Now that we are on a very tight budget, we've had to get a little more creative with saving money. Gone are the days when we were DINKS (dual income no kids) and could spend to our hearts desire. And I'm completely OK with that. Just means we do things a little differently before. And really, free or frugal things seem much more satisfying to me these days. I loves me a good deal! So here are a few tricks we use around here.
1. Shopping - easy....don't do it. I can't remember the last time I was in a mall. And if you're like me, I get mesmerised by the lights and big signs...I'm a marketers dream and can't resist whatever too-good-to-be-true treasures they are offering. So instead, why not swap, or borrow or barter? Especially when it comes to some household items - things you rarely use. Do you really need to buy a carpet cleaner? Could you borrow one from a friend? Do you really need a ladder to paint your hallway? Maybe you can use your neighbours. Instead of spending money, why not save and start a little borrowing program with your friends or family. This is great for books and movies too. Swap titles and save your dough. Need to spruce up your closet. Why not have a Clothing Swap party? Want to redecorate? Check out some Freecycle programs or stop by the local thrift shop for a funky find that can be given a new life. The possibilities are endless. Stop the shop and start the swap!
2. Fitness - do you have a gym membership? How often do you go? Is it really worth it? Likely not. We ditched ours in the Spring. I had this grand idea that if we had a family membership we would go all the time and take the kids. Did that happen? Maybe twice. So we dropped it. And have opted for some much cheaper alternatives. Firstly, why not go for a jog or start a walking group with some friends. It's cheap...free and easy and great for the mind and body. Check out Couch to 5k to go from zero to 5km of running in just 9 weeks...FREE! Want a little strength training? How about some easy home workouts - a few boot camp moves or plyometrics and you'll be toned in no time. Plus if you have a little one they'll love doing it with you. Or how about a workout DVD? Don't buy them, borrow some from your library or from any of your friends - I'm sure they all have at least one. Don't think you'll keep up with it. The key is to schedule the time. Mark it on the calendar and have a buddy. That way you've got someone to be accountable to. And make it fun; go to the park and watch the kids play why you do some squats. Free fitness is everywhere....just got to open your eyes. :)
3. Dining - hubby and I love food and love trying new restaurants. We are always on the look out for something off the beaten path. But with our new budget, it's just not possible very often. So instead, I try to make new recipes for us to sample. Need a little more excitement? When was the last time you had a pot-luck. Yup, that's what I said; a good old fashioned pot-luck. Before baby #2 we used have a monthly pot-luck with our friends and I'm thinking it's time to start it up again. We would rotate houses and each month we would decide on a theme for the dinner. We did Mexican, Italian, Asian....all different types of food. Each person or couple would bring a different dish that related to the theme. It was a great evening with friends. Nothing better than laughing and enjoying some great food and good times. Don't like to cook? Then another option is to hit your fave restaurants on their 'off' nights. Check out your local spots and see if they have deals on dining on the less popular nights of the weeks. You can usually find a 2 for 1 coupon or something free or half off just by eating there on a Tuesday. Pretty awesome and really...date night doesn't have to be on a Friday...does it?
4. Entertainment - so finding something to do doesn't have to cost a lot. Especially during this time of year. The Fall is a great time to check out outdoor events. Check out your city's website for fairs and festivals and you'll be surprised how many free events there are. You'll likely find discounts and coupons to some of your favourite attractions as well. Scope out your library too; love the library! You can find free (or nearly free) concerts, talks and seminars on a regular basis. Like going to the movies? Why not save the $30+ and stay in. Borrow a movie from the library - you'd be surprised on the selection they have. Or like I mentioned before, borrow one from your friends or neighbours and whip up a giant bowl of popcorn and get snuggling. Another great spot to check is your local papers or YMCA. Lots of times there are free events or tours that are advertised and its a great way to get out and meet new people or get involved in your community.
5. Family Fun - when you have kids the price to go out increases at an alarming rate. You may call me cheap, but I really have a hard time paying full admission for my little ones when they will hardly make use of the facilities. Again, keeping on top of local news and events and your local tourism website will keep you in the know for free events. In the summer there were various days that the community pools were free to use. In the winter, check out the free ice skating rinks in your area. Or how about taking the kids for a nature hike? Your local conservation areas are fantastic and most are free or nearly free to use. And when was the last time you had a picnic? My 4yr old is completely content enjoying a picnic anytime, anywhere. Even if it's just in the back yard or at the park. With a little research you can locate many free activities or events to enjoy with the kiddos. Here's a couple that we enjoy:
Imagination Station at Museum London - a free drop-in program Sunday afternoons where kids are introduced to a wide range of art making
London Children's Museum - Free admission Friday nights from 5pm - 8pm!
Doors Open London - two-day event will feature free, hands-on and interactive
activities that allow Londoners to take a “behind-the-scenes” look at
our cities cultural and historic gems. Over 50 sites will be open for exploration free of charge and yes it's totally cool and appropriate for kids! Check online for one in your city.
As you can see you can see keeping your homestead happy and healthy doesn't have to cost a lot. Got any great free or frugal secrets to share? I'd love to hear from you so post a comment or shoot me an email.