"Ouch," at the gas pump this morning! Every day the price is creeping up and driving up other costs as well. I’m sure that I’m not the only one whose grocery bill more than doubles its usual amount for the same purchases. I get it. Everyone is feeling the pinch and has to make up for it somehow, but it’s really putting families in a bind — worst of all, in an already difficult economic time. My kids even asked for an increase in their allowance! When it seems as if a dollar can’t stretch as far as it used to, there are ways families can cut back and really make a difference on the wallet.
Do you really need it? Sometimes this means going back to the basics. We all learn early on the difference between a want and a need. When things are more financially comfortable, we tend to splurge on items that we may not otherwise indulge. When contemplating a new purchase, be honest and ask yourself if it is a true need or if it something that you can get by without. This also equates to getting rid of things you have, such as cutting out premium cable channels, DVRs, and home phones (if you have a cell phone).
You may be surprised how many things you can live without. One of the luxuries that I’ve given up is my daily latte at Starbucks. At over $4 a cup I’ve invested in making good coffee at home. Now I’ll treat myself every two weeks versus everyday. This saves me more than $80 a month!
What can you do yourself? Cut out the gym membership and go for a daily walk. Investing in used weights and work out videos is far less expensive than a monthly membership. Color your hair yourself and stretch out hair cuts, give up the lawn service and mow your own grass. Also consider getting rid of the pool guy and treating the pool with store-purchased chemicals. All these services and perks add up and can save quite a bit.
Coupons equal money! I was flipping through channels this weekend and came across a new show called "Extreme Couponing." One family received $600 worth of groceries for under $10 total. OK, that’s a bit drastic, but I’ve decided I’m going to invest one to two hours a week in cutting coupons. This save me at least $30 to $40 a week. Consider buying generic brands over leading labels, and look for buy-one, get-one free deals or other in-store promotions. Shopping later in the evening can also mean big discounts. Meats are often lowered in price by a third to half after 8 p.m.
Used Vs. New. You can find great quality clothing, furniture and other items at thrift stores and garage sales. Mix it up. Jeans always fit better worn in. Buy a new shirt, but pair it with gently worn jeans. Purchase previously-owned belts and accessories to get more bang for your buck. When it comes to clothing, stick to basics and classics versus trends. Also consider buying separates over coordinates. You can mix and match and create more versatile outfits.
Need a new dresser? Many times you can find great pieces at estate sales, garage sales and donation centers. A fresh coat of paint or stain can bring an older piece to life and add interest in your home. Another option is Craigslist or eBay.
Bigger Compromises. Can your family go down to a one car family? If not consider working out a carpool with co-workers or other parents to take your kids to school. Make meals at home and freeze leftovers, even if it’s just one serving. Going through a drive-thru for a family of four can easily cost $25 to $30. You can make a homemade meal for under $12 and have enough for lunch the next day. Rent movies instead of going to the big screen. Go to your local Redbox or self service rental machines available in most grocery stores. (Dunedin has two Redbox locations: and .) You can rent about eight movies for the cost of just one movie ticket at the theater.
Following just a few of these tips can keep money in your wallet.
Also, Dunedin Patch features five money-saving deals a week in its Frugal Family column. Check back each Wednesday to see what we've uncovered, or since we're all in this together, feel free to share deals you've found.