Thursday, July 17, 2008

Money Saving Tips I've Learned




Here's a small list of things I've learned over the past 10 years to save, stretch and otherwise keep your money.



1. Breastfeeding

I can't stress this point enough. Not only is Mommy's Milk superior in nutrition to formula, it's free, ready to use, and already at the perfect temperature. :o) 

Yes, nursing moms require a bit more calories/food each day, but not enough to dent your food budget. You need more fluids than anything, and water--again--is cheap or free.

I was able to tandem nurse both Ethan and Abby for a year. (I was a bit lop-sided up at the top, but I had a toddler and an infant. What'd ya expect?)


2. Cloth diapers

This simple act alone was a HUGE budget reliever for us back when we had two under the age of 18 months.

Allow me to set the story; Our son, Ethan was a LARGE baby who, when he was only 10 months old, graduated to a size 6 in Huggies. (For those of you who don't know, size 6 is as big as baby diapers get, and are made to fit older toddlers!) There was nothing larger, with the exception of Depends...but they were too big. (Go figure)

Then of course, there was newborn Abby. Enough said.

Enter cloth diapers!!! I could wash, dry and re-use those suckers over 'n over without them growing out of, or wearing them out, for a few years. Perfect!

Admittedly, the initial cost seems a bit pricey at first, but you don't have to have dozens of diapers and 50 ultra-cute covers to start with. In fact, we got away with buying something like:

2 dozen Chinese pre-folds, 6 Bummi's Wraps (3 for each baby), and 2 Fuzzi-Bunz (pocket diapers for overnight) to start.

Then we gradually added more as our budget allowed, including a Bummi's drawstring, waterproof bag to keep the dirties in. (And really, after saving $50+ in our first month, it didn't take long to see the beauty of this system.)

Yes, there is a smell-factor to contend with. I freely admit that. But it's not that big of a deal. And for someone like me--who's REALLY picky about the way things smell and sensitive to odor--that's saying something! Learn to hold your breath, dump 'em into the washing machine quick, slam the lid and you're done!


3. Homemade baby wipes

I know, I know...used cloth diapers and still used disposable wipes. The horror. But really, this took place before the switch over to cloth. And I did use old washcloths as wipes w/ the cloth diapers, and threw everything into the washing machine.

But back to the wipes!

I received a homemade "kit" during Abby's baby shower. This dear, sweet older lady put the following together in a cute little package:

1 roll of Job Squad paper towels (the ones that feel more like cloth than stiff paper) cut in half
1 plastic, air tight container (like Tupperware) decorated with cute stickers
1 recipe card for the wipe "solution". (Very simple, but I can't remember it now)

There are dozens of wipe "recipes" out there on the Web if you're interested. I basically just used a bit of baby wash mixed with warm water. Soapy, fresh, clean and CHEAP!


4. Hand-Me-Downs and Thrift Shops

Before I state the obvious, allow me to say that it took a long time before I was able to willingly "shop" at a thrift store. I felt it was demeaning somehow. That arrogant idea stemmed from my growing up poor (and prideful), and telling myself that I'd NEVER buy my children's clothes from a second-hand shop---ever!

Well. My tune changed when I had three children, and I had friends who routinely found great looking clothes, at amazing prices, for their broods at the thrift stores.

A word of caution: Be sure to check seams for rips, zippers for function, buttons (missing? loose?) and pockets for holes. Also check for stains. If possible, try on the items before you leave the store. Some things can be repaired of course, but if that's not your thing (as it's not mine), it's best to check first, rather than be disappointed later.



5. Coupons and Rebates

I'm really starting to LOVE coupons. (Crazy, I know.) But after walking out of Albertson's last week paying $20 for $40 worth of food--I was hooked!

You can get coupons from a number of online resources like CoolSavings.com or Coupons.com, and your local newspapers. (Never ever pay for them, however. There's plenty of free ones.) Sunday papers are great, and each paper seems to have a different coupon flyer; either SmartSource or RedPlum.

Now, a coupon's only good if you routinely buy the item the coupon's for, or if the item is already on sale.

For example, my children love Cocoa Puffs. I rarely buy it as it's something like $4.50+ a box. But it was on sale for $1.99 and I had a .75 off coupon. There ya go.

I had to explain this simple rule of thumb to my son the other day while at the grocery store. He eagerly snatched up a coupon for Reddi Whip, and with glee in his eyes and spring in his step he announced, "Mommy! Look! We can buy Reddi Whip!"

I read the coupon he thrusted under my nose for .30 cents off and replied, "No, buddy we can't. Go ahead and put it back."

"But..." he stammered, "I...I...I have a coupon!"

Reddi Whip was not on sale, nor do I even USE this stuff except during Thanksgiving. I wasn't going to buy it simply because it was .30 cents off.

Make sense?

Store rebates are cool things. As I'm just getting started, I'm only getting about $15 back a month from Rite Aid's rebate program. I'm going to be investigating Walgreen's rebates to see how they compare. :o) I've heard they're better, especially when combined with their Register Rewards.


6. Use the Library

Free books. What could be better? Especially for bookworms and homeschoolers?! (And even more so when those two collide.)

My girls and I are voracious readers. We read whatever we can get our hands on, and plow through it quickly. By visiting the library every few weeks, we're able to satisfy our "book cravings", and never have to pay a dime.

And as mentioned above, this works out beautifully for homeschooling. I've heard of families literally homeschooling for free simply by utilizing their local library! (Note to self...ahem)

Science experiments, math, great literature, history, movies, music...all available for the taking. ;o)

7. Paperback Swap.com

If you're like me with plenty of books lying around, this site may be perfect for you. As stated in the post above, I received my first book today and am impressed. Next to the library, this is a great way to get new, free books in exchange for your previously-read ones.

You do have to pay Media Mail shipping to those who request books from you, but you pay nothing to receive a book in return. So it all evens out.



Any tried 'n true tips you'd like to share? Leave them in the comments!

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