Thursday, November 06, 2008

My Favorite Ways to Save Money

Favorite Ways to Save MoneyYou'll notice that I said "My Favorite Ways to Save Money." That's a deliberate phrase as everyone has their own ways they like to pinch a penny, it's not as if there is are some Ten Commandments of Frugal Living out there. Or is there? If there is the blogging world would know it, I'm pretty sure.

Anyway, spending money is kind of a personal thing, everyone has different opinions on the matter and here are just a few of the ways Andrew and I choose to save. That and we skip every fourth meal.


But with the current national situation being what it is (do we really even understand the big picture yet?) most of us are thinking about ways to trim the fat. Here are my picks.

1. Don't get cable television. Every so often Andrew and I consider signing up for cable or getting a satellite dish or some other way to supersize our t.v. consumption but then we check on the prices and that cools us off. For a basic (a BASIC) cable package here plus a DVR service such as tivo it would cost us $80 a month. Ouch. Now I can think of a lot of other ways I'd rather spend those eighty dollars such as at a fine restaurant where someone brings me whatever I want to eat or at Banana Republic or . . . but of course if I spend the money somewhere else it isn't really saved now is it?

Besides I'd be willing to bet money that unless you have NO t.v. you probably have too much--and I include myself in that finger-pointing.

2. Give your own haircuts. Now I have to confess that I'm cheating here. I cut all my kids' hair but I'd never think of cutting my own hair or letting Andrew tackle the job. Actually one time, long ago, at the very beginning of our marriage before I knew my husband much better we were poor college kids living in Washington D.C. and I desperately needed my hair cut.

We went all over the place looking for someone who'd trim me up and they either let me know they "didn't do white hair" (not that my hair was white, I think they meant my skin) or that they really didn't care to glance my direction because they were a fancy salon. So out of desperation I asked Andrew to cut it straight across. I went into a detailed explanation of how to accomplish this (hadn't I seen it done a million times?) and when he was finished I brought the ends on either side of my face around, saying "And now if you've done it right, the ends should be the same . . . " gasp. The side lengths were a good three inches off and I realized I'd been hacked so grostesquely that I ended up trimming it up myself before I felt comfortable showing my face in public.

The girls at work noticed the new haircut (d'uh, just like they'd notice if I came in with a poodle on my head) and said with hesitation "Oh . . . you got your hair cut" and after they heard my tale of woe they were full of sympathy.

But at any rate, cutting your kidss hair can save you tons of money--four heads times once a month is about $600 a year. Then that saves you enough money that you can afford to get YOUR hair done by a pro.

Check this site How to Cut Hair and practice on your kids. What else are kids for?

3. Cut down on insurance. Now I'm not suggesting that you cancel your insurance--every adult should have health insurance and every adult with an income and dependents should have disability and life insurance--but in general I've found people think they need much more insurance than they really do and it ain't cheap. Watch for ways you can cut back on your policies (if it's up to you and not through an employer which unfortunately is often the case) and see how much you can save.

For example, when Andrew and I were thinking about starting a family we had a very basic health coverage plan. The deductible was something like $2500 or $5000, I can't exactly remember, but it only kicked in when something really went wrong and it only paid out past that super high deductible.

Of course because of this our premiums were only $40 a month for the two of us (doesn't it pay to be young and healthy?) When we wanted to have a baby we looked at adding maternity coverage but after pricing it we realized that it would be cheaper to just pay for the delivery ourselves, keep the catastrophic basic coverage should anything happen like an emergency during delivery or a c-section or something like that, and forget trying to get the insurance company to cover it.

This is usually the way things work--insurance companies hire actuaries who know their odds pretty darn well and they bank everything on those odds. Your best bet is to insure against things that would destroy you--like a prolonged illlness--or something that you really can't control. Insure high enough to protect against it destroying you financially but not enough to strap you for cash each month paying the premiums while the odds of it happening are pretty small.

Forget insuring against things that are eventualities: dental work, preventative health care such as yearly check-ups, obstetrical visits, eye glasses. You'll save more by paying for it yourself because the insurance agencies know the odds of you filing a claim and they're going to win in the gambling game, that's how they make their money.

4. Get your DVDs cheap. We check out DVDs from our local library where not only can you get them for free but you can keep them for a full week--up to three if you renew. We reserve them online them pick them up when we get the notice that they've arrived. Of course the cheapest way to see your videos is to watch them on the wall televisions at Blockbuster but that's not nearly so convenient as taking the movie home to the privacy of your own home. Kidding again.

I understand some places offer Red Box where you can get a weekly coupon code for a free video which publishes but they don't offer that here in Alaska. Pity. I love a good movie and I love a good FREE movie even more.

5. Cut down on eating out. If you or your spouse work at an office you're probably eating out for lunch every day. I'm not sure why this is such a firm tradition in the American workplace but not only is eating out fattening and unhealthy it's terribly expensive. Ditto on the daily espresso. Try packing your lunch and see how much you can save--I figure even if you're only saving $3 a day (and I'm sure that's pretty conservative) that adds up to a bit over the month. If convenience is the issue try buying prepared frozen meals for $2.50 at the grocery store and taking those to work--it's still cheaper than the daily fast food value meal which really isn't much of a value if you think about it. Andrew takes his lunch every day unless he has a business lunch and he actually likes it because that way he can get his daily Oreo fix. He's probably the only attorney I know who packs a bag of Oreos for lunch but that's why I love him.

6. Cut down on extracurricular activities. Not only are children typically over-scheduled these days, with their many lessons and team sports cutting into family time, the costs can be staggering to a family watching their budget. Looking at the costs of hockey alone (a favorite here) besides the equipment costs (and how fast do those kids outgrow it?) and the price of leagues, lessons and games added to the cost of travel for tournaments makes it mind boggling. Multiply that times another child or two and then by the two or three more activities each child is involved in and you've got a house payment calling you "Mom."

Limiting children to one extra curricular activity not only helps them keep their sanity (and yours) but it makes financial sense. If you want your child to take piano lessons look around for a teenager who teaches lessons. That's how I started piano lessons and that's how my kids started and it makes a lot of sense. You don't want to start with a fancy, expensive teacher only to find a year or so into things that Johnny can't stand playing the piano and all of that money you spent is wasted. Of course if a fancy teacher is your style and your child quits you may ultimately save quite a bit of money because suddenly all the cash you'd counted on paying to Julliard's is freed up.

7. Buy generic. Nowadays you can buy pretty much anything in a generic form and it will usually save you tons of money. Don't get sucked in by brand names and learn to tell the difference between when you really are paying for quality and when you're just paying to have a name stamped on the package. Most generic groceries, I've been told, are actually produced by the same companies that make the name brand counterparts they just also own generic lines such as Kroger and sell the same items under the generic label.

Even with medications if you compare the list of active ingredients the generics have always been comparable to the name brands--only for less money. The only time I've ever found a generic product to be far inferior is when it comes to macaroni and cheese. You cannot--I repeat, CANNOT--buy a generic box and have it taste acceptable. Don't know why this is but it is Truth. Must mean there's an art to the way Kraft makes their neon-orange fake powdered cheese. Who knew?

8. Cut back on tech costs. When you add up the costs of land lines, cell lines, Blackberry fees, internet costs, cable costs, texting fees, roaming fees, etc. etc. etc. suddenly you're shelling out big bucks to be on the cutting edge of technology. Decide what you need (and the key word is need) stick with it and ignore the others. There are some creative ways to cut costs too--I use Skype to talk with my parents in India and it's completely free. Gone are the days where you pay $300 for an overseas holiday call to family now you can call anyone anywhere for such nominal rates that it's insane not to take advantage of it.

I know it might cause issues in a family but teen texting costs can be crazy where email and regular cell phone calls get the message through quite well. I don't recall it saying anything in the Parenting Handbook about parents being required to provide texting capabilities to their children--if you're looking to cut costs I'd start with eliminating those dancing thumbs.

9. Pay cash for your cars and buy used. I know this goes against every conventional wisdom in the book but I've always felt strongly about paying cash for cars. Not just because it saves you lots of money but because most things shouldn't be bought on credit. A house is different because it's a secured loan--it's worth something--and a school loan is different because it's an investment though both can be taken to extremes and cause you problems.

But a car is just an expensive piece of status that is worth less and less the longer you hold onto it. The minute you drive a new car off the lot it's cost you thousands of dollars because no longer is the car shiny new so learn to make do with used cars. This doesn't mean you have to sacrifice quality, buy a slightly used car that is still under warranty and you can save more than you'd imagine without losing value for your dollar.

Pay cash for your cars and save yourself all that money in interest plus the added benefit of not having to buy collision insurance. If you own your own car you can go with simple liability insurance and saving whopping amounts each month in lower insurance premiums. Of course I'd only recommend that if you're in the habit of not smashing into other people's cars. If your driving skills leave something to be desired then maybe you should stick with the collision option.

You know you're a King of Saving Money when the teen boys you work with at church offer you $1000 for your 1993 Ford Escort wagon. Andrew works with the 14 year old guys and one of them was riding home with him and said (and I paraphrase) "This car is sweet! I'll give you $1000 for it--it doesn't have all that stupid computer stuff that makes it hard to work on. "

So it may be a piece of junk but it's OUR piece of junk darn it! I don't think any bank would actually want it now that I think about it--in fact we should have taken the kid's offer, I don't think we could get $20 for the car on Craig's List.

10. Cut out ineffective warehouse memberships. Notice I said "ineffective." After my post a few weeks back about my rocky relationship with Costco I appreciated all the comments it generated. Seems like the general agreement is: know your membership options, know your local Costco and be aware of where you're spending or saving money. Some warehouses are better deals than others and savvy shoppers can save money only if they're aware of where the money is going. Me? I don't see that our Costco here saves me anything so we're cutting our membership.

So let it be written, so let it be done.

Oh, and by the way, someone suggested in the comments that you could buy prescription medications at Costco without having a membership. I asked our local Costco pharmacy about it last week and it was confirmed--you can buy prescriptions at Costco without a membership. Yes, you can thank me later.

11. Buy clothing and other seasonal goods after the season is over. Here we're lucky to have summer and winter (I'm trying to be positive) so we need the full spectrum of clothing options. I buy my kids next year's winter gear from sales the year before. Right about now Walmart is putting their snow pants on sale for $11 a pair (better than $20 which is normal), boots can be marked down from $30 to $10, just watch out and keep your kids' sizes handy.

I'm a believer in doing this for me too--I watch Anne Taylor and Banana Republic like crazy when the season gets underway to see when things will start to go on sale. Yes it means I'm usually wearing last year's styles but *sniff* somehow I manage.

12. Cut out newspapers and magazines. We stopped taking the Anchorage Daily News about two years ago and I've never missed it once. I figure that not only have I now personally saved a portion of the rain forests equivalent to the size of New Jersey but I have saved hundreds of dollars in the process. All major newspapers can be found online, which is how I read the ADN when I'm not irritated at them (ah, there's a subject for a post!) and to be paying subscription costs for the physical paper seems strange if you're pressed for cash.

If you buy for the coupons, it's still cheaper to buy an individual Sunday paper and get your coupon fix than it is to continue a weekend subscription. If nothing else it's my small little protest for old fashioned newspapers to get with it and join the Technological Age. Who's with me?

13. Don't move. I don't mean don't move--hold still--I mean don't move from house to house. I've heard that the average time a homeowner spends in a home here in Anchorage is five years. Wow! Five years! That means that every five years (unless your business is relocating you and paying for the costs) the average Anchoragite is paying 6% of the sale price of their home to a realtor. The average cost of a home here in 2007 was $333,000 (I'm sure it's up since then) so unless you like to plop down $20,000 every time you go to a new house across town you might want to think about staying put.

Usually people don't think too much of paying these costs because homes appreciate so the realtor's fees come out of the realized gain on the property but think about how much more you'd save if you stayed put altogether? No paying movers to move you, no hook up fees or deposits on utilities, no buying boxes, no buying pizzas to induce your buddies to come over and help you out.

You might try to save money by selling your home yourself but this is such a hassle and being that there's absolutely no incentive to buy a home from someone representing themselves that it seems a bad idea overall. Stay put--fix up what you have or learn to live with how it already is and you'll save a bundle. Or the other alternative is to sell your fancy house, pay those realtor fees then buy a shack on the beach in Hawaii. Right now that doesn't sound too bad to me.


I saw something about credit at this rather hypnotic interactive game from the U.S. Treasury. Although do you see the irony? Here's a video on credit and living within your means from the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Physician heal thyself. Found via Joe and Kristen's Journal.

Sponsored by Tiny Prints--The place for the perfect holiday invitations.

Technorati tags: frugal living, money, budgeting


Jolanthe @ No Ordinary Moments said...

I'm with you on cutting spending for sure!! :)

We have the basic, basic cable service (since we can't even get the local station to come in with rabbit ears). Our cable company doesn't advertise it - you have to ask, of course. It's only $13/mo and it includes all the networks and we also get some LOVELY bleeder channels too! :)

We save a bunch on car insurance by raising our deductibles to $1000 and keeping that amount in our "emergency fund" to cover, well, emergencies.

The best thing we did (for me) was going to a cash-only budget - so that I can visibly see how much money we really have left and it's made me much more cautious with our money.

We're big Dave Ramsey fans here and reading his books have changed the way we look at a LOT of stuff. We were over $65,000 in debt and paid it off in 19 months, thanks to a lot of hard work, cutting back a bunch of extras and just plain wising up.

And being debt-free is a lovely feeiling, I tell you!

Mom24 said...

Those are great suggestions. I had to laugh about the health insurance though. We have the only plan offered through my husband's employer. It costs us $500 a month and we EACH have a $6000 annual deductible. What that means is that if we are very, very lucky healthwise, we're on our own for all of our tests, prescriptions, doctor visits, etc. I wouldn't mind that as much if it was more affordable, but considering we use to pay less each month for an 80/20 plan, it hurts. My husband has put off having health tests and an invasive procedure done because we're trying to figure out how to afford it, and we're insured. He and my daughter are both looking at surgeries in the next year and I don't know how we're going to be able to pay off $12,000.

Katherine said...

Good suggestions. I do most of these already.

1. When our TV reception was lousy, I bought powered rabbit ears - one time $10 and now I can get more than half the stations.

2. I cut my kids hair and when DH saw that they looked decent, he lets me cut his too. Lately, I've been on the "let it grow a lot, then get a free 'Locks of Love' cut and donate the hair".

3. We just switched to a HRA insurance plan - we'll save $100/month on premiums. I do find the dental plan saves money though - it breaks even with all 4 of us getting 2 cleanings each a year. Anything else (sealants, fillings, orthodontia, etc) makes us come out ahead. So YMMV - check out the policies.

I do most of the others too, but I just can't give up my local paper. We all miss it too much. But, I think I've only paid the normal rate about 2 years out of 9 - when its up for renewal, I call and can usually get a special of about half off, bringing it to about the same price as just the Sunday paper.

Anonymous said...

Man, I wish I could get my husband to kill the cable beast. Funny thing, I'm usually the one who watches it more than he does and I'm the one who wants to get rid of it.

We've really been slacking this year with keeping our expenses down, but I am going to get back in the saddle.

Thanks for the inspiration!

-Jen K.

Anonymous said...

Hello Michelle!

You've got some great ideas here! Thanks for sharing.

I cut my husband's hair and it saves us about $140 per year. However, HE is not allowed to cut my hair. Haa haa.

It sounds weird, but one way we save a ton of money is by purchasing quality (read expensive) clothing, footwear and accesories. I just wrote about it today. Here is a link in case anyone is interested.

Take Care,

ewe are here said...

All good advice.

Over here we have to pay the BBC licensing fee for the 'privilege' of owning a television. It drives me batty, since i would never pay for cable (Other than the basic network channels and bleeders, like commenter 1 mentions). Or satellite.

Jolene said...

Thank you for this post. We are doing our best right now to cut back our spending. I think that I do most of these things already - we don't have credit cards that we carry a balance on, our cars are paid for etc... But sometimes it is the little things like cable bills, texting charges and for me it is the quick trips to the grocery store for one thing that really add up and run your bank balance down.

Mirien said...

Those are some of my favorite ways to save, too! However, the title of this post leads me to wonder, what are your Least Favorite Ways to Save Money? I'm looking forward to that post. :)

Krista said...

Great post. The only thing I would add is, "know when to spend." (Or maybe that's another post?) After you've saved a dollar here and a dollar there, it can start to seem scary to hand over a stack of cash in exchange for tickets to see great-grandma at Christmas, a month in a villa in Tuscany, or to remodel your house, but 5 years from now you'll be so glad you did.

And they say that thrifty is trendy again. You're not wearing last year's fashions, you're recessionista chic.

Lara said...

These are excellent, and we are already doing most of them. I didn't know about the redbox free thing...I will have to look into that. I've been bugging my husband to get rid of the MVP at Hollywood.

Kitty said...

Some good ideas here.
I do cut the kids' hair already, but we do have cable TV though as we live overseas and needed some English language channels. Luckily it is fairly inexpensive though.

Erin said...

These are great ideas. We do most of them already too. We also have a "fun money" budget for each of us each month, and we can't spend over that amount. So if I go to a movie and out to eat with some friends, I probably can't afford the latest cd that I want. It helps me decide what is really important to me, and what I value.

Munchkins and Music said...

Buying generic stuff is a great way to save, I agree. And many times the generic stuff is the same as the real stuff!

A New Aunt... said...

These are all really good suggestions and I agree with you on most but one. #12. Why? I agree that now days it is easier and cheaper to check your newspaper online and you are saving tons of trees, but then again, this just happens to be my job lol I am a single copy dealer (supplies newspapers to area stores and businesses) and depending on how many papers I happen to sell in a weeks time, depends on how my family and I survive. I've been doing this for 9 years and looking over my records from past years, I have noticed a huge decline in newspaper sales and it would not surprise me one bit (paper) news will be nothing but the past.

MommyK said...

We don't have cable, we never have, and I don't miss it at all. I like the Food Network and some of the other channels when we're at the beach, but other than that, it's 50 channels of nothing on!

Janet said...

We already do almost all of these. We don't have any TV signal to the house. Even the basic no frills cable is $50 a month. Then there's the extra $1000 they wanted to run the cable up the mountain. I get my hair cut at Walmart for $13.95. I cut the Mountain Man's hair (I DO know how to do the straight across cut!) and cut DeBoy's bangs. Eventually I'm going to have to cut the Queen's hair, because it's going to get long enough to sit on, which would be bad. But I'm going to cry when i have to say goodbye to those curls.
We have old cars that are paid for so we only have to have liability coverage.
I just don't buy clothes.
We don't take the newspaper since the daily is from Lexington which is 3 hours away and I can read the comics online. The local paper is twice a week. We don't get it either, because it's appalling.
Scott takes lunch to work usually unless he has a meeting.
Fortunately his company supplies health insurance. We do pay for life insurance for both of us because God knows how long it would take me to get a job and daycare is REALLY expensive here.

cndymkr / jean said...

Evidently I am a slacker. I have cable and I don't think I could willing part with it. The rest of the suggestions are doable. Especially the one about not moving! I promise to follow that one for a long, long time.

Neurotic Grad Student said...

As a child whose parents cut her hair badly and was teased mercifully I must say to be super careful about doing that to your offspring. Tread carefully. If you can do it well, go for it!! But if you can't do it well, don't do that to your kids!!

Stephanie said...

We are sure on the same page here. Tim used to trim my hair when it was long and all one length. He did cut a whole in my shirt once. I guess that cut didn't really save me any money!

ShabbyInTheCity said...

I cut my own hair and the boys! Also hand wash our car. I spent so much $ today though ...I need to just sit down and be quiet ;)

Kathy G said...

Some great ideas. I already do a good chunk of them.

However, we do pay for satellite TV, because DH likes watching baseball games (StL Cardinals), and that's where most of the games are broadcast. I like reading the paper each day, particularly with my breakfast. (It's hard to take your coffee and computer monitor on the deck in nice weather!)

Occasionally he'll be in a cost-cutting mood and say "you know, we don't really NEED the newspaper." I counter with "and we don't really NEED the satellite." We save money in other ways.

2xmom10xgma said...


Chrissy Johnson said...

Awesome! ... and love any reference to Yul Brenner as well.

Headless Mom said...

7. I have a basic phone, with the least number of minutes-including taxes it runs about $34/month. I never go over my minutes (200). I use my land line at home, seeing as I don't get cell service at my house. My husband's office provides his. It makes me crazy when I hear of people with $100 or more in cell phone service per month.

We bundle cable/phone (unlimited long distance)/internet. Unfortunately there is only one company in my area that offers internet, otherwise I would switch because I hate them. It is about $150 for all three-including expanded basic, no other frills.

SarahHub said...

Since I quit my job, we are eating out much, much less. I swear, we probably ate my salary...

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

I'm with you on almost all of those, with 2 caveats:

Generic salsa - don't go there.

The newspaper subscription is very educational for kids. They love lying on the floor on their bellies and reading it. They ask us questions about what they read and it generates a lot of good discussion. So we keep getting it. But I called up the subscription office and told them it was too expensive and they gave me a cheaper rate (4 dollars a month!) for everyday service. It's a major national newspaper, too.

Marivic_Little GrumpyAngel said...

All great ideas! Although #2 is kind of scary :-) and no texting will probably trigger a revolt in my house :-)

Mrs_Scotsman said...

Cable - I heard on the news that if things are tight the first bill that many people pay is their cable. REALLY! Wow. The anchor went on to explain why this is a bad idea. We have rabbit ears and the converter box. I have 5 PBS channels its as close to TLC as I'll ever get.

DVD - I love getting them at the library. I have to wait a little longer, but its FREE. It is also nice because if I don't like the movie it is easier to stop watching it and return it. I think you can do that with Blockbuster but who has the courage to say 'I didn't like this can I have another one please.'

Moving - We just made the decision to stick with our current home for a little longer. We have been here 8 years but we looked at the math and it just makes sense to stay put. We'll have to do a little restructuring if we have another child, but I think it is worth to keep the equity in our home vs. handing money over to a realtor.

chelle said...

So glad that i am not the only one without the expense of cable!

Powers Family said...

I happened upon your blog from "Making Life Sweet...One Deal at a Time" and I really appreciate your tips on saving money. You mentioned that you Skype with your parents in India and I do as well. I'm assuming they are on a mission, and I was wondering where they are and what their names are. (In the small possibility that they might know each other!) Also, my best friend lives in Anchorage, so your Alaska references were fun.

thediaperdiaries said...

I can proudly say I NEVER have had a car payment. I look at a car as a way to get from a to b. They are a worthless investment cause they lose money from the second you buy them.

That being said, I pay an insane amount for a Costco membership, haircuts and cable so what do I know :)

JENNIFER said...

Great post.

Saving money is truly on my mind a lot lately.

I smiled when I saw your comments on texting we just had the "texting" discussion at our house with a very persistent but still disappointed teenager. Texting is not a "need" :)

all over the map said...

I have to say I pretty much agree with you on all of these ways to save. Except maybe the haircut thing. My only beef is that it looks bad when you can tell that your mum did indeed cut your hair!
Cable is a large expense that I think many people don't even give a second thought to.
Cars. That's another "throw your money right out the window". Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't be opposed, to say, if my husband drove up one day with a new Mercedes for me. I'd love it! But the reality is that we can't afford a car like that and I would rather live than be crippled by a huge payment. I know people who strap themselves to huge car payments and buy new cars every few years. Why?
Insurance can be tricky though. It does depend on the individual/family. I always had great insurance through my employer, luckily enough. There was no way I could buy it privately and get the same coverage. Of course, large companies usually get better rates.
Insurance, especially medical, is such a scam in so many ways and it frustrates me to think about it. It is necessary for many things obviously but it needs a serious revamping. They bilk Americans for billions of dollars and fight tooth and nail to get out of paying. Makes me sick.
I am so grateful for having coverage here in Australia. I don't have the burden of coverage limits, deductibles, etc or worry that if I wasn't insured I'd lose all my assets. I have to pay some portion for doctor's visit and varying treatments but I'm guaranteed coverage no matter my age, health, history of illness. It's not a perfect system. There are things that have room for improvement but overall, I have to say after experiencing both systems I am completely satisfied with our medical care and have no worries about being taken care of.
I'm all for saving money. It feels good to not be wasteful.

Damselfly said...

Hey, wow -- we do most of these already. People look at us funny when we tell them we don't have cable, though.

We do get the newspaper, however, and we have some magazines. Most of the mag subscriptions are gifts. I was in the magazine biz once, so it's hard for me to stay away.....

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness the economy in Alaska is based on oil! Which, up until recently, was at an all time high.

Today, it's at $60.89... this could get very, very interesting. Remember the late 80's?

KateB said...

Love the ideas, especially "cut back on extra-curriculars." With most, if not all, of these money-savers, there's an additional benefit. In the case of th extra-curriculars, it is that kids get to be kids. I teach music lessons (flute and voice) and I'm appalled by the schedules kids keep these days.

Mine are too little for this to come into play yet (well, I suppose we could cut swim lessons, but that seems like safety to me, and it's only till Baby #3 arrives in March), but I'm determined to toe the line. Kids have a right to a childhood, not a mini-adulthood.



We live in Houston where the winter is mild enough that we don't run the heat at all during the winter which saves us a lot of money on electricity.

We also use the time-honored "If It's Yellow, Let It Mellow" water conservation techniques. Hey, I have 6 kids. A flush saved is a water bill reduction earned.

We also cut our own hair. Eat only what I find on clearance at the store. We use coupons and we don't have cable or anything technologically fancy outside of high speed Internet. It's getting tougher to make it even with all the cutbacks we've experimented with.