Every parent faces the same internal struggle when it comes to money: you want to make sure your children don't go without a single thing while still having enough cash to fall back on in case of an emergency. Thanks to the holidays, it's likely your credit card statements are a bit (or a lot!) higher than usual and your wallet is looking, well, light. But a new year means it's time to start fresh with finances. Start 2018 off on the right note with these money-saving hacks that are sure to leave you with some leftover — and much-needed — cash by year's end.
1. Spend as little time as possible at the grocery store — or any store, for that matter. We know you have mouths to feed, but making a concerted effort to steer clear of the grocery store can lead to a whole lot more money in the bank. Try not to go to your neighborhood Whole Foods or Walmart to "pick up a few things" since you'll be more inclined to buy things you don't need if you're being constantly bombarded with advertising. A rule of thumb we swear by is to not go shopping until you're out of at least 10 items. Oh, and for Pete's sake, never, ever step into the supermarket when you're hungry!
2. Use coupons on everything you can. Between old-school circulars and an army of apps that offer discounts, there's no excuse for buying things you don't need ASAP without shaving a little off the top. Being constantly on the lookout for deals and not buying things just because you're pressured for time will go a long way.
3. Cook your own damn meals. This is one of the most important changes you can make that will instantly affect your bank account. Eating out or buying prepackaged, processed food can really set you back without even realizing it. Think about it: if you pick up lunch every day during work from your favorite deli, that will cost you anywhere between 5 and 20 bucks. And that adds up to a ton of cash after a week or two. Ditch the takeout and start cooking at home. Added bonus: depending on what you make, your waistline may shrink, too.
4. Stop spending as much on your social life. As parents, we want our kids to get to see the latest movie or spend a fun-filled afternoon at Top Golf. And while those activities are no doubt fun, not everything you do has to require a big chunk of change. Try mixing up your weekends by going on a hike outside, hitting the library, or checking out a free concert or festival. You'd be surprised how many events going on in town are actually free! You should also keep your eyes peeled for free museum days or discount days at the zoo.
5. Sell what you don't use. Did your little ones already outgrow that ride-on Tonka truck? Good! Get rid of it by selling it on Facebook or Craigslist. You definitely won't miss the clutter or mind an extra few bills in your pocket.
6. Put your credit card in the freezer. Yes, literally in the freezer. If you're one of those people who charges everything, stop ASAP. Plop your credit card in the freezer, preferably in a block of ice, and forget it exists for a month. Pay off some of the bill and use cash or your debit card for things you can't go without. You'll think more closely about each purchase you make and your monthly statement will plummet as a result.
7. Stop throwing everything out after using it once. We all use paper towels to clean up quick messes, but sometimes we toss it even though there's still a little life left in it. The same goes for tea bags, Ziploc bags, and makeup products. And don't be afraid to cut open an item's packaging to get to the very last drop — yup, we're looking at your toothpaste tube.