Summertime can be spending time. Just yesterday I took my son and four other kids to Chuck E. Cheese. Whew! That big mouse ate a good chunk of change. As I heard each token clanging into the cup I saw some serious dollar signs! But I truly was happy to do it. A once-in-a-while outing is fun and special. But it did remind me that I need to be aware of how I’m spending my summer dollars.
Sometimes the bottom line is not so much about how much you make, but how you spend your money—even on the little things. As my mother always said, “Watch your pennies, and your dollars will take care of themselves!”
1. Choose the matinee over the full-price evening movie.
2. Clip coupons on the things you know you always use. Don’t worry—you don’t have to become an “Extreme Couponer” to save a few bucks on each grocery run.
3. Turn the thermostat up a couple of degrees. If you need a cooler temp to sleep comfortably, turn it back down just for those nighttime hours. A programmable thermostat can handle this for you with efficiency.
4. Eat at home. Bottom line: a round of ham-and-cheese sandwiches from your kitchen can feed a gang of hungry kids for far less than the local drive-through.
5. Make sure you’re getting all the insurance discounts. Most companies give auto insurance discounts for young drivers with good grades, safe driving records, and homeowners’ insurance discounts for things like having a security system or fire alarm.
6. Choose the library over the book store. Especially during the summer when your kids may be reading more than usual to meet reading requirements for school, this can save you a bundle.
7. Dump the expensive coffee habit. Sure, we all love the aroma and the atmosphere of the cool coffee houses, but indulging on a daily basis can add up to hundreds of dollars per year.
8. When dining out as a family, drink water. Most table service restaurants charge $1.50-$2.00 per soda or tea. Encouraging (or requiring) your crew to have water with their meals saves money (like $10 off your tab for a family of five), and cuts down on empty calories consumed.
9. Do your own lawn maintenance. Hiring a landscape service to do simple things like cut the grass is a considerable expense. For what you pay for a year’s service, you could purchase a decent mower and do it yourself. If you have older kids, this is a great outdoor chore with a few safety precautions.
10. Clean your own house. Weekly housekeeping service is expensive. If you can’t do it all yourself, divide tasks among family members and tackle it together.
11. Turn off the TV. Fewer ads mean fewer temptations.
12. Watch the hobby-related spending. We love our hobbies, but buying all the equipment/supplies can add up.
13. Drop your gym membership or personal trainer and find a motivated friend to work out with.
14. Clean out the closets. Not only will you be better able to find and use the things you really need, but you’ll probably gather enough non-essentials to have a great garage sale and make a little cash.
15. Cook from scratch in large batches. Scratch ingredients cost less than processed, convenience foods. Make your efforts go farther by freezing some of the food for later.
16. Use cash. It’s not as convenient, but research shows that we’re more aware of our spending and spend less when we use real money.
17. Be a classic dresser. Classic dressers buy fewer clothing items, and generally choose versatile, timeless pieces when they do. Add your own flair with an inexpensive accessory or two.
18. Eat breakfast. Fill your tank at home with an expensive and nutritious meal like eggs and wheat toast, or cereal and milk. It curbs your desire to eat an expensive, big lunch later.
19. Brown bag your lunch sometimes.
20. Get to know your crock pot. It makes cooking at home a realistic idea for busy families.
21. Choose a pre-owned, late model car over a brand new one. You’ll get a like-new vehicle without eating that first year’s depreciation.
22. Don’t choose the mall as a source of entertainment. For problem spenders or those trying to save, it’s a lion’s den. Spend your leisure time at the park instead.
23. Slow down. You’ll save on that speeding ticket you didn’t get, and increase your fuel efficiency.
24. Pay bills online. It saves postage, and helps you be on time with payments and avoid late fees.
25. Downsize your cable TV subscription. Have a bunch of channels you never watch? We thought so. Consider dropping to a less expensive package with fewer channels.
26. Scrutinize your cellular bill. This is especially important for families with multiple lines and teenagers. Make sure you’re getting the best deal for your situation and that your kids aren’t over-using and jacking the bill up with overage charges.
27. Do some routine auto maintenance. Keeping your tires aired-up and the oil changed regularly can help with gas mileage and extend the life of your vehicle and tires.
28. Be skeptical of expensive cosmetics and health/beauty products. A precious few may be worth the difference in cost. Many times, you’re just paying for a pretty package.
29. Don’t give up on broken things so easily. Sometimes that phone just needs a new battery, and the hem in that skirt could be repaired in just a few minutes.
30. Cancel unused subscriptions for online services, magazines, etc. We often set these things up with a credit card, and the billing is automatic until we cancel.
31. Before you check out in a store, go through everything in your cart and ask yourself once more why you’re buying it and if you really need it. Odds are, you’ll identify an item or two that really aren’t necessary, and that you’ve already cooled off on, anyway.
32. Do a little research before buying cars and major appliances. No, it’s not as fun as inhaling new car scent and looking at shiny things at the appliance store, but knowing which products have good reliability ratings before you shop can save you a bundle in the long run.
33. Swap babysitting with friends. Helping one another out can make date night much less expensive.
34. Don’t fear generics. From drugs to grocery brands, today’s generics are often just as good as national brands with fancy advertising.
35. Use internet-based services like Skype or Facetime to communicate rather than long-distance phone service.
36. Quit smoking. It’s a no-brainer from every angle.
37. Pack snacks and drinks for a road trip to avoid costly convenience store items.
38. Watch out for fees, especially at the ATM. Use only the ones associated with your bank, or you’ll get hammered with fees from both your bank and the one whose ATM you used.
39. Make a shopping list and stick to it.
40. Swap books and toys with other parents. What your kids are sick of will be exciting to theirs, and vice versa.
41. Take advantage of sites like Priceline.com and Kayak.com when booking travel. You’ll always get a more competitive rate than when calling the hotel or airline directly.
42. Make sure you know the checked baggage limits and charges for your airline before you fly. Packing light and carrying-on can save you a lot of money.
43. Set a savings goal. A defined goal can motivate you to make some small adjustments in order to meet it and revel in your success.
44. Turn off the lights when you leave the room, especially if you’re going to be gone for an hour or longer. A quick trip through the house before you leave for work can take dollars off your electric bill.
45. Unplug chargers for phones and other electronics when not in use. Even when the device is not connected to the cord, it’s still drawing a small amount of energy when left in the socket.
46. Don’t take the kids shopping with you unless you can say “no” to all the pleas for impulse items.
47. Use frozen veggies. While fresh veggies are great—especially in season—frozen is almost as good, and won’t go bad. Wasted fresh foods are money down the drain.
48. After watching a nightly-rental movie from the local kiosk, take it immediately out of the DVD player and place it in the case on top of your purse or briefcase. This ensures that you’ll remember to return it promptly and avoid extra-night charges.
49. Watch for sales at the clothing retailers you prefer. Don’t let the sale entice you to purchase something you didn’t already need or have your eye on, though. Just use it as an opportunity to get those basics or that perfect dress at a bargain.
50. Track your spending for a month, and use that information to make a budget for the following month. Set limits for areas where you’re tempted to over-spend and stick to them.
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