When times get lean, I have a few tips for us all to follow:
1. Take advantage of the 99 Cents Store or the Dollar Tree. The 99 Cents Store has groceries, toiletries, paper goods, and party supplies. The brands and items change regularly, but I usually find many things on my list there. The Dollar Tree has basic home supplies, party supplies, paper goods, cleaning supplies, and toys. Count the items in your cart, and you know how much you will pay! When my niece and nephew want to go shopping for toys, my family members often make a trip to the Dollar Tree. The kids each get to pick two toys, and everyone is happy.
2. Be aware of the stores you go to out of habit. I naturally head to Target when I need basics for the home, but Target is more expensive than Wal Mart or Big Lots. Yes, Target is prettier and cleaner, but the basic products at Wal Mart or Big Lots are just as good, and half the price!
3. Make coffee at home! Coffee is expensive everywhere, but I go to a low-cost grocery store and get the store brand of coffee for $4.99. This gets me a can of coffee that lasts about 2 weeks. I buy coffee filters, creamer, sugar, and travel paper cups with lids at the 99 Cents Store.
4. Share your food. When I’m making a salad, I use slices of fruits and vegetables. With some lettuce as a base, I can stretch one pear, a few strawberries, two celery stalks, and one red bell pepper across many servings. At a fast food restaurant, buy one drink and share it. At the movies, share any snacks or drinks, rather than buying those for each person.
5. Do inexpensive or free date nights. We go to the $2 movie theater, or to a free concert in the park. Sometimes just going for a walk in a beautiful place is as good as going to a movie.
6. Limit your driving. Gas is one of the biggest expenses in most households right now. I think about our commutes, and I try to estimate how many miles we’ll be driving, and thus how many gallons we will need to get us through the week. If I can get my errands done in one trip at a store close to home, I’m happy.
7. Practice a policy of $1 lunches. I like to get Budget Gourmet frozen entrees, or I drive through a fast food restaurant like Del Taco or Taco Bell, where I can get two tacos or a burrito for less than $1. Leftovers are great, too.
8. Look for printable decorations online before buying them. My husband loved the decorations I made for Valentine’s Day, and I didn’t spend a dime. Try Family Fun, Free Printables, Everything Etsy, or DLTK’s. There are many sites, though, so do a google search!
9. Love your space. We often spend money to go places we love. When times are tough, though, find a place in your home to love, and have a relaxing time. Marco bought a record player at Big Lots a few months ago, and I love to cut flowers out of my back yard for the table, have a cup of tea or glass of wine, and listen to some old records from our collection.
10. Invite people over. Ask them to bring something, and have dinner at your place. This is how we end up with wine in our wine fridge (which was a wedding gift), even though I rarely think to buy any wine.