*Turn down the thermostat. Do you remember your mother always telling you to put on a sweater when you’d complain that you were chilly? Well, she was onto something: lowering the thermostat a few degrees can lead to big savings on your electric, gas or oil bill. Try to lower it a degree or two every few days until it’s set at 68 degrees during the day and several degrees lower at night. If you are cold, put on a sweater and thick socks!
*Use what you have. In other words, follow Grandma’s adage: use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. Put yourself on a temporary spending freeze, except for basic groceries. This is a great way to save up a moderate sum of money in a relatively short period of time. Do the kids need to bring valentines to school? Help them make some out of old magazines and construction paper. Feel like the dining room table needs a new tablecloth? Use a flat twin-sized sheet instead. Don’t feel like having pasta for dinner and want to hit the local chain instead? Try a different recipe (with ingredients that you already have on hand) and make it fun by serving it on a blanket on the living room floor.
*Hone your skills and do it yourself. No matter what you need done, chances are that you can find a tutorial online to help you figure it out yourself. While this method of money-saving probably won’t work if it has to do with major plumbing or electrical repairs, you can probably handle minor repairs, such as fixing a running toilet, without calling in the (expensive) professionals. Apply this to cutting your kids’ hair, trimming your bushes and other landscaping, and installing a new medicine cabinet.
*Enlist small members of your cost-cutting army. If you ask your five-year-old to help you make sure that the lights are always turned off, she will probably take it very seriously, and will encourage adults and siblings alike to stop their electricity-wasting ways. Ask the kids to help save water by turning off the faucet while brushing their teeth, and by giving them a cheap egg timer to use to limit their showers to the number of minutes you feel is appropriate.
*Make couponing an educational family affair. If you use coupons, little ones can practice their cutting skills by cutting them out, and older children can place them in an alphabetized coupon holder. Pre-teens can help you shop with a calculator to figure out how much money you’ll save, which is a valuable lesson in both mathematics and economics.
Try to take on just one of these habits at a time to avoid feeling too much of a pinch, and encourage your children to take it all in stride by setting a good example of cheerfulness. Also, if they balk, remind them of the goal and let them know that delayed gratification is difficult for adults, too!
What little changes have you made to save money?