Wednesday, April 13, 2011

9 Things I Love: Frugal Favorites

In the spirit of The Dollar Diet, I thought it may be relevant to do a post about my nine favorite frugal-friendly things right now. Being limited by our budget freeze has added a few things to this list that may have otherwise been left out. And if you're looking for this week's giveaway, click here.

So without further ado, here we go:

1) Southern Savers: This web site is an absolute must for any budget-conscious family and more than deserves the top spot on this list.I've mentioned this site a time or two and it's worth mentioning it over and over again. Jenny, the lady who created and runs it all, is a money saving genius. Each day she scans various grocery store, drug store, internet and group deal advertisements for the best deals. Then, she pairs what she can with available manufacturer coupons. Since January, at Harris Teeter alone, I've saved somewhere in the neighborhood of $1500 on my groceries. That's not an exaggeration, it may even be a a low estimate. Her site is easy to use, clearly laid out and makes saving money a breeze.

2) Meal Planning: This time last year, I didn't know what I would be eating for lunch, let alone dinner for the rest of the week. We were living by the kindness and grace of our family and friends who took turns dropping off meals to our house while Beatrice Kate was in the hospital. Now that she's home, and we have a good family-time routine, having a weekly meal plan is a must. It helps take out a little of the guess work each night when Casey comes home from work and says, "I'm starving, what should we have for dinner?". Previously, my answer would have been, "I dunno. How about cereal or a can of black beans?", because I couldn't imagine planning an entire week's worth of food. But since I've been doing this now for a few months, I can attest to the value of a meal plan. It saves time; both at home (see previous comment) and at the store, because I'm only going once a week to get everything we need in one trip! It also saves a lot of money. I don't know about you, but when we go to the store multiple times a week, we end up buying for convenience, often times purchasing whatever the first thing we find and spending unnecessary money. When you have a meal plan, you have a grocery store game plan built right in, and can pair your plan with the week's sales and save bookoos. My favorite web site for meal planning is Org Junkie, who hosts a link-up each Monday where you can share you meal plan and visit about 300 other blogs for theirs!

3) Cloth diapering: I know, I know. Here I go again talking about how much I love cloth diapering. But this time I love it because of how much money it saves us. If you don't have kids, then you probably don't know this, but disposable diapers are EXPENSIVE. And, kids tend to use A LOT of them. I saw one statistic that quoted the average cost of putting a baby in disposable diapers at around $3500. Holy cow. That's a lot of money. I got all of Beatrice Kate's diapers for a quarter each. Yep, every diaper she'll need for around $22 dollars. Here's the fine print on this: I got her diapers at a "service pre-loved" sale from a local diaper service company. Yes, they're used. But so are diaper service diapers. And, yes, they're clean. The expensive part comes in the form of diaper covers, which come in at around $14 each. We have eight. Still, $134 is a lot less than $3500. A lot less. I think most people get caught up on the up-front cost of cloth diapering without seeing the long-term cost benefits. That's a shame because it's not only good for the environment, it's good for your wallet in the end.

4) Cloth Wipes: I haven't talked much about these yet on the blog because I think it deserves a post all to it's own, but for this purpose... it makes the list. If you're already doing cloth diapers, I strongly encourage you to consider using cloth wipes. It's SO EASY and (similar to diapers) once you get over the initial buy-in for the wipes, you'll start making back the money in savings. We use the Gro-Via cloth wipes, which I bought on Amazon for $10.95 for a 12-pack. We have around 36 wipes and that is more than enough. It truthfully couldn't be more simple to use cloth wipes. All I do is spritz them a little with some homemade wipe solution (post about this later I promise!), wipe down The Tiny's tushie, and throw the used wipe in my diaper wet bag. Then, each time I wash diapers (every 2 days), I wash wipes! As far as cost savings go, assuming you only use 2 disposable wipes per diaper change (and really, who only uses 2?) over the lifetime of use, you'll spend around $450 per child. I've spent $30 for all the wipes she'll ever need!

5) Amazon Mom: Yes, I'm an Amazon addict. I'll fully admit that. But, that doesn't stop me from shamelessly promoting it's benefits to you! If you're a mom, dad or some other form of caregiver, you can sign-up for Amazon Mom and get a month's worth of free two-day shipping through Amazon Prime. Normally, you would have to pay for Amazon Prime, but they offer it free for moms and with every $25 in baby or kid's stuff that you purchase, your free shipping benefits are extended by a month. So if you're like me, and are an addict order things online anyway, you're basically getting free shipping on stuff you would have bought regardless. See, free savings! Click here to sign-up for the completely free service from Amazon but I warn you... it can become habit forming.

6) City and State Parks: We're very fortunate to live in a city that has a hundred different free, outdoor play areas nearby. From Umstead State Park, where you can hike for miles, ride horses or just picnic, to Kids Together Playground in Cary, Wake County really has something for everyone for FREE! Now that Beatrice Kate is officially out of playgroup quarantine, we've been able to fully enjoy the local parks. So far our favorites have been: the Airport Observation Park (I know it sounds crazy, but it's really fun and gives the kids something to stare at), Shelley Lake where we like to walk/run and swing and quickly becoming one of our all-time favorites: The NC Art Museum Outdoor Park. It's got several walking and hiking trails, weird outdoor art and a lot of shady (and not shady) spots for picnics or playgroups. Beatrice Kate loves this park, especially. The best part of all three of these spots is that they're free to play at!

7) Free indoor attractions: When Casey and I first talked about doing The Dollar Diet, we both thought that free+indoor= mall walkers. It does not. As we learned last weekend, there are several indoor free attractions close by to our house. The NC Museum of Natural Science is just one of these options. There is also a NC History Museum (which I refuse to go into with my husband again because he's extra SLLLLOOOWWW inside) and the NC Art Museum. If you're into people watching, check-out the flea market at the NC State Fairgrounds on Saturday mornings- there's not a larger collection of interesting people in the state I'm sure. Then there's always the library, which Wake County does really well. And if all else fails, then strap on your shoes and Walkman and pull up your white tube socks and head over to the local malls for some indoor walking.

8) The Sunday Paper: As in, each Sunday, I get a copy of our local newspaper and scour it for relevant coupons. A lot of super couponers I know get like 4 papers each week. I tame it down a bit and only get one. But from this one, I get roughly 70% of my coupons. Maybe I'm a complete dork (yea, actually, I am a complete dork) but I really look forward to going through the paper after church on Sundays clipping coupons. (The part that I hate is when I have to file them away) The paper is $2 on Sundays and on average I would say that I get at least $50 in savings each week. That's worth the cost of a paper to me. Oh, and I really like the wordsearches. It's the little things.

9) Consignment Sales: I'm not a newbie to the world of consignment sales; but since becoming a parent, it's no longer a "hobby"; it's a necessity. Baby clothes are expensive. More specifically, baby shoes are expensive. As in, $30 for a pair of them. To me, that's just crazy. I can't justify spending $30 on a pair of shoes that Bea will wear three times before she grows out of them unless they're really awesome and sparkly. So, what little clothing I actually buy for her (she's been handed down 90% of her wardrobe from other generous parents) I get on consignment. This area has two or three major consignment sales every half-year; with another 1-2 every month. For less than $50 you can walk out with a few really nice out outfits and some otherwise expensive toys (I got an exersaucer for $15 last year!). It's really the best place to buy clothes and toys for everyday wear and tear. That way, when they dump strawberry smoothie down the front of a cute dress )or poop all over themselves), you're only out $4 instead of $20.

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