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.

The Jury’s Out On Grocery Delivery Service

I had a hot date on Friday night.

With the grocery delivery guy. He came into my kitchen with his ball cap and brown uniform, carrying 15 bags attached by two carabiners. I was boiling over with excitement.

In one fell swoop, the bags landed on my counter at my request and he asked, “Will that be all?”

I handed him a tip and with a “Yes, thank you!” he was heading out the front door and I was digging into my treasure.

This was so cool. After spending just ten minutes online Wednesday night, pouring over a list of my recent in-store shopping purchases (tracked by my store card), I simply entered a quantity next to the “regulars” I brought home every week and clicked through the sales just as quickly. An e-mail alert had arrived earlier in the day to let me know that the delivery ETA was between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

It turned out to be perfect timing, considering we got a late start with dinner after everyone came home from work, school and activities. Knowing that the groceries were being delivered in advance of an otherwise jam-packed weekend was a huge load off my shoulders. The kids were pretty excited too, realizing that they didn’t have to give up an hour toiling through my list and coupons with me on a beautiful sunny day.

And then out of the blue, as if the universe were trying to prove a point to me about how much fun I could have if I just let the mundane tasks of life get less of a grip on me and my “free” time, the neighbors across the street invited us over for drinks, dessert and a movie for the kids.

It was shaping up to be a hopping Friday night!

Even better we could see the delivery truck arrive from the neighbors’ yard, so it delighted me to no end to think that right then and there someone was doing my shopping for me and driving it to my house. Make that directly to my kitchen counter!

I was pretty proud of myself. And I wondered again why it took me so long to get on board with the idea of having groceries delivered.

Even though I’m working full-time and have a busy schedule with the kids’ activities on weekends, I could never quite wrap my head around getting a housecleaner, or farming out any of the other tasks that make the weekend more of a rat race than the workweek.  I’m someone who doesn’t even have pizza delivered, opting instead to call it in and pick it up.

But listening to a few moms on the baseball field speak glowingly of grocery delivery finally convinced me. They placed their orders after the kids went to sleep, giving them time and space to organize and match coupons to sales with no pressure, and then scheduled delivery at 7:30 a.m., just after the kids got on the bus and they headed out to start their day. And the best part: with a $15 off coupon code you can find online, the delivery is free and then some.

Still, I had my doubts.  Would some teenage boy filling my order select ears of corn with as much care as me. Would he check the dates on meat and know exactly when I planned to use it (since my husband doesn’t go for buying meat in bulk and freezing it)?  Was he going to use as much strategy as I do when picking out yogurts for the kids?

Probably not. But I didn’t want to be an old dog any more.

In the end, it was a mixed bag. I was thrilled with the convenience, and for the most part the groceries were delivered with care. There are the two packages of meat which I have to use by Tuesday, because they obviously didn’t dig in the back of the freezer case like I would have to find the latest dates.  Oh, and the bread has a freshness date of Tuesday too. Some of the apples were nicked, but the ears of corn were exquisite.

So delegation can have its pitfalls. As anyone who is the least bit particular knows, asking someone else to help out can be unsettling. First, you have to accept that no one knows your “special way” of ______(fill in the blank). Then you have to take the results and like them, because after all you took the help.

In the end, you have to decide for yourself: convenience vs. perfection.

Because if you want something done just so, I guess the old adage holds true: do it yourself. And I’m still grappling with that one.

Have you ever used a grocery delivery service? How did it work out for you? What other household duties have you outsourced?