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What are some money saving ideas for families on a budget?

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Families right now are experiencing the highest inflation rate our country has seen in nearly 40 years. Food prices, gasoline costs, living expenses and more are on the rise, largely owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, labor shortages and delays at ports, among other things. With the annual inflation rate for the United States nearing 8 percent, many families are taking a hard look at their individual financial situations and making plans to save more and spend less over the coming year. But inflation or not, it’s always smart to consider ways you can save on family expenses. Here are ten money-saving ideas for families looking to improve their financial situation this year:

1. Build a Family Budget. The first step to increasing financial stability is establishing a budget. A budget is a plan for all incoming money and outgoing expenses over a period of given time, like a week or month. Begin by scheduling a time to sit down with the other adults in your household and build a baseline of expenses. Then you can figure out ways to reduce expenses, if need be, and make plans to allocate what portion of incoming money goes to expenses, savings and debt repayment, or other things you want for your family. An important part of building a family budget is keeping communication open and ongoing and being flexible about making changes when necessary.  

2. Cut Down on Food Costs. One of the largest expenses for most families, beyond housing, is their weekly or monthly grocery bill. One of the biggest ways families can cut down on food costs is by planning their week’s meals and snacks in advance and sticking strictly to their lists while shopping. Try to include grocery sale items in your meal planning when you can and utilize coupons to their fullest extent. Clipping coupons in 2022 isn’t the same experience it was twenty years ago—a variety of phone apps and grocery store programs make it much faster, simpler, and easier to save than in years past. 

3. Reduce Energy Usage at Home. Teaching our family members to reduce energy usage at home—and on the road—is not only environmentally friendly, but the cost savings also really add up over time. Easy things like remembering to turn off the water while brushing your teeth, switching off lights when we leave a room, turning off TVs that no one is watching, and keeping thermostat temps moderate are all smart energy-saving habits. And when it comes to transportation and rising gas prices, consider a carpool where possible. 

4. Give Thrifting a Try. Purchasing secondhand children’s clothing and shoes is a no-brainer when it comes to saving money. Considering how quickly children grow and just how expensive new clothing and shoes can be, it’s a much smarter investment to purchase items from a children’s consignment shop, yard sale, thrift store or even off Facebook or another eCommerce website. The same is true for sports and other extracurricular equipment members of your family may need. 

5. Minimize Subscription Services. We live in an era of subscription services. From television and music streaming to food delivery, many of the things we enjoy tend to come at a monthly subscription price. While some may be necessities for your family, look at every subscription you are paying for monthly. Make sure there is a true need for it before continuing any service, or even go ahead and cancel a few to see if you really miss having them—you may not! 

6. Keep Birthdays and Other Celebrations Simple. Birthday parties and special occasions can come with a daunting price tag, and families with multiple children may feel that financial pressure every few months. A lot of party decor can be scouted secondhand, or families can invest in decorations that can be used for multiple occasions. Avoid the pressure of an expensive birthday party and meet at a community playground with pizza and cupcakes instead. At the end of the day, any birthday or special occasion with family should be focused on the memories made together, not how much money was spent on the day. 

7. Seek Out Free Family Entertainment. Families in search of a fun night out can save a lot of money just by keeping tabs on free entertainment options within their community. For example, a family of four can save considerably by skipping dinner and a trip to the movie theater in lieu of a picnic and free movie screening in the park. If you’re not sure where to find free entertainment options in your community, the local library is a great place to locate resources and serves as a perfect spot for an afternoon of free educational entertainment. 

8. Join a Local ‘Buy Nothing’ Facebook Group. For parents and caregivers who are active on Facebook, seek out your community’s 'Buy Nothing' Facebook group. Many areas already have an established network of volunteers/neighbors participating who post items they want to get rid of, free of charge. Group members can also post about items they may need or currently looking for. Take advantage of the local gift economy and then pay it forward when you find you’re no longer in need of an item in your home. 

9. Plan for the Holidays. We know the holidays are coming every year, so why not plan for them? By factoring in holiday spending into our budget throughout the year, instead of saving all spending until the last minute, we’re more likely to be intentional about our gift purchases. Having a dedicated budget set aside for gifts also means we’ll likely avoid the January stress of paying back Christmas credit card debt. 

10. Opt for Family ‘Staycations.’ Americans mastered the art of the family ’staycation’ throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though travel restrictions in many places are lifted, a ‘staycation’ remains a great option for any family on a budget but wanting to get away. Let your children slumber party in the playroom or pack up and go camping at your local state park or campground. The savings in airfare and amusement park tickets will be big, and the amount of fun your kids have will be the same. 

Lastly, a family budget isn’t just for parents and caregivers. Don’t forget to include your children in productive, positive discussions about finances and money. The sooner a child absorbs the basics of spending and saving, the more likely they are to make smarter financial decisions as they grow. For more information on family budget planning and resources for managing things like credit card debt, check out www.mymoney.govwww.usa.gov/debt, and www.familycredit.org.  


By ABC Quality Team on September 6, 2022