I was thinking about my supposed reality TV show the other day… the one I have in my head that will make us a lot of money, and will provide us with enough money to fix all the things that need to be fixed in our house, in our cars, our furniture… all the things.
Life here in the fancy-schmancy area called Northern Virginia is not inexpensive. Our family has made the choice of living on one salary so I can homeschool our kids, and be available for the many, many appointments that come with having kids on the special needs spectrum. So, it has become necessary to live frugally and learn how to love that trash-to-treasure look (I prefer the term “vintage” actually).
I thought it would be great to share some tips our family employs to help defray the high cost of living here. Some things might sound a little radical, some things may be unrealistic, but in my opinion, every little bit helps! Plus, as I keep writing, the more we share as parents raising families, the stronger we become.
One of the biggest cost cutters for us was to get rid of cable TV. You read that right: No TV. OK. I’m exaggerating a little- we have a Roku, and we subscribe to Pure Flix. We have a DVD player, too. We even still have a VCR in the basement, but that is only because we can’t figure out how to get the DVD player to work without it being wired through the VCR. We’re a bit mad, I know, but honestly, it was just easier to keep the archaic set up. We exercise in the basement, and some of those workouts are on VHS tapes… I know…old fashioned. And there is another tip: no gym memberships! Why pay to exercise when you can exercise for free?
We don’t cut coupons but we do shop mostly at Walmart and Aldi. We have a Costco membership for those things that make sense, like toothbrushes, toilet paper, and almond flour (and gas!). We go to Wegmans for their awesome produce and truly great prices on family-packs of meats and snacks. If you haven’t tried Aldi, I highly recommend you try it! Bring a quarter for a grocery cart (you get it back) and your own bags (environmentally friendly, anyway). They have really great prices on gluten-free things, too, if you happen to be on a special diet. Walmart has a savings catcher app, as well. All you do is scan your receipt and if there are other stores in your area that have a lower price on anything you purchased, it will give you the difference in price, which you can then transfer to a gift card to use at your discretion (we like using the extra savings around Christmas-time). Very easy-peasy penny pinching!
We don’t eat out often. That saves tons of money. I’m a horrible cook, too, so this is truly a sacrifice for us! Pinterest has awesome recipes, and printable menu planners. Menu-planning (check out my fellow blogger's post: Meal Planning Made Easy! for more about that) is so helpful to organize a shopping list which also is helpful in saving money. I’m not super organized, but I know when I menu-plan I save money at checkout, and it cuts down on the mad dash to the store because I’ve forgotten ingredients or food. Plus, I don’t see the really cute t-shirts that just went on sale as I breeze past the clothing display to get to the food aisle in a hurry… therefore saving me more money. I can’t buy what I can’t see!
Here are few other tips to use at the grocery store: Don’t buy juice packs- buy the mix and a pitcher and make your own. Don’t buy stuff at the check-out lane- these items (candy, gum, mints, mascara) are always marked up. Consider using frozen veggies and fruits instead of fresh. Opt out of soda and always try to buy generic (store-brand) items.
We also try not to buy the latest and greatest of anything. Cars, cell phones, TVs, DVDs… these items last longer than eighteen months; you don’t always need to upgrade your cell phone, and you can rent DVDs at Redbox instead of buying the film (unless, of course, it is a Star Wars or Avengers feature). Even clothing can be found not brand new, and in great condition! This is especially true for baby clothes. Furniture, cabinets, pots and pans, toys—these can be found at consignment shops and garage sales for a lot less than at the store. The library has used book sales once a month and it is free to join to have access to movies, audio books, e-books, and real books every day. My family love, love, loves the library!
Now, let me encourage you to save money, and be creative while doing it! Pinterest (can you tell I love Pinterest?) is awesome for “life hacks” and “money-saving-mom” ideas. I don’t always have a successful month in the frugality department, but taking time to plan, and actually looking at more cost effective options for things helps here and there. Take some time to think about it! Share some of the methods you use to save money. Let me know how it’s going for you!