Thursday, February 19, 2015

Saving Money - Part Two {Guest Post!!}

         I'm very excited to introduce you to my pal, Stephanie Ramsey.  (I call her "Ramsey" for obvious reasons.)  She is an amazing wife, loving mother to three boys (15, 12, and 9), and super talented nurse - not to mention a great friend!  She is wise in many areas, and since one of her specialties is saving dough I was thrilled when she offered to write a guest post here.  I think you are going to really enjoy reading her advice. 

Here she is with her beautiful family.  Thank you so much, Ramsey!  

 My friend Stephanie has graciously allowed me to share some thoughts on her blog, so today I’d like to share some more practical ideas and tips for spending less and saving more for your family. Costs seem to be creeping up on just about everything these days, and for most families, that means tightening up and paring down. It seems that our family has been in a perpetual state of trimming the fat, and as a result, I’ve picked up some ideas along the way that have worked well for us.

Date Nights and Family Time
          Okay, this is a big one in our house. My husband and I absolutely cherish any time we get alone together, but lack of childcare and concern about expense often take first priority. We’ve gotten creative to make sure that we have this necessary time as a couple, just to talk and recharge. One thing we like to do is set aside a special  “date night”, even if we aren’t leaving the house. We both put the date in our calendars, and after the kids have gone to bed, we’ll pop a bag of microwave popcorn and watch a $1.29 movie from the Redbox. This is a great way to stay in touch, have one on one time with my love, and NOT break the bank.
 We also plan for movie nights with the kids, and even though the routine is the same after all these years, they never tire of a $5 pizza and a free family flick from the library on Friday evenings. Our family also tries to take advantage of fun freebies around town. We’ve participated in lots of kids workshops at Michael’s stores, as well as Home Depot and Lowe’s. A great place to find info for free upcoming events is the weekend section in your local paper.

Restaurant Savings
          Eating out in our family is an occasional treat. With three starving boys, it can get pricey in a hurry. Factor in soft drinks for a family of five, and that’s a huge chunk of my grocery budget spent on a single meal! One way we’ve been able to enjoy a splurge every now and then is to use coupons for dining out and we take advantage of any special offers the restaurants offer. For example, most of our favorite places offer email deals just for signing up, and even free birthday treats and meals. We’ve gotten freebies for an entire birthday month, just for signing up with places like Panera, Texas Roadhouse, Chili’s, and Applebee’s.  I always make sure to also check the website for any savings offers before we head out to dine. Our family recently ate at Chili’s for dinner, and our check totaled $13.80. It was all thanks to a pair of free kids’ meal coupons, a free appetizer text I’d gotten on my phone, and our family’s willingness to skip expensive soft drinks in favor of water.

Grocery Savings
          Here’s the biggie where you will really be able to see tangible savings adding up quickly. The obvious way to save on groceries is coupons. There are great resources for printable coupons, as well as the trusted old standby, the Sunday paper. Try to pair sale items with your coupons, and if possible, a grocery store who doubles coupons, to maximize your savings. I recently had a receipt showing savings of nearly $4,000 in a single year by matching sales with coupons that were doubled. But you’re probably wondering how to save on things that you never really see coupons for, right?  Items like produce, or meat. Well, there are even ways to save on those things too. Aldi is fabulous for purchasing produce. They stock a respectable amount of organic fruits and veggies, but their weekly produce special prices simply can’t be beat. It isn’t often that you can pick up a whole bag of baby carrots for 49 cents, or a 3-pound bag of navel oranges for $1.99! As it gets closer to spring and summer, plan a visit to your local farmer’s market or produce stand to take advantage on excellent prices on in season produce. You’d be surprised at how much higher the quality is, and how much lower the price!

          It’s even possible to save money on your meat purchases, too. One way is to purchase meat in large bulk packs at warehouse clubs. If you have a large family, or a freezer to store items, you can take advantage of some real savings by buying the extra large family packs and dividing them into smaller bags. Meat at my local Sam’s Club or Costco is high quality, and often the price is dollars less per pound than the regular grocery store since the packages are so much larger. You can also find sales on meats that can be processed into a different cut for free by the meat department. I found top sirloin steaks at a great price at Publix recently, and had them ground (for free!) into ground sirloin for hamburgers and meatloaf.  I also like to purchase items like bread, buns and tortillas at the bakery thrift store and freeze them. These are expensive to buy in the grocery store, and a recent purchase for me included 3 loaves of whole wheat bread, 4 packs of tortillas, and 2 12-packs of sesame seed hamburger buns for $8. That’s a steal, folks!

          I’ll leave you with one last idea for saving money. My hubby and I decided a couple of years ago that in addition to the “emergency fund” we’ve managed to sock away in savings, it would be comforting to have a cash “rainy day fund” on hand. I found a great idea on Pinterest for a 52-week savings challenge. We got a small plastic shoe box, printed out the challenge, and taped it on the side. It is a savings plan, where you deposit incrementally, for each week of the year. For example, on week 1, you would deposit $1. Week 2’s deposit would be $2, and so on. The maximum weekly deposit is the last week, when you will deposit $52. At the end of the 52 weeks, you will have saved $1378 cash! We both participated last year, adding in our weekly amounts, as well as any pocket change or random money we found in the dryer.  By November, we had enough to pay almost every penny of a week long family trip to Disney World!


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