Want to save money—and in many cases, the environment, too? Here are 17 things you can do right now.
1. Make inexpensive meals
Vegetarian meals are generally inexpensive, which make them a great starting point. Some other money-saving tips when it comes to food include:
- Buy fresh vegetables that are in season
- Buy dried beans
- Buy in bulk for things like rice, pasta, beans
- Shop at Asian markets which usually are cheaper than usual supermarkets and great for staples like rice, noodles, tofu, soy and coconut milk.
You don’t need to use expensive foods to have meals that taste good and are good for you.
2. Get your kids involved with cooking
As soon as they’re able, get your kids to cook with you. It is great fun, and a way to teach skills like reading (the recipe) and maths (measuring and counting). Most importantly, the more that your kids are involved in preparing the meal, the less likely they are to not eat what they’ve helped cook: Helps reduce fussy eating habits and food going to waste.
3. Eat out less
One of the biggest expenses in our daily lives is eating out. Australian households on average spend $95 a week—that’s nearly $5000 a year—on restaurants and takeaway. Instead, invite a few friends over for a meal. And for a treat at home, buy good quality meal kits rather than takeaway.
4. Teach kids to eat appropriate serving sizes
Ensure they have the right amount and mix of food on their plates. And don’t let them over-eat. Besides costing more in groceries, you want to avoid your kids becoming overweight or unhealthy.
5. Become creative with leftovers
To this day, my family still loves fried rice, which is an easy way to make leftover rice into a delicious different meal. Leftover roast veggies can be used to make a delicious soup.
6. Switch to a lower cost grocery store
Many years ago, our family switched shopping from the major brands to a new entrant in the market. We estimated that we saved about one-third of our grocery bill—first, because items were lower cost and second because the stock was more limited, we didn’t get distracted buying things we didn’t need or plan to buy.
7. Stock up when pricey or high-use items are on sale
It’s not unusual for us to have additional pasta or extra laundry liquid in the cupboard if we see it on sale. It can save a lot of money on items that you use regularly.
8. Get creative with snacks
Kids don’t need sugary, salty or fatty snacks. Besides being unhealthy, they’re expensive. We always keep a big bowl of fruit on the kitchen bench, and pack fruit and healthy nuts for when we’re out and about.
9. Drink water
It’s easy for kids—and us—to drink juice or soft drink. It’s not good for health and costs a lot too. Drink water, save money, improve your kids’ health.
10. Grow your own veggies
Not only can this save you money, it can be interesting and fun for kids as they see something that they have planted grow. You only need a few pots in the kitchen and you could have herbs and veggies for years to come.
11. Enlist help from your kids around the house
Most of us will have grown up doing jobs around the house. I remember mowing, cleaning, helping in the garden, doing laundry and cooking. And while some jobs should be part of the kids’ everyday contribution to being part of your household, as they get older, the bigger jobs are an opportunity for them to earn pocket money.
12. Teach kids to use just enough
Kids usually pull out way too much toilet paper (which was even more of a challenge when this was the hottest item in supermarkets recently). Show them how little shampoo or toothpaste they really need. Teach them how to get the last little bits out of a tube or jar. It all adds up!
13. Buy less toys and gadgets
Kids don’t need every high-tech creation that comes out. Instead, get out and about, ride bikes, re-discover cards and board games. Read books. Do a weekend trip to the library so they can pick up free books. And if there’s something they really want, it’s a great opportunity to teach them money smarts where they have to save up pocket money or birthday money to purchase the thing they treasure.
14. Don’t over-do activities
As parents, when it comes to extra activities, we want our children to have rich experiences and learn all sorts of skills which, of course, comes at a cost. Set a budget (time and money) for activities. In our family, we had a "one sport at a time" policy.
15. Find pre-loved treasures
If you need something, perhaps you can find what you want second-hand. We’ve found Facebook marketplace, Gumtree and eBay to be great resources. You get a bargain and you look after the planet.
16. Find free (or inexpensive) entertainment
There are so many inexpensive ways to have fun. Riding a bike. Going to the beach. Taking a bushwalk. Having a photography competition. Check your local community "what’s on" guide to find fun activities that you can do cheaply.
17. Don’t be extravagant with birthday parties
Be creative. Make your own birthday cakes. Limit gifts. There are heaps of websites with tips for having a great birthday party on a budget.
If you like these tips for parents, then you will love our 50 tips to be financially fit in my book, The Joy of Money, co-authored with Julia Newbould. It’s all about making the most of every dollar, spending well and saving well.