It's important to save money as a working mom while also making the most of your time. While visiting every store in town to ensure that you are paying the lowest possible price for relatively inexpensive household items may not be feasible with your schedule, there are plenty of other things you can do to stretch the dollars in your budget. The key to success as a frugal working mom lies with finding ways to cut costs that don't lead to additional stress and place unnecessary demands on your limited time.
Building a professional wardrobe on a budget can be challenging, as can keeping up with the clothing needs of your rapidly growing children.
- Rely on consignment shops to find great deals on gently used attire for children and adults.
- Use consignment sites to sell clothing items that you no longer use and cannot pass down to younger family members.
- Visit thrift stores to shop for bargains, particularly expensive items like coats and jackets and novelty items like costumes.
- Build each family member's wardrobe around basic pieces in timeless styles, adding a few trendy items each season to update the look.
- Visit off-price retailers like TJ Maxx and Marshall's at the beginning of each season to find low-price wardrobe update items.
- Choose apparel made from durable, easy-to-care for fabric that does not require dry cleaning.
- Organize a clothing swap to facilitate an easy way of swapping outgrown kids' clothing, as well as accessories and adult attire, with other families.
After a long day of work, the last thing you probably want to do is spend hours in the kitchen preparing a home-cooked meal. However, there are a number of options for budget-friendly home cooked meals that don't require a lot of time.
- Keep your pantry, refrigerator and freezer stocked with a nice selection of ingredients purchased when sales prices are lowest and with coupons so you don't have to go to the supermarket frequently.
- Create a menu plan for each week and shop accordingly. This will keep you from spending time struggling to decide what to prepare for dinner when you get home from work
- Use your slow cooker to prepare tasty, simple meals using supplies you have on hand. See 12 Easy Cheap Crock Pot Recipes for several ideas you can try.
- Hold a family meal preparation day every once in a while, working with your children to assemble tasty freezer-friendly meals. This can be a fun, educational and practical family activity.
- When you cook, prepare enough to make sure you have leftovers that can be used for school and work lunches during the week.
- Let children assemble their own school lunches from leftovers and sandwich supplies you have on hand.
- Designate one evening each week as leftover night. Let each family member choose what he or she wants to eat out of the leftovers that have accumulated throughout the week.
While there are ways to make preparing meals at home fit into your busy lifestyle, there will certainly be times when dining out is the best option. Whether sports practice runs late and you and the kids are too hungry to wait until you get home or if it's just time to enjoy an evening out, there are ways to make restaurant dining affordable.
- Make a list of local restaurants that offer "kids eat free" evenings, organized by day of the week. Use the options to create a short list of options based on what night you want to eat out.
- Purchase fundraising coupon books so you'll have access to a selection of restaurant discount offers any time you need them.
- Purchase discount dining certificates from Restaurant.com. Register for the site and opt-in to emails. You'll periodically receive offers to buy $10 certificates as low as $2.
- Visit the websites of your family's favorite restaurants and register for discount offer programs. You'll typically start getting email newsletters from the restaurants, but you'll also receive coupon and freebie offers by email.
Working out does not have to be expensive and it's important to make sure that you and family find time to exercise on a regular basis. Keeping in shape can help keep energy levels high and possibly even cut medical care costs since, according to the National Institutes of Health, exercise can help keep you healthy. You don't have to join an expensive gym or pay for personal training; there are plenty of frugal exercise options.
- When accompanying your child to sports practice, use the time to workout by walking or running laps around the field. You'll be able to keep an eye on your child while also burning calories.
- Start a lunch-hour exercise group with your co-workers. Consider walking outdoors or at a local mall or, if you can get permission from your boss, do yoga or aerobics with a DVD in a conference room.
- Combine fitness with family bonding by getting in the habit of going for a walk after dinner each evening or first thing in the morning on weekends.
- If you have space available, purchase and set up used fitness equipment for your family to share.
- Incorporate outdoor games into your weekend family activities, which is something that will have both bonding and physical fitness benefits.
Organization and efficiency are the keys to managing household tasks in a cost-effective and efficient manner.
- Keep up with household preventive maintenance. It takes much less time and money to perform most maintenance tasks than it does to pay for repairs once damage results from insufficient maintenance.
- Tie kids' allowance money to performing age-appropriate household chores. Hold them accountable for keeping up with assigned tasks in a timely and effective manner.
- Use checklists to organize and keep track of chores and tasks that need to be performed instead of hiring a housecleaning service. Several free printable lists are available in the Printable To-Do Lists to Get Organized article.
- Trade out services with other busy families. For example, if your neighbor cuts her own grass but does not like to bake and you enjoy baking with your kids, strike a mutually beneficial trade deal.
Modern couponing offers many ways to save beyond clipping coupons from the Sunday newspaper. While newspaper inserts are still a good option for cents-off offers, there are plenty of additional ways to find and receive savings offers.
- Register with deal websites like Living Social and Groupon to find out about special savings opportunities provided by companies in your local area.
- Download The Coupons App to your smartphone or tablet so that you can quickly and easily check for discounts while you are out and about.
- Before going shopping or making an online purchase, take the time to visit a few leading coupon sites like DealTaker and Retail Me Not to find printable and e-coupons.
- Consider taking a couponing class to learn tips and tricks for finding and making the most of coupons. Look for a class in your local area or take an online class from a site like PassionForSavings.com.
- If you have an unlimited text message plan, register with your favorite establishments to receive coupons via text message. For example, if register for text messages offers from Shoe Station, you'll receive 20% off codes regularly.
Many stores offer loyalty programs designed to keep customers coming back time and time again. You can leverage participation in these programs to earn discounts resulting from everyday purchases.
- Several grocery stores offer gas rewards programs, allowing customers to earn cents-off discounts for fuel purchases based on spending levels. Examples include the Winn Dixie Fuel Perks and Giant Gas Rewards programs.
- Drugstores also offer opportunities for customers to accrue points toward savings that can be applied to future purchases. Examples include Walgreens Register Rewards, CVS Extra Care Bucks, and Rite Aid Wellness Rewards.
- Restaurants sometimes offer punch-card or swipe-card loyalty programs that allow customers to earn free items with purchases. The Lenny's Substantial Rewards Card is an example, though local restaurants tend to have these types of programs more often than national chains and franchises. Look for signage in your favorite establishments.
- If your job requires frequent travel, sign up for travel loyalty programs with the airlines and hotels you use. Most companies allow employees to keep their points, so you can accrue points toward family getaways through this aspect of your job.
In addition to being on the lookout for new ways to save money, smart frugal moms also make time management a top priority.
- Plan shopping and errand routes to make the most of the time you are already spending on the road. For example, choose a veterinarian located between your child's school and your office and select a family dentist located between school and home. This will help you save time and fuel.
- Look for service providers with hours conducive to your schedule. More and more medical professionals and home services companies are adding evening and weekend hours to accommodate the needs of busy customers.
- Create a deal-specific email account to use when you register for restaurant offers, electronic deal sites and coupon sites. Doing so will ensure that any special offers you receive are easily accessible while keeping additional clutter out of your work and main personal email accounts.
- Don't let budget-related tasks pile up. Deposit checks as soon as they are received and reconcile your bank statements monthly.
- File receipts and purchase documents as soon as you make purchases so that you don't have to waste time dealing with a mess when you need to return something, find a warranty, or prepare your income tax returns.
Make Saving Money a Family Affair
Although a rowdy toddler is unlikely to be much help in your quest toward frugal living, older children can be taught many of the skills needed to help balance the household budget. Clipping coupons, looking for affordable dinner recipes, hanging laundry out to dry, or marking unwanted items for a garage sale are all tasks that an elementary or junior high school student can complete with very little supervision. As an added bonus, you'll be teaching your child valuable lessons in self-sufficiency and the importance of working together to reach a common goal.