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The Informed Parent

Using Money Creatively

by Carolyn Warnemuende, M.S.
Published on Aug. 11, 2008
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Creativity lends joy and enthusiasm to life. Thinking outside the box can turn a negative situation into something positive. When families feel money crunches, instead of panicking or feeling blue, it’s time to get the creative juices flowing.

In June, The Informed Parent ran an article titled “Talking with Kids About Money.” Suggestions were made about how to explain family finances to children. In this sequel article, we’ll talk about how families can work together to make money go farther in tough times.

New York financial planner Stacy Francis says, “Keeping track of where your money goes is the most important financial task you can undertake. It really doesn’t matter what you make. It matters what you spend.” She goes on to say that “when cash is tight, spending needs to get tighter, too.” Some might not agree that it doesn’t matter what a family makes. The salient point is that by keeping track of where money is spent, a family can begin to see where wiser choices might be made.

This list of suggestions might not work for all families. By choosing one or two and working together to create other strategies, it won’t take long before families recognize that their income actually is going farther.

MAKE A SPENDING PLAN

Look at how much money comes in each month. Plot out where the income needs to go. Consider future expenses. Make a budget chart and stick to it. Engage older children in the process so that when you say, “We’re not going to buy that this month because we’re choosing to stick to our budget,” they understand that cash is going elsewhere for family necessities and pleasures.

SHOP FROM A LIST

Most people spend far more on groceries each month than is necessary. Some financial experts say that with planning, families can cut their monthly grocery bills by half. Buying from a list keeps shoppers from unneeded items.

PLAN AHEAD

Plan meals a week in advance. When you do this, you know what needs to be on your marketing list. You are not tempted by display ads or unneeded specials.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SALES

Know what staples you use regularly, and when they go on sale, stock up. Only buy the quantity that you know you will use.

GO VEGETARIAN

Once or twice a week create a vegetarian meal. Using beans, rice, and pasta mixed with vegetables reduces the use of higher priced meats.

CLIP COUPONS

This is a fun activity for kids. Newspaper supplements are filled with coupons. Inform the kids what to look for. Only clip coupons for items you know you will use. A bargain isn’t a bargain if the product sits on your shelf unused simply because it was inexpensive.

JOIN A FRIEND

Shop at warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club and buy the large packages of products. Split the cost and the purchases. This can be particularly effective when buying perishables.

GO TO THE FARMER’S MARKET

Buy locally grown fruits and vegetables. It supports the community or nearby areas and supplies you with the freshest produces possible. It’s a fun family outing.

SAVE ON CHILDCARE

Form a baby-sitting co-op and exchange childcare without having to pay a sitter.

USE THE PUBLIC LIBRARY

Instead of buying new or used books, check them out at the library for the cost of a library card. Most libraries also have books on tape and DVD’s for checkout.

FILL YOUR TIRES

Properly inflated tires means more fuel efficiency.

WATCH THE TIME OF DAY

Fill your gas tank first thing in the morning. When the gas is cool, you get more than when it has expanded in hot weather.

LOOK FOR FREE TIME

Most museums, art galleries, and music centers have free or reduced times for visiting.

HAVE A TRADING PARTY

Get together with other families and bring your gently used clothes. “Shop” from each other by exchanging.

DEVELOP THE ART OF THRIFT SHOPPING

Yard sales and thrift stores are filled with bargains. It’s easy to find never-used baby clothes. Toddler coats and cold weather wear is often gently used. Higher end thrift stores often carry designer clothes that have never been worn or only gently worn. Block yard sales provide many options for furniture and household items. Baby items, children’s toys, and books can often be found for pennies.

REFILL INK CARTRIDGES

Stores like Office Depot, Office Max, and even Walgreens refill ink cartridges for as little as $10.00--far less than buying new cartridges.

RECYCLE PAPER

Use the reverse side of printed paper for shopping lists, “to do” lists, and scratch paper.

USE YOUR RESOURCES

Every community has activities that are free or inexpensive. Take a picnic to a park. If you have hiking areas, go on a family hike. Use the municipal swimming pool. Attend concerts in the park and street fairs. Go to the farmer’s market. Make a treasure hunt of seeking out what is available in your community.

BRAINSTORM

Sit as a family and create your own list of money-saving ideas. Listen without judgment as each person speaks. Write down the ideas. Then discuss the pros and cons and make decisions. Often the kids come up with ideas that parents hadn’t considered. This becomes fun family time.

Many of these ideas sound more practical than creative. The creativity comes by finding ways to make them work in your family. In the beginning, living with greater frugality may take more time and feel harder. With practice and patience it begins to feel rewarding. When it becomes a way of life, a sense of freedom emerges because the family has worked as a unit to live more simply and within its means.




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