Parenting

7 household expenses your family can cut

Jennifer turned to social media to find realistic ways to trim her family’s household budget — and found seven easy ways to help families save money.

Photo: bowdenimages

Having been a stay-at-home mom for three years, I think I do a good job of saving our family money — we shop at discount grocery stores, don’t have expensive gym memberships and use energy efficiently. But with my husband’s recent unemployment, we need to further reduce our household expenses. I turned to social media find out how other Canadian families save money.

Cable and television
We’ve long been a cable- and satellite TV-free family, relying on DVDs and Netflix for at-home entertainment. No expense is spared, and even the $8 per month Netflix costs us will be cut. I’m not alone in cutting cable. On Twitter, @Mom2BeMN said her family has opted for a basic TV antenna with Hulu Plus and many other parents I talked to admitted television and cable costs were the first to be cut. However, our rural location means we only have one choice for our Internet provider and our bill is a staggering $95 per month.

Transportation
If you have two vehicles, consider selling one of them. Is the expense of insuring, maintaining and fueling up a second car worth the convenience? With annual insurance premiums in Ontario averaging $1800, and one tank of gas costing $50 — plus the expense of regular maintenance — dropping the second vehicle could save you up to $5,000 per year. Many families (ours included) own one vehicle and choose public transportation or commuting by bicycle.

Books and magazines
“I had to stop buying art and coffee table books when I had children. Luckily, my husband is the fiction buyer for Indigo so I still get the odd novel, which I hope to read someday,” says Ontario mom Erica Harrison. Indeed, many moms said that opting for free public libraries for movies and books was a way to reduce household expenses. Even buying one less paperback a month can save over $100 per year. That said, library books are only free if you return them on time. I’ve had to schedule due date reminders on my calendar because I’m guilty of racking up library fines.

Dining out
“We were bad before we had kids! We would eat out Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” confesses Grant Jessica Jowitt. “When we had our son, we ate out only on Saturday. And now that we have two children, we eat out maybe once per month.” Even if it only costs $25 for a family of four to have lunch at a fast food restaurant, not longer eating out is a quick way to trim hundreds of dollars from your budget. Besides, eating at restaurants with children isn’t fun.

Salons
I’m fortunate to have naturally curly hair that tolerates neglect. Combined with a talented local hairdresser who charges less than $20 per cut and dyeing my hair at home, I am as frugal as can be when it comes to beauty expenses. However, my friend Joanna is the queen of cutting out hairdressing expenses — she cuts her husband’s and children’s hair herself! But what if you want to indulge in a manicure or pedicure? At $50 per visit, even at budget spas, Michelle Baxter McCulloch opted to teach herself how to do manis and pedis. “I found out that with a little work, they can be done at home with great results. And there is some satisfaction to knowing you can do it yourself,” she says. What is great about Michelle’s suggestion is that, as a fellow trail and ultra runner, she understands how battered a running mama’s feet can get — and a little tootsie TLC at home can go a long way.

Groceries
“I always found meal planning to be one of the best ways to cut the grocery budget. So, if something is on sale I make sure I use it in multiple meals to use it all up,” says Jen Eyers-McLaughlin. At the grocery store, coupons and smart purchasing decisions can trim your bill, as does where you shop. Our family shops at a food discounter and our weekly grocery bill comes in at $170. Momprenuer Alexandria Durrell does the same at her house. “I made better choices on what items to buy and I also use coupons. Not a crazy amount but when I saw them, I used them,” she says.

Phones
Three years ago, we canceled our landline which saved us approximately $100 per month. Instead, we use one cell phone between us, which costs $70 per month. Twitter mama @Kristinakins went one step further and cancelled the data plan for her smartphone. If one phone or dropping your data plan isn’t an option, call your cellphone provider and ask them to give you the best available promotional package.

What are your money saving tips?