You don’t have to give up on fun in order to be frugal!
Roseanne and Dan Conner certainly knew a thing or two about stretching a dollar. Like most of us living in these hard financial times, they had to watch their wallets closely to get by—yet they still managed to share a lot of laughs and have fun as a family.
“For many, it’s not how much you make, but how well you plan your spending,” says Danny Kofke, author of A Simple Book of Financial Wisdom: Teach Yourself (and Your Kids) How to Live Wealthy with Little Money. Kofke should know: He and his family survived solely on his annual teacher’s salary ($43,000) for years, and managed to accumulate no debt except their mortgage, invest each month, and have a one-year emergency fund in place. “And you can spend less while still having fun.” Here, some ways to do just that.
Fun Time: Going to the movies
Frugal Way: Visit your library
Going to see a blockbuster with the whole family is no cheap date—the tickets, popcorn, soda and candy can easily become a $50-plus ordeal. “We all know the library is a great place to get books for free, but a lot of people don’t realize that many libraries also have CDs and DVDs available for checkout,” says Kofke. In fact, many libraries have programs and activities for people of all ages. “At our local library, my family has watched movies and seen a juggler, a magician and tap dancers. These were fun family events that only cost us the gas to get there,” says Kofke.
Fun Time: Too many Starbucks visits
Frugal Way: Invest in gift cards
Of course, the cheapest solution is to bring your own coffee from home. But if you just can’t live without your Starbucks fix, try using discounted gift cards, says Sarah Platte, consumer savings expert for PromotionalCodes.com “Websites like PlasticJungle.com and ABCGiftCards.com offer gift cards from top brands, ranging from Target and Anthropologie to Starbucks and McCormick & Schmick’s.” Bonus: Users can also sell or trade unwanted gift cards, so put that never-used or minimal-dollars-left gift card to use and get your money back!
Fun Time: You need a vacation
Frugal Way: Swap your home
Vacations are usually the first luxury to go when you’re on a budget. But you can travel anywhere in the world and save a bundle by swapping homes with another family that wants to visit your area. HomeExchange.com has 40,000-plus listings of houses, apartments and even house boats from all around the world. You simply agree with a family from a different area to swap homes during your holiday, and absolutely no money changes hands. Your first three months of membership on the site are free; then, it’s $9.95 per month.
Fun Time: Your family needs new clothes
Frugal Way: Get social with stores
The start of the school season usually means new clothes for the kids (and why shouldn’t you spruce up your wardrobe as well?). “Brands big and small are using social media to share deals and offers, so connecting with your favorite brands online is a smart way to stay in the savings loop,” says Platte. Stores like Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and Bluefly frequently offer deals exclusive to their social media communities, up to 40 percent off in many cases.
Fun Time: Buying and downloading books
Frugal Way: Check out this site
An easy way for families to save money is to download free ebooks onto their Kindles, Nooks and Apple devices for free family reading. Sites like freebooksy.com finds high-quality free ebooks that are available for the whole family. Families can sign up for daily emails of free ebooks in the genres that they like.
Fun Time: You love to eat out
Frugal Way: Find places where kids eat for free
While eating at home saves you money, everyone needs to the luxury of eating out every now and then. Websites like Kidseatfor.com and KidsEat4Free.com have databases that allow you to search for restaurants in your area where kids eat for free or at discount (it’s usually on specific days and times). Also, be on the lookout for coupons from child-friendly places like Friendly’s and Denny’s.