- Cloth diapers. It's more up front initially but saves in the long run.
- Make things from scratch. A few ingredients can make a lot of things that if bought prepackaged at the store you pay for the extra packaging. Example; pancake mixes.
- Meal plan. I'm not perfect at meal planning but I try my best. This keeps you on track and then you are less likely to be at a loss for dinner and resort to 'take out' which can add up and be less healthy. We eat dinner at home every night expect for the rare occasion of eating out on a weekend.
- Shop around for best price. I'm not a fan of driving from one store to another to get the best price because honestly getting two kids in and out of the car multiple times is not worth it to me. However I do take a mental note when I am at different stores to see who carries what cheaper. When I am in need of those items I can plan my outings accordingly.
- Shop garage sales,consignment stores and discount stores for kids toys and clothes. Even if you want brand name clothing you can typically find them in great condition at a lot less at a consignment store. It does take more research to find the best stores but it's worth it. They outgrow their clothes so quickly that it's nice to not spend retail all of the time. I will admit it took some time to adjust to this concept, it was one thing I did not like doing at all before I had kids but now its sort of like a fun scavenger hunt for the best find. I found a barely used Pottery Barn Crib Bumper for $5 at a garage sale last month. They retail for $100. I was super stoked about that find!
- Exercise at home or with the kids instead of having a gym membership. Every once in awhile I start thinking I want a membership and there may be a time when I get one again but right now we live in a place that has pretty good weather the majority of the year and I am able to take advantage of that by running outside for my exercise. Another favorite of mine is to put on music and have a dance party.....just like back in our college days Anna!! The boys love it and dancing around with a baby in my arms and a toddler on my back is definitely exercise and a great stress reliever!
- Join moms groups. It has been invaluable to me. Having other moms to talk to and have that support is so helpful. It also opens doors of savings you may not think of. Such as a babysitting coop that I started with one group I belonged to. It came in handy beyond my imagination when I unexpectedly was called to jury duty for an entire week when my first son was around a year old.
- Use the library. Our library allows your child to get his own card and it doesn't incur late fees which is an extra benefit. We checkout books and DVDs on a regular basis and that way we never grow tired of reading or watching the same things over and over. Of course we still buy books to add to our personal library and have our "favorite" stories but it's nice to keep things fresh.
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Nick (my husband) and I are recyclers and want to instill that in our children. In general I was raised in a "waste not, want not" type of home so it carries over into how I run my household. Examples; I use cloth napkins. We can wash them and they make a set table look pretty. I still use paper towels for things but also using cloth helps me cut down on how many rolls we go through. We never buy water bottles unless we are having a party with a lot of guests. I can sew, so I mend things that are mend able. We eat our leftovers. The last example sounds silly but I know a lot of people who don't like leftovers. Which I understand but with a little creativity you can actually change the leftovers enough that they seem like a new dish.
- What are your favorite free (or cheap) activities to do with kids?
- Do you use coupons? Got any tips about how to use them, where to find them, etc... ?
I do use coupons. Not every shopping trip but on occasion I will see great coupons and I will include those items in my grocery list. For example; last week target had $1 off fresh vegetable and $1 off fresh fruit, they happen to have bagged organic baby carrots marked down from $2 to $1 and so with my coupon I was able to get them free, same thing with organic bananas that same trip. I got 2 lbs free. I also check the coupons that target gives out along with your receipt. They often have great coupons that when paired with coupons from the mail end up getting me free Starbucks. That is my favorite coupon of all! I mostly save by checking the flyer's the grocery stores send out. The grocery store I go to the most has a lot of in store sales that I take advantage of. We are lucky to have some great local produce open air markets here that I shop at as well. They are locally grown fruits and vegetables and other products that are more cost effective since they are not being shipped as far. Nick and I also like to use groupon for dinners out, entertainment tickets or other non grocery items.
- Whats the biggest challege with being thrifty and having kids?
I guess the biggest challenge is wanting to give our kids every opportunity in life. For us that ends up being programs that I feel are particularly important but cost money. Music class, art programs, gymnastics and other similar programs. We know we want them though so it just becomes part of our budget.