A dollar just doesn’t stretch as far. Every day, the news reports more downturns in the stock markets. 401K statements are depressing, and going to the store just isn’t as much fun as it use to be. But there are ways to cope with the rising costs of, well, everything.
Planning will take some of the stress out of spending. One of the best methods is a monthly calendar. You can purchase a calendar or make one on your computer. Make sure the boxes are large enough to hold the information we are going to talk about. When you plan, you are taking control of your life and your dollar.
The good news is that gasoline in America this summer is going to cost less. But hold on to the gasoline savings plans you had when it was $4.xx a gallon. If you didn’t have a plan, here’s one.
Drive less. If you are fortunate enough to have a job, use the trip to or from your workplace to grocery shop, drop off the dry-cleaning, pick up prescriptions, and any small errand. This may involve planning your weekly shopping and errands. Each week, choose a time to sit down and look at the family schedule. When do the kids have practice, games or after school activities? What day will you grocery shop? If you shop at more than one store, when will you make that trip?
Start a car pool or ride share with other parents on the children’s sports team. This will save gasoline, and you can enjoy some adult social time as well. Use a calendar to note the evenings you will be stopping on the way home for food or other items. Put a notepad by the calendar, so that your family can write down what they want, or what they have run out of. While you are making your calendar, take with you kids about upcoming school projects. Do they need poster paper, colored markers, science supplies? This can avoid extra last minute trips, and the homework tears.
Plan your meals using your calendar. On busy evenings, make some make ahead meals that you can eat on the go. Ask your kids if they are responsible that week for snacks at team or scouting events. Take a few minutes to look at grocery store ads. It helps to watch the sales and plan meals around these. Visit coupons.com. This site has printable coupons for groceries and other items. Print the coupons for the items you really use.
Get out the cookbooks and cookie recipes. It is more work, but usually less expensive to bake the snacks for the kids. As you plan your meals, plan lunches for your family. Taking lunches saves as much as $15.00 a day for a family with two working parents. Many meals can extend to next day lunches. Chicken or beef can be sliced for sandwiches, or tossed into a salad. Invest in a few thermal lunchboxes, and keep the food cool with ice in a plastic baggy.
When you are shopping, buy the larger sizes of juice boxes or pouches. You can freeze these to help keep lunches cool. If there are items you or your family loves, watch the sales and buy them in bulk. The idea is to save where we can.
Sports equipment and children’s clothing are expensive and needful items. Have you ever bagged up clothing in good shape that your child has outgrown and donated it? Check out the re-sale stores for children’s clothes. They usually outgrown them before they wear them out. Take advantage of seasonal clothing. More coats and winter wear is available in the spring, when people are cleaning out their closets. Sports equipment is sometimes available at the re-sale shops. But there are specialty second hand stores for sports equipment.
Invite friends over to watch movies, play cards, and other activities. Skip the cost of a night out for a family or with friends and begin to entertain at home. If you can, buy a Wii. For the cost of a few nights out, the Wii is a great source of entertainment. You can have a bowling night. Invite your friends over and take turns providing snacks. Ask them to bring their kids. Start a resurgence of home socializing.
When you or your family gets tired of electronic games, trade them in for new ones. EbGames offers new and used games, and also has used Wig’s, Playstations and X-boxes. In fact, you could buy a Wii at EBGames.
Instead of buying new books, go to the library. And use the library for movie rentals to save money. Most local libraries offer movie rental and have newer movies in stock.
Look for free attractions in your local area. In the spring and summer, several local parks show movies outside once a month, and have free concerts monthly. This is good family entertainment at no cost. The kids can play. You can relax and listen to music or watch a movie under that stars. All you need is a blanket and maybe some homemade popcorn.
As you plan to get through these tough times, look for fun and innovative ways to cut costs. Don’t deny simple pleasures. While you are looking for ways to sustain your prosperity, don’t encourage a spirit of poverty. The idea is not that you can’t afford it; the idea is that you choose to save money to ensure you and your family has the best you can provide as you cope with today’s economy.