The topic for our Crew Carnival this week is frugality. Now that is a subject I have become more and more well versed in these last several years. Before we started homeschooling, my husband and I both worked. But then, things happened and we decided to make some major changes in how we lived our lives. Now that I stay home with my kids and we are living off of one income we have had to find ways to save money wherever we can. I will be honest, there are times when being frugal is a real challenge for me. I look at the budget and wonder where on earth we can squeeze out a few more dollars. Sometimes I just want to scream and say “I give up” and wonder how those coupon queens on TV do it. For me, making changes on a smaller scale works better, and the savings still add up. These are some ways we practice frugality in our lives.
Homeschooling is one thing that can be done on almost any budget. This past year I spent very little on curriculum and supplies. One thing I love to utilize is my library. We have a great ILL program that lets you request books from all over the county, giving me access to tons of resources. If you have a certain literature based program in mind, instead of spending hundreds on a full program, consider just purchasing the guide and then getting books from the library. Even if you can’t get every single book, you can probably find a substitute, or buy the book used on Amazon.
Next, buy used whenever you can. Search websites like Homeschool Classifieds and the for sale boards on forums like The Well Trained Mind and Homeschool Reviews. Another option I didn’t consider until this year is eBay. I actually found my oldest son’s high school program (MFW) on there for much less! All of the second hand books I have purchased have been in good condition. Gently used, but well taken care of.
Finally, network with homeschoolers in your area to find out if they have any used curriculum you can borrow. One of the ladies in my homeschool group has a son who has graduated and gone to college, and two younger daughters in middle school and 9th grade. She generously lent me math and science books for my 10th grade son this year. Of course, we do all of the work on paper, but that’s not a big deal. I get to use some great curriculum I would not be able to afford for free, and when the school year is over I simply return it!
Frugality in your home really depends on your lifestyle. First you have to decide what is most important for you, and then go from there. For us, we decided that having cable TV was not a priority so we got rid of it several years ago. However, for homeschooling and work purposes, internet access is important. So we pay for high-speed internet (less than $50) each month, and we have a Netflix subscription. Last year my husband bought a HD antenna at Home Depot, so we now also have access to local programming, but that was only a one time cost, so to us, it was worth it.
We do not have a house phone but each of us has a cell phone. With my kids getting older and having more activities (work, church, extracurriculars) its important for me to be able to keep in touch with everyone. My oldest starts driving in a few months, so I also want him to have the phone in case of emergencies. We looked around for the best provider at the best cost, and for us, that was Metro PCS. They offer excellent local service with low cost monthly plans that do not require contracts. So, if one month we are a little short, we shut off the boys phones until we can pay the bill. Then, they just turn them back on.
Buying used at home is another great way to save money if you can do it. I am fortunate to have a husband who is very handy. Seriously, in the 17 years we have been married we have never once paid for a home or car repair. So, we buy used cars, televisions, furniture etc. and he repairs whatever he needs to in order to make it work for us. We shop at thrift stores and garage sales, and keep an eye out for whatever our neighbors might be getting rid of too. You would be amazed at what a coat of paint can do for an older table!!
For clothes, I rely a lot on hand me downs from friends, and for birthdays and holidays I always tell the grandparents that my boys need clothes and shoes. One of my friends organizes a clothing swap twice a year. Basically a bunch of us clean out our closets, then get together at her house. We set up all of our clothes, and everybody goes through and takes what they need or want. Its like a garage sale, but it doesn’t cost any money. This is a great way to add some new looks to your wardrobe and also keep your closets clean!
Okay, I do coupon, but I am not an extreme couponer by any means. I admire what those ladies do, but I do not have the time, energy, or storage for that kind of system. However, I have used some tips from Christi the Coupon Coach to organize my coupons more efficiently. I shop at several different stores to get the best deals too. It takes a little more time, but is worth it.
For our main shopping we go to Publix. If you live in the south the I Heart Publix website is a great resource. The website lists unadvertised deals and links online coupons to their BOGO’s so you can save even more! I find the best way for me to avoid spending too much on impulse buys when I shop is to plan my menu for the week and shop with a list in hand. If I know exactly what I am going to cook, I don’t wander and run the risk of putting random items in my cart! However, I always keep an eye out for staples that might be BOGO like spaghetti sauce, pasta, cereal etc.
I get most of my cleaning supplies and bathroom stuff (shampoo, body wash, toothpaste) at the Dollar Store. They have a ton of cleaning products, even laundry soap, that only cost one dollar! I also buy paper towels and stuff like that there too. For other products like medicine (motrin, tylenol, band-aids) I shop at Dollar General. Their prices are more than a dollar, but still significantly less than other places.
I use a local produce market for my vegetables, and a local butcher for my meat. I feel like I get better quality food, and it costs me a lot less.
Finally, when it comes to family entertainment, we look for cheap or free ways to have fun. We spend a lot of time at the beach and we like to hit the big flea market on the weekends just to look around. We have a lot of family game nights, and when we want to go to the movies, we hit them on a Tuesday morning, because our theater offers $4.00 tickets.
For vacations, I would suggest you look into condo or townhome rentals during the off season wherever you want to go. You would be surprised how many of them are pretty cheap. Google “condo rentals” in the area you want to go, or even look on eBay. We head to North Carolina each summer and stay in a timeshare. The cost for the week is a few hundred dollars, but its well worth it for us. Because we have a full kitchen in our condo, I can cook dinner and we can make sandwiches for lunch and eat cereal for breakfast. This saves us a ton of money, because eating out is really expensive. So, I pack my crock pot and spices and we hit the grocery store when we get up there. Yes, it would be nice to have a week off from cooking, but if it means being able to go on a family trip, I will gladly do it.
Once we are up there, we spend a lot of time hanging out by the pool and the lake. The area we go to is also surrounded by some great National Parks with tons of hiking trails that are all free. My family loves the outdoors, so that kind of stuff is fun for us. We also have family up there that we visit, and we usually pick one activity that we splurge on (like going to Grandfather Mountain or the Linville Caverns). Again, this may not be something you can do, or something that you want to do, but for us, this little trip every year is really special.
This year we may also head to Washington D.C. My cousin is currently stationed there and has a small apartment in Maryland. He said we can stay with him, and again, I can cook, so our main cost will be the gas it takes to get up there. We have been wanting to do this for years, so its very exciting.
I do believe that every now and then it is good to indulge when you can. We have a “change jar” in our house that we all throw change in, and when it gets to a certain amount we do something fun, like go out to dinner or go to the fair when it is in town. Life was meant to be lived, and if you budget a certain amount as “fun money” even if its only $5.00, it adds up. Choose a goal that would be special for you and your family, and get everyone to commit to working for it. This year my boys decided they wanted to go white water rafting when we go on vacation. So everyone in the family has contributed spare change or dollars to the fund all year, and we are all looking forward to going.
Like I said, being frugal is really kind of personal, because all of us are going to have different things we feel are most important. The best thing to do is decide what your family needs most, and trim what you see as unnecessary.
Thanks for stopping by. If you have any great ideas or websites I can check out for more ideas, let me know in the comments. Find out more about frugal living here: (goes live 3/12/14)