My Story: Advice from a Stay-at-Home Mom

by Ann MacNeil

I wanted to share some of the things we do in our family to help us to stay within our budget. As a stay at home mom, I am always looking for ways to stretch our dollars instead of making more dollars.

Kids clothes: It can't be said enough. Get to know your local thrift store staff! I shop 99% at the same store and have gotten to know the gals that work there. I shop weekly and look specifically for items that are needed or go with clothes already owned. This store has spoiled me for when I purchase something new, because a new item seems to either a) shrink; b) go out of shape; c) lose some of the decoration etc. or d) falls apart far before I feel it should. When I purchase second hand, the size you see is the size you get. Also, it seems to last far longer than other clothing. I have purchased items, they have worn by both my girls and passed on to my sister, worn by both her girls and passed along again, still quite wearable. There are even times when I tell the staff that I am looking for a particular item (bell bottom jeans for example) and they CALL me if they come across something that fits the description.

For some other items that I was not willing to purchase (30.00 gym shorts), my daughter used her own money. On her 10th birthday she received some money and we went shopping. She was much more careful with her own dollars for sure. She ended up getting the shorts for 40% off then another 20% on top of that. Still more than what I would have paid at the second hand store, but she was thrilled. I am sure that she will look after those shorts also. I have also purchased a few things at yard sales etc. that I know would be sellable on e-bay. One item in particular was a craft booklet that I purchased for 5 cents (yes, cents) and I ended up selling it for (drumroll please) $20+.

I now go to yard sales and flea markets with a different eye. I haven't done this a whole lot, but obviously the opportunity is there. The other thing I really save on is gifts. I purchase year round at sales etc. I always have a gift box on the go and rarely am I caught 'empty handed'. I also have changed my attitudes on used items and don't feel bad for purchasing good quality second hand. I have purchased some things on on-line auctions and homeschool pages also.

One of our daughter's Christmas gift is already in the box - a gameboy and 3 games, purchased for $40. ($200 value) The other day I was standing in the grocery line up and there was a lady behind me with 2 children. The were handling stuffed vegetable toys and the mother said 'put them in the cart if you want them'. I couldn't believe it! They actually didn't seem overly interested in them and the purchase added $12. to her grocery bill. Our girls are learning that you don't get things on a whim (sorry to all those merchandisers that put eye-catching items at kids eye level) and that we are working together as a family to remain debt free.

They seem to appreciate what they do get and are learning the value of income earned and instead of earning more income you can do more with what you do have. For their extra curricular activities they get to choose one thing per term that they would like to do. An older (and wiser) gal told me this years ago and it has worked great. They are committed to whatever it is that they are doing and I am not constantly on the road taking them places.

We have a fairly relaxed home life. (So far... we aren't into the teen years yet - grin) Before I purchase something, I ask myself: Do we really need it? Is there some other way that I can get this? Borrow it? Make it? Substitute it with something else? I also pass along things to others that are of the same mind.

For instance, our girls attend private school and I own books for grades 2-5. Each year, I loan out whatever books I don't need to another family. For grades I don't have, I borrow. I have only had to purchase 3 books over the past 5 years. When we are done of them, I plan on giving them to another family with the condition that they won't be sold but are to be passed on to someone else until they are either unusable or out of date.

Our solutions are not for everyone - as everyone's circumstances etc. are different, but I guess the point I wanted to make is this...There are always ways to save money, even on the 'extras' - you just need to be creative and willing to look for different solutions. There is something to be said about controlling your finances instead of them controlling you.

My Story is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story to share please send it to with "My Story" as the subject. You don't need to be a writer. Just someone who's learned about saving money and is willing to share the information with others.

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