I recently attended a workshop entitled Living with Less is More, put together by mother-daughter duo Fran Cutshall and Amy Tuggle, owners of Stay Organized with Us. At this hour-long session, they packed in a ton of information that can help families embrace living a simpler, less consumer-driven life.
With a new school year, parents are always on the lookout for ways to save money. I consulted with Stay Organized with Us to put together a few tips for living within your family budget.
Meal planning is key to avoiding last-minute trips to the store or eating out too often. Keep a shopping list on the refrigerator and ask family members to add items as you run out. That way, you buy only what you need and cut out impulse buys. Rotating a slate of recipes, leftovers night, crock-pot meals, and freezing entrees are helpful toward getting meals on the table.
If you buy in bulk, go ahead and separate into plastic bags or containers for grab-and-go snacks and lunches. Do your homework though; some foods are a bargain in bulk, others are not. Keep like items together in your pantry, cabinets, and fridge. Check your local Dollar Tree for budget-friendly baskets and bins. You’ll easily know just what you have and not waste spoiled food that gets hidden at the back of the fridge.
Try resale shops (like Once Upon a Child, Summer Kids, Plato’s Closet), consignment sales, and online resale Facebook groups or websites to buy and sell gently used clothing and children’s goods. Consider hosting a clothes-swap party. It’s a fun way to gather with friends and come away with “new” clothes.
Are you a couponer? Keep track of your favorite stores’ sale items. If you don’t need an item or service right away, ask when it might go on sale or watch for a coupon. Try buying second-hand goods. Keep up with loyalty or punch cards for stores you frequent where you can earn free goods or discounts.
There’s a movement afoot by national leaders on the minimalist front toward gaining experiences over material goods. Think of ways for your family to have an experience together instead of making a purchase. How about renting a movie or attending a concert, trying a new restaurant, going for a walk at a nature center, or volunteering at a community event? Check your local paper or online community calendars; many events are free. (See our story Seven Days/Free Ways to Have Fun in Memphis at memphisparent.com).
Let’s face it. Life is busier than ever and there’s a multitude of activities that take up space in our homes and occupy our schedules. Our very best advice is to simplify your lifestyle to a degree that best suits your family. You’ll be so much better in the long run. No purchasing items you really didn’t need, less fuss and cleaning, less maintenance, less to store, and more freedom to enjoy the activities that bring fulfillment to your life. To start simplifying, enlist the whole family and go room by room to determine what items you truly love and use. Repeat after us: declutter and purge. Post what you don’t need on Craigslist and make some extra money. Going forward, try buying less and improvising by borrowing or bartering with friends.
We know emergencies arise, but having a good framework of expenses and a budget keeps you in the know with your finances. Visiting with a financial advisor about your family’s current and future financial goals can help you become wiser about saving and growing your money. Sweet babies taking their first steps may someday need music lessons, braces, and college tuition. So, be prepared!
APPS & WEBSITES WE LIKE
Meal planning and grocery list apps: Out of Milk, Allrecipes
Shopping: Key Ring, Cartwheel (Target), Coupons.com, SavingStar
Entertainment: Redbox, OverDrive (check out ebooks and audiobooks)
Finance: Mint, GoodBudget
For more information on local resources and apps, visit stayorganizedwithus.com or contact Amy Tuggle at 651-0432.