We Are Both Right

Best Of: Money Saving Tips You Can Live With

Thinking outside the box for ways to save money in your family? Try these tips. © Svilen Milev/stock.xchng

So by now we all know that if we’re looking to trim our family budget we should cut out $4 lattes and become devotees of extreme couponing.

But how can you save money when 1. you don’t buy lattes and 2. you don’t quite have the extra 40 hours a week required to hunt down fifteen pallets of Diet Coke? For some cost-saving tips that you can live with, and which might actually make a difference to your family budget, read on:

A Penny Here, A Penny There

  • Think twice about that single portion of chicken cutlet and roasted corn from dinner last night. Before tossing it because it’s not enough to stretch for the next family meal, bring it to work for lunch (and save $5) or dice it up for the baby.
  • While we’re talking food, skip the $4.99 12-pack of snack-sized animal crackers that you usually buy to pack with your child’s lunch and divvy up a regular size box of cookies into sandwich bags for grab-and-go convenience.

Now We’re Making Progress

  • If you’ve already done away with spending $60 at the movies and decided that Netflix was more economical, you can do even better than that. Drop the monthly subscription and check out the free DVDs at your town’s library. Same goes with downloading books for your e-reader — most libraries now offer e-book downloads direct from their web sites. While you’re at it, set up a “book” exchange with your friends and swap books you already paid to download.
  • Say what you will about home hair coloring, but when you can snag a box of quality color (using a coupon of course) for $5, why spend $50 (or more) at a salon? Just keep it simple and stick to your natural color, and it’s really tough to mess up.

Big-Time Savings

  • Want to save a bundle (or at least 10%) on car insurance? Check your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles web site to see if they offer an online safe driver course. The last time I took a course like that (pre-kids), it involved sitting in delirious boredom for six hours in a conference room with strangers. I haven’t been able to justify wasting a Saturday like that again since becoming a mom and I’ve been missing out on some hefty savings because of it. But when I read about the web-based course recently, I discovered that the state where I live gives you the same credit for point reduction and a good driver discount on insurance whether you take the course online or in person. It only costs about $30 and I love that I can log on from home whenever I have time (which for me is after the kids have gone to sleep) and take a few days to complete it. The best part? Next time my policy renews, I will have a little more money to spend having fun with the kids on a Saturday.

Spend to Save

  • Sounds like an oxymoron right? But there are a quite a few websites out there — Ebates and Upromise to name just two — that will give you money back any time you make a purchase. In the case of Ebates you’ll get a “big fat check” every few months; with Upromise, the money is deposited into a savings account or directly into your child’s 529 plan for future educational plans. Over the course of a decade, Amanda has socked away over $4,000 using Upromise, doing nothing more than shopping (through links at the site and with the Upromise MasterCard) — shopping she would have done anyway.

We would love to hear your tips and how you get creative with saving in your family. Join us on Facebook and Twitter as we swap more ideas with readers.