Living on a budget can be a difficult thing for many families to do. Money can be tight and sometimes ends don't even meet, or at least not without a lot of struggle. Now that spring is here and things are off to a fresh start in nature, let's talk about how to start over in your own life and get an edge on your budget. Together we can cut some corners to get (or stay) ahead!
Here are some tips for saving money around the house that go beyond coupons:
Come up with your dinner plans two weeks or a month in advance. Write down a grocery list that includes only what you need to make the meals and get by, and stick to it. Impulse buying in the grocery store can really put a big dent in your budget.
Plan for meals that allow you to buy in bulk. For example, buy a large bag of shredded mozzarella cheese and spread it out into three meals: lasagna, homemade pizza, and macaroni and cheese. Buying in bulk can stretch your dollar and encourage a new variety of meals. If you have to use something up before it goes bad, make a double serving and freeze half.
Use your leftovers in a new way. For example, save your baked chicken and bag it up- use it in spaghetti or a salad in two days. It will cut down on the time it takes to make the meal, and it will also use up food and keep it from seeming too boring to eat again. You will throw away less and enjoy it more!
Shop clearance foods and keep an eye on the expiration date. If you buy meat, check out the sales in the meat section- often meats will have coupons on them that mark them down by several dollars because their date is approaching. These items can be frozen and saved for a later date!
Make your own cleaning supplies. I make my own laundry soap and have saved my family hundreds of dollars in the last few years. Even the initial investment is affordable, and will buy you several weeks' worth of laundry for an average family. For those interested, this is the recipe:
5 gallon bucket with a lid (I got mine at a hardware store)
Fels Naptha or another bar soap (you can use one that you know is good for your family's skin needs)
Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)
The total cost for the above items is about $15.
Grate the Fels Naptha into a pot and add water- bring it to a boil on the stove and stir occasionally until it dissolves. Once it dissolves, remove it from the heat. In the 5 gallon bucket, add 1 cup Borax and 1 cup Washing Soda and fill it about a quarter of the way with hot water and stir until dissolved. Add the dissolved soap from the stove top and stir until blended. Then fill the bucket to the top with hot water and stir. You're done! You can use it right away while it's still liquid, but overnight it will set into a gel. I use 1/4 to 1/2 cup per load. I have used this in both regular and HE machines with great success. Additionally, this recipe is sensitive skin friendly. I have used it for all members of my family, including a newborn baby.
Grow a garden. While it requires some upkeep and work, if you start to harvest your own foods, you can save money at the grocery store and you can also plan ahead for the future by learning how to can. Again, it is an initial investment of both time and money, but the reward is delicious, safe, healthy food that you can proudly say you grew yourself!
Create a bill portfolio and put cash into it. If you take a folder with billfolds and label them for each bill, and set a designated amount of money into each fold as you get the money, you will allow yourself to save for bills and spend only what is left. You could also create a save section where you set some money aside for other things that may come up, like emergencies or a future goal.
Call your companies and ask if there are any promotions or rebates. Sometimes cable or phone companies will be running a special and can lock you into a lower rate. Insurance companies may be able to talk to you about what your needs are and fit you into a cheaper plan that saves you money. If you are behind on bills or are going to need to be late on a payment, contact the company. Most places are very understanding and will allow you extra time without sending threatening letters that will cause you more stress and worry. Honesty is the best policy! Especially if you have nothing to lose by trying.
How do you save money? What is your biggest money-saving tip? Please share it so we can all benefit!