Ways We Cut Costs and Save Money
Prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom I did the whole college degree, full-time job thing. Even before college and all through college, I prided myself on always having a job. So while I loved the idea of staying home with my daughters, saying the decision out loud and carrying it out, felt “weird“. This “weirdness” stemmed from the absence of that awesome routine of cashing my hard-earned paycheck at the end of each week. Having to rely solely on my husband for anything from the electric bill to a new pair of shoes to his own birthday present, was out of my controlling/security comfort zone. If you’ve ever made this transition (or are considering it), then you know there’s a bit of a freak-out phase. I got used to staying home with my first daughter real fast (loved it so much we had another!) BUT that missing paycheck has taken a loooong time to accept and to be honest, it still feels a little weird sometimes (particularly when I get the itch to buy a whole new wardrobe).
Allison Carter said it right in her NY Times article A Stay-at-Home Parent Is Not a ‘Luxury’. Like her family, my husband and I had to make choices/sacrifices/cutbacks in order for me to stay home. Having only one parent working wasn’t some “cool luxury” we decided on a whim we could easily do. Rather we sat and did all the math, made the spreadsheets, punched in the equations, and came out with the magic number of what we couldn’t spend. Of course, there’s nothing like conversations about money, to remind you that an entire paycheck is missing, and suddenly you find yourself thinking “man if we didn’t have kids we’d have a lot more money!” But that’s a useless thought now, and later you tell yourself that every baby item you bought is technically “half-price” when trying to convince yourself that having another kid is a great idea (and a special thanks also to “National Sibling Day”).
What We do, and what I do, to help us cut costs and save money
Dropped Cable TV
We did this even before having kids (but still totally bought an over-sized TV), and I know a lot of people who are adopting this idea as well. Our replacements: Steaming shows online from their channel’s website, sharing Netflix Instant-View with family members, and using RedBox for newer movies. Occasionally we’ll sign up for Netflix DVD, binge watch a bunch of stuff we “missed”, and then cancel our subscription again a month or two later. Do we miss it? Almost never. The “almost” being if you’re a sports fan, this will be more difficult. In that case, look for products like SlingTV that carries major channels like ESPN for only $20 a month, so you could baby-step your way down with that. (((If you are a Red Sox fan like myself, then no, sorry, I have not yet found a way to get NESN without cable, or get ALL their games without blackouts. I know, it annoys me too…don’t they know there are tons of parent-fans that can’t go to the bar every time the Red Sox and Yankees play?? BUT the day I do find the correct combination of less-expensive methods to watching ALL their games, there WILL BE a post about it-so you should subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss it!!)))
Massively Reduced My Cell Phone Bill
I used to have Sprint and paid about $80/month for my phone, unlimited everything (on top of having to buy the phone). First I switched to RepublicWireless’ $25/month plan for unlimited talk, text, and data. I paid $150 upfront for the Moto phone, and the monthly bill was always about $29 after taxes. We thought this was so awesome. Never had any issues with service, no mysterious fees, limits, and its 100% contract free. Everything was the same, but cheaper. Then, they show you how much data you actually use outside of your own household internet. As the name “stay-at-home” mom implies, 95% of my data usage was in my own house. So I decided to challenge myself, and dropped to Republic Wireless’ $10/month plan (I think that’s $11.40 after taxes). The catch? Unlimited talk and text, but NO data WHEN I am out of range of my household internet. It took a week for me to remember to look up directions BEFORE I left the house (feels like highschool all over again!) and a week of realizing how much I try and unhealthily multitask driving, kids, and surfing the web. Worst case scenario, if I want data everywhere again, I can instantly switch back on their website (remember no contract!). Update July 2018: Last month I finally left Republic Wireless. In the past year I began to have issues with their service and speeds and finally said enough. Thankfully by now cell phone companies have gotten competitive and so my bill with a new carrier is about $45/month including unlimited data, hot-spot, and a Galaxy S8. The service and speed has significantly improved and I don’t regret the switch at all.
Bring Back “Allowances”
A.K.A budget everything. We have a weekly “kids” budget, “food” budget, and we each have our own “personal” budgets. The kid’s budget has worked wonders in restraining me from impulse buying things I suddenly think the kids NEED. Clothes? check! food? check! Love? check! we’re done here. All our expenses on gas also come from the kids budget because realistically-when are we actually driving somewhere without them? Yup, pretty much never. The food budget has been by far the hardest one to keep in check. See “Lower Food Bills” and “Fast DIY” bullets below for more ways to help. Personal budgets allow me to still have my own bank account and not feel bad asking for money for random stuff I want, and it lets me maintain some surprise to hubby’s Christmas presents. Of course there is also the “bills” budget and hubby takes care of all of that. I am in charge of the “kids”, “food”, and my “personal” budgets which helps to give me a feeling of “financial balance” and “input” without actually “contributing” a paycheck myself.
Lower Food Bills: Buy in Bulk, Meal Plan, Bread, & Snacks
I made a separate post with a chart just for this topic. See Four Ways to Lower Your Grocery Bill.
Fast “Do-It-Yourself” Products
I don’t know if it was becoming a mom, being naturally stubborn, staying home with “more” time, ranting about grocery prices, or a combination of all four, but I began to question the products I purchased. More specifically, what was in those household products I took for granted, used almost daily, and paid so much for? Could I make them cheaper? Healthier? I’m not trying to be some kind of paranoid super-mom, but lately I’ve taken great pride in becoming a kind of DIY-junkie. I love the idea of knowing exactly what ingredients are in the products I use and I feel empowered by the feelings of self-sufficiency that DIY brings me. So….Here is everything I make myself that the whole family is on board with using. Many of the sites, like DIY Natural, will give you the cost breakdown and savings. Homemade Gifts Made Easy gives you a thorough but clear rundown of all those chemicals you want to avoid (and why!).
- Homemade Laundry Detergent by DIY Natural. Takes 10-15 minutes to make, with grating the soap being about 90% of that time. I found all these ingredients at my local major grocery store where (for me) they are cheaper to buy than online. I make a big batch and store it in our old laundry soap container. We use this for all our laundry except cloth diapers (caused build up).
- Cloth Diaper Detergent by The Eco-Friendly Family. Much easier and quicker than our other laundry soap. Takes just a few minutes. Click HERE to read about my wash routine going from a top-loading to a HE front-loading machine.
- Diaper Wipes Solution. In addition to cloth diapers we use cloth wipes. Even if you don’t cloth diaper, I HIGHLY recommend cloth wipes. No matter what brand of “ultra sensitive, everything free” commercial wipes I buy, within 1-2 days of using them my baby’s bum is RED. For two kids in diapers, I have a stack of 90 baby wash-clothes that have been re-purposed to be soft and gentle baby wipes. 90 may sound like a lot, until you consider that there’s at least 100 disposable wipes in every commercial pack (and how many of those full packs will you go through in a week?). The solution I use: Mix: 1 1/2C water, 1TSP baby soap, 2TSP baby oil, 4 drops TeaTree oil. Pour into squirt or spray bottle and apply to cloth wipes when you need them.
- Natural Toothpaste by Homemade Gifts Made Easy.Takes maybe 3 minutes? I use food-grade flavoring found at a local store and made one batch of Peppermint and one batch of Bubblegum flavored. I store the toothpaste in glass baby food jars, or 4oz Ball canning jars. The texture/taste/lack of bubbles did take some getting used to. My daughter transitioned easiest of all despite having used “super cool” Elmo toothpaste before. Does it work? Prior to using our homemade toothpaste I spent a 1-2years repeatedly going back to the dentist for multiple cavity fillings, and even a root canal. A year of homemade toothpaste later I had my best/fastest cleaning appointment with no issues what-so-ever.
- Homemade Mouthwash by DIY Natural. Also took about 3 minutes? Glass salad dressing or small glass olive oil bottles are great for storing this!
- Natural Body Soap (and Safer Bath Balms!) by Homemade Gifts Made Easy. I always wanted to try making my own bath soap bars but was intimidated by the supply list and the weeks of dry time. I was thrilled to of found this super easy and fast soap recipe. Check out their DIY bath balm recipe too! Kids art project plus X-mas gift ideas anyone??!
- Dishwasher Detergent and Rinse Aid. Takes only a minute to mix together and then you leave it out on the counter for the next day or so with a sign that says “stir this when you walk by it.” Then store in your old dishwasher detergent container. The simple vinegar rinse agent is a must for us to keep our glass clear.
- Effective and Simple Homemade Dish Soap. After much trial and error and adaptations, I’ve finally come up with a dish soap that I love! I’ve been using it for about two months now and see no reason to change or break down and buy commercial. Cuts grease, easy to find ingredients, and easy to make! Not only is it great on dishes, but it cleans off Window Crayon stains on our white window frames and cleans dirt marks out of our white plastic sinks and tubs.
Learn to Love Hand-Me-Downs
Unless they were gifted to us, MOST of our kids clothes, toys, and equipment are from consignment shops, donation stores, Craigslist, and yard sales. I hope we have many years before our kids take notice that not all Santa’s gifts are flawless, or become self-conscious and consumed by the latest fashions. Especially for really young kids that only use or wear items for a few weeks to a few months, hand-me-downs are awesome. In most cases with such limited use, the items still look new (and sometimes they actually are!) but cost 1/4 (or less) of their new price. Goodwill’s are my favorite choice for clothes and kids books and their content and quality vary from store to store, so shop around. Search also for traveling kids consignment events in your area by companies like Kids Closet Connection. These can be an awesome resource for inexpensive baby-toddler items but the shopping experience can rival that of “Black Friday”.
Discount Gift Cards
OK I’m going to be totally honest here…I haven’t actually done this yet. I lack the foresight to plan ahead and the patience to wait for them to arrive before shopping. BUT I love the idea and hope that in the future I can adapt to using them. Buy discounted gift cards for stores you regularly shop at or plan to shop at and use the cards yourself when you make purchases. Think of it as a pre-planned coupon good for your whole purchase! Websites like Raise buy and sell gift cards at discounted prices. On Raise the discount varies per card (what the seller was willing to sell them for), and the company offers a 100% money-back guarantee if the card amount turns out to be false.
Feel Ridiculous and Feel Rich
It may be worth you or your spouses time to check out this interesting blog: Mr. Money Mustache. His articles navigate readers through new ideas of saving, investing, and spending to achieve “financial freedom.” Even if you don’t embrace his aggressive retirement plan, you may find yourself feeling a little ridiculous and rich with all your possessions, which in turn will discourage you from buying more “stuff”. Browse around his site, or if you just want a taste, read “When Ridiculousness is Ubiquitous.”
Think of something you think you need? Great, now don’t write it down. Let your new “mommy brain” do the rest 😉
Hi there! I’m Kaley, prevailing parent and wife, but also just me; stubborn lover of DIY everything, outdoors, and chocolate. Read more about myself and my family under the “Parenting” > “About My Family” tabs.