It’s hard for a mom to save money. Money can disappear with kids in the house as fast as snowflakes disappear in the South. Trust me, I get it. As a matter of fact, TIME magazine recently claimed that raising a child now in the US now costs more than $200,000. By the way, that does not include college. The biggest portion of that expense actually goes to food. So, how do we make however much we have go further?
There are plenty of blogs out there about this topic, but for those of us who can’t permanently give up disposable diapers or eating out, here are some tips, courtesy of this well trained “cheapie.” Better yet, these tips are specific to Columbia, SC where the median annual household income is just over $50k.
1. Consignment and Sales for Clothes
If you haven’t already discovered, Columbia has a great buffet of consignment stores. I constantly get compliments on how well my child is dressed, and most it is new/nearly new from consignment. For little ones who change sizes so quickly, it was just fun to bring home a massive bag of clothes for $40 instead of just two outfits. You can be thrifty without hitting thrift stores.
Not only does Columbia have furniture and high-end clothing consignment, they even have multiple kids specific consignment shops with everything from strollers to toys to shoes (Once Upon a Child). And Columbia has a huge Tot Trade children’s consignment event annually. When you think about it, how often do kids outgrow stuff? Pretty quickly. Plus, kid books for $1 – why not? 2nd and Charles is a huge second hand bookstore (with more than books) owned by Barnes and Noble. Also, if you’re a die-hard department store chain fan, these places regularly have amazing deals on clearance; think $100 bathing suits at the end of summer for $20. Columbia also has the discount stores like TJ Maxx, Ross, Marshalls, etc. to get literally the same things for less.
2. Consider Investing in Memberships
We currently have memberships to Sam’s Club, The Little Gym, Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens, and SC State Parks. Sam’s Club is great for baby food, diapers, massive amounts of coconut oil, etc. I’ve definitely saved the value of yearly basic membership already. Gyms and community centers like YMCA and the JCC can be great for a family if you use it and are about the cost of cable. Riverbanks has so much to do, it never gets old. It quickly pays for itself and comes with guest passes and extra discounts.
SC State Parks gets you full access to all the parks all year long, including free access to their splash pads to keep cool! For people who are handicapped, it’s under $20. There are museum, theaters, EdVenture memberships and more around Columbia. If you would use it enough, this can be a great deal for entertainment.
3. Explore Grocery Options
Whether it’s pick up, delivery, meal ingredient delivery, reward cards that include cheaper gas (like Bi-Lo and Sam’s Club), Aldi (which, by the way isn’t only cheaper but more organic and greener than Whole Foods) or one of our farmer’s markets, you have loads of options in a pretty small area, so there’s no reason to overpay. Some home brands are even more delicious than the popular one. Also, a little planning at the beginning of the week, leaving room for a cheat day or extra option, is a great way to get a hand on what you’re spending on food. Lots of moms qualify for WIC and don’t know it!
4. Follow Columbia SC Moms Blog
There is always something going on, and experiences are priceless. Every single week, this blog lets you know what is happening that is free or low cost for kids – including festivals and plays. Plus, some places, like EdVenture, The Art Museum, Riverbanks Zoo, SC State Fair and the South Carolina Museum all have $1 or free days!
5. Maybe Don’t Buy in Bulk
You might want to take a few minutes to do the math next time think you’re getting a deal. About half of the massive items aren’t actually cheaper. Also, did you realize some things go to waste when you buy too much? Or ever notice how you might just go through toilet paper faster when there’s loads of it?
A lot of studies out there suggest you may be getting ripped off buying too much in bulk. After all, if they weren’t making a profit, why would they do it? If bulk is one of your big expenses, look at what you really need and if you can get a smaller amount cheaper. Sorry but the same can go for coupons too. Okay you got 500 bags of chips for 70 cents, but if you didn’t need 500 you didn’t save $1000, you spent 70 cents, plus the trip.
6. Don’t Over-Do Vacation
I don’t know when it became ‘the thing’ to spend a week at Disney inside the park and dining at all their restaurants – that sounds long, hot, crowded, miserable, exhausting, and expensive. Did you realize there are hotels right outside Disney with pools, shuttles, and breakfast that are clean and affordable? Likewise, stores outside Disney sell the same Disney items for less. Plus, there are a million restaurants outside the park with reasonably priced food that is amazing. My first time at Disney we did one park and started early. We missed heat and crowds, and came back for fireworks after we were refreshed.
Don’t have room in your budget for a trip like Disney or a long weekend? Consider making a park/state park bucket list, hiking bucket list, or a South Carolina festival and fair bucket list. There are lots and need not cost much if anything.
7. Give to Get
Look at giving something up you don’t use to get something you want. We don’t like cable. We hooked our TV (or a roku) and now have full access to Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, and Youtube on the TV for less than half what basic cable costs. I also have much more control over what comes on the screen. In exchange, that money goes to family day trips which are much more fun for us. Renting the latest games from Red Box instead of buying them might save just enough for lessons. Want to spend the afternoon in a cool movie without the expense? Give up seeing it as soon as it’s out and hit up St. Andrews Spotlight Cinemas where tickets are just $3. Yep, $3. Want something? Look at what you can afford to let go. Which brings me to…
8. Dabbling in Minimalism
Be honest: we could all probably reduce what we buy, reuse and recycle a lot of what we have instead of buying more. Spending money on games and toys that outlive their purpose quickly is wasteful. Even for special occasions, do they need to open more gifts than they can even play? How many clothes do you need and what can you donate? Having fewer things makes cleaning, moving, and more easier. You can look at how much something costs compared to how much time it is used to make smarter choices: outside toys and activity books are usually cheap, lasting entertainment. Don’t know where to start? Here are nine easy ways to jump start your minimalism journey.
9. Use Your Library (and other Columbia freebies) for Entertainment
Did you know you can borrow movies, video games, and other technologies I don’t even understand at your library for free? They also have free classes involving Legos, books, yoga, games and more. Want to get your kid involved in some extras activities while you get a second on a computer or to read a new page turner? Um, it’s free and it’s cool inside. Utilize your Parks and Recreation/Schools/Places of Worship.
10. Check your Bills and Credit.
You are probably over-paying somewhere. Taking a day to call your credit card company to make sure you have the lowest interest rate you can get, what your cell phone package includes, internet options, if you’re using too much water or electricity and how to decrease them. If you got just three bills lowered by $15 that’s another $45 for you to spend per month.
Consider looking carefully at what spend on your car and home. Even in Columbia I pay less for a bigger house and yard in my new neighborhood than my old one, and I still can’t figure out why. Most people have spent more fixing a used car than buying a cheap new one.
Also, checking your credit once annually is FREE. It’s good to keep up with things you might not know are marks against you, and watch your credit build over time when you charge your regular bills to a card and pay off the full balance of that card each month. Take it from someone who went from no credit to really good credit: when your credit score goes up, you pay less for everything. Track your spending. Little purchases such as gum and convenience store drinks add up fast!