Consumer savings expert Candice Cerro has the answers for parents looking for ways to ease stress in the one way they can—through wise budgeting and careful financial planning, tips for which she shares here.
I make no bones about the fact that having a family is expensive. But knowing where and how to cut family spending is a great way to yield significant savings. The Consumer Price Index reports that prices have risen 1.8 percent through 2013; combine that with a National Retail Federation survey that says families of school-aged children will spend $635 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics this year, and you’ll see parents scrambling every which way to give their wallets some relief. What’s a family to do? Try these top five ways to help bring down your family costs and keep your finances in check.
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1. Re-assess your spending.
If you don’t know where your money is going, you’re probably spending too much. A simple way to reduce unnecessary expenses is to write down everything you buy. This includes small purchases that you don’t even take account of—the occasional snack, your afternoon coffee or parking tolls. Impulse buyers can find clarity in what they spend on and, at the very least, question each time they splurge on routine purchases.
2. Shop strategically.
The Internet is full of coupon sites that offer discounts at retailers spanning every shopping category. Before you consider spending, go to sites like PromotionalCodes.com to see if there’s a price reduction, free shipping or special offers at your preferred store. There is also the option of becoming savvy with sales cycles. Usually end-of-season sales yield the cheapest merchandise. For example, by September retailers desperately want to get rid of swimsuits.
3. Go green in the household.
With energy costs reaching record highs, it’s essential to look for practical ways to save in any way you can. There are simple methods to cut utility bills without even noticing a difference in your living space. Setting your water heater down to 120 degrees from the industry standard 140 degrees can cut heating costs by up to 10 percent. You should also consider switching to compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) as opposed to traditional incandescent bulbs, as CFLs typically last six times longer and use 80 percent less power. There are other useful ways to save, such as shutting the blinds when you’re not home, habitually turning off lights when you leave, or closing closet doors to decrease the area of your home in order to optimize energy efficiency.
4. Drive economically.
Automotive expenses account for one eighth of the average family’s budget. Gas is a big concern these days, but there are ways to curb paying upwards of $4 a gallon. Mobile apps such as GasBuddy and websites like gasprices.mapquest.com can show you the lowest gas prices within your immediate area. When gas was rationed during World War II a popular slogan was, “Is this trip really worth it?” You should always assess whether getting in your car is really necessary. When it comes to car insurance, making sure your credit rating is healthy could mean 20 percent less on your monthly premiums, as insurers generally use your credit rating in their evaluation process.
5. Don’t let food gobble up your budget.
The only difference between a $4 bag of pasta and a $2 bag of pasta is the $2. According to the Department of Agriculture, feeding a family of four can run from $146 to $285 a month, which only includes preparing meals and snacks at home. People are generally skeptical about skimping on their food expenses due to the belief that it’ll lead to an unhealthy diet, but that’s false. A healthy, frugal diet plan is four-fold: shop sales, buy in-season produce, purchase store brands, and buy canned and frozen vegetables when they’re on sale. Buying store brands instead of national brands can save you up to 30 percent. Also, consider picking up the Sunday paper. Newspaper coupons still account for 80 percent of grocery coupons used.
Candice Cerro is a consumer savings expert who has shared advice on KTLA, KCAL 9 Los Angeles, Great Day St. Louis, Daytime, Let’s Talk Live, FOX Houston, FOX Chicago and more. With a Master’s Degree in Strategic Public Relations from USC, Candice not only shares her knowledge on television, but also in PromotionalCodes.com press releases, the Boardwalk Savers blog, in her personal blog and more. She’s passionate about never paying full price for anything and wants to help as many people as possible achieve the same goal. When she’s not helping people find the best deals online, she can found running in half-marathons, spending time with her family and furry dog-children, and reading.