For some people, living thrifty is a way of life passed down through the generations, and saving money is second-nature. For the rest of us, it takes a lot of careful thought with every purchase. But getting your finances in order and concentrating on saving doesn't neccessarily have to mean restricting yourself to the point where you are miserable. The truth is you can save a lot of money by shopping smarter, and re-thinking not just what you buy but how you buy. I've found some great ideas here in the Circle of Moms communities to get a handle on your finances and save money without giving up the things you love.
1. Create a Budget
Creating a budget based on your family's income and spending is an essential first step to organizing your finances. Once you have a budget in place, it's easier to see where and how you can save money. There are so many ways to budget... from a simple cash system to countless computer programs and professional services.
Cash Is King
Using credit and even debit cards can be very convenient, to the point where some people rarely even carry cash these days. Circle of Moms member Denikka G. recognizes that there is more to the debit card than its convenience; there is a psychological aspect to spending with a card vs. cash. She spends only cash for everything her family needs, because, as she puts it, "when you see [your balance] dropping, you're less likely to be so willing to spend it." Denikka suggests dividing the cash from each paycheck into what you need to spend for items such as food, rent, utilities, etc. and then "ONLY use that money." She also advises moms to avoid using credit cards "if you can help it at all."
Another budgeting method is to track your spending using a computer program or spreadsheet. Patricia B. keeps a detailed spreadsheet and tracks every single item that she spends money on: "The spreadsheet tells me exactly how much money I can spend on each category - each bill - spending - car gas - and anything miscellaneous. I track it all individually with totals at the bottom so I see exactly what is going out and what is left."
2. Use Coupons
Once you have that budget in place, you'll know just how much you need to trim. For the things you can't give up (or don't want to), you might consider couponing.
Extreme couponing can be a full-time job in itself, but there are varying levels and ways to use coupons. Personally, I haven't read a print version of a newspaper in years, but I use coupons every day. If your local grocery store offers a rewards program or card, it's always a good idea to sign up and get on their mailing list. As Circle of Moms user Katherine C. shares, "I have saved $45 dollars at Kroger's (grocery store) because they send me so many coupons in the mail."
One great thing about couponing is you don't have to do it alone. Stacey G. suggests starting a "coupon club" with friends or co-workers: "swap the coupons you don't use with some that a friend might not use that you will."
Thrifty moms think alike, and many have taken to the Internet with advice for couponing. If you don't have time to hunt down and research deals, take advantage of the many bloggers who do the work for you. Check out The Top 25 Money-Saving Blogs and make sure you not only read them, but sign up to receive e-mail updates from each blog that interests you. That way, you'll automatically get constant reminders in your inbox to keep you on track with couponing and let you know about new deals and offers.
3. Buy In Bulk
In many ways, stocking up on everyday items goes hand-in-hand with couponing. I used to rule out this option because I have a very small family, but I learned recently that you don't have to have ten kids to take advantage of buying in bulk. If you have space to stockpile some essentials, it can be worth shopping at the "big box" club stores such as Sam's Club, BJ's, and Costco. As Molly G. reports, even If all you bought at Costco was diapers, "the membership would still pay for itself. They sell Huggies at nearly half price."
When it comes to food, large quantities can also save you money. If you have a large family that's a no-brainer, but with less than four people in the house you have to put a little more work into it. The most common ways to take advantage of buying food in bulk are freezing and canning (preserving in jars). Freezing is easy and quick, whether you freeze uncooked or prepared food. Thrifty moms like Natalie M. save money by purchasing large packages of meat: "I break them up into family size/dinner size portions, put them in freezer bags and freeze them until they are needed."
You can also freeze your leftovers for a heat-and-eat meal anytime. A Circle of Moms user who goes by the name "Momto5" has great frozen food ideas: "I freeze cooked shredded chicken and cooked ground beef. They make meal prep super fast. I also freeze bananas, my kids love frozen bananas." The National Center for Home Food Preservation offers tons of useful tips on freezing. (Related: 7 Freezable, Make-Ahead Dishes)
If you've never ventured into canning, I can tell you from my own first-hand experience that it's really not that difficult! This year my husband and I grew cucumbers in our garden and started making pickles. Once we got the hang of it, we could make 12 pint jars of pickles in one hour, start to finish. They made unique and inexpensive Christmas gifts for our neighbors, co-workers, and friends (see photo). The makers of Ball canning jars offer great canning recipes here.
What are your tips for saving money?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.