When we decided to make a change to our household that would drop our income by more than 50%, we immediately started to look for ways to save money. Several of them have been very successful. These things aren’t increasing our savings by a substantial amount or magically funding our retirement (let me know if you find that money tree) but they are things that are saving us enough to put a little more stretch in our “fun money” budget.
1. Sign up for free memberships. So many restaurants, stores and entertainment venues offer free reward clubs. All you have to do is give them an email address (and a birthday), and they’ll send you coupons, discounts, and birthday offers. Gmail’s Promotions sorting tab makes keeping these emails from inundating your inbox a snap, but if getting all those extra emails makes you sad, create a separate email just for savings.
Here are a few of our favorites to get you started:
Barnes and Noble Kids Club: This free sibling to the B&N paid membership gets you a 30% coupon for signing up, along with a $5 reward for every $100 you spend on kid’s stuff and a free birthday cupcake in the café for all kiddos under 13.
Half Price Books: Sign up for this newsletter and you’ll get a coupon just for signing up, discounts throughout the year and a special birthday coupon.
Alamo Drafthouse: You’ll feel extra-victorious when you join the Alamo Victory rewards program—especially when you are watching a movie for free.
Cinemark Movie Theater: Join at the free Movie Fan level and you’ll earn 1 point for each $1 you spend, which you can then redeem for movie tickets and snacks.
Dave and Busters: Got some gamers in your house? Sign up for the D&B Rewards program and you’ll automatically earn a $10 gameplay boost with a $10 gameplay purchase, plus special offers and discounts throughout the year.
Michaels: If you’ve got a crafty bunch, this one will save you lots! You’ll get members-only coupons and advance notice of sales.
Marble Slab & Maggie Moos: Download the Slab Happy App and you’ll get a $5 reward after your first purchase, one point for every $1 spent, and $5 off at every 50 points.
Nothing Bundt Cakes: Want a free Bundtlet on your birthday? Sign up for the Nothing Bundt Cakes e-rewards program. Piece of cake!
2. Switch to reusables. We switched to Marley’s Monsters UNpaper Towels and grabbed some cheap cotton napkins then started counting up the savings. If we used 2 rolls of paper towels a week before swapping, these reusable towels will save us an average of $250 per year! The organic cotton option is extra-nice to the environment, though pricier.
3. Use Swagbucks. Swagbucks describes themselves as a company that rewards its members “for the everyday things they already do online.” Some of these things – completing surveys, watching videos, playing games—aren’t really worth the points for our family. But using Swagbucks for shopping online? That’s where it’s at!
By installing the Swagbucks extension on your browser, Swagbucks will automatically do two things: find you all the coupon codes that apply, and apply points for any purchases. We cashed in on over $120 in gift cards just from the points we earned shopping online in 2019. You can redeem gift cards for as few as 100 points ($1), and once a month you can get a 12% + discount on a $25 gift card. Hint: Sometimes retailers really mark up the points you can earn. I bought a desk on Houzz.com and earned 12% cashback through Swagbucks!
4. Follow a mom in the know. Don’t do all the work yourself. Follow others who have been on this path before.
Money-Saving Mom: This is THE place to find coupons, discounts, and special opportunities. You’ll get step by step advice for combining coupons (if coupons are your thing), links to non-advertised savings, and loads more. One word to the wise, though: don’t use these savings as an excuse to buy something that you weren’t going to buy anyway!
Traveling Mom: While this is a great place to go to find advice for planning a vacation on the cheap, it is also a great place to look for inexpensive things to do in your own hometown. Just pop the name of the city nearest you in the search bar, and you’ll find all kinds of ideas, from free things to do to kid-friendly day trips…not to mention the best Instagram spots. I’m looking at you, Chicago!
MADE Everyday: Dana is simply darling, and if you have crafty kiddos, this is one newsletter you’ll want to sign up for! From free and inexpensive patterns to super-cool Halloween costume ideas and recipes. You’ll find all kinds of projects that you didn’t know you needed, like a super adorable cactus pillow!
5. Own it. Don’t ever feel embarrassed about your goals of saving money. If you talk about it with friends, you might find that none of your friends actually wanted to go to that fancy-schmancy thing that was going to cost an arm and a leg plus a babysitter—maybe they’d all rather have a night in with a cheap bottle of wine and Netflix! Sure, it is nice to go out sometimes, but if it is putting financial pressure on you, don’t feel bad about passing ‘til next time. And if you find yourself solo because your friends did all go to that fancy-schmancy thing, check out the Girls’ Night In newsletter “for people who’d rather stay in tonight.”
6. Never, ever forget about the library. From hardcover/paperback/audio/e-books and sheet music to pie pans and 3D printers, libraries are the best place to be. And since library visits topped trips to the movies in the US in 2019, you’ll be in great company!