5 Tips for Being a Frugal Mom
A Non-Fictional Account of This Mom’s Attempt to Save…money on everything, while being a mom.
I call it “frugal extravagance.” The obvious is to clip coupons, find sales or buy generic. But, anyone can do that stuff. Frugal extravagance means you stack coupons – at a wholesale club or a store that pays rewards where the item is on sale… using a credit card that pays you back. And then send in for a rebate.
Here are five tips to get you started on your own frugal extravagance.
Tip 1: Save everywhere. Never shop without first searching for a coupon or sale. If you’re shopping online, do a quick search for “coupon code” plus the store name. Save with legitimate cash back sites such as Ebates, ShopAtHome and TopCashBack. And save with credit cards that pay you back (if not a prepaid, be sure to pay them in full every month). And remember, many sites offer free shipping! You may be able to order online and pick up in store to avoid shipping charges. And, of course, always check GimmieFreebies.com first! It may be overly simplistic, but you should always avoid retail. Never pay retail when you can buy wholesale or at a discount store. Check your local “dollar” store for items that may be much higher priced elsewhere. But don’t fall into the trap of buying everything at the “dollar” store. It might be cheaper elsewhere!
Tip 2: Organize. Take notes if you can’t remember prices. Don’t be afraid to use a calculator to figure out unit prices. Take your time! Many stores note unit prices on their shelves. Compare them to find the real deals, because bulk doesn’t always mean more value. And don’t be too embarrassed to return things that you won’t use, don’t fit, or just aren’t quite right.
Tip 3: Say NO. You don’t need everything, even if it’s cheap. Watch some of the things you’re throwing away. Was it a waste of money to buy it? Sometimes, holding out for the “right” thing as opposed to something now will save you in the long run. Does your family really need a new TV right now? Does your child need a new toy every time you go to the store? Do you really need another new pair of shoes? Just because it’s on sale, or just because it fills some void doesn’t mean you should buy it. Walk away. There’s power in being choosey versus being spendy (or thrifty!) I like to say I’m picky, and it takes me a long time sometimes to decide what I want. But, I don’t have a house full of junk (like I used to!!) that I don’t want and will just get thrown away. Even though I used to shop at garage sales and thrift stores, I still spend money I didn’t need to spend on things I didn’t need. Don’t end up broke and on an episode of Hoarders because you fell into the trap of excessive buying just because it seemed like you were getting a good deal.
Tip 4: Value versus cheap. I almost called this section “how to spend less…” but thought better of it. Spending less isn’t always best. There, I said it! Sometimes you get what you pay for. Sometimes buying cheap trendy clothing, for example, will just mean it looks old and worn after the first washing. That’s not value; that’s cheap. Frugal extravagance isn’t about getting the cheapest stuff; it’s about getting what you want cheapest.
Tip 5: Be a savvy consumer. For example, my $9.99 Wal-Mart purse was two years old. It still worked, but was wearing out to the point that things would escape from the nifty little slots originally designed to secure things. After losing my second driver license, I decided it was time to begin purse shopping. Mind you, I said it was time to begin. An extravagant frugal does not just buy, they shop…around. A lot. After some research on the high quality materials used by Coach, I began to entertain the idea of buying one. When my mother wanted my Christmas list, I made the mistake of mentioning that I need a new purse. Off to Macy’s we went. I pointed at the Coach bags and said, “Mom, will you buy me a Coach bag?” I was joking. If you knew me, you’d realize just how funny that statement was. She said, “If that’s what you want, honey.” She looked worried when I broke the news that they were several hundred dollars. I wasn’t about to buy a purse that day, nor would I ever let my mother spend several hundred dollars on a purse for me. So, when I got home, I got busy. First, I found several Coach bags for sale locally. I emailed the sellers and asked questions. Mind you, I had no idea what I was doing. Frugal extravagance is a journey of discovery. After looking at lots of ads I started to piece together my strategy. First, I had to learn how to spot a fake Coach bag. Education is key! There are lots of blogs and websites that offer great advice for shoppers. After some research I learned that Coach began making bags for doctors and lawyers out of very expensive and high quality leather made only for Coach. (That’s why they’re called bags not purses.) And I learned how to spot a fake. I will never be the same. 😉 I set my budget limit, waited and watched auctions, Craigslist, Cheapcycle and other online sites for bags that I liked. It took a while, but I finally got the one I wanted that fit my (very low) budget! I still have it SIX years later! I have a few now, and I switch them around every now and then. They’re all still like new.
In summary, be conscious of savings. And, be a savvy consumer. Educate yourself about the product and you’ll avoid being ripped off. Decide on your budget, and don’t be afraid to think low! (My first $350 bag cost me $55 shipped!) Then shop around and don’t be in a hurry. More buyers’ remorse comes from impulse purchases than any other kind. And lastly: enjoy your bargain and don’t be afraid to brag about it! My designer purse cost a fraction of what it would have in stores, but it’s worth every bit as much as if I’d paid full price. And that, to me, is worth a lot! I rarely splurge on myself, and when I do I don’t spend very much!