In an effort to staunch the financial bleeding, spending has come to grinding halt in our house. We are so tired of seeing a two-figure balance in our checking account THREE DAYS AFTER WE GET PAID. We finally got mad enough to do something about it (besides scratch our heads and wonder why we got that last overdraft notice).
Mind you, we’re not cutting back just for the sport of it. Everything is more expensive today. If you don’t watch your pennies, you could be wasting money that might otherwise be working for you in some other area of your life. That’s exactly what we’ve been doing for too long. We just don’t have a lot of spare change these days – money is tight. Therefore, I’ve spent the last month employing some money saving strategies that actually work.
For all of you hard-working moms and dads, try one or two and I promise your belt will feel a little looser:
- Step One: Organize your accounts. Go to www.mint.com and sign up for their free money management program. It is secure, easy to use and oh so eye-opening. Once you load all of your accounts (including checking, savings, credit card, mortgage, IRAs, 401(k)s) you will have a crystal clear picture of your net worth and how much you’re spending by category. The worst part? The hour of shame, disbelief and – ultimately – self-hate once you realize how much you’re blowing every month. Don’t worry, though…those emotions will keep you hyper vigilant in the difficult weeks to come. This is where it gets tough, so read on.
- STOP GOING TO STARBUCKS. One latte per day = $3.55. That’s $106.50 per month, $1,278 per year. They are laughing at you over there at the Starbucks corporate office. If you must, buy an espresso machine and make your lattes at home. It will pay for itself within 30 days.
- Unplug your stuff. We put all the plasma TVs, computers and laptops on power strips. Simply switch to “off” at the end of the day (or whenever you’re not watching/using) and stop those little power vampires from sucking you dry. Unplug your phone chargers, toasters, electric toothbrushes (plug in overnight once per week and you’re fine) and all the other stagnant appliances. Keeping them plugged in is drawing electricity and you are being charged for it. Why?
- Kids don’t need 30 minute showers. ‘Nuff said.
- Replace all your bulbs with fluorescent. The bulbs are more expensive but they’ll pay off in energy savings within the first couple of months.
- Turn your water heater down. It’s probably up too high anyway. Going out of town? Put it on the “vacation” setting. It will shut down (but the pilot light will stay on). Why would you keep a tank of hot water warm if you’re not going to use it?
- Stop eating out. We spent an embarrassing sum of money on restaurants in the first quarter of 2012…so embarrassing that I’m not going to tell you how much. Suffice to say that we have nearly eliminated restaurants from our budget to mitigate the shock and dismay. While our grocery bill will increase, our overall food budget will be cut in half. We will have a higher level of low-level boredom from the monotony of eating at home every night, but the upside is we have a better chance of not living in a trailer once our kids are up and out. I cling to this.
- If you do eat out, go somewhere that’s offering a deal. Sign up for email clubs and frequent diner’s programs and they’ll email you coupons once a month. Don’t worry about that smarmy feeling when you present the coupon. It will pass. The schmuck in this situation is the guy behind you who isn’t getting his second entree for free.
- Wash clothes in cold water (except for underwear and yucky, sweaty sports stuff). You will save a fortune on your electric/gas bill and your clothes will last longer. Oh, and fill up the machine. Please don’t wash two shirts just to empty the dirty clothes basket. That fleeting sense of accomplishment is costing you.
- Use the ATM at your bank, otherwise your bank will charge you a fee on top of the fee you’ll be charged by the bank that owns the ATM you used. I’ve seen fees as high as $8 for one ATM withdraw – and it’s perfectly legal. Banks can charge you whatever they want in fees. If you need the convenience, switch to a no-fee checking account. A lot of the online banks (i.e. etrade) offer this.
- Unless you drive a Porsche, Rolls Royce or some other fancy car, you DO NOT need premium gas. Go for the mid-range gas or – better yet – regular.
- Call your credit card companies and negotiate a lower rate. If they won’t give you one, transfer your balance to a card that offers 0% on balance transfers (watch the transfer fee, which is usually around 3% of your balance and know going in that you need excellent credit). You should then wrap your credit cards in poisonous snakes and barbed wire…avoid using them at all costs. You are being robbed.
By now you are asking yourself, why is she talking about budgeting? This is a parenting blog! Here’s why: broke parents are stressed parents. Burnout occurs at a faster, more consistent rate among families with tight budgets. The kids begin to look like little dollar signs. It’s easy to forget that, in order for kids to be successful, we have to invest in them. This means paying for activities, school supplies, hobbies and other pursuits. If we’re blowing our money on superficial things (like restaurant meals and $35 pedicures), we’re in effect robbing our kids of experiences they want and need to evolve into smart, well-rounded, independent adults.
And we want smart, well-rounded, independent kids.
Because we do not want them moving home after college.