Monday, May 9, 2011

10 Super Easy Ways To Save Money

How do you handle being a new stay-at-home mom living on one paycheck when you are used to two? Guest blogger Lauren Weber shares her secrets to making it all work in this down economy....

When we decided I was going to stay home with our baby, the hubby and I had to sit down for a chat. Gone were the days that I could just go to Target and drop $100 just because I really liked all the items in my cart. Each and every purchase has become strategic in every way possible.

We brainstormed easy ways to save and have had decent luck sticking to our monthly budget. Here are some of the tricks I’ve learned (or re-learned) during the past few months at home.

1. Use credit card rewards as a treat.
We love our credit card, which allows us to earn rewards in the form of gift cards or cash back just for using it. We set goals and then spend the rewards on larger purchases. Just always pay your credit card off on time to avoid interest.

2. Cook at home.
This is definitely my least favorite trick because I love to dine out, but it really does save tons. And the more I cook in, the more I appreciate those meals out. An added bonus – I’ve definitely seen an improvement in my cooking skills.

3. Check into your car (and home) insurance.
Instead of getting complacent like we usually do, my hubby was smart enough to get new quotes for our car insurance. Since our vehicles are 6 years old, we thought we’d go down a notch in our coverage. Turns out our current company matched the quotes we received and kept our same level of coverage, savings us $800/year. We also got a check in the mail for the overcharges from this year. Mega bonus!

4. Use less laundry detergent and use cold water.
Apparently, you don’t really need the entire capful of detergent like it reads. Just use half and the clothes are just as clean. Plus, washing in cold is better for the environment and easier on your water bill.

5. Cut coupons and use them when there is a sale.
I never understood couponing until I quit my job and started reading up on it like mad. Coupons are only useful when the product is on sale, unless you are going to buy the item regardless. I’ve scored several products for cheap or free this way. Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid are great places to start since they have many in-store promotions. (Hint for beginners: start with toothpaste – I will never spend a dime on it ever again!)

6. Don’t be afraid of Craigslist, mom-to-mom sales and thrift stores.
You can land amazing deals this way. Just remember to attempt to barter when possible! And obviously go with a spouse or friend when checking out Craigslist items.

7. Buy produce when it’s in season.
Something I will never take off my grocery list is fresh produce. Buy produce when it’s in season and develop your meal plan with those items. Use this handy dandy website to see what’s in season in your state.

8. Price check everything – from baby food to electronics.
Before making a purchasing decision or heading to a big box store, I use Google shopping. It’s amazing how much of a price difference you can find on things.

9. Group errands when possible.
I used to love to drive around for things at my own leisure. Not so much anymore. With gas prices soaring, make sure to do as much as you can in one trip to avoid having to fuel up again later.

10. Join email clubs or Facebook pages.
If you love a certain restaurant or product, “like” them on Facebook and/or join their email clubs. This is a great way to get coupons and be among the first to hear about special deals and discounts – especially on your birthday!

As I always say, save money where and when you can because it’s better spent on things like wine…and maybe, one day, a vacation!

What ways do you save money? Please feel free to leave a comment and share your tips!

Lauren Weber is a former PR professional turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. When she’s not changing diapers or trying to get her daughter to say “ma-ma,” she’s keeping up with Detroit news and sharing things she finds interesting on Twitter. Follow along: @LaurenWeber84 or visit her mom blog, Mrs. Weber’s Neighborhood.
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