a father and son have a movie night at home in a cozy fort


Need to Spend Less? 12 Places Parents Can Look for Savings

Jan 30, 2019

It’s tough when money is tight. You’ve already cut out the daily lattes, and eating out is a once-in-a-while treat. Whether you want to save for a trip or maybe it’s a leaner-than-usual year, sometimes you need some saving inspiration. Here are a bunch of quick tips or idea starters to try to help budgeting for what really matters.

1. Make Your Own ____

Not only is making your own personal care products and household cleaners good for the environment (less packaging, more natural ingredients), it also represents a huge cost savings. And thanks to Pinterest and eco-conscious blogs, recipes abound. You can make your own deodorant, toothpaste, body butter, shampoo, soap, scrubs and so much more — with the added benefit of knowing exactly what ingredients are present. I’ve also had great luck with making my own laundry detergent and surface cleaners, and they were super easy to whip up.

Relevant Reading: My Weekly Routine for Better Financial Health

2. Scrutinize Subscriptions 

My partner and I took an hour last month to review all of the monthly subscriptions that we had accumulated. From cable channels to Wi-Fi to gym memberships, it was staggering — and unnecessary. By paring down to the basics, we saved a ton of money. We cut out TV channels we never watched. I declined Apple Music, because I can listen to music for free. We kept enough Wi-Fi to cover our needs and banked the savings.

3. Use Your Card

OK, we all know that the library is amazing. But here are some other ways to make it work for you. I don’t deprive myself of being part of a monthly book club. I borrow the book, or place the hold as soon as we decide on the title. I renew when I need to, if I need to. Sometimes I avail myself of the e-book options (you can read on your phone if you don’t have an e-reader). And borrowing vs. renting DVDs is way cheaper. Plus, my library has free LEGO build drop-ins, tween clubs, movie afternoons and so much more!

4. Sell Your Clothes

I’m pretty ruthless when it comes to clothes – if I don’t wear it, love it, or if it doesn’t fit, I see if I can sell it on consignment. And really, the store does all the work and they get rather good money for popular brands. I also feel better knowing that someone is actually getting some use out of the article of clothing, preventing it from ending up in a landfill. As an added bonus, the buyer gets the brand names they want but maybe can’t afford, and this supports the thrifting/re-using economy.

5. Try Minimalism 

Sister tip to the consignment store is going minimalist. I moved three times in one year and that taught me that stuff can really bog you down. I don’t need a closet stuffed with clothes. I’d rather have some well-made, favourite pieces and wash them often to keep them fresh (nothing worse than stale-smelling clothes hauled out from the back of the closet). We really don’t need ten pairs of jeans, 30 pairs of shoes or 20 hoodies. When you get tired of something, sell or donate it. If you want a new piece of clothing, remove one from your wardrobe. It’s freeing. 

6. Don't Waste Any Food

I hate throwing out perfectly good food and contributing to food waste. We make our leftovers work for us — they serve as lunches or dinners the next day, or get transformed into a tasty stir-fried concoction. If I have a lot of veggies and/or meats that need to be consumed promptly, I’ll turn them into a quiche or frittata. With enough cheese and eggs, anything can be new and delicious again.

Relevant Reading: 3 Money Mistakes I Made As a New Parent

7. You Can Return Things

When purchases don’t work out for me, I take the time to return them. This includes the not-cheap face cream I bought and then had an allergic reaction to. The new pair of pants that didn’t fit. The essential oils that leaked half of their contents during the shipping process. Quite often customer service departments will surprise you with their willingness to help. Don’t waste your money because you can’t be bothered contacting a store or going to the post office.

8. Heat the Person, Not the House

It’s much more efficient to heat each body, rather than jack up the heat in the house. Layers, blankets and hot cups of tea work wonders. Also, pyjamas make for great base layers!

9. Use Cards That Benefit You

I’m not fabulous with coupons, but I have three cards that work great for me. Find a loyalty points program or three that work for you, based on where you shop, like grocery stores and gas stations. Points can be redeemed for purchases at the stores I frequent – and since I'm already spending money, it’s a quick way to lessen my expenditures.

I also have a cash back credit card with no annual fee. No, it doesn’t result in thousands of dollars back — but it’s better than nothing. And it’s cash, which I can always use, unlike travel miles, which I may never get the chance to spend.

10. Skip the Movie Theatre

From time to time we go out to the movies with the kids’ cousins and that’s a nice treat. But generally we opt for a more fun, comfortable, and cheaper experience by watching movies at home. Break out the sundae bar with an array of delicious toppings, get wrapped up in a favourite blanket and watch the movie from home. Added bonus: pausing for bathroom breaks.

Relevant Reading: How We Plan on Raising a Money-Smart Child

11. Get a Part-time Job

I’m fortunate in that my part-time job — as a yoga teacher — is scalable. When I need to make some more money, I sub more classes. Last spring my daughter needed a bike, so I held a specialty workshop to pay for it. I can offer trainings and private lessons to supplement my income, and scale back when life is hectic. While yoga training isn’t always cheap, there are some karma trainings that offer it for free or pay-what-you-can. Other scalable work includes graphic design, writing and other artistic endeavours.

12. Energy Exchange

I don’t pay for fitness. I hike, and I also receive free yoga classes at the studios where I teach. Most yoga studios offer karma classes that are pay-what-you-can. Or you can sign up for an energy exchange program, which means working the desk, cleaning the studio or even offering writing or graphic design services in exchange for a full membership (and sometimes even a discount on retail items). Not only is this often fun, it’s a great deal for all involved.

I hope you find some ideas here that are easy to implement so that saving and budgeting doesn’t always feel like such a slog. Whether you're saving for a trip, paying down debt or looking for the freedom to work less, keep your eyes on the prize. 

Article Author Janice Quirt
Janice Quirt

Read more from Janice here.

Janice Quirt is a writer who moved from the big city to Orangeville in 2014 and never looked back, claiming a need to take the scenic route through life. Her blended family includes five kids, a wildly overgrown garden and a whole lot of coffee. Janice cherishes creative writing as a treat, right up there with overstuffed tacos, '80s mixed tapes and walks on beaches scattered with dunes. 

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