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It is crazy expensive having kids!!
From diapers and formula, to daycare and babysitters the costs are out of control. Even the basics like food and clothes added a ton to your monthly expenses compared to before.
And I think its safe to say that most of us aren’t millionaires that can just spend and spend and spend. Some of us are barely paying the bills each month. Others can pay the bills but can’t afford the little extras like going out to eat, buying new clothes, or going on a vacation. And some might be able to cover all these expenses, but don’t have enough to save for retirement or college.
Let’s just say we can all benefit from saving a little money!
And as an accountant, I tend to be a little “frugal” (or as my wife likes to say, “cheap”). So here is a list of some ways I save money on a monthly basis that could really put a lot back in your pockets!
Groceries and Food
Ibotta – I recently discovered Ibotta and absolutely LOVE how easy it is to use. I take 2 minutes before I go shopping at the grocery store, Target, or anywhere else to look through their rebates. When I get home from the store I just have to take a picture of the receipt and I’ve got money back in my Ibotta account. You can withdraw the money once you hit $20 bucks, which doesn’t take long, especially since they’ll give you $10 FREE for signing up when you follow this link!
eBates – If you do any online shopping and you don’t use Ebates, go sign up NOW!!! You basically just go to the online store you want to shop at through the Ebates website, and you get cash back for shopping. And its pretty much EVERY STORE… from Amazon, Macy’s, Best Buy, Walmart, Groupon and on and on. Get anywhere from 1%-10% cash back depending on the store and what your buying. You get money for doing something you were going to do anyway! Awesome! Follow this link and get $10 CASH BACK just for signing up!
Eat out 1 less time per month – This one’s easy. Its almost always cheaper to cook a meal at home then to eat at a restaurant. A family of 4 can easily cook a meal for under $10 versus $50 at a restaurant. That’s a $40 savings on just 1 meal! If you’re feeling ambitious, try 2 less times.
Buy the store brand – The store brand of any item at the grocery store is almost always going to be cheaper than the name brand. And rarely is there a quality difference. Whether its cans of soup, potato chips or cereal, buying the store brand saves a ton of money. And I’ll let you in on a little secret, many store brands are actually made by the name brands!!
Buy a coffee maker – How much money do you spend a week on Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks? Get yourself a decent coffee maker and a pound of coffee, and stop wasting your money. I recommend the Ninja Coffee bar! I’ve had it for 2 years now and I can make iced coffee, espresso, strong cups, weak cups, latte’s, you name it!
Join Costco or Sam’s Club – Even with the annual fee of $50, these stores can save you boat loads. Pay close attention to things like allergy medicines and Advil and diapers, or even things like printer ink. And buying the meat in bulk is way cheaper per pound, just freeze what you can’t eat right away. But be careful! Don’t get sucked into buying the things you don’t need, that’s how they get you.
Buy family size packs at grocery store – Even at your local grocery store, they sometimes sell “family packs” of chicken breast or ground beef. You might be saving $1 per pound buying the family size. Just freeze what you can’t use right away.
Get a Brita water pitcher and reusable water bottle – The amount of money that we, as Americans, throw away on disposable bottles of water is insane. Get a Brita filter for your faucet or Brita pitcher for the fridge. When you’re at home, use a glass, and when you leave the house, use a reusable water bottle. You can easily save $5 per week! That’s $250 per year!
Bring your lunch and snacks to work – You can pack a lunch for much cheaper than buying it in the cafeteria or getting fast food, not to mention healthier. Even things like your drinks are costing you big time. Instead of grabbing a Snapple from the vending machine for $1.50 or $2, you can get a case from Costco for less than $1 per bottle.
Plan your meals for the week – Plan your meals for the week and make a shopping list before going shopping. How many times have you gone to the grocery store and gotten a bottle of ketchup or jar of sauce, only to get home and realize there’s already 2 of each in the pantry. Take your time going through your fridge and pantry when making your list so you are only buying the things you really need.
Plan your meals for the week and only buy the items you need for those meals. To maximize your saving, coordinate your meals with what is on sale at your local grocery store. Now, I know you are thinking there is no way you would have time to plan healthy meals, go through store circulars to find out whats on sale and clip coupons. But don’t worry, there is a simple program that does all of it for you, thedinnerdaily.com.
The Dinner Daily provides you with a weeks worth of healthy dinner plans based on your eating preferences and coordinated with the sales at your local grocery store. They provide everything you need including easy to follow recipes customized to your eating preferences, a full shopping list and relevant coupons for $1.50 or less per week. The Dinner Daily has saved us a ton of money in food waste and missed sales. Check it out here.
Start a garden – produce can be crazy expensive, so growing your own produce can be a great way to save a ton of money. Tomatoes and herbs can be really expensive but are super easy to grow, so these are usually a great place to start.
Shop at consignment sales or on Facebook – Kids can grow at such a rapid pace that the clothes you bought last month no longer fit and you need to buy more. Or they sometimes need things that once or twice that isn’t worth a large investment, like snow pants. Look around for local consignment stores like “Kid to Kid” and “Once Upon a Child” or the big pop up consignment sales like “Just Between Friend”. You can find great deals for a fraction of the price!
Get a Target card – Who doesn’t shop at Target! Target gives you 5% off everything you buy using your Target card. You’re going to shop there anyway, why not get 5% off!
Check your receipts – Each year consumers lose between $1 and $2.5 Billion dollars due to store scanner errors. That’s billion with a capital B!!! You should always double check your receipt to make sure you got the sale price you were expecting, the correct regular price, or even that you were charged the correct tax. Do this before you even leave the store so that you can go straight to Customer Service if you find a problem and get your refund.
Don’t buy extended warranties – Consumer Reports found that there are a lot of reasons an extended warranty is money down the drain. You may already be covered under the manufacturer’s warranty, the products seldom break within the warranty window, and even when they do break, the repair is less than or equal to the cost of the warranty! So keep your money in your pocket and roll the dice on saying no to the extended warranty.
Track your spending (Mint.com) – Now that nobody uses cash anymore and almost exclusively use credit cards or debit cards, it is a lot harder to keep track of all the things you buy. Mint.com is a FREE money management tool that tracks your spending, assets and debt, helps you set budgets, and links to all of your bank and credit card accounts for all your spending activity. It really helps you get a picture on your real spending.
Switch cable/internet companies – Most cable companies are offering their bundle or “triple play” of cable, internet and phone for $75-$99 per month, but after 1 or 2 years, that price pretty much doubles. When this happens, switch to their competitor for the cheaper price and keep flip flopping every couple of years. Or if you don’t want to switch, you can often threaten to leave for the competitor and get them to give you the cheap price again.
Cut the cord on cable – Many people are getting rid of traditional cable and sticking to services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon video, which are roughly $10/month each. You can then get a Roku box or Amazon Firestick for $25-$50 to stream those services to your TV. This can really save you a ton on cable since you only need to pay for internet.
Cancel subscriptions you don’t really need – Take a closer look at some of your monthly recurring charges hitting your credit cards and make sure you still use them. Maybe it’s an online magazine/newspaper subscription, a software you don’t really use anymore, even a gym membership you keep telling yourself you’ll start using again soon. Go ahead and cancel them, you can always decide to sign up again later if things change.
Shop around for car insurance – This is something I generally try to do every 2 years. Just shop around online to a few insurance companies to make sure your getting the best rate. Most people just stick with the same company they’ve had for 10 years because its easy. But you could be spending money you don’t have to.
Open a new bank account – Banks are always trying to get new customers, so they are always offering things like $200 if you open a checking account. You generally just need to have your direct deposit go into the new account for a few months, and they will deposit the $200 right into your account. They also do it with Savings accounts, but you usually need a larger balance to deposit to earn the cash back, like $10,000. Chase Bank is a great example, check it out here.
Manage Your Debt
Refinance your mortgage – Unless you are super close to paying off your mortgage, which very few of us are, its always a good idea to shop around form mortgage rates. You can refinance your mortgage to a lower rate to lower your monthly payment. Or if you have equity in your home, you can refinance and get some of that equity back in cash to pay off high interest debt.
Request lower interest rates from credit cards – I actually did this a few months ago. I called every credit card I have, told them I loved the card but the interest was higher than all my others, and asked if they could lower my rate. Every single one said YES! Some were only by 1%-2%, but some were more, and even 1% is better than what I was paying.
Use credit cards that give you cash back – If you are good at managing your debt and paying off your credit cards every month, many credit cards give you cash back for everything you spend. So use your credit card all month long at the grocery store, salon, and mall, and pay it off at the end of the month. The credit card will give you a credit on your account to offset what you owe!
Consolidate or refinance your student loans (credible.com) – Student loans suck! I think I’ll probably have my mortgage paid off before my student loans. If you have multiple student loans because you went to different schools or have undergrad and graduate loans, you should definitely try to at least consolidate them into 1 loan for a better rate. Or even better, try to refinance them through Credible.com for a better interest rate and lower payments.
Consolidate our debt – Peer to peer loan services like Lending Club are great if you want to pay off credit card debt or need money for a home repair but don’t want to put it on a credit card. Lending Club generally has significantly lower interest rates than credit cards because you are getting your loan from individual investors like yourself rather than big banks and financial institutions.
Put money in flex spending account – If your company offers flex spending, sign up! A flex spending account lets you put PRE-TAX money from your paycheck into an account you can use to pay medical bills, copays, deductibles, prescriptions, and even Advil and cough drops. This can save you hundreds of dollars a year on taxes. If you make $50,000/year, putting $2000 into flex spending could save you over $200 in taxes!
Understand your insurance and pay attention to bills – Medical billing and insurance in America are absolutely horrible and have scary high error rates. Don’t pay any medical bill until you’ve had a chance to review it completely. If your company offers any type of health advocate, send your bill to them and have them review it. Often times insurance companies reject a claim because the doctor used the wrong code when billing or put the code in the wrong place. So you need to go back to the doctor’s billing office, have them fix it resubmit it. It is a complete pain and not easy to understand those bills and insurance, but you might be paying for something insurance should have covered.
Negotiate with doctor – If you don’t have insurance or insurance doesn’t cover the services you are getting, negotiate with your doctor. Often times they will give you a reduced rate for paying cash or for paying up front, because they don’t have to worry about the cost of medical billing to insurance companies or paying a collection agency. Request a reversal of any missed appointment fees that you have been charged. Often times doctors, dentists and specialists will waive missed appointments fees for first time offenders. Avoid missing appointments and unnecessary fees by keeping a family calendar. Cozi is a free app that allows you to set up a family calendar and set up events and reminders for specific members of the family.
Activities & Fun
Go to the Library – Kids love the library! Get some books or even movies and video games. Why waste money for movies On Demand or Redbox or video games from Gamefly when you can get them at the library for FREE!!
Have fun for free – Go the park, on a hike, for a bike ride, the library, camp out in the backyard, have a taco night…the list goes on and on. You don’t have to go to an expensive movie or bowling or out to Cheesecake Factory. You can have ton of family fun at home, in your neighborhood, or at a nearby park. Keep it simple, its good for the kids.
Cut down on kids extracurricular activities – If you haven’t read my post “5 Reasons Activities are Bad for Kids”, I would recommend it. Not only can it be a detriment to them, it can also be a huge money suck! Back in the old days (when I was a kid), you played 1 sport and your parents paid 1 fee. Now, not only do we have the kids in 10 activities (with 10 fees to go along with them), there is now also an expectation that you will have to pay for weekend tournaments (plus hotel, meals and sometimes airfare!!), extra coaching time, and even monogrammed warmup sweats and equipment bags! 2 years ago, after signing my son up for soccer and paying the ridiculous $200 it cost, I find out the first week that all those “extras” were going to be about $800 for the season!! $1000 for a 10 year old to play soccer!!! Let’s just say my son didn’t play soccer and I got my $200 refund. If you want your kids to participate in sports, check out your town’s recreation department, which often have less competitive, less expensive activities.
Now get to it! Go save some money! These are all super simple and easy actions you can start immediately and start seeing savings this month!
If you want to save even more money, check out my post “7 Reasons To Do Your Own Taxes and Not Be Afraid“.