10 Money-Saving Tips for Family BudgetsMelissa Wenzel
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The Great Recession has been long and difficult. You've scrimped and saved. You've worked and re-worked your family's budget. And just when you think you've cut back on everything you can, you may find at the end of the month that it's still not enough. If that's your situation, it's time to get creative. Consider these 10 ways to make your family funds go further.
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Sell Your House
If you are one of 11.1 million Americans upside-down on your mortgage, meaning you owe more on your mortgage than your home is worth, contact your lender to see if you qualify for a loan modification. If your lender wont budge, consider negotiating a short sale on your home. In a short sale, a homeowner can sell their house for less money than is actually owed on the mortgage. This requires some research and soul-searching for your family, but the result may be worth it. You could even qualify for a new government program called HAFA that pays you $3,000 upon successful completion of the short sale.
Regardless of which route you decide to take, be sure to consult an attorney to make sure you qualify and to help you consider any risks you might be taking.
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Embrace a Multi-Generational Home
Think moving back in with mom and dad is absurd? Think again. Multi-generational living doesnt need to go on forever, but when times are tough, its a viable alternative. And while there are sure to be challenges, you may be pleasantly surprised with the unique bonding opportunities it provides for your family.
A Pew Research Center study found that in 2009, 6.6 million American homes housed at least three generations of family, a 30% increase from 2000. The study further concluded that the rise in multi-generational living environments was heavily influenced by the poor economy and housing crash.
The perks to combining households include back-up childcare, extra hands to help with household chores, sharing expenses, and the savings that come from shopping and cooking in bulk.
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Maximize Your Couponing
Unless you grow your own food, theres no escaping the grocery store. According to the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average-size U.S. household (2.5 people) spends more than $3,000 per year on groceries.
One way to shrink that number is to start couponing, or take your current coupon use to the next level — without landing yourself a spot on Extreme Couponing. Stephanie Rector, who blogs at couponing101.com, says just a small time investment can reduce your familys grocery bill: Pairing coupons with sales is really not as hard as it may seem. Just take a few minutes to look over the grocery ad and print or clip coupons for the items on sale. Also try Likeing a company or product on Facebook and/or registering on major manufacturers websites (think Proctor & Gamble, etc.). Youll likely receive discounts and maybe even coupons sent directly to your inbox.
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Start a Business
Turn your hobby into a part-time business. In a recession, starting a business seems like the last thing you should do, but some experts say now is actually the perfect time. Julie Jumonville, co-founder of Upspring Baby, told AOL Small Business: Hell yes, it is a good time to start a business. Large companies are cutting services, product lines, and personnel. Sure it is hard to get a bank loan, but if you can bootstrap your new venture, there is a market share and loyalty to be gained from consumers.
Some of the U.S. most widely recognized companies, including The Walt Disney Company and Microsoft, got their start amid economic downturns. Once youve decided what product or service you want to sell, use sites like etsy.com and hiremymom.com to build your profile and apply for jobs. Watching your talents, hobbies, and skills bring in a little money will be all the incentive you need to keep doing it!
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Monetize Your Blog
This is a simple, easy way to maximize on something you may already be doing. Arguably the easiest way to make money from your blog is to allow advertisers to place their ads on your site. These pay-per-click ads are typically run through Yahoo and Google and are automatically sent to your blog based on keywords contained on your site. Ideally, if you blog about organic cooking, your keywords would prompt advertisers to place ads on your site for spaghetti sauce and sustainable living cookbooks. Unless you have a lot of traffic to your blog, this isn't going to make you rich, but it might pad your bank account a bit.
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Theres a whole world of freebies offered on the Internet — you just have find them. Sites like heyitsfree.net and thatfreebiesite.com update their blogs frequently with the latest coupons, freebies, and benefits available to nearly everyone. A few other tricks: Register your diaper box codes at Pampers.com to collect points that can be cashed in to be used toward toys, photo discounts, and gift cards; join birthday clubs at your favorite restaurants and watch your mailbox get stuffed with free appetizers, drinks, and treats on your special day.
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Take Advantage of Friends (in a Good Way)
Julie Knoll, mom of two boys in Phoenix, Arizona, has no problem taking advantage of her friends. Her moms club has a give-and-take table at their meetings and play dates, where anyone can bring their gently used treasures and exchange them for something different — all for free. Ive gotten a lot of great stuff — from baby items to houseware to furniture, Knoll said. Ive seen how my stuff has blessed others, and the best part is its all free!
Round up your friends and organize your own give-and-take table at your next get-together. Its a great way to de-clutter your house without going through the effort of having a yard sale, and youll come away with free stuff.
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Skip the Grocery Shopping
Dont panic. Were not insinuating you starve your family. But do try skipping your trip to the store this week and instead force yourself to make use of what youve already got on hand. Theres a good chance that you have enough canned food and boxed mixes to feed the family for a week. Youll clean out the pantry, manage those expiration dates, and have the money you would have spent on the weeks grocery bill still sitting in your account.
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Shop Around Your Insurance
Weve all seen (and heard) the commercials, but how many of us have taken the time to actually shop around for new auto or homeowners insurance? Taking 15-20 minutes to compare quotes online may reward you with a cheaper alternative. Experts say we should do this every three years, especially if we undergo a lifestyle change, like relocation or change in vehicle. Also make sure you take advantage of any discounts your insurer may be offering. If you like your current company, contact them with a lower rate youre being offered elsewhere; they may be willing to negotiate a better deal to keep you as a policy holder.
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Eliminate outrageous, and often unpredictable, cell phone bills by opting for a pre-paid phone plan as opposed to one that bills you depending on the number of minutes or texts you use. With AT&Ts GoPhone plan, for example, you add money to your account at the start of your service. As you make calls or send texts, the charges are deducted from your account. When your balance is low, you can simply add money to the account.
Contact your current cellular provider to see what theyll offer you. If its not to your liking (or budget), do a little research and consider switching to a pre-paid plan.