Managing a family is hard. Managing a family on a budget is even harder. You know all about the time constraints, surprise expenses, and childcare costs. No one told you it would be easy. But what happened to those gourmet cocktails and occasional shopping trips? And that elusive vacation will happen one day, right? With some planning, discipline, and diligence, saving can be a lot less daunting than you imagined.
Let’s start with the basics. There are two main ways we are going to address saving: by cutting costs and by actually putting money into your savings account. While they seem to accomplish the same task, they can be entirely separate beasts. Cutting costs can allow more room in your monthly budget, and where you allocate that is up to you! If you want to focus on your savings account, it’s most effective to have a goal behind it. Maybe you want to build a rainy day fund, save for a major purchase, or start an education fund.
This brings us to your purpose. We can all agree that saving money deserves a big thumbs up. The real trick is coming up with a plan and motivation for saving. What do you want to do with this extra money? Once you have an incentive, it will be much easier to make some sacrifices in lieu of the big picture. Now that we have a foundation, let’s get started on how we can start creatively saving!
Start a Garden
Other than rent or mortgages, food is usually one of the highest expenses for families. Even with couponing, strategic shopping, and meal planning, it’s hard to stretch your money at the grocery store. A little known fact is that food has one of the smallest profit margins in retail. Standard stores rarely mark food up for more than 10% of the actual cost. That means despite all of your efforts, the prices are mostly dependent on supply and demand.
You can offset these costs by starting a garden. Let’s be honest. It’s hard to mess up a tomato plant. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, most vegetables can be fairly simple to grow. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a surplus of food that you can pickle, can, or even sell. And if the whole dirt and bugs thing isn’t your scene, you can grow some basic herbs like mint, basil, or cilantro in small containers on your window sill.
DIY Your Cleaning Supplies
If you really want to see the savings roll in, start making your own cleaning supplies. A quick search on Google or Pinterest will lead you to endless options for laundry detergent, stain remover, hand soap, dryer sheets, and even baby wipes. Most of these products have the same base, like essential oils, vinegar, baking soda, and Borax, so the investment is truly minimal. It’s a fun weekend project and you will feel better knowing what goes into your household agents.
Never Buy New
With the amount of social media and shopping sites available, it’s easy to find scores of deals on gently used or refurbished items. Before making any big purchase, consider checking out Ebay and Craigslist for moving sales. Check your local papers for garage sales, flea markets, and estate sales. You’d be surprised at the level of savings you can find. If you have little ones, check out consignment stores and special events for gently-used merchandise. You can usually find unopened items for less than half of the retail pricing. For clothing, accessories, and household décor, don’t bypass the antique malls. While it may seem like an unlikely choice, you can find one-of-a-kind and interesting pieces for way less than you would at the big box stores.
SavedPlus is a life-changing app, and that’s no exaggeration. It allows you to save without thinking about it. Simply link your checking and savings, choose a percentage amount of each purchase you want to save, and the app will do the work for you! For instance, you can set your purchase limit to $100, dedicate 5% of each purchase under your limit to savings, and watch the money roll in. The beauty is that by setting your own amounts, you soon realize that a few dollars added to your grocery or gas bill won’t be missed, but adds up over the year.
Automatic Transfer Accounts
Maybe you’ve seen the commercials, but saving can be as easy and thoughtless as rounding up to the nearest dollar. Bank of America gives you the option to transfer your change from each purchase into your savings account with their Keep the Change program. If you want to make more of a dent in your savings plan, go with the I Bank I-Round Up savings account. You can choose $1-5 to transfer to savings from each purchase you make. Even if you don’t want to switch banks, most have options for automatic savings transfers without any sort of fees.
While the concept of a reward isn’t entirely new, it can make saving fun and interactive. Simply get a jar, set your guidelines, and start saving. For instance, maybe you’ll pay yourself $1 every time you work out. Another option is owing yourself every time you complete a chore.
With these tips, you’re well on your way to a more lucrative future. Just be sure to keep your eye on the prize and don’t get deterred if you don’t see results as fast as you’d like. Saving is definitely a process. and as long as you’re more aware of where your money is going, it’s a move in the right direction.