Life is expensive. We are a two working parent household out of necessity. It’s all I’ve known, and we make it work pretty well if I do say so, but it creates quite a busy schedule every week.
Now that I’ve been a working parent for 10 years, I feel I can share some of the things we do as a household to help us try to save money. Being frugal doesn’t have to mean missing out – it just means being smart about your choices, and finding cheaper, alternative ways, to spend your money.
Frugal tips from a working mom:
Use a credit card with points
This is an easy tip. If you are a regular credit card user, make sure you find one with the options that work best for your family.
We use two different cards. One gives us points we can redeem for money off the principal of our mortgage, and the other racks up grocery points. We’ve seen the benefits of both, but there are tons of other options.
Plant a garden
This may not actually save much money, but it’s fun to take part as a family. We grow veggies and I spend about $100 on plants (more if we need fresh dirt or compost) in the spring and we harvest fresh vegetables over the summer months.
Nothing beats the taste of garden fresh produce, and you do save a little on your grocery bill during the months your garden is fruiting. This is also great if you’re into preserving vegetables or making salsas and jams. That helps you enjoy the fruits of your labour all year long!
Buy movie tickets at Costco
It doesn’t have to be Costco specifically, but the movie theatre closest to our house has ticket packages (plus snacks) at our local Costco that work out better than paying at the theatre itself. Also, if you buy a gift card at the theatre, you get coupons that can add up as well. Explore options for the things you like doing, like Groupons or other online deal ideas, to see if you can save a few dollars.
Close your drapes in the summer
If you don’t have air conditioning (and even if you do,) consider keeping your blinds drawn during the sunny hours. This prevents your house from heating up more than is natural, and will save your cooling costs. Just don’t forget to open them when the sun is away from that window so you’re not using electrical lighting when you don’t have to!
Learning how to manage the natural airflow and sunlight in your home can greatly improve the internal temperature of your home year round. Popular Science has a great article with ways to cool your home without air conditioning.
Use time of day pricing to your advantage
My municipality has time-of-day pricing for electricity. Basically, using electricity during the day costs more than using it overnight. But you can use that to your advantage.
I use the delay start on my dishwasher so it washes during the lowest cost hours of the night. It’s an extra button to push, but the dishes are still clean in the morning. I do the same with my washing machine. I’ll set the timer to wash in the wee morning hours and then I just have to remember to deal with it when I get up.
Use a clothesline
Another easy, but seasonal, option: Pair the early morning laundry wash with a hang-to-dry and save all the dryer electricity.
Of course this takes more time than tossing them in the dryer, but I think it’s worth it. Make it part of your routine, and enlist the kids to bring it in after school, or while you’re making dinner, and that’s an easy chore for them to contribute to.
While putting money aside when you’re living paycheque to paycheque (or close to it) doesn’t sound like the best idea, it is essential if you plan on retiring and continuing to live in a money requiring society during that time.
A small contribution from each paycheque will add up, and, if properly invested, will grow over time.
There are tons of places to find out more about RRSPs. Your bank, financial planners, and friends and family may have usable suggestions for you. Don’t wait – start saving today.
Use family to babysit where possible
I know this is hard for people who don’t live close to their families, but family is who you choose, as well as biology. If you have a great rapport with your neighbours who also have similar aged kids, see if you can strike up a rotating date night deal. You watch theirs and they watch yours so you can both get couple time.
Another date night option (I see it mostly at Christmas time) is to find a business that holds child nights. Here we have a pottery painting place that offers a supervised evening, supposedly to allow parents to get some shopping done without the kids for Christmas. I know our Boys and Girls Club offers a similar service occasionally.
Another option for couple time is day dates. If your children are in school, schedule lunch with your significant other during the week if you can. Or go to an afternoon movie before your kids are home from school. I realize you’d have to take time off from work, but maybe you could take a day or two vacation and just spend time together as a couple.
What ways are you frugal in your life? Share some tips in the comments!
One of my blogging friends has a frugal blog. Go check it out: The Frugal Family
We do all of the above in our family. And we still feel like we don’t earn enough cash some months. But honestly, every bit helps. Even trailing behind your children turning off lights (or shouting at them to go back to their rooms and turn them off themselves!) keeps costs down.
Sometimes we successfully barter as well. My husband is in IT and network cabling, and can occasionally do work for someone in exchange for something useful. He does a lot of work for one gentleman who then lets us use his cottage for a week every summer, for free. That’s priceless to us as it’s a beautiful space and we get quality time together.
Being creative is the best way to stay frugal!