Yes, it’s good to put money into accounts and clip coupons. But what about those of us with no extra money to save? Obviously we cut back on any unnecessary bills, and turn out the lights when we leave the house, but sometimes it takes more than that. Here are some tips from a single mom who knows – life costs money, and so do kids.
With the recent advances in television, there’s really no need to pay the cable and satellite companies. Digital boxes and HD tvs are the way to go these days. With only a couple of hours at the end of the day, who has time to watch all of those shows anyway? Go with cheaper tv stations, and pay the minimal price of unlimited movie viewing on your PC through rental companies instead. You can download any movie you want if you’re bored with local television. Internet companies are all out to get your business, even though they don’t know who you are. Sign up for the cheapest package you can get for six months, then switch to another one, since you’re sure to have new offers. When you’ve switched to the new one for 6 months, the old one will want you back and offer an even better deal! Got internet on your PC? Don’t pay for internet on your phone, and get a wi-fi modem for your netbook or macbook. Free wi-fi abounds everywhere, and you can wait to check your email. Remember when we had to wait till we got home to get phone messages? You can even get free PC protection online, instead of paying $30/month just to be sure you don’t get the trojan virus, which you might never get anyway. You can ditch the extra data fees on an iphone for a cheaper plan, or better yet, a plan with a free phone and a set rate for unlimited calls and messaging. Unless you have relatives overseas, this should be plenty for you, and your next bill won’t unpleasantly surprise you! Don’t give your kids phones until they actually need them – they’ll just make unnecessary phone calls when you need to work and run up the bill. If something happens, the school will call you – I promise.
We eat up all our extra money by entertaining ourselves and our kids, whether it’s a night out to eat or a game purchase. If you must purchase games for the kids, buy them used. The trade in value when they’re tired of it and ready for the next game is next to nothing, and buying games can become as much as a monthly bill! Opt for weekends at the park during the summer months. Many cities put out publications for free events within city limits, like concerts, which will be fun for the whole family. Encourage reading books, or even playing free games online from time to time. The local public pool, if you dare, will only cost you a dollar or so a person, and a simple walk each day will fill your time with conversation and exercise for free. Check in with the local restaurants when you’re ready to dine out – lots of places have a kids eat free night and other discounted features. Look online – there are websites which list all the restaurants and on which night kids can eat free. Pick one night each week or month to eat out, and save money doing it!
Curb School Activities and Purchases
Yes, you want your child to be involved in school, but the local PTA charges you to join and then charges you to participate in the activities. These days the school requires that you buy school shirts, make you pay for field trips, and won’t provide any supplies for your child. Lunches cost more, and they’ve added fast food chains into the mix to make even more money. Some places even charge you if your child needs a bus ride to school. Then they have “donation nights” at restaurants a couple times a month, projects, book orders, and flyers for joining extracurricular activities. If you do everything, you’ll be broke before you even go to work for the next paycheck. Tell your children in advance that they can’t do everything. Get a calender from the school (most are online), and make a list of all the things coming up that month. Pick one or two, or have your child pick, and let them know in advance that this is all you will be paying for each month. If your child is older, encourage them to make their own money for extracurricular events. Let them know that they don’t need to participate in everything, but should choose a favorite area and commit to that. This alone can save you about $50 a month or more.
Thrift Shops and Garage Sales Aren’t Beneath You
Everyone knows that it’s cheaper to buy things used, but most avoid it because of the stigma. However, if you have a growing child, it’s silly to buy a new wardrobe every couple of months. One outfit can cost $100 or more. There are “high-end” thrift shops which sell lots of name brands, and you can save 75% or more on clothing, and buy more items as well. Save big purchases for the summer, and shop garage and estate sales for those items. No one will ever know the difference. Want to shop the real stores now and then? Go to the back of the store or wait for end of season clearances. Get a free email account online and sign up for the email notifications – you’ll get advance notice of sales and tons of coupons.
Pay Cash for Cars
There really is no need to own a new car at all times. Dealerships make a ton of money over and above the actual price they paid at the auction for the vehicle, then charge you document fees and service fees. If you finance it, you pay even more fees for the loan. Beware especially of leased vehicles. On those you often pay motor vehicle tax to title the car in the leasing company’s name, then when you buy the car you pay taxes again on the payoff amount. And by the time you’ve paid off the car, it’s time for a new one. Thus, you’re always making a loan payment, plus you’re paying higher insurance premiums, since you’re required to carry full coverage, and the cost of gas and repairs along the way. Buy your car outright. Dealerships often offer good deals for cash cars, since they want to get them off their lot, and will offer you trade in value for your clunker even if it’s worth almost nothing. And since they’re making money off of you regardless, haggling to bring the cost down actually works. The salesman simply wants his commission. You can carry liability insurance and save for emergency car repairs or accidents. And you’re not making that monthly payment. Income tax or a bit of saving plus your trade in will get you another car in 3-5 years.