Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Frugal Family Ideas

While not a literal bootcamp, here are some ideas that have stretched my family's paycheck a little further. With four kids under eight, we use quite a few money-saving strategies.

  1. Schedule clothing purchases, and purchase everyone's clothes at once.
    • I purchase the kids' clothes at three (3) specific times: back-to-school (late August), Black Friday, and early spring (before Easter). Why these times? Sales!
    • Unless someone is in dire need of a specific item, I buy all of the kids' clothes in a single transaction. Why a single transaction? It reduces shipping charges, and simplifies the returns process - I don't need to weed through a bunch of transactions since I only have three clothing receipts per year!
  2. Never buy an item without checking your inventory.
    • Before I buy the family some clothes, I will look through everyone's dresser and see what they already have, then create a shopping list that includes quantities. For example, Child 1 needs three pairs of pants and one long-sleeve shirt, while Child 2 needs two short-sleeve shirts. If my list just said "pants" or "shirts" I might buy too many!
  3. Cut everyone's hair at home.
    • There are plenty of YouTube videos for how to cut children's or adults' hair. Buy a decent set of tools, breathe, and give it a try. I prefer to cut everyone's hair on a single day about every four to six weeks (which is about 1 to 1.5 inches of hair growth, respectively). Personally, I'd rather just get my tools out and sweep once than spread this chore out over multiple days.
  4. Have a whole house color scheme.
    • I tend to think this makes a home look calmer and more cohesive, and this may free up mental energy by reducing visual stimuli. This will allow you to "borrow" items from one room to another. For example, our throw pillows are equally at home in our bedrooms, living room, and office. At my home, our color scheme is blue, green, and gray, plus neutrals like wood tones. I actually take this one step further and have a whole house vibe. At my home, I'm going for an airy Miami / tropical vibe.
  5. Organize your fridge.
    • If your fridge is disorganized, you will lose track of what you have, leading to spoiled items and double-buying. Consider removing built-in drawers, changing the heights of your fridge's shelves, adding turntables, and adding and labelling clear bins. Make it easy to quickly find and grab what you need.
  6. Keep wish lists.
    • Instead of buying something I want immediately, I add it to my Amazon Wish List. Frequently, I find that if I wait a few days, I no longer want it as badly. Avoid impulse purchases this way. We keep wish lists for the children too which they curate themselves. It really helps make gift-giving and receiving simple.
  7. Consider using Amazon Fresh or Instacart.
    • While grocery delivery services are not a free service, I believe the cost is low relative to the value I derive from it. No longer hauling kids to the store? No more impulse purchases? No more wandering the store desperately looking for that last item? Sign me up!
  8. Stick to a budget.
    • Writing out a budget is the easy part; sticking to a budget is the hard part. But it is so worth it. You'll be intentional and accountable.
  9. Save up for large charges on a monthly basis.
    • For all large transactions, such as car insurance, vehicle registration, or trash service, I budget for them as recurring monthly amounts. For example, if your car insurance is $600 due every 6 months, then set aside $100 every month for car insurance. You'll never be caught off guard when a large bill is due.
  10. Consider the cost per use when buying an item.
    • For me, this is most useful when considering shoes. For example, if a nice pair of leather boots costs $150 and I can wear them twice a week for two years before replacing them, then the cost per wear is about 72 cents because $150 / (2 times worn per week * 52 weeks per yr. * 2 yrs.). To get the cost per wear, divide the purchase price by the number of times you will ultimately wear the item.
  11. Create transactional friction whenever possible.
    • This is why I don't let stores' websites save my payment card information. I want to experience the discomfort of getting up and walking over to my wallet to retrieve my card. This is also why I don't use one-click shopping. Or let Alexa order items for me. Or make a purchase without first entering the transaction into my budget app. The more transactional friction you create, the less likely you are to buy.
  12. Live in a small home.
    • The smaller your home, the lower your utility bills and property taxes will be. You will also be less likely to buy more than you need because you won't have the space to stow extra items. It's more likely that you won't keep item duplicates since no item is ever too far away. I remember a friend showing me her "downstairs baby changing area" and while very practical for her, my own home was small enough that my walk to my baby's room was quite short.
  13. Embrace minimalism.
    • Currently, my two oldest children share a single closet which contains not only their clothes but also some school supplies and pet supplies. Yes, they have a small enough number of clothes that each item gets a lot of wear. But, we're saving a lot of money by buying only what we need.
  14. Only buy for the season you're in.
    • I used to stock up on items for my children to grow into. But you know what? By the time my kids are older, the saved item may be out of season or not to the their taste. Not only that, but I may not be able to find it when the time comes.
  15. Choose a few merchants and only shop there.
    • For clothes the practical reason to do this is because that way all of the colors will go together nicely - you won't have several slightly different shades of red, for example. Other benefits of only shopping at a few places over and over again are: you're familiar with their website or store so you are less likely to stray and make impulse purchases, you're more likely to get the maximum rewards program perks, returns might be easier (less guessing about where you bought something, and more familiarity with their policies), and you have a better idea of their sizing (for wearable items). Said another way, the benefit here is predictability. I would also try this with things like airfare (pick one carrier) and hotels (pick one chain) whenever possible in order to maximize rewards.
  16. Create shared family shopping lists.
    • We have shared lists for groceries, the hardware store, and even quick-cook meals. This reduces the likelihood that unnecessary items are purchased.
  17. Use Pinterest to keep track of what you own (or want to own).
    • I pin product information for items I buy so that I will know things like their dimensions, color, material, etc. This helps me keep an eye on my inventory. And makes it easier for me to tell, without actually bringing a product home, if it will fit in. This also helps me plan for future projects. For example, if I'm planning a birthday party, I might pin several party games, balloons, serving ware, cake recipes and accessories to a dedicated board. Seeing everything together helps me weed out the weakest ideas.
  18. Avoid off-site storage.
    • This one may be controversial, but unless you're staging your home and have a short-term off-site storage solution, I'd avoid using off-site storage. It often winds up costing more than if you just sold the items and bought them again secondhand as needed. Plus, you are more likely to stow items you don't truly need. And, when you do actually need the items, it can be a pain to retrieve them. Not to mention the draconian policies if you don't make your on-time payments in full for the storage space. Sometimes, long-term off-site storage is just delaying the decision to get rid of something.

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