This summer I’m headed to Nova Scotia with my three girls, age 6, 3 and 21 months. A seven hour plane ride, two hour car rides, and five weeks mostly with the three kids. Yikes!
I’ve read all the articles about how to keep them entertained, but what I’m more worried about is keeping our unnecessary spending to a minimum. Eating on the road, buying toys to keep them entertained, overpaying for activities – I don’t want any sticker shock when we return to reality and the credit card bill comes.
I’m fraught with indecision over what to buy for the birthday child when my daughters are invited to a birthday party.
Case in point. This week Justin Bieber t-shirts are just $5 at Wal-Mart. Since all of my eldest daughter’s friends are 'Bieberheads', I considered picking up a few of them for the next few parties. After all, I've always kept a gift closet with a few emergency gift items stashed away.
I really struggle with birthday parties for my kids. The expense, who to invite, whether to allow presents or not – I find it stressful. So when my eldest’s sixth birthday approached, I gave her the choice of having three friends to accompany her to a movie, with birthday cake at our house after, or a backyard party, again with just three friends of her choosing.
As a busy mom, I’m frequently tempted to take advantage of the pre-packaged and single-serving lunch and snack options at the grocery store. As a frugal mama, I thought I might be able to shave a few dollars off our grocery bill by switching to litter-less lunches, even though I’d have to carve out a few extra minutes a day to prepare the food.
Being self-employed, I don’t have a dental plan. My husband’s company has a very basic plan, so when everyone in our family needed routine cleanings, I started searching for the least expensive clinic I could find. That’s when I stumbled upon dental hygiene clinics.
I’m not a fan of spring cleaning my house. I hate washing windows, touching up paint, sorting through clothing and finding the sun hats I bought on clearance last August. However, I love spring cleaning our financials!
Each year around this time I review our spending in key household categories such as entertainment, groceries and utilities. I decide where a little trimming is in order, and where more regular attention is needed.
Here are some spring cleaning ideas for your household this month:
In my last blog post I outlined my attempt to figure out extreme couponing. Armed with a binder full of coupons from about eight hours of searching and trading, I was ready to try shopping. I had the most different coupons for Pampers diapers and wipes, so I spent an hour one Friday morning looking through all the flyers for the lowest price on those specific products, with an eye out for other items I might have coupons for. I found the best price on Pampers from Wal-Mart, and prepared to drive 30 minutes to the nearest London Drugs.
In the past, I’ve used coupons mainly for eating out, not groceries. The coupons I’d found for food were usually for higher end brand name items we wouldn’t normally buy. However, after watching Extreme Couponing on TLC, I was inspired to figure out how I could make couponing work for me.
Turns out it’s really, really difficult to get $600 worth of groceries for $2.64 (yup, one featured coupon cutter did just that!). In some areas of the U.S., stores have double coupon days, and apparently no limits on the number of coupons that can be redeemed at one time.
I’ve been a huge fan of meal planning ever since my husband and I were on the television show Fixing Dinner. We have all of host Sandi Richard’s cookbooks, including her latest, Eating Forward, and plan our meals one to three weeks in advance.
Do you have friends with much more disposable income than you? I have a few. It doesn’t usually bother me too much to see their Facebook status updates about the Turks & Caicos trip they just booked, or to decline their invite to an all day Michael Kors shopping spree. Ok, well maybe I get a teensy bit jealous!
Last summer I started seeing online touting 50 – 90% off great stuff in my city – restaurants, manicures, event tickets, etc. I started paying them more attention once friends started sharing on Facebook the deals they had bought.
I’m headed to New Zealand in April (by myself, for two weeks – bliss!), so over the next few weeks I’ll be madly cleaning, organizing, and catching up on things I’ve been putting off forever. I’ve come to terms with the fact that my house will be destroyed when I return, but I’d like it to be a minor disaster as opposed to a complete write off.
My daughter is turning six soon. We’ve been paying her an allowance and she’s been saving it in little jars, but I’m pretty sure she’s been just shuffling the money around whenever the mood arises. She really hasn’t understood the concept until the past few months, when she switched from watching Treehouse to Family, and now sees a lot more commercials. Now she has a little list of items she wants to buy, and has figured out that the one or two items she gets for her birthday and Christmas won’t cover her wants. So she is trying to understand how her allowance will get her those items.
My middle daughter turns three on Thursday. I was planning on having a small party for her with a few select friends, but had to postpone it for work. Then I started thinking, do I really need to have it at all?
There’s this project called the 100 Thing Challenge that has everyone abuzz, which I first read about in this Time magazine article called How to live with just 100 things.
In 2008, Dave Bruno set out to blog about his challenge to himself – to pare his possessions down to 100 things and live with just those 100 things for a year. You can read about his challenge here. His quest has inspired others and it’s been the topic of much discussion, especially amongst those trying to trim their consumerism.
Do you have sacred cows when it comes to spending? Things that you absolutely refuse to put on a budget?
There are no sacred cows when it comes to our budget. Instead, I must justify what I spend on everything, all the time.
We have lofty financial goals that include being completely debt-free with a certain amount in savings by the age of 37. At which point my husband will retire, and we’ll support our family on my income alone. What it takes to reach this goal is sacrificing those things we once held as sacred cows.
In my last post, I mentioned Scholastic book orders as a place where you could trim your budget. It reminded me about a friend who once told me she felt it was important not to limit spending on books, because they were so important to a child’s well being and education.
Any idea how much you spent eating out last year? How much did you pay in interest on debt? What about your spending on cosmetics, kids clothing, or books?
Should you know these numbers? Probably, but not necessarily.
If your household income covers all of your expenses, without any debt other than a mortgage, and you maximize your RRSP, RESP and TFSA contribution room, then you don’t necessarily need to track your spending.
I admit it. I love money. I love making it, talking about it, investing it, and yes, spending it. I think spending money is actually my favourite thing to do, next to writing about it. And write about it I do. I write financial guides. My first was a financial guide for college and university students called Sink or Swim: Get Your Degree Without Drowning in Debt. It took me seven years to write the next one, as three children and a business absorbed my attention. Money Smart Mom: Financially Fit Parenting hit the shelves in 2010.