Tax season is once again around the corner, and with a big chunk of change coming out of your bank account, your thoughts have likely turned to how to save some extra money in the weeks and months ahead. Considering that the cost of raising a child has gone up 40% in just the past decade, you’re definitely not alone. And while you deserve a pat on the back for buying and selling clothes with thredUP (money saved + money earned + environmentally friendly = score!), we’re not the only solution for the budget-conscious. Here are a few of our favorite tips for how to save some extra cash in this tight time of year, and stick with it all year long.
Sign up for every rewards program going. Most stores have special rewards clubs that offer regular discounts to their members, but the catch is that the emails can clog up your inbox—and the cards can make a mess of your wallet. To keep things streamlined, keep the pile of cards in a separate pouch and create a separate Gmail address for all the rewards sign-ups. When you need an item from that store, search your email, find the latest discount, and throw the pouch in your handbag. It’ll keep you focused on only spending at the stores you want to visit, and will net you more discounts when you do need to buy something.
Teach your kids to budget. Grown-ups often have a budget for various important items (mortgage, groceries, insurance), but there’s no reason school-age kids can’t have a petite version of the same thing. Instead of just giving in to the occasional request for a new toy, allot each child a weekly allowance (say, $10), and keep track of it in a note on your phone. When your child wants to buy something nonessential, they can see how much budget they have, and deduct accordingly. No financial surprises for you, and a good life lesson for them—you may be surprised how assiduously they save to get that iPad or monster Lego set they’ve been wanting. As they get older, consider adding on clothing and entertainment (like movies or concert tickets) as well, with an increased budget, of course.
Take the 52-week challenge. If it seems like you can’t seem to save up money for emergencies, this trick is a great one. The process is simple: create a special bank account and deposit $1 for the first week, then $1 more each following week for a year. ($1 in week one, $2 in week two, all the way up to $52 in week 52.) It’ll slowly acclimate you to the idea of saving by allowing you to adjust your budget and find your pain points on the fly, and by the end of the year, you’ll have $1,378. Already got your savings under control? Save for retirement by doing the same thing with the percentage of your income that goes into your 401(k) every six months or every year. (1% this year, 2% next year, and so on.)
Try a no-spending month. It sounds like a radical proposition, but taking a month where you spend on nothing aside from the essentials (namely bills, perishable food, and personal care items) can be surprisingly liberating. You’ll end up cleaning out all those nonperishable items from the pantry to create new meals, cracking open books you bought long ago but never read, using those gift cards and certificates lying around the house, and catching up on your Netflix backlog instead of hitting the theater. It’ll encourage you to reconnect with those around you, and appreciate all the little luxuries in life once the month is over. (And the money you save can go right into your savings or retirement account.)