The following is a guest post from Molly, one of my readers. I am always excited to learn how my readers are saving money and living on less.
This post is for those of us who are in awe of Toni, but realize that grinding our own flour is not going to happen in our houses, at least any time soon. If she is skiing the black diamond slopes, I am still snow-plowing on the bunny trails.
I have two children (2 ½ and 8 months) and a wonderful husband, who is a cop and works long and unpredictable hours. He is also finishing up his college degree, so I run the show pretty much single-handed a lot of the time. Like everyone, I need to find a way to do things cheaply, easily, or both. Here are some of the things that work for me.
I buy my diapers (Pampers) online, either Amazon or Diapers.com, both of which have been mentioned on the HH a few times. Prices are comparable, and both have free shipping, but diapers.com takes coupons! Just mail them in and they’ll be credited to your account. The only way I’ve ever found Pampers cheaper was at BJ’s with a coupon, but the membership fee and the driving mitigate the savings, I think.
If it works for you, nursing is cheaper and in some ways easier than formula feeding. No judgments, just throwing it out there.
Having said that…I needed to wean my son recently, and so have been looking for deals on formula. I prefer Enfamil, and our local grocery store sells an identical generic version at almost half the price. Also, I find good deals on sealed cans of Enfamil powder on ebay; even including the shipping, it is still cheaper. And you don’t have to do the crazy mommy sprint through the grocery store with the kids. That’s worth something right there.
Baby food doesn’t have to be “baby food.” E.g., no-sugar-added blueberry applesauce seems pretty much the same to me as the jarred baby blueberry applesauce, and it’s cheaper.
This is obvious, but tell your friends that you’d appreciate any hand-me-downs, no matter how worn. People have different levels of what they think is appropriate for others. You may not mind a small stain on a shirt for your very stain-prone 8 month old, for instance. Also, be generous to others; it’s good for the environment to reuse things, and I have found that I receive in the measure that I give. The bread that you cast upon the water, folks.
Many of the cleaning products that are advertised as “necessary” aren’t. I had a cleaning business, so I speak with at least a little authority when I tell you, you can dust your house with a barely damp rag and it will work. You don’t need Endust or Pledge. Obviously if something is really sticky or dirty, water alone won’t work, but you get my drift. And, do you really need to disinfect a toilet bowl, when it will be, ahem, infected again as soon as someone uses it? Clean it frequently and thoroughly with a squirt of soap or a good shake of baking soda, (don’t forget to wipe the base!) and the odors will be gone.
I set a goal to decrease our monthly utility bills by $10 a month. One time it was as easy as calling up our trash collector and asking for a lower rate. Their response? “Um…okay!” Those monthly expenses are a perpetual fixed cost, so if every month you can chip away at it, it really yields rewards. If you start in January, and for the next 4 months are able to find an expense to reduce by $10, and you keep the expenses down through the whole year, by December you’ll have saved nearly $500.
Trash-picking can be really rewarding if you can do it at the right time or place. For example, my parents used to live at the beach. At the end of every summer, all of the people who had rented houses packed up and left, often putting out perfectly good bicycles or lamps or chairs at the curb, because they didn’t want to take them home. This also happens in college towns, at the end of the semester.
Likewise, the yard sales and thrift stores in affluent areas can be wonderful. There is a very high rent district near me, and when I shop at the thrift store there I’ve found J. Crew blouses with the tags still on them for $5, Banana Republic pants for $1, and Lands End sweaters for $7. Yard sales in ritzy neighborhoods can be wonderful, too.
Restaurant.com has gift certificates, $10 for a $25 cert. But at the end of the month, they go on an 80% or 70% sale (register for their coupon code or use Retail Me Not). That can be as cheap as $2 for a $25. Some restrictions, but still a good deal.
Your local Agricultural Extension office has wonderful classes on everything from gardening to composting, and sometimes they give you stuff for free. I got a free compost bin for attending a (very interesting) class on composting.
Between Hulu, Blockbuster and your local library’s DVD collection, you might be able to turn off cable. Even if you only leave for a month or so, they’ll be so desperate to lure you back they’ll often offer you a good deal.
If you are interested in writing a guest post for The Happy Housewife while I am adjusting to life with seven kids, send me an email at thehappyhousewife (at) comcast (dot) net.
For more frugal tips visit FishMama for Frugal Fridays.