The coolest money-saving ideas that may not have occurred to you

As Sandra has learned, frugal sometimes works in mysterious ways.

Photo: ~Twon ~ via Flickr.

With our family vacation coming up, I’ve turned my mind to money-saving strategies. While I don’t believe in scrimping — it is a vacation, after all, and one that we make a point of saving for, so we don’t use credit cards or other debt to fund it — over the years I’ve developed some tricks that not only keep costs down, but also make it easier to travel with kids. So I’m going to share my “oh, that’s a great idea (why didn’t I think of that)” tricks with you, along with others I’ve picked up from resourceful parents in my community.
 
On holiday: You already know the basics. You shop around for a good deal on a hotel that’s in a safe neighbourhood and that won’t send you home with bedbugs. Like my family, you plan long-distance vacations judiciously, waiting until your husband has enough Aeroplan points to fly everyone to a destination you’re interested in visiting. And while that might mean waiting until just before school starts for your holiday, so be it: The delay is worth saving upwards of $1,200 on airfares.
 
What you might not have thought about: Do a grocery or drugstore run for kid-basics like milk and bottled water for long day treks, and you’ll easily save $100 over the course of a week. Add boxed cereal, granola bars and some apples or bananas to the mix, and you’ll shave another $100 off your breakfast tab for the trip. With kids’ tummy rumbles satisfied, you can be a bit leisurely about getting ready in the morning. 
 
Getting takeout for your wife, who’s just delivered your first child: Our neighbours Rob and Jackie welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world last week — a little early, but healthy and thriving. As you may recall (if sleep deprivation hasn’t wiped your memory clean), those early days are a blur of diapers and feeding and trying to get to know your new baby. So you rely on takeout, because, really, who has the energy to cook? And that’s OK.
 
Rob has been taking advantage of the summer special on grilled-cheese sandwiches at our local cheese shop — $3.50 each, which is already a great deal. What he also discovered is if you stop by just before closing, they’ll send you home with your choice of perishable goodies that won’t keep till the next day (loaves of artisan bread, croissants) gratis. DO try this at your neighbourhood bakeshop!
 
Harvesting backyard veggie bumper crops: This is a trick I learned years ago from my parents, but never needed to use until this summer. Every year, my dad rented a plot of land from the city so we’d learn how food is grown. (If you don’t have a backyard, you can still grow veggies and flowers in Toronto Community Gardens.) A few times a week, we’d tend the crops and harvest something for Mom to cook for dinner. And we always had too many tomatoes to use at any one time. So we created a kitchen assembly line to blanch batches of ripe tomatoes, peel off the skin, and package into single-use portions Mom froze until she needed them. I just did the same with Bronwyn and Isobel’s backyard-grown tomatoes! It’s still early (we have tons of green tomatoes still on the vines), but I’ve already frozen two large cans worth, or approximately what I’d use in one pot of spaghetti sauce. Come autumn, I’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

Photo: ~Twon~ via Flickr.

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