Saturday, March 24, 2012

Stretching Those Dollars

Times are tough right now and prices are going up, up, up.  Yet, incomes are staying the same or even going down.  It's hard to make those dollars stretch and I'm afraid it's going to get even tougher.  I know I've talked about saving money on food alot but I've found ways to save money in other areas as well.

Here are some areas to stretch your dollars:

$ Stay home or combine trips!  

Obviously if gas prices keep going up, it is going to be difficult to stop up that leak unless you are willing to drive less or combine your trips.   If you work, try carpooling.  If you work fairly close to home, walk or ride a bike (exercise and save money).  If you have to go grocery shopping or run errands, try combining that chore with other tasks that are in close proximity.  Get rid of that giant gas guzzler and buy an economy car!

$ Change the way you give gifts.  

Dan & I really had to make changes through the years on this one.  At Christmas, instead of giving individual gifts to every person on both sides of our family, we give one family gift.  I try to come up with some theme and then the gift centers around that.  Some examples: Movie night basket (microwave popcorn, a DVD, a large popcorn bowl), For the baker (homemade apron, measuring spoons, cookbook), Sports fanatic (subscription to a magazine).  It requires thinking ahead and finding the best deals on things so that you are not paying top dollar.

$ Extras (magazines, books, movies)

I always laugh when people complain about money but still have money for all the extras.  Once in a great while I will buy a magazine but for the most part I do without or I'll go to the library.  I don't generally purchase books but check them out at our local library.  Same goes for movies.  I'll wait until a good movie comes out on DVD and then I'll get it from the public library.  This is a hole that absolutely can be plugged up.


$ Family Outings

We've really tried to be frugal in this area because we really don't have discretionary income.  Instead of going to shows and things like that which will cost us at least $100, we'll find free museums or places of interest that only cost a few dollars. 

When the kids were younger, we took out a pass to the Bronx Zoo.  I think it cost us about $65 for the year and it included 5 free parking passes, as well as free admission for our family to the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, Central Park Zoo, and two other smaller zoos in New York City.  It was a great deal!  We then would pack a lunch when we went because I wasn't about to spend $4 on a hot dog!

Other than Nathan, we all like to hike so we'll do things like that which cost nothing and are good for you!  When we travel, we try to pack a lunch rather than stop at a restaurant.  Now that all 3 children are considered adults we can't get away with spending $20 on lunch anymore.  Packing a lunch and snacks saves big time!

$ Celebrations

Even when we had more money, I never spent a lot on birthday parties and things like that.  My kids have never had a party in Chuckee Cheese or a party place.  To me it seemed silly because then you just have to outdo yourself each year and the child just expects more and more.  We do celebrate our child's birth and big events but have always done it frugally. 

The birthday person gets to pick whatever meal they want.  This is their opportunity to be as exotic as they want!  I will spend extra dollars on the food.  Generally though, we eat at home.  I'd rather spend more money to pick up a specialty food and make it myself than spend 3 times more for it in a restaurant! 

We make a big deal about their special day.  They can invite who they want.  We have streamers, special meals, gifts.  We just try to set a limit.  The funny thing is that all three children say the same thing every year, "This was the best birthday ever!"

This is not an exhaustive list but it is a few ways that you can make your dollars stretch.  After doing it long enough it starts to be fun to see how much you can get for your dollar.