5 Ways to Squeeze More Money/Room/Fun Out of Your Family’s Budget
Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom with four children under 6, a single dad with a 7-year-old and a freelancing gig, or part of a corporate, jet-setting couple with two teenage daughters, squeezing more out of your family’s budget is probably something that would make your life a little easier. Whether you’re ready to try your hand at a smarter DIY approach to life or you need to reacquaint yourself with your local library, here are five ways to get more room, fun, and money out of your current budget.
1. Get More of Your Tax Money Back
Are you absolutely certain you’re getting every penny of your tax money back that the IRS owes you? Taxes are an essential part of living in any society that has a functioning government, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay more than your fair — or legally required — share. One way to find a little wiggle room in your budget is to double-check you’re taking every allowable deduction, but you can also ensure you get a bigger chunk of change back in April through charity. Donate that old fishing boat you never use anymore. Get a receipt anytime you drop things off at the Goodwill. By maximizing your donations — and reporting them — you’ll get more money back at tax time.
2. Plan an Amazing Staycation
Going on vacation is the highlight of many family calendars, and if you’re used to taking one, the thought of skipping it can feel tantamount to committing a family heresy. However, when money is tight, taking a vacation can be tantamount to committing a family sin. What to do? Split the distance by going on an amazing staycation. Save all the money you would have normally spent on plane tickets and lodging, but take in the excitement in and around the town in which you live. Head out to the local state park for a hike. Go to the opera. Visit your local history museum. In every way you can, act like tourists in the place you call home, and you’ll plenty more fun, money, and room in your budget.
3. Garden and Can
Most people who don’t garden see it as an idyllic form of relaxation undertaken by retirees and stay-at-home trophy wives with a penchant for fresh flowers. The reality is quite different. Gardening can make for great exercise, requires regular and ongoing work that will keep you and your kids from sitting in front of the television as often, and it yields something you need and pay for everyday: food. With a thrifty family of four spending almost $150 a week on food, a garden that reduced your food costs by $50 a week for just 12 weeks would save you $600 a year. If you gardened more ambitiously and canned what you couldn’t eat, your savings would easily climb into the thousands.
4. DIY Smarter — Not Harder
Do you already make your own household cleaners? Yogurt? What about family lunches? It may be that you already feel stretched to the breaking point with DIY, but are your efforts as money-wise as they could be? Many people feel the need to DIY their yogurt, but still purchase a coffee out and about at $4 a few times a week. The math doesn’t add up.
DIY can be a great way to squeeze a bit more money and room out of your budget, but not all DIY is equal. Doing yoga alone one day a week instead of paying $12 for a class will save you almost $50 a month. Making your own yogurt will usually only save you $8 to $10 a month. Making your own kombucha costs mere pennies a day once you get it started, while making your own granola will save you a few dollars a month. Sit down with your list of DIY endeavors, and choose the ones that make the most financial and time-related sense.
5. Use the Library
The library is still the same glorious place it was when you were a child, and if you and your family don’t routinely make use of its books, DVDs, CDs, events, movies, and vinyl records, you’re missing out or spending way too much money ordering things from Amazon. While it’s true that some books and films are essential to own, many are not. Put the library and all the free items that exist there and happen there at your fingertips, and the money you’ll free up in your budget will amaze you. Plus, you’ll have given up none of the fun.
Squeezing more room, cash, and enjoyment out of your family’s budget doesn’t require Draconian measures. As these five tips show, with a little effort and ingenuity, your can give your budget some elbow room without losing a bit of the sheen off your good life.