The best part is they will send you a big bag and you can stuff all of the clothes you want to resell into it and they will give you credit in exchange. Hand-me-downs from family and friends are also great.” [Ed note: Check out kids’ resell apps TotSpot and Kidizen for more savings.]

How do you keep a budget when it comes to buying birthday party gifts for your kids’ friends? What about buying toys for your own kids?
“We keep things really simple at our house. We haven’t really had to buy many toys. My older girls just wanted to make crafts and we do Legos and audio books. As for other kids’ birthday gifts, it can be tricky. One of my readers says that in lieu of a gift she calls up the birthday kid’s parents and offers to bring the cupcakes, instead. Another thing I do is create a gift stash at home so that I don’t have to go out and buy a gift on the spot. A few times a year Target has a big sale in which toys are 50% off and it also has great $1 bins. Stock up on toys during these times and you’ll have affordable options year round.”

How do you suggest someone go about planning a family budget?
“Reading Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover book is a great start. There is also great free software for budgeting over at EveryDollar.com and Mint.com. Instead of figuring it all out from scratch, it’s nice to have someone else hold your hand through the process. Plus, there’s a sense of accountability each week when you log in all of your spending.”

For more family money tips, visit Money Saving Mom.

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