With four fast-growing children and a wife who works part time so she can spend more time caring for our household, we’re always looking for ways to save money. Sure, we could live like paupers and never spend a dime except on beans and rice and the occasional camping ‘trip’ in our backyard we could teach the kids to call ‘family vacation,’ but that’s not how we want to live our life. We enjoy having fun and living well, but we want to do it within our means. If we can do that and still save money in creative ways, so much the better!
Here are some easy ways our family is able to save money and enjoy life at the same time. If you have any to add, please feel free to comment below!
1.) When we eat out, we do it where kids eat free
We love cooking & eating at home, but occasionally it’s fun to let loose, kick back, and let someone else do the cooking and cleaning for a change. When we do, we always look for restaurants that offer ‘kids night’ – a glorious night, usually once a week, when one or more kids eat free with the purchase of an adult meal. Not to brag, but we do have quite an astonishing knack for sniffing these offerings out and taking full advantage of them. As a quick rabbit trail (because rabbit trails are fun!), here are our three favorites in our neck of the woods:
- Jason’s Deli – This is, of course, one of our very favorite restaurants because of their organic, great tasting, healthy menu and FREE ice cream to waste it all at the end. They were among the best deals out there when they offered two kids meals for every adult meal, but this year they trimmed it down to one. (How dare they?? :)) Still, our entire family can usually eat for a touch over $20, and we don’t have to worry about pesticides on our salad items.
- Macado’s – This downtown sandwich shop has an awesome deal on Tuesday nights – Two (yes, two!) free kid’s meals with the purchase of an adult meal. But that’s not all – Tuesday nights is also hamburger night, when you can get a deluxe hamburger meal, complete with deep-fried, artery-clogging fries, for only $5.85. Drink water, and we can feed our entire family of six for about $13, plus tip. We almost feel bad for taking advantage of this bargain… almost. We definitely don’t expect it to last forever, but it would be really hard to cook all that at home for that price!
- Salsarita’s – Anyone who knows us well knows that this is our go-to Sunday ‘after-church’ place. Why? You guessed it! Sunday is ‘kid’s eat free’ day at Salsarita’s! They only offer one kid’s meal for every adult purchase, but since the adult meals are reasonably priced, we’re able to get more than enough food for around $20. Not bad for a family of six! (Yes, we’re well aware that our kids are getting older and our eating-out freeloading days will all-too-soon come to an end, so you parents of teenagers can hold your comments. :))
2.) When possible, we buy used
The way we see it, buying anything to use for just one year is pointless, and that’s especially true of clothes. It’s not that we don’t clothe our children (if you live near us and see Nathaniel outside without a shirt, it’s entirely by choice!), but we have a ‘policy’ on this that works for us: if the size of the article of clothing corresponds with the age of the wearer, we get that clothing in one of several ways – handed down from a cousin or friend, bought for pennies at a garage sale, or received as a Christmas or birthday gift – several ways to be sure, but the one way you can bet we DON’T receive such articles of clothing is to buy them new at retail. Sure, we might bend this rule on occasion to get matching Easter dresses or some other such nonsense (the wife is sentimental that way), but not very often. Then, when the clothing has gone through all four children, if it’s not stained and full of holes we either sell it at a yard sale or give it away.
Sure, there are some things you just need to buy new (I’m not sleeping on ANYONE’S used, critter-filled mattress!), but from cars (buying a new car and driving it off the lot costs you thousands) to kid’s clothes, cribs, toys & other items, to the countless cool stuff you can get at yard sales and auctions, buying used is often a great way to allow a household run on less.
(Be sure to read the first comment below for some GREAT insight on couponing, used items, and other ways to save money. Thank you, Jack!)
3.) We run our cars into the ground, then run them some more
There are few things out there that will financially sink your family faster than a bad decision on a vehicle. We certainly know what it feels like to get tired of what you’re driving – the seat starts to take the shape of your body, stuff starts breaking down, dust and clutter accumulate faster than you can remove it (if you have kids this is especially true – we can have our van SPOTLESS one day, then it looks like a Sanford & Son reject again the very next week!), – but getting something else, even if you buy it used, isn’t always what it’s made out to be. Sure, there will be times when an upgraded vehicle is absolutely necessary (we’re nearing that point on our poor minivan!), but it’s always good to be reminded that, however sweet it smells at the time, that new car smell wears off in a few months. When it does, if you don’t pay with cash, all you have left is a car as dirty as your last one, plus a big, fat car payment. Trust us (and the commenter below, who adds some great insight), oil changes and regular maintenance are MUCH cheaper!
4.) We make inexpensive memories for our kids, because they are just as memorable as expensive ones
OK, so they might not compare with a trip to Disney World, but we’re all about making special memories for our kids, inexpensively. For example – every couple of weeks we have ‘family movie night,’ a Morefield tradition that involves the kids’ table & chairs in the living room in front of Leave it to Beaver or The Andy Griffith Show (helloooo Netflix!). Our fare for that night is ‘breakfast for dinner.’ The kids know it, love it, and look forward to it. With waffles or bacon, biscuits & eggs on the menu, ‘breakfast for dinner’ is one of our cheaper dinner options, and one of our children’s favorites.
‘Family game night’ is another family memory-making tradition that costs next to nothing (once you’ve purchased the game, of course). This one only promises to get better for us as Grace begins to stop trying to steal our game pieces to make a part of her personal ‘toy junkyard.’ Whether it’s ‘family movie night,’ ‘family game night,’ or even camping out in the backyard (so long as we don’t call it ‘family vacation!’), you don’t have to spend a fortune to have special times your kids will remember for a lifetime.
5.) We ‘prep,’ cook from scratch, and eat dinner at home most of the time
Sure, it’s fun to eat out once in a while, but if we’re always eating out or bringing home take-out, not only will our family’s health suffer, but our wallets will as well. (Besides, if you eat out all the time, it’s no longer anything special!)
We write about prepping quite often, but we did a post not long ago about how prepping can save a family money.
6.) We utilize innovation
If you’ve made it this far, this last bit won’t hurt a bit, I promise! I’ve written before about the $50 bidet we have in our bathroom for the past two years. No matter how you roll it, toilet paper is darned expensive! If you can save money and get ‘clean’ the easy way, with a bidet, why not give it a try? There are other ways to save money using recent, inexpensive gadgets. We wrote about a few, including our bidet, in this post.
There are plenty more, and plenty we haven’t thought of, to be sure. We’d love to hear what works for your family!