Ways I Save Money in our Household Budget
Where to start with a budget
Budget doesn’t have to be a dirty word. I budget our household expenses to make sure we have enough money to pay our bills and don’t overspend on extras. The first step to creating a budget is to track spending for one month. Don’t skip anything. Spent $5 on a coffee for your morning commute? Write it down (or enter it into a spreadsheet). Once you see where your money goes, you can see where you’re overspending and set up pools of money for each type of expense.
I like to use a monthly Excel spreadsheet that’s already set up as a budget. You can find all sorts of free templates online for Microsoft Office, Pages, or Google Sheets. Just find one you like or go the pen and paper approach.
With my spreadsheet, I can set up projected budgets for things like mortgage, insurance, groceries, utilities and debt payments. For things like car insurance and pest control that are billed every three months, I like to divide the cost and save out 1/3 of the payment each month to plan ahead for the expense.
Saving money on purchases
For most purchases, I try to get the best deal if that means shopping around first or waiting for a sale. I love clearance items, and so far, I’ve been good at guessing the sizes my kids would need as they grew. Basic items like t-shirts, pajamas, socks, pants, and underwear are awesome to purchase at rock-bottom prices after the back to school season or after the holidays. I would buy one or two sizes bigger so they’d have something to grow into.
For some items, saving money might mean buying used instead of new, such as with cars or even household items at thrift stores. I’ve found tons of good deals at places like the Goodwill at at a local thrift store called Marva, some with tags still attached. As an avid reader, I snatch up good deals on gently-used books to add to my collection, and I’ve bought some amazing picture frames to display family photos. Some of my favorite jeans I’ve bought secondhand.
Another way I save money is by using online rebate sites and discount or cash back apps on things I would buy anyway. That’s the key—looking for savings on things I would purchase anyway out of necessity or want.
I always check to see if there is a cash back offer when I’m shopping online through sites like Rakuten, Capital One Savings, or MyPoints.com and choose the best deal available if there is one.
Here’s my referral link for Rakuten.
I also look for coupon codes online through a the retailer’s website or a site like CouponBirds.com or RetailMeNot.com. I’ve saved so much money just taking the time (usually less than a minute) to just check first.
Groceries and household goods rebate apps
To get the best deal on groceries and household essentials, I use coupons and try to pair those savings with sales and rebate apps if I can. I clipped paper coupons for a long time until most couponing became app-based or online only. I never go to Kroger or Dollar General without checking out the coupons on their apps first, and I also check out my favorite rebate app, Ibotta.
Ibotta is an app that rewards you with cash back for purchases of featured items at certain stores like Walmart, DollarTree, Kroger, Dollar General and many, many others. Just find your store and load the offers you plan to buy. When you’re in the store, you can use your phone’s camera to scan the items to make sure you’ve grabbed the right item. Ibotta also has links within the app for percentage-based cash back offers for some online purchases.
After the purchase, you’ll get cash back added to your Ibotta balance if you have your store account linked (for retailers that allow it) or you’ll submit your receipt via a photograph in the app. Some offers may require you to scan the item again to verify if the receipt doesn’t clearly identify the item. Once you have accumulated $20 or more in your Ibotta wallet, you can cash out for gift cards, to PayPal or to your bank account.
My favorite thing about Ibotta is they often have bonuses for redeeming a set number of offers, like getting an extra $5 back for 15 offers. I like to keep count of the offers I’m redeeming as I’m shopping to see if I’ll get the bonuses.
Want to try Ibotta? Sign up with my referral code for some extra cash back. My code: mdpbka
Similar to Ibotta, Checkout 51 is another rebate app, but it lists fewer offers for multiple stores. It takes me longer to accumulate the $20 to cash out with this app because I don’t find as many offers there as I do on Ibotta, but it only takes a second to check, so what’s the harm? Just make sure you load offers before checking out because the receipt must be stamped at a time and date later than when you added the offer. Also, Checkout 51 runs deals from Thursday-Wednesday every week, and really good rebates are limited and might become unavailable if you wait too long.
You can also earn extra cash back with bonuses for online shopping, completing surveys, or watching occasional videos (usually worth 3 cents).
Coupons.com has been popular for years as a way to print coupons from their website. The app is similar with the offers, but instead of printing coupons to use at the store, you make your purchase like normal and submit a photo of your receipt and verify the offers later.
A nice thing about the Coupons.com app is that you can get cash back to PayPal right away after your offer is verified without having to wait for a certain total. If you redeem a single coupon for $1 off a product, you’ll get that dollar cash back. I’ve gotten up to $20 back on one purchase in coupons before that I didn’t have to spend the time clipping and scanning at the store.
Find the apps that work for you
Really, the best apps are the ones that work for your situation. Use them consistently and see the savings grow. Some of these apps overlap and you can get multiple discounts on the same item as long as there is no fine print prohibiting it in the offer.
There are other savings apps too, like Shopmium, but I didn’t keep that one because I could never find offers that applied to my families wants and needs at the time. I might check it out again since I’ve heard it’s being revamped.
Receipt sharing apps
There are several apps that reward you with points (or cash for a charity) for sharing purchase receipts in paper or email form. These are good if you don’t mind letting the companies sell your purchase history to market research companies. The two I use are listed below.
This app gives you points for grocery store receipts and sweepstakes entries/chances to spin for points for other types of receipts like those from clothing stores. Based on what you buy, you might also get bonus survey opportunities to earn extra points. Once you accumulate 1000 points, you can cash out through PayPal or redeem for gift cards instead.
Since joining in 2015, I’ve gotten back $195 just for snapping my regular receipts and filling out occasional surveys.
Join Receipt Hog with my referral code slan1250 for some bonus points.
Similar to Receipt Hog, Fetch Rewards gives you at least 25 points for every receipt you upload, and you can also provide online receipts through your email and linking your Amazon account. Certain brands will give you bonus points too. You can accumulate points and then redeem for gift cards. Since joining in 2021, I’ve earned $111 in gift cards with little effort!
Use my Fetch Rewards Referral Link or sign up w/ code UKQBY & get 100 pts.
Box Tops for Education
In the past, Box Tops appeared on certain products (like Betty Crocker, General Mills, and Lysol to name a few) and you had to cut out the little 10-cent coupon to give to schools. The schools would send in the coupons and get rewarded with money for projects. It was kind of a pain, but I did it faithfully to help out my kids’ schools.
Now, it’s much easier to redeem the coupons. Just download the Box Tops app, select your school, and send a photo of your receipt. It’s that easy!
Save on your cell phone bill with Visible
If you live in an area serviced by Verizon towers, you can save money on your monthly phone bill. With unlimited data plans at $25 and $35 depending on the speed you want, Visible phone service is a steal. I’ve been on their service for a couple of years now at the $25 a month rate. I get unlimited data usage, talk and text, plus my phone can be a hot spot for my laptop when I’m traveling. Visible often has rebate deals, too, when you purchase your phone through them, or you can bring your own (compatible) phone.
Wanna try them out with a $20 discount? Use my Visible referral link or enter my code: tFcNt.
Final thoughts to consider
Even the best deals aren’t good if you won’t use or donate the items before they expire. Just because there’s a coupon doesn’t always make something a good deal, and I’m a firm believer in only buying a product with a coupon that you would have bought anyway without one.
I’m sure you’ve seen videos featuring “extreme couponers” who hoard 500 bottles of barbecue sauce or 100 sticks of deodorant just because it was super cheap or free. Don’t do that.
If you find a great deal (in reasonable amounts) by all means, go for it. Just don’t take everything from the shelf so that other shoppers can’t get an item they need. If you want to take advantage of a good deal for something you won’t use, donate it! I often find clearance food items that I won’t use but that I can get at deep discounts with coupons and rebates to donate to a food pantry. It allows the money I earmark for pantry donations to go farther.
For example, there was once a deal where I made money purchasing some single-serving cat foods because the coupons and rebate offer exceeded the value of the product. I had heard about the deal through a couponing website, thekrazycouponlady.com. The limit was 5 containers, which made me $1.25 that I could apply to other items. I don’t have a cat, so I purchased the food to donate to the local animal shelter.
Another product was single-serving cereal bowls that had a $1.00 rebate. Well, our local Walmart clearance the bowls for 50 cents each. There were three varieties with a limit of 5. I bought 15 cereals for $7.5o plus tax, and my rebate was $15. I did that deal several times when it reset until the cereals were all sold out and the deal was gone. I donated all of those to the food pantry and used the excess rebate to purchase other staples for the pantry like beans, rice, and canned meats like chicken and tuna.
Just make sure you’re not overspending just to get good deals and that you have enough storage space for your sale items so you’ll use them and not forget about them.
Do you have some other tips to save money for your family? Let me know in the comments!
Thank you for reading
-Brandi Easterling Collins
Featured Image by Freepik