Finances are a family affair, and there’s no better time than the New Year to take stock of your spending and saving. Call a family meeting and start working together to spend wiser, save more and work toward financial goals together.
Here are some conversation starters.
What are we paying for that we are not really using?
Start by taking a careful look at your monthly bills, and then have an honest conversation with each family member to see where cuts can be made. Does your daughter even still enjoy her ballet lessons, or is she more into her school’s drama club (which is free!)? Perhaps it’s worth looking into less expensive option. Here are some ideas:
Gym memberships. Trading in that expensive yearly gym membership for a family membership to a local YMCA or similar club could save you money. Look for local, privately-owned gyms that offer free workout days or classes that are open to the public at a reduced cost. Hospitals, clinics, or community centers sometimes sponsor special workout classes in parks or other public areas. Many schools and learning centers offer access to students. If you still want to join a gym, check out these tips to save money.
Cable. When’s the last time any of you actually watched movies on the movie channels that are part of your cable subscription? If you’re not utilizing a service, get rid of it, and put the savings away or toward paying off a debt. You could install an antenna to pick up some local channels. If you pay for high-speed internet, you can get many channel streaming options – your monitor can become a TV set as well. Many well-known TV channels, like HGTV and A&E have playlists of episodes available for free on the their websites. Watch classic movies or television episodes on YouTube. Roku lets you watch episodes from your favorite channels for a one-time price. Do you already subscribe to Amazon Prime? You can get Amazon Prime Video for free.
Classes for kids. Many schools have free or low-cost after-school activities for enrolled kids. If you are paying for dance or karate classes, have a talk with your child and see if they are really enjoying their time there. You could find alternatives, including free apps that your kids can install to learn coding and other cool stuff. Businesses like Michael’s and Home Depot hold workshops for kids throughout the year.
Set some party limits.
Sometimes the party invitations seem to never end. If you have school-aged kids, or just have a large family, it can feel like every week is another birthday, shower, wedding or some other celebration. All of this is happy stuff, of course, but there’s also an associated expense whether it’s bringing a gift, needing something formal to wear or perhaps getting your hair done. If party season has you broke, try to make an agreement that you can’t say yes to every event or find ways to be creative with gift giving. As for extended family with whom you’ve always exchanged presents, consider if having a conversation about gift limits will help save throughout the year. One option would be to set aside an entertainment budget for each child for the year. Include the child on using this money to buy gifts or special outfits for parties. This could be an opportunity to teach your child about making gifts, spending wisely, using discount sites like Groupon to make purchases, and choosing what is most important. Another idea is to make the gift an experience, like visits to a museum or zoo on free entrance days.
Make a pact to save together.
Breaking out of the credit card impulse shopping habit and actually putting money away toward a desired purchase is a great example to set for your kids. On that note, when you encourage them to save their allowance toward a purchase of their own, they’ll understand and appreciate the value of things.Visit websites like Centsables.com for kid-friendly money lessons. And for big family outings, like a weekend away or a trip to the amusement park, why not have everyone start contributing their spare change to a savings jar? They will see their money build right in front of them, and enjoy the end result.
Work some frugality into your home.
Wouldn’t we all love designer things, the latest tech gadgets, frequent dinners at nice restaurants? But in reality, that lifestyle can’t be sustained on a middle class family income.Here are some ways to save:
Clipping coupons. Some think coupon clipping is a waste of time, or it is too complicated. But you don’t have to be an extreme cheapskate to benefit from these little bits of paper. But I recently saved more than $50 by using two coupons at a local health food store. Use Living on the Cheap’s The Ultimate Guide to Coupons to help you understand coupon stacking and saving.
Wait for sales. Some stores follow seasonal sales cycles, including markdowns on bed linens and electronics in January. If you can wait to buy a product, look for deals during those cycles. Winter coats will go on sale before spring, and summer clothing gets discounted around August. Turkeys are inexpensive around the holidays, and specially wrapped or themed candy will head to the discount aisle when the holiday is over.
Buy store brands. A store brand costs the store less money because there are no advertising or marketing costs. They can sell the product to you for less and still make money. A caveat: some say that store brand products don’t perform as well as name brand products, so your mileage may vary. Others insist that the quality is high. Do some product testing with your own family and find out how you can save on store brands without sacrificing flavor or fun.
DIY. Take on DIY projects around the home. YouTube is filled with how-to videos that can help you fix a leaky faucet, build a birdhouse, or put on weatherstripping.
Accept hand-me-downs from family and friends. Don’t be shy about asking for clothing their kids have outgrown – they rarely wear out clothing because they grow so fast. You can save money and keep that still-great clothing out of the landfill. Parents love sharing clothes, books, and toys, and it is a wise, money-saving practice.
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