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Pinching Pennies: Five Tips For the Money Savvy Family

The increasing cost of living is making it more difficult for families to save money than ever before. Fortunately, there are many ways families today can live frugally. Here are five tips to cut monthly expenses and live within your means.

Tip 1: Buy it Used

Woman with Packages-ID-100228653The modern advertising machine has trained us to prefer new brand name items. However, if you can resist their brainwashing you can get good quality used items for a fraction of the price. According to Edmunds (the car people) a typical car can lose 9% of its value just driving it off the lot and 19% in the first year. So buying a 1 year old car can save you almost 20% off the new car price or about $5,700 on a $30,000 car. If you wait another year that $30,000 car might only cost you $20,000. And after four years, you can get it for half price. With typical cars lasting 150 -200,000 miles there is still a lot of life left in a 2 or 3 year old car.  See: The Real Toll Car Depreciation Takes On Your Net Worth for more information.

Books, electronics, furniture and clothing are some examples of the other things you can buy used. You can usually find good used items at thrift stores and yard sales. Sometimes you might even be able to find designer clothes there. You can also check out books from the library instead of buying new.

When you and your family members want to do something outside the home, you should look for free activities. Most communities have activities for free on weekends or you might all enjoy a picnic at the park or a day at the beach together. Instead of going to first run movies, you can rent online or go to the “dollar theater”. Many colleges and High Schools put on very good plays and musical events at very reasonable prices. And by watching Living Social and/or Groupon you can often find “half-price” or even better deals on local entertainment.

Tip 2: Reduce Energy Usage

Electricity is one of the largest household bills. There are several ways you can conserve energy and cut your electricity bill. Encourage your family members to cut off appliances when they are not using them. You may also want to consider purchasing a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats have helped many families save over $180 year. Take advantage of cool breezes in the summer by opening windows but beware of  the heat gain by the sun. Reduce solar heat gain by closing curtains on the side facing the sun. In the winter, do the opposite by trying to maximize solar heat gain by opening curtains facing the sun and closing ones that are losing heat.

In really hot weather it can help to lightly mist your heat-pump and/or roof to aid in evaporative cooling… as long as you aren’t in a drought area of course.

Tip 3: Doctor Visits

Try to cut back on doctor and dental visits. One simple way to save a bundle on your doctor and dental bills is to go to a University that teaches these skills… the care is still excellent but the cost is significantly less. See: Affordable Dentistry: How I Saved Thousands. You can always go for a yearly checkup and for whatever may be covered in your insurance, but don’t go in for every little hangnail. Often places like “Patient First” and Emergency Rooms cost significantly more than a regular doctor’s visit.

As the old saying goes, “A stitch in time saves nine”  in the same way prevention will save you a lot in healthcare costs. Try to fight diseases by taking vitamins and eating healthy foods. Have everyone exercise often and brush and floss daily. Preventative care will save you hundreds in visits over the year. If you wear glasses, shop around, don’t buy glasses immediately where you get your eyes examined. Dr. Durante recommends that you get your prescription and then shop around both locally and on line. For instance if you live in Florida you might  try a center like Cohen’s Fashion Optical that can still give you designer frames but at a lower cost.

Tip 4: Trim Your Food Costs

There are a number of things families can do to save money on food. Buying groceries in bulk can help, and it is much cheaper to cook things from scratch instead of buying pre-packaged meals. For instance you can get a whole bag of dry beans for the price of a single can of beans. But the bag will make many times more. Similarly, you can buy enough meat to feed for an entire family for the cost of a couple of frozen dinners with miniscule meat portions. Enough homemade soup can be made with the left over bones and meat scraps and a few vegetables to feed a family while canned soup prices have gone through the roof. Plus if you eat at home instead of at restaurants you can save hundreds of dollars per month in addition to eating healthier (which will also reduce Doctor bills in the long run).

Tip 5: Cut down on Driving

A family of four can very easily spend over $10,000 per year on transportation. Fortunately, people can save money on transportation by carpooling a few times a week. If you have buses and trains in your areas, then you may also want to take advantage of the public transportation.

You will be surprised to find out how much money you can potentially save by making a few adjustments in your family’s lifestyle. Cutting down your energy usage, purchasing used items, and getting cheap entertainment can help you save money. You can also carpool or use public transportation to save money on transportation. Eating at home, buying in bulk and cooking from scratch will also help save money on food.


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About Tim McMahon

Work by editor and author, Tim McMahon, has been featured in Bloomberg, CBS News, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Forbes, Washington Post, Drudge Report, The Atlantic, Business Insider, American Thinker, Lew Rockwell, Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, Oakland Press, Free Republic, Education World, Realty Trac, Reason, Coin News, and Council for Economic Education. Connect with Tim on Google+