What can working moms do to save money when time is a limitation?

Money-Saving Ideas for Working Moms

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Ideas for a Two Income Family

I need some tips from women who work outside the home and drive to a workplace everyday then have to come home after a long work day and take care of house and family. I often can't use tips from women who stay home because they require too much time. For instance, I don't have time for gardening. I need money-saving ideas that won't burden an already overfull schedule. Pamela M.

Maybe You Can Garden

Don't be too quick to say you don't have time for gardening. This year, my family and I did some "square foot gardening." In 6'x6' area, we grew tomatoes, green beans, watermelon, lettuce and marigolds. Not only was it a fun activity putting it together, but also the kids got into helping water. We didn't buy any of those vegetables all summer. You can check out the process at thesquarefootgardening.com. Lisa

Where There's a Will, There's a Way!

  1. Make sure to utilize your commute properly by doing your shopping and errands during this time. If your boss is flexible, you can leave early if you come in early to make it up. Then you'll get home at the same time.
  2. Get a freezer so you can stock up on sale items. This will save money and time.
  3. If you do your errands and shopping during the week, you will have more time on weekends to take care of the house and prepare some meals in advance for the next week. (Maybe even rest?)
  4. Get the kids and the husband to pack their own lunches out of things you buy on sale. Why should you have to do everything?
  5. If you don't have online banking, get it! This saves money and time. You can pay all the bills in your pajamas after the kids go to bed or in the morning before they wake up.
  6. Check those fees at the bank. Some offer free checking for automatic deposits.
  7. I save about $400 per year by having my homeowners and car insurance with the same company.

I hope these help. You probably have already implemented some of these suggestions. Just keep thinking about ways to save all of the time and you will come up with more ideas based on your family needs. There is always a way! Sheila

Keep an Eye on Your Goals

I have needed to work outside the home while raising my children. While I never honestly felt I had a handle on all things, looking back I can name a few things that help life run a little smoother.

Food and clothing are a necessary fact of life. I try to do my grocery shopping on my way home from work. I have a list and a budget. My total budget is fixed, but what I spend in each sub-category is not. Let's say I have $50 to spend. I'll allot $20 for meat, $15 veggies (canned, fresh and or frozen), $5 for breakfast items, $5 for condiments, $5 for miscellaneous. Pick a convenient store and learn how to shop it. They all want your business, and they all have their marketing methods. My favorite grocer runs "loss leaders," and I tend to shop accordingly. Keeping meals simple helps. Meat, starch, salad, bread gives you a framework for dinner and makes planning easy. Insist on one meal a day together with no TV or radio.

For clothing, a "uniform" helps. Take a moment and mentally put together what type of clothing will get you through your day with a minimum of fuss. Help other family members do the same. Keeping things simple avoids overbuying, which in turns deters clutter. Drop off a bag of unused clothing occasionally to your local charity. Making it a point to do a load of wash (washed, dried and put away) morning and evening. Teach your children some life skills as they are able to learn in regards to managing laundry. Everyone needs to know what tomorrow's outfit will be, and having clothing clean and ready eliminates early morning rushing.

Be mindful of the "extra expense" of your job. Are there frequent collections at work? You will need to determine your giving limit, and figure in advance what you will decline. Are your co-workers in the habit of ordering out lunch one day a week? Decide, in advance, if that is something you wish to participate in. If not, make sure you like your sack lunch so you will not succumb to temptation.

Keep an eye on your goals. You say you are now a two-income family. What is your initial reason for having two incomes? What is the next step after goal one is met? Keeping concrete goals in mind helps you from flittering away money on non-essentials. Talk frequently with your husband so that both of you remain on the same page.

Make sure to include rest and recreation into your weekly plan. You will still be a family once your financial goals have been met, and you will want your children to recall the fun times they had growing up

Simplicity works. Simple routines work. You have the creativity to develop a pattern that will work for you and your family. Laurie

Taking It One Small Step at a Time

It is nearly impossible to always serve homemade dinners and have two parents work outside of the house. Sometimes "cheating" by eating/ordering out is necessary.

Just do a little research as to which restaurants/delis have discounts which days. For example, Jerry's Pizza and Subs has $4.99 large cheese pizzas on Mondays, eat in or take out. Twice a month, we will pick up a few.

Some restaurants have "kids eat free" on certain nights, or you can get 20% off from area circulars. Just keep track and have coupons in one place when you need a "carry out/eat out" night. And don't feel bad because you are not paying full price.

I buy two ready-made rotisserie chickens at the supermarket on Sundays and will use them as a meal as is, or just pull off the meat for later in the week to make chicken salad, chicken tacos, and chef salads. I know that I would save money if I bought the chickens at 59 cents a pound and cooked them myself, but sometimes the time savings is worth the few dollar savings. What are you paid by the hour?

I also have my husband cook two meats on the grill at a time so we are ready for the next night. I make simple, inexpensive soup with a combination of lentil, spit pea, barley, carrots, celery and diced tomatoes in chicken broth (or water with a few bouillon cubes). To this, I add leftover meat (either rotisserie chicken, steak from the grill, leftover hamburger, sausage or bacon). It is healthy, cheap and flavorful for lunches. Plus, my kids will eat it as a first course for dinner.

We have an informal neighbor group where we make double or triple batches and share with each other. That way, the first spouse home just has to reheat a ready-made dinner, which is generally more interesting than what I cook! Some people do this with a calendar like carpool. Julie in Maryland

"Invest" in a Gardener

I don't have the time to garden, but I do enjoy fresh veggies and the cost savings of having a garden. I have found an easy way to get garden vegetables is to "invest" in someone in your office or a friend that does garden. I've offered a small amount to help with the cost of seedlings, etc. to a colleague that gardens at the beginning of the season. She then lets me "shop" in her garden as often as I wish. This benefits her since she loves to garden and often ends up with too much crop and benefits me who loves the fresh veggies but lacks the time to garden. Carla in Elkton, SD

Get a Little Help from the Fly Lady

Check out flylady.net. It is the best free system I have seen for getting your life organized, facing your finances, taking care of home and children, and staying sane while being a working wife/mother. C

Love Your Slow Cooker and Pressure Cooker

I can really relate! I work outside the home, and my DH works two jobs so he isn't available to help with the day-to-day household workload. For me, my slow cooker and pressure cooker are lifesavers. There are so many recipes for both and they cut down on cooking time and make the cheaper cuts of meat into tender and moist meals, which means that I can buy all my groceries at the cut rate grocery stores, not just my basics. I used to spend a lot more on groceries when I bought better cuts of meats at the regular grocers.

I also try to buy in season vegetables in greater quantities and prepare them for the freezer when I'm already doing some for dinner anyway. For example, right now, sweet peppers are about a quarter of the price they will be in the winter. Instead of buying one or two, I'll be six or more at a time. Then when I'm making dinner, I'll just slice up the rest of them, put them in a freezer bag (one per bag), squeeze out the air and freeze. They aren't good for "raw" use like a salad, but they work great for cooked dishes throughout the winter. I'll use the food processor to chop onions when I can pick up a big bag on sale and do the same thing, putting the equivalent of one onion per small freezer bag and freezing them. It takes only a little extra time and I still get the savings. It also saves prep time later when I'm cooking a meal in a hurry.

Another time and money saver for me is to get up just early enough to throw a load of wash in before getting ready for work, giving myself enough time when it finishes to hang the items on hangers or a drying rack before I leave. When I come home, if they need it, I can toss them in the wrinkle release cycle of the dryer for about 10 minutes, fold and put away. Cindy

Want to Make $20 to $60 Per Hour?

Prepare bag lunches at night rather than buying lunch every day. This takes very little time and will save you a lot of money! I've often watched a co-worker unwrap a bowl of cut-up melon or veggies for which she paid $4. That is one serving for $4! Preparing it would take between one and three minutes. Think of it as getting paid $20 to $60 per hour, tax free, for the time it takes to make your lunch. Rivka K.

Cook Large Quantities Less Often

Here's an easy one from someone who has been there. Start cooking large quantities of foods in advance and freeze them for future meals. You can start slowly. Just double or triple your recipes. For example, in my freezer right now, I have one meatloaf (I'll just defrost it and pop it in the oven), two freezer bags of chili, two or three freezer bags of spaghetti sauce, and so on. Rather than cook seven nights a week, I can choose to serve something I have already prepared and supplement it with a side dish and a green salad. This is especially handy when you have late afternoon activities and aren't home to cook. There are many books on the market about this. A great one is Frozen Assets by Deborah Taylor-Hough. B. McIntyre in Pollock Pines, CA

If circumstances have put your family in debt, start taking the steps to financial freedom today!

One for All and All for One

My husband and I have three children (ages 8, 5, and 8 months) and both of us work full time. We've always been a two-income family except for a two-year break in the middle for me. Here are some of the things that we do:

  • Cook for the freezer. We generally cook three months' worth of meals at a time. See 30daygourmet.com for more information.
  • Meals are cooked by whoever gets home first. We both have hectic times of the year in our jobs so we make an effort to do more when it is the other's busy time.
  • Whoever is there and has a few minutes does housework. My husband is usually off one day during the week and works an odd shift or two as well, which means he is home with one or none of the girls so he gets as much done then as he can.
  • Some things just don't get done and other things don't get done as often as some might do them. We focus on kitchens, bathrooms and fighting clutter. Now that the baby is mobile, we pretty much just leave the vacuum out so we can make a quick run over the floor when we can.
  • The older girls help out. They can help sort and/or fold some laundry, set the table, clear the table, pick up their stuff around the house, etc. They also help out by playing with the baby while we fix dinner or put a load of laundry in.
  • We try to save errands for the weekend or my husband does them on his day off during the week. We use Click 'n Pull at Sam's to save time for shopping trips.

For us, it comes down to one thing. We are a family and we all contribute. One person cannot and should not have to do it all. Allison

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Low Time Investment, Big Money Savings

There are plenty of low-time investment ways to save. Here are just a few:

  1. The slow cooker is your best friend on working days. Throw in some meat, veggies and potatoes in the morning, set it to low, and dinner will be ready when you come home!
  2. Switch the family to water from sodas and juice drinks. Not only is it cheaper, but it's also healthier. Get a faucet water filter, which is much cheaper than bottled water!
  3. Brown bag everybody's lunch. Use refillable water bottles for beverages (preferably water!). Juice boxes really run into money.
  4. Set your coffeemaker up the night before and invest in a couple of travel mugs. Say goodbye to expensive drive-through coffee! Plus, you'll save time in the morning!
  5. You can't change your commute but maybe you can make it cheaper? Drive a high miles per gallon vehicle if you can. Make sure your car is tuned up and tires are inflated properly for optimum mileage. We use a gas station credit card that pays 4% back in gas cards for purchases at their stations. If you pay the balance off each month, it's a great way to save on gas!
  6. If you cook on the weekends, double the batch and freeze an additional dinner or several lunches to have on hand for a busy day.
  7. Spend an occasional Saturday at thrift or consignment stores and/or yard sales for clothes. Amazing deals can be had!
  8. Chill on Saturday nights with a nice dinner and a movie. Get frozen pizza and bagged salad on sale with a coupon (preferably doubled or tripled!) and watch a library rental DVD. (Our library even lets us reserve DVDs if the one we want is out already.) Make ice cream for dessert with the kids with your yard sale ice cream maker. Now, that's living!


Take the Next Step

  • Get cash back on the groceries you buy. Checkout 51 can show you how!
  • No time for meal planning? Subscribe to Saving Dinner Premium Menu Mailer, your weekly road map to making daily family dinners a reality.
  • Continue to trim food costs by visiting our food & groceries section to get tips and tools for keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.
  • It's tough raising kids today! You need every time and money saving idea you can find. That's why you'll want to get our free weekly Dollar Stretcher for Parents newsletter. You'll find great ideas designed just for parents that will help your family 'live better...for less'! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE.

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