I started teaching elementary school full-time recently, and it was a drastic departure from my former career as a stay-at-home mom/part-time writer/substitute teacher. Plus, my boys are getting older and more involved in outside activities so I find myself stretched very thin. I know busy working moms can identify.
I am working very hard to make sure my budget isn’t stretched too thin, as well. It is an easy trap to fall into when you’re pressed for time. Often, items purchased in a hurry end up costing you more.
To Avoid The Overspending Trap
Plan Ahead • Get a good calendar or your smart phone and pencil in all activities. (Make sure you list everything.) Next, consider how you will feed your family, particularly on jam-packed days. Try not to rely on fast food or take-out every time you have a busy evening. The cost of eating out can add up quickly: At $25-$30 for a family of four, twice a week comes to $200 or more by month’s end.
Cook Ahead • Worried about not having enough time to cook? Consider using a slow cooker appliance such as a Crock Pot®. Go online to find websites that feature tasty and reasonably priced recipes. One of my favorites is Crockadoodledoo.blogspot.com, created by a busy mom who’s also a trial attorney. She offers great recipes for beef, chicken, dessert, side dishes, and appetizers. A little effort in the morning before heading for work will yield a scrumptious meal when you get home in the evening. Another good recipe site is whenthedinnerbellrings.blogspot.com.
Try Meal Planning • Many moms swear by eMeals. For $5 or more a month, you receive meal plans with recipes, directions, and even corresponding grocery lists. You can buy meal plans that are specific to certain stores and nutritional needs such as low carbohydrates or low fat.
Buying pre-made casseroles is another moneysaving idea. It may be a little more expensive than making meals from scratch, but it’s cheaper than taking your family out to eat. Curbside Casseroles in East Memphis (curbsidecasseroles.com) has casseroles from $9-$34, depending on size and type.
Stock Up • Another way to save time and money on food is to stock up on items you use frequently and eliminate special trips to the store for snack foods, cereal drinks, condiments, or pasta. The same goes for household products such as cleaners and toiletries. Watch grocery store flyers and clip coupons to use on sale items. That strategy will double your savings. Warehouse clubs are another good place to buy items in bulk. The website mymemphismommy.com contains current news about store sales and has a coupon database.
When buying bigger ticket items, make sure to comparison shop to find the best deals. Comparison shopping can be time-consuming so turn to the Internet for time-saving help. Some of my favorite sites include pricegrabber.com, bizrate.com, and yahooshopping.com.
During this season, being in a hurry can cause you to overspend. First, remember your child will only be in his or her costume for a couple of hours, so go online to comparison shop for the best deals on costumes and party items. Ask friends if they have gently used costumes or host a “costume swap” at your home. You can find ideas for inexpensive, do-it-yourself costumes at crafts kaboose.com, robinsfyi.com/holidays/halloween/costumes.htm#box and stretcher.com.
Finally, the most effective savings tool is to create a budget every month and plan how you will spend your money. Use your calendar and checking account register to include everything you will need to spend money on during the month. Stick to your budget. It’s the best way to keep from overspending and in my experience, you will find that you have more money to spend than you thought. — Bargain Beth is freelance writer and bargain hunter, Beth Bartholomew.