Saving money can be tough, but trying to save money in the busier stages of life can present new challenges. For my family, the busier we get the harder it has been to not spend extra money. We are tired and forget to sit down and pay bills, and now there is a late fee. Or cooking dinner is the last thing I want to do after a long day, so we grab take out. Kids need goodies for a class party and I run out of time to bake, so I grab a pricey packaged option on the way to school. The list goes on.
I have spoken with other moms, who are not only taking care of children, but also have other family members they are responsible for caring for.
The Huffington Post recently published an article titled “Women Are Caregivers, But Who Cares For Them“. The article includes the following thought provoking quote: “Caregiving by family members is a rapidly growing experience. A recent AARP study showed that there are about 42.1 million family caregivers in the United States (most of them women ages 40 to 60) providing care to an adult with limitations, and 29 percent of those caregivers spend 40 hours or more per week providing that care. This means that about one-third of Americans, mostly women, can list caregiving as an unpaid, full time job”
That statistic is astounding. Many women, not only care for children (and often work full time jobs), but also spending 40 hours or more caring for another adult. For many women they will go through caregiver stages multiple times in their lives. They will care for children, and then often an aging parent, and ultimately an aging spouse. Many men will also carry these responsibilities, but the numbers indicate the majority of it falls to women. Genworth Financial has more information on caregiver planning on their website as well.
On top of all of this, we women can be hard on ourselves if we are not being frugal enough. Finances get tight, and so we add one more responsibility to our list of to dos: learn to coupon or save more, etc. Here are some tips on how you can save more, while dealing with the unique challenges that business can add to a frugal lifestyle.
Most importantly I would say this though – if you are one of these women, give yourself a break. No – do more than that. Know that what you are doing is good and worthy, and go ahead and pat yourself on the back too!
#1 – Save On Food Costs When You’re Busy
Eat from your freezer. Instead of ordering expensive takeout (or frozen meals from the grocery store), create your own stockpile of Freezer Friendly Meals. This may sound like it will take more time, but if you just double up on some of your recipes when you do cook, and freeze the second portion, you will have a stock of home cooked meals in your freezer in no time. Freeze them in containers they can be cooked in, so they can go straight into the oven from the freezer.
Share the cooking with friends. This will save you time and money. Start by recruiting 5 of your friends, and create a meal plan for 5 different meals. In one afternoon, each of you can cook 5 of the same meals and package them separately (and freezer ready). Then get together and swap meals, so that you are each taking home one of the meals that your friends cooked. Now, not only do you have 5 meals to add to your freezer, but you also had some time to socialize with friends!
Have a couple of affordable take out options ready as a go to for when you just cannot bring yourself to cook. For us, it’s $5 pizzas or the pre-cooked rotisserie chicken at our local grocery store for $5.99 (throw it over a pre-made salad kit for a meal in a few minutes). This keeps our takeout options to $10 a meal, rather then $40.
#2 Shop Online
Save time and the headache of getting stuck in traffic. With all of the online deals, and free shipping offers, you can often find a better price (or competitive price) online on everything from toilet paper, to dish soap and food. The trick here is to do your shopping, and then get back offline. The internet can be a bigger time suck then traffic if you allow it to be. It sure is nice to shop from the convenience of your home, and have the items delivered right to your door step when you are busy. Amazon is a great resource for shopping online.
#3 Splurge On The Specialty Items For Your Home That You Enjoy
It usually costs less to do things at home than it does to purchase them as a service from others. If you love your daily Starbucks, invest in a small espresso machine and buy your favorite syrups. Add in a to go mug, and you are all set up with your own latte stand. Over time this could save you a bunch.
If you prefer smoothies, get a juicer and make your own in the morning. Need to exercise, buy a great DVD for your house and work out there regularly. Need to get out of the house, map a good route through the neighborhood and walk that daily. If movies are your thing, maybe you invest in a year’s membership to Netflix or Amazon Prime, instead of the pricey theaters.
The idea here is that rather than just going on a complete fast from the “splurge” items in your life that you love, find a substitute. This way you save money and still do not feel deprived of the things you like to do/have. It does not mean you never visit Starbucks or the movie theater again – but maybe you head out to those spots once a month rather then weekly. Do the math, you might be surprised at how much these changes will save you!
#4 Find Low Cost Ways To Socialize
The “Women Are Caregivers, But Who Cares For Them“ article also pointed out that isolation is a real risk for caregivers. To compound that, many of the money saving tips shared above take you out of public or more social settings and put you back at home. It is going to be important to find low cost alternatives to getting out and socializing.
Since socializing is often done in settings that cost (cafes, theaters, etc), it will just require that you come up with new ideas. Many cities offer free museum days, or local libraries will offer free and low cost classes you can take. Sign up for these, and find a friend to take, or make new friends at the event. Churches are another good source of free or low cost events to participate in. You can also invite the neighbor over for a simple afternoon of coffee and conversation.
And lastly, because its worth repeating, give yourself a break. Remember that your credit score is not your identity. Investing in the lives of others can reap more rewards then investing in high earning stocks. If you are the one taking care of everyone else, remember that you are worth being cared for too!