5 Ways Families Can Stretch Their Budgets | Woombie

Parents encounter many challenges, and saving money is one that many families face. It sometimes seems that expenses come out of the woodwork when raising children. If you are trying to watch your family's budget, keep these five things in mind.

1. Keep Housing Costs Down

A house is often a family's most significant investment. You know it's important to take care of it, but can you save money? Fortunately, there are a few ways you can lower your housing budget.

Check to see if interest rates are lower than what you're currently paying. If so, you may benefit from refinancing. As about VA home loans or other ones for which you may qualify. Refinancing can potentially lower your monthly house payment or let you pay more toward the principal and pay off your house sooner.

Make home maintenance an essential chore. Neglect can cause many problems — rusted pipes can cause flooding, drafty windows can let in the cold, and an old roof can leak. It costs money to make repairs and replacements, but it saves you money in the long run by preventing worse problems.

Lower your utility bills by adjusting your thermostat. Even a few degrees can make a difference. If you don't have a programmable thermostat, consider installing one. It saves you from remembering to turn it up or down when you leave the house.

2. Shop Sales

Your kids' birthdays come at the same time each year. That gives you time to plan. If you know what they want, buy presents on sale. The same logic applies to the December holidays — keep an eye out for gift bargains all year long.

You can also save on your grocery bill by buying food on sale. Stock your freezer with meat when it's marked down. Eat produce that is in season; it usually costs a lot less.

Planning your meals ahead of time can help you save at the grocery. When you know what you need, you are less likely to buy impulsively and spend more than you anticipated. You can also find apps that display store ads all in one place, allowing you to browse and look for sales.

3. Have Fun for Free

You don't have to shell out a lot for some forms of entertainment — in fact, you might be delighted to discover that your kids enjoy free activities. Pack a picnic lunch or snacks and visit a local park. Take a walk around the block and see who can find the first pink flower or blue car. Invite friends over at playtime.

Vacations can dent your budget, but they are also great family fun. If you can't swing a pricey vacation, visit the tourist destinations in your hometown or make a day trip to a nearby city.

4. Host a Simple Birthday Party

There's a lot of pressure to make your child's birthday a grand event. Your child may be invited to birthday parties at a venue above your budget. Try to resist the urge to keep up. Your child can have a lot of fun hosting a sleepover with a few friends or a casual gathering in the backyard. Keep in mind that it's about the memories you make, not the money you spend.

5. Shop Secondhand

Do you want to go green and save money at the same time? Shop at thrift and consignment stores for your family's clothing. When they are young, children outgrow clothes so quickly that their outfits are often in great shape when they're done wearing them. This is especially true for fancy dresses, sports coats and shoes that get worn once or twice. You can find nice-looking clothes without paying full price.

Staying on a budget is always a challenge, and raising a family while doing so can make it harder. Try these suggestions to help you spend less on everyday expenses and hopefully save for the future.