How To Live Inexpensively – Alternate Title: How to be a Cheap Parent

10 May

EVERYONE is feeling the budget crunch. I drove by the gas station this morning and it was $3.62. Literally an HOUR LATER I drove by again and it was $3.66. It’s getting crazy! I’ve been talking to a lot of people lately who are freaking out and who don’t know what to do. They have asked me what I do to live a relatively inexpensive, yet enjoyable life (by enjoyable I mean I have technology and running toilets). Here are some of my little tips on how to live inexpensively.

TIP #1: Don’t Always Buy in Bulk

We went to the grocery store today and one thing that always shocks me is people who refuse to by anything if its not in bulk. Yes, bulk can definitely save you tons of money, but it can waste you money as well. Let’s use a watermelon as an example. If you buy a whole watermelon and only eat a half of it, you’re wasting money! Better to buy a half a watermelon in the first place. The same holds true for bags of sugar and things like that – if you’re not going to use all of it and will be wasting some of it, don’t get it in bulk!!

My opinion is that if you have enough leftovers in your fridge to feed your family for a weekend, you’ve got too much. I try my best to only make enough food for the four of us, and to use the few leftovers I have (like a piece of chicken, ect) for Scott’s lunch. You’re not feeding an army! I believe that you should never have more than one or two leftovers in the fridge at any given time. And remember: if you put it in the fridge to save, USE IT!

TIP #2: Avoid the Theaters

Around here it costs at least $7.50 to go to the movie theater. So say you take four people (two adults and two kids), you’re topping $30 before you stop by the snack counter! Instead, rent a DVD or two and turn your living room into your own theater. Throw tons of blankets on the floor or pull out the bed in the couch if you have one. Put as many pillows as you can find in your living room – basically, make it look like a harem. Then get treats you love, like popcorn (which is under $.50 a bag), soda, chocolate (you can even get the chocolates they sell at the theater for much less at the grocery store).

You can even do this with two adults! Instead of going out for a date, stay in! Make it special, though, by getting “forbidden” foods. In our case, we LOVE Tyson Any’tizers, especially the Honey BBQ chicken wings. Dip them in a bit of ranch and they’re delicious (even without the ranch they’re awesome). I bought a HUGE bag today for $9.00, which will feed both Scott and I (along with some garlic breadsticks we had from Toad’s fundraiser) and there will be a few leftover for snacking on tomorrow.

TIP #3: Why Cell?

Do you have a cell phone AND a landline? Why?! There are a few (a very few) situations in which it makes sense to have both, but the majority of the time, people get cell phones when they don’t need one! I remember people I used to work with having conversations exactly like this:

“I know – I’m so damn broke. I had to ask my landlord for an extension, and my car payment is due tomorrow and I don’t have they money for it. It sucks. So, have you seen my new cell?”

If you have no legitimate reason for it, DROP THE CELL. If you can get cell reception at your house, DROP THE LANDLINE. We can’t get cell reception at our house so we still have our landline, but NO CELL…when I’m grocery shopping I don’t need to hear Scott yapping in my ear that he wants this and that for $70 a month!

TIP #4: Give Up Bad Habits

With the price of gas and food and everything else rising, it just makes sense to give up some of your expensive bad habits! Let’s use cigs as an example. Before Scott quit (again) a year ago, he was spending about $15 a week on cigs (about a half a pack a day or so). This adds up to $60 a month, which, in turn, is $720 a year! That $60 a month is a good chunk of change on a grocery bill (I usually spend between $80 and $90 a week at the grocery store). The same holds for Starbucks and things like that – if you can live without it, try to. It makes it that much more special when you buy one for a treat here and there!

There are tons of little things that we do to save money, but I’m not obsessive about it. I try to make sure that we have enough to pay our bills and, like everyone else, I occasinally slip up and spend too much on something, but I try to do the best I can with the everyday things so that I can afford to slip up occasionally, or to take the family out to an amusement park. We cut on some of the smaller things in order to enjoy some of the bigger things.


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