In these economically challenging times keeping a tight rein on the family budget is becoming more difficult by the minute. Gas prices change overnight, kids outgrowing last months clothing, family entertainment, increases in food and produce; all are causing us to stretch our paychecks further and further. Going out to dinner used to be something we did at least twice a week not to mention the daily rations of fast food lunches. Between the pizzas, burgers, and those five dollar foot long low-calorie sandwiches a budget can easily spin out of control. Clothing, movies, manicures and pedicures all begin to add up. My family decided to rein in the weekly spending and keep track of our weekly spending habits. We noticed right off the bat that most of our frivolous spending was done over the weekend. Justifying it as a reward for our hard work and that somehow we deserved to have a break today . . . hmm, where have I heard that phrase? Here are 10 ways to live on the cheap without denying yourself of the things you love.
1. Instead of eating out learn to cook your favorite foods yourself. If you’ve got to have that fried chicken from that famous chicken place, go online and find a similar recipe. Serve it in a beautiful reusable basket instead of a paper bucket. Add fresh herbs and spices that your family love along with a homemade dipping sauce.
2. Stop buying those expensive pre-made hamburgers for dinner buy loose grounded meat and make your own burgers. My favorite recipe is the Treasure Stuffed Burger. Finely chop onions, mushrooms, peppers, and tomatoes. Lightly sauté’ the stuffing mixture until it’s translucent. Add some bread crumbs. Make two thin burgers. Stuff a liberal amount of the stuffing mixture between the two burger and pinch it closed. Grill and serve with a salad. Try making homemade baked goods for dessert.
3. Weekend movies can be very expensive. Instead of going to see a newly released film stay home and have a family movie night! Every other weekend rent or buy a movie the entire family will enjoy. If your family insists on seeing the latest flick go during the afternoon, it’s a lot cheaper and usually less crowded.
4. If you have little ones organize a toddler clothing swap. Most kids grow out of their clothing so fast their clothes are gently worn. It’s a fun way to save money and the kids get to play together for a cheap play date.
5. Schedule a weekly trip to your local dollar stores. You can find all kinds of cool stuff for the beach, back to school, gift wrapping paper, everything you want. And it’s all only one dollar! You can’t beat that unless you can find a two for a dollar store. But I digress. Dollar store items change from week to week. By going weekly you can take advantage of their new stock and get great bargains. I once prepared a dinner for four using only dollar store products; from place settings, food, glass and silverware to gourmet desserts. It can be done.
6. Grow your own summer veggies. If you have enough room in your garden grow all of your summer produce. If you haven’t noticed things like tomatoes, lettuce and bell peppers can be very expense at the markets. If you want to save even more money learn to can. Ball Canning has a fantastic website to help you get started. They also sell a starter canning kit that come with the famous Ball Blue Book. It’s the bible for folks who can!
7. Stay away from dry clean only clothing. If you must buy wools or silks, read the labels carefully. Some are easily hand washable. Stick with cotton blends when possible.
8. If an IPod is a regular part of your family’s daily attire join an Online Music Store. For a nominal membership fee you can download all of your favorite tunes without purchasing the entire CD. Get the music you want for half the cost. They may range from $.89 to $.99 per download. If you are still listening to music on your walkman get the kids to help you!
9. Buy in bulk when you can. It saves on those daily trips to the supermarket, which saves gas.
10. Use coupons! The days of searching through magazines and clipping coupons have gone the way of the buffalo. You can download coupon printing programs online for free and print the coupons you want when you want them from your own computer. If you shop regularly at one or two supermarkets apply for their in-house coupon cards. It’s free and you’ll be surprised how much you save at the register.