There's nothing like the thrill of a good deal, but if you're going to get serious about saving money, it's gotta be a part of your daily life. Use these prudent-mom tips -- and get inspired to find cool ways of your own to become a frugalista.
Get the Code
If you're Internet shopping, check for an online coupon or a discount code. Just open another browser window and search for the store's name and the words "coupon code" or "discount," says Jennifer Curtis, of Binghamton, New York. It's a simple way to save.
Lower Your Phone Bill
Connect with faraway family members using an Internet phone service like Skype. It only costs $30 a year for all your calls. Melanie Farrell, of Cary, North Carolina, subscribed to this service so her kids can talk long-distance to their grandparents as often as every day -- without stressing over racking up scary phone bills.
Spend Less on Date Night
So many moms suggested setting up an online babysitting co-op as a huge way to save money. One popular site where you can do that is Babysitterexchange.com. Just log on and start swapping childcare with a simple point system. Or you could do it the old-fashioned way by just trading on and off with your friends.
She Finds It: 20-Cent Diapers
Angie Wynne, of Atlanta, is a mom with a purpose: She single-mindedly tracks all the latest deals on diapers, formula, and other baby necessities and posts the finds on her Web site, Babycheapskate.com. One minute on her site can save you hours of shopping around -- and lots of cash!
Test-Drive New Music
Like many moms, Libby DeMateo, of San Francisco, lost track of the latest music around the 50th playing of The Wiggles. So she thinks the free music site Pandora.com totally rocks. Just enter the name of a song or an artist and Pandora will stream similar tunes. You can listen to hours of great songs for free. Then you can get your newfound faves on iTunes without fear of buyer's remorse.
Love to read? Christina Rigby, of Pleasant Grove, Utah, gets her books through Paperbackswap.com. Mailing them costs about $1.59 when she prints out the site's mailing labels. She says she's saved close to $200 over the last six months.
Invent a Closet
Megan Willisen, of Lawrence, Kansas, turned an unused bookshelf into a closet for baby clothes by taking out a shelf and adding a tension rod. Repurposing your stuff just takes a little ingenuity. Before you buy something new, give your old and unused things the once-over. Oh, the things a little paint and stickers can do.
Tricia Smith, of Calumet, Michigan, and her husband use an old-fashioned push-blade mower to cut their lawn. Called a "reel mower," it cost $90 -- versus a couple hundred for a motorized version. It doesn't use gas, and it's great exercise!
Save for Summer
All those outings can get really expensive. Wendy DePury, from Pensacola, Florida, offsets the cost by collecting cans from parks and community centers. "The money we get for trading them in goes toward a trip to Chuck E. Cheese's, a day at the aquarium, or a trip to the zoo." Bonus points: The kids get to learn some financial responsibility and appreciate the activities because they "worked" for their fun.
If your kids have their own bedrooms, save on heating costs by having them be roomies for the winter. Barbara Oursler, from Huntingtown, Maryland, has her twin boys move in together and seals off one of the rooms because her house is so expensive to heat. Obviously, not all kids will appreciate being kicked out of their space on a seasonal basis, but there may be other drafty rooms that you can make off-limits during the cold months. Just make sure all the rooms you do use are totally weatherproofed.
Go Car-Less (Bikes Welcome)
Designate a "no driving day." Kristi Baack, of Portland, Oregon, and her kid do this once a week. Not only does Baack save the cost of a tank of gas per month, she's also doing her part to cut down on carbon emissions -- and helping her family stay active.
Make Toys from Trash
Wait! Don't throw out those huge Styrofoam inserts that came in the box with your new electronics purchase. Get creative! Asha Dornfest, of Portland, Oregon, and her 4-year-old daughter created a castle out of the packing material. What a great way to repurpose one of the most earth-unfriendly substances around.
Start Your Clock
Crystal Hamlin's 8-year-old had a habit of taking long showers. To lower her gas bill, Hamlin, of Helena, Montana, began setting a time limit by programming her cell phone to ring after 10 minutes. (For fun, it plays a different ring tone each time.) As a result, their gas bill dropped $50 per month.
Why throw away stuff if someone else wants it? At this site, your trash is somebody's treasure and vice versa. And it's all for free!
Hey, City Folks!
Share a car instead of owning one. Go to carsharing.net for more info.
Copyright © 2007. Reprinted with permission from the July 2007 issue of Parents magazine.