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This one time, on Main Street in Ellicott City, I found a twenty dollar bill. I know it doesn't sound that impressive now, what with the price of gas and everything, but I think this was back when gas was still 99 cents a gallon, so it was a huge deal. It was a very lucky day indeed. If I could schedule moments like that, I wouldn't need to be more creative with our budget.
As it is, it turns out that my husband's deployment will be over in the somewhat near future, so there will be a need for adjustments to our budget. I have been looking for ways to "find" money. Here are some ways to squeeze extra money out of the family budget.
3) Get rid of cable or satellite TV. Use your internet connection instead. Netflix is an affordable option that allows you to receive TV and movies through devices like your Wii, Xbox or PC. Most people have heard about this. Hulu is another site that allows you to watch TV on your PC and it is free unless you sign up for Hulu plus which offers more choices and is a modest monthly fee similar to Netflix. To watch Hulu on your TV from your computer, you will need a VGA, RCA or HDMI cable. There are many good sites that offer information on how to do this and how to know what kind of connection you need. Just don't do what I did last night and purchase a $45 HDMI cable. They are to be had cheaper and it is going back to the store.
2) Become a cell phone only family. All inclusive, no contract family plans are becoming cheaper. If you still have a wall phone, ask yourself how often you use it or who really calls you on it anymore. If you find you don't really use it, why are you paying a phone company a high monthly fee? If you have a need for a wall phone you can always go through your internet connection as well with companies like Vonage. Another option which is really cheap is the Magic Jack plus which allows you to use your internet connection to make calls on your home phone. Your computer does not even have to be on or in the home at all to use it. You can keep your phone number. There is the cost of the product, about $70 and a yearly fee $30.00, still much cheaper than a phone company. And then there is skype, which is free and allows you to make calls from PC to PC or PC to phone.
3) Get your flex healthcare account claims in. You may have forgotten to use your flex healthcare plan's debit card for all of your out of pocket expenses last year. It is too late to use your card or spend any more money from your plan, but there is still time to send in claims from last year for expenses that were overlooked. You usually have a few months to do that so go through your receipts and send your claims in.
4) Use up gift cards you may have forgotten about from Christmas or birthdays for a dinner out, new spring clothes for your child or yourself and forms of entertainment. I often forget about gift cards and find them later in a drawer. Most do not have expiration dates anymore but if you don't use them for a few years, your money may be frozen. Did you know that, in most cases, you can just call the number on the card to get your funds unfrozen and be able to use the card? I did this recently.
5) Look through your basement or attic junk and see what you can list on ebay or Craig's list. Go through your child's clothes, toys and equipment and consign them with a good local consignment shop. I made $70 on a few baby things last Fall and almost $200 at another huge consignment sale in our area. Make some money and clear out your home.
6) Pack a lunch more often for yourself and/or your child. It is amazing I did not turn into a cheese and mayonnaise sandwich or PB & J because that is what I lived off of when I was in school. We didn't have a cafeteria. My child's school, the same one I went to, now offers catered lunches and they are inexpensive but you can still save $10 or so every ordering period by packing a lunch instead and it seems there are more packable options nowadays as well.
7) Cook more from scratch instead of buying convenience foods. This is a hard one for me because I really don't like to cook but a five pound bag of potatoes is $2.99 on sale and a box of spuds or prepared au gratin potatoes is about $1.99 and only contains about 4 servings. Fresh fruits and veggies are also cheaper and can be chopped and frozen for future use. Meal ideas abound online. I find wonderful recipes on other mom blogs. People often look at their local supermarket sale flyer and plan weekly meals according to what's on sale that week.
8) Start planning a garden to supplement your meals thus eliminating or reducing the need to purchase fresh veggies. Buy seeds now and start just after the last frost in your area. Start indoors if you have a small grow light and an area you can set aside, then set out your plants to harden off after the last frost and plant them in your garden. It is so fun to get kids involved in this as a project. You can also freeze your own home grown foods for use in cooler months.
9) Go solar in a small way. You may not have money to convert your house to solar and have panels installed but you might benefit financially from converting an electric hot water heater to solar with a do it yourself kit. It will also qualify for tax credits in most cases. Check out builditsolar.com for do it yourself projects. There are other sites as well. This site suggests contacting a local solar company for kits if you don't want to build your own. Some kits can still be as much as $3500 so this is a project for which you need to have some funds available and be willing to do some research and physical work.
10) Lastly, be aware of purchases of certificates or items you may not be using or changed your mind about. I purchased two SNAP certificates to get my dogs neutered and spayed. Though I spayed my female, I decided not to neuter my male at this time after talking to my vet. You can return unexpired SNAP certificates for a refund minus a small service charge. You can often get refunds on group style coupons like Social Living within the first 5 days of purchase if you change your mind or find you will not be able to use the coupon. Don't let things sit around unused when it could be needed money in your pocket.
Are you good at squeezing money out of a budget? I'd love to hear more suggestions.
photo credit: modcloth.com