A lot of blogs have posted tips on saving money and this is something that I've been meaning to do for awhile now.
I tend to be really frugal on alot of things.
I've never paid for cable or satelite TV. Local free programming and videos/dvds are just fine, thank you.
I don't like to pay more than $10 for a pair of pants for me or any article of clothing for that matter.
When I'm out shopping or running around, I resist buying from vending machines or fast food. Why should I pay $1 for 20-oz soda when I can get 12 -12-oz cans for $2.50 or less? More than $3 for a slice of pizza? No way! 75 cents for a candy bar? Not when I can get 10-12 oz. bags of candy on clearance post holidays for $1.25 or less. (Scored Reese's peanut butter cups for 80 cents a bag last week.)
I own 3 pairs of shoes. One pair of sneakers I bought on sale 2 years ago, one pair of mules that were given to me and one pair of loafers that I got free when I had to buy the kids new shoes 2 years ago. I wore out one pair of shoes while we were in Iran, but I had had them for 4 years.
I think you get the drift.
I splurge on Netflix for about $18/mo. but I average 3-4 rentals/week so each disk is only about $1.50 to rent. I don't go to the movies and I usually don't buy any dvds for myself or dh so I figure it's a reasonable entertainment expediture for the month.
Here are some of my suggestions for saving money, in no particular order. (Some of these I posted as comments on Echo from Green Hills.
Shop clearance clothes racks and try different store locations. One Target here has great deals on clearance clothing. I've gotten dress shirts for less than $4, adult t-shirts for $2 and kids' t-shirts for $1.25. The Target closest to me now has lousy clothing clearance but great prices on linen clearance. I went to Macy's last week and bought 3 pairs of pants on clearance for just over $25. Regular price would have been over $100. If you've got kids, it almost never hurts to buy ahead for next year. I've found clothes from Target and Macy's last better than from anywhere else.
I never bought a changing table. A couple of good changing pads work well anywhere. (You'll need at least 2 if your kids are anything like mine since accidents or extra messy diapers will happen.) I bought a crib for my 1st and kept it through the 3rd but rarely used it after we got used to co-sleeping except for times I needed to keep them safely away from older siblings while I took care of something in another room. A playpen probably would have worked just as well and likely would have been cheaper.
More expensive is not a guarantee of better quality for children's products. Our carseats have been among the cheaper brands but had very good safety ratings. Consumer reports just gave failing grades for safety to 2 of the higher priced carseats on the market.
Detachable infant carseats also make a good seat for early solid food feedings.
Two great sources for used books are library book sales and yard sales. Kids' books are often as little as 10-25 cents. Adult books are usually less than $2. Even better-get and USE a library card. We go to the library about every 2-3 weeks and check out up to 40 books (and a few videos) at a time. We would never be able to buy this many books nor have anywhere to put them. And let's be honest, most books you won't read more than once. I still buy a good number of used books but mostly for reference material, crafts, or from authors that I really enjoy.
If you insist on new books, check out Amazon.com's used listings. Often there will be wholesalers or bookstores selling new copies at a steep discount.
Save plastic food containers like yogurt cups or whipped topping tubs. These are endlessly useful. They can be used for snack cups, water cups for painting, stacking "blocks". The lids make good paint trays as well as excellent frisbees. Keep a small stash on hand and you'll be amazed what your kids will come up with.
Old t-shirts make great bibs or painting smocks.
A cheap shower curtain liner is perfect for putting under a high chair to catch messes. Just cut a few inches out on each side and a foot or so out from the front. At about $1 or 2, this is much cheaper than what you'll find in baby stores but just as durable and effective as long as you don't cut it too small. A vinyl table cloth would work as well and can sometimes be found for the same price.
Here's another trick to coupon use. Combine the coupon with sales. If you have a coupon for $1 off 2 boxes of cereal, if you can, wait for a week when the store has it on sale, say $2/box. $1.50 a box sure beats $3-5.
For picky breakfast eaters, try muffins. Depending on what you add to them, they are very economical and with a bit of practice take less than 10 min. to prep and 20 to bake. We make them with dried fruit, fresh fruit, whole wheat, pumpkin, chocolate chip (1 Tbsp. of mini chips for the batch. This makes a fun add-in to pancakes as well.). Use your imagination and what's on hand. Add dry stuff like whole wheat flour, cocoa or wheat germ with the flour and for everything else just add it in at the end.
Basic mix: Combine 1 2/3 c. flour, 2/3 c. sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder and a dash of salt. Add 1 egg, 1/4 oil and 1 c. milk. Stir just until combined (will be lumpy). Pour into muffin tins. Bake at 350 F for 17-20 min.
Don't buy ready made gift baskets. I've put together several gift baskets with more and better items for far less than what comes pre-packaged. Generally, it only takes an extra 10 mins. or so of shopping and an ability to look at things in a new light. A wastepaper basket or laundry basket filled with snacks is great for someone heading off to college. Line a small basket with a napkin, add a pretty tea cup, some tea, coffee or hot cocoa and a small package of cookies and you have a great gift for a lady. Hit the dollar store for gift basket items as well. A wicker laundry basket lined with a receiving blanket and filled with washcloths, soap, shampoo and lotion make a nice baby shower gift.
Think about the errands you have to run before you go. If I have multiple places to go, then I try to think about making a circle rather than zigzagging around. A little pre-planning can save you gas and time stuck in traffic.
If you know someone in college or on their way, encourage them to get their books used rather than from the college books store. College texts are expensive but there are alot of really good sources for used books. Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble (bn.com), Half.com just to name a few. All they have to do is go to the bookstore and write down the title and ISBN for all of the required books then hit the internet. For English classes in particular, they should also consider borrowing from the library. Most books will only be used for a few weeks at most in an English course anyway. Don't rely on the school library though, someone else on campus probably has the same idea. Try the community library instead.
These are just some of the things I've done or still do to save money and they all really do pay off. What's the saying? "Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves."