Running a large family can be expensive! As mom to 7 children, I have long (and often) considered what money saving ideas are worth my time as I seem to be running short on time, that is, these days. So here are my top 5 money saving ideas that I have used as our once small family has grown bigger.
Consign the Good Stuff
Though I buy a good deal of my family’s clothing used, my first money saving idea is a money maker. Years ago I asked a friend of mine (mom to 10 kids!) whose husband worked for our church diocese, “How do you buy clothes for your family?” She told me that an older friend of hers loves to shop at garages sales and has quite an eye for stylish clothes and great deals. This person will shop the sales and then consign them for a profit–to the tune of 30,000 items per year. My friend just gives this gal a list of her kids’ sizes and her friend brings things over to her house and lets her “shop” occasionally.
Since that conversation, I have made it a point to use my local consignment store to “rent” our clothes. Here’s what I do: I buy name brand newish looking clothing at garage sales, Goodwill, and Salvation Army. At the end of the season of wear, I box up what will be “consignable” and mark the box for what month it should be taken to the consignment shop. (My consignment shop only accepts seasonal items through certain dates.) Often times the shop limits the number of boxes or bins that can be dropped off on a given day, so having these ready to go is a time saver since I might want to go a couple of times per week.
I make it a point about once a month to go cash out my consigners account. The amount can really vary but typically, I’ll get about $25. That can go a long way, the way I shop.
Multi-Task Your Errands
We live out in the country; in the middle of nowhere, I like to say. Though close to an interstate, it is close to nothing else. I don’t have the time to go do errands everyday so I have learned to multi-task my errands. I start with fixed appointments and work from there. For instance, two of my kids take art classes on two separate days of the week. I allow 30 min to get them there and then 15 min for each stop I have to make before dropping them off. Today we dropped off boxes at the consignment shop and stopped at Sally Beauty to use up a coupon that will soon expire on items I always use (more on that below). After dropping off my child, I continued to the library for some uninterrupted (quiet) writing time. After I picked them up, we drove straight home to catch dinner that my husband had made while we were gone.
I am a list-keeper. Many and often. It keeps my brain calm(er) because I’m in a perpetual state of planning. Dinner for 9 doesn’t just happen when you live in the middle of nowhere. Frozen meat for 9 doesn’t defrost in short order. By planning our meals a week at a time, we plan backwards in getting them ready. On the menu tonight is homemade pizza. My husband made the recipe for the dough this morning and pulled the frozen mozzarella cheese out of the freezer to defrost.
At breakfast, I’m thinking dinner and what can make it go more smoothly. Sometimes I even write notes to myself about when to prepare for meals. This week, we’re having Ham and Bean soup and No-Knead bread for dinner. I’ll have a sticky note in my planner the day before to remind me to soak the beans overnight and to mix the dough and put it in the fridge.
Planning ahead is vital in other areas, too. When our kids began Tae Kwon Do, I kept my eye out for sparring gear that they were going to need. New, it was $250 per set. Times three it would cost us $750 just for the equipment. I made it my job to check Craigslist and Goodwill for the next few months. Since our kids have “graduated” out of TKD, I still buy used sets if the price is low (between $25-$50) and resell them on eBay for around $180.
Use the Internet to Learn a Trade
Out of our 7 children, our oldest child has had his hair professionally cut–once. And our oldest daughter has had hers cut a handful of times. Other than that, I have given each and every haircut in our family. Early on, I learned through trial and error and more recently, have turned to You Tube to learn how to give bob cuts for my little girls.
A couple of months ago, one of our showers stopped putting out hot water. After having a plumber come out to fix it, he told me that I would have to order the new cartridge because he couldn’t get the one I needed or he could replace the whole faucet set. I ordered the piece off Amazon and then watched a You Tube video on how to reinstall it (mostly because the water was shut off to that bathroom and I wanted it back in use!). I put it all back together but it wouldn’t work, so I called the plumber back out and he checked my work all over, stumped as to why it wouldn’t work as well. I didn’t realize there were two water shut-offs, one for hot and one for cold. We just needed to turn on the hot one. Lesson learned! The next time the cartridge needs to be replaced, I’ll be all over it.
Only Use Coupons for Non-Food Items
Because we live so far from anywhere, we aren’t able to receive the Sunday newspaper with all the great coupons. But even when we did live in town, I didn’t find them to be worth my time and organizational patience, for food, that is. My favorite is couponmom.com. I am able to get a summary of my favorite store deals with links to printable coupons and ordered by price savings (FREE deals first).
I carry a small cloth zippered envelope in my purse with savings cards and coupons in it. After looking through it this morning I realized that I had a $5 off offer at Sally Beauty Supply (no minimum purchase required) that would expire at the end of January. I only buy my hair coloring supplies there (after watching a you tube video on how to professionally color my hair at home). I was able to get 4 months of hair color supplies for $1.04 just for taking the time to check my envelope and plan 15 minutes of errand time.
And there’s no reason not to be able to use at least a 40% off coupon at craft stores like JoAnns, Hobby Lobby, and Michael’s. You will often see me trying to use several coupons/discount cards in a single transaction. It never hurts to try.