Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My Favorite $ Saving Tips - Saving on Kids

Wow I'm writing a blog and it has only been like a month since the last one - go me. ;)This blog post was inspired by my recent realization of a few habits our family has developed. Not bad habits (tho we have those too). I'm actually talking about good habits and since some of those habits developed out of ideas I recieved from other people I thought, why not share them with some more people? ;)

Let's face it - I am a sucker for a deal. I am not ashamed of this fact. AND I married someone who likes to spend money even less than I do. So as you can imagine, we do things differently when it comes to things we need/want/have to buy. Basically I know I would want to know about these things if I didn't already.

I started writing the first section of this blog and realized it was going to be the longest blog ever if I wrote it all in one so I will probably break this down over a few separate posts....and hope that someone is reading it somewhere. ;)

Here goes!

Saving on Kids:

1 - Buy clothes before they need them. This seems pretty basic I know but it's something I have realized a lot of people don't do. This is WHY we do this -
This is the top row of Zachary's closet. These are all brand new clothes in sizes too big for him (A few of them are hand me downs from friends too). Nothing on this rack was purchased for more than $2 per item. In fact most of them were $1. SHOP THE CLEARANCE SECTION.
If its too big but its a great item on a great sale - buy it and save it for later. It has saved us tons of money already. Every season of his life Zachary has already had all the staples for his wardrobe because we shop this way. We don't have to run out and buy things full price so he's not running around naked. And, this may be my opinion, but my son is dressed as cute as the next kid. And I'm not just talking tshirts that no one else wants - we get jeans, khakis, sweaters, socks, winter hats, dress clothes, everything off clearance racks.
Here are some of our favorite places to shop clearance for Zach: Walmart (those garanimals can be darn cute and cheap!), Ross, Target (When they mark down items - this is my favorite place to check), The Childrens Place OUTLET ($2 racks galore!), Sears, Crazy8, and PayLess (great place to look for shoes on clearance).
I'm sure there are other places we have gotten good deals but these are the regulars for us. Of course there are times when we need to spend more than $2 on something for him to wear - but since we haven't spent a bunch on everything else - it's not a big deal. Just this morning I sent him out of the house in a cute osh-kosh coat that we got for $12 at Kohls last year - off the clearance rack. As I was cutting the tag off I saw that it was an $80 coat full price (seriously?! who pays that?!).
Anyway, it takes some discipline to get started in this routine and to stop yourself from unnecessary impulse purchases but it works GREAT for us and has literally saved us hundreds by now. Funny thing is some people that are into "whats in style" refuse to shop this way and pretty often I see the new items out each season and they are EXACTLY the same items I paid $1 for a couple of seasons before...I mean exactly the same.
Also - Chris and I shop for ourselves this way too. We just aren't still growing (in height anyway ;) ) or starting from scratch for ourselves so it's a bit different - still a huge $ saver tho. :)

2- Books. We love books and so does Zachary. We love that he loves them too. I have looked through the "classic" childrens book sections and thought "yeah right." If I got my child all the books I WANT him to have - it would have cost us a few hundred by now. $10+ a book....not in our budget. But trust me, Zach is not hurting for good reading material. ;)

See, told ya...and thats only one of his shelves.
This is how we do it:
The Dollar Tree...yep. Many of Zach's books are from the dollar tree. They are (of course) $1 and they have some great books for kids. Some of them struggle a little, haha, but we have gotten sesame street books, bible story books, alphabet and number books, books on manners, etc. And most of them are board books which means they are still intact after being handled by a toddler boy.
Now if you are looking for CLASSIC kid books (the giving tree, the hungry caterpillar, dr. seuss, etc.) Dollar Tree won't help much. But we found somewhere else to go for that! Our Library does a seasonal book sale. 4 times a year on a Saturday they sell books they aren't using. Chris and I are already suckers for this sale because we both love to read but they also have a HUGE childrens section. All of the books run from $.50 to $3..some might be more but this is what we usually see. They also have childrens music and DVDs ($3 sesame street dvds - we have a few). We have gotten tons of great books this way. The best thing is that every few sales they will open the Sunday after and sell everything for half off....yeah, $.25-$1.50 each. If you are in the Columbia area check out THIS SITE for info on the sale dates or check your local library page to find out if they do something similar.

3- I don't spend a ton on decor for our home in the first place (see my soon to come post for details) but when it came to getting a nursery ready for our first child...and now our 2nd, I was tempted to go crazy. I didn't though....and I didn't need to. We found lots of ways to decorate for our kids without crazy spending. First of all - if you are a "1 theme" person this might not work for you. We have a theme in Zacharys room - but that doesn't mean everything in it was meant to go together. He has jungle animals everywhere but not necessarily made by the same company or sold in the same store. If you think this is tacky....then skip this section (and get over it, I might add). Babies R Us does discount items pretty often and I wait for the REALLY good discounts there. I also shop ROSS for kid room decor - sometimes even finding the same brand/design that I have found at babies r us....but for much cheaper. Also - check online places like Amazon. I bought the wall decal pictured below for less than $2 on Amazon. Partner it with other items you need to buy and get free shipping and its a lot cheaper than spending $20 on a decal at babies r us. :) Just shop around and remember where you see the best deals - look there first! And I have to mention, as an avid do-it-yourself-er, that the internet provides access to TONS of great, cheap, do it yourself ideas for nurserys that not only save you a ton but give your kids something unique and specially made for years to come.

4 - Keep your eyes open for freebies! Last year a friend of ours from church gave Zachary a toy car garage. She told us that she was in a store and this toy was missing a piece and had been a display and the store was getting ready to throw it in the dumpster. She asked if she could have it. They told her they couldn't give it to her in the store but they would set it outside and she could get it from there if she wanted to. The missing piece: a 2 inch "guard rail"...the other rails were kind of annoying so we took them all out anyway.
When I first saw the toy I didn't think too much about it. We thought it was so sweet of her to think of us and Zachary but Zach was still pretty young so not quite ready to use it much. But here we are a year later and guess what Zachary spends HOURS each day playing with if he can find the time....yep, the free car garage. :)

It has been his favorite toy for months and months and it didnt' cost us a thing thanks to a friend who isn't afraid to ask for something unusual in a store. I happen to know for a fact that this friend has developed ongoing relationships with many stores to the point that when they have candy/small items/etc to get rid of - they call her! The kids in the childrens ministry at our church experience the benefits of these relationships all the time (and no its not expired candy). All that to say - take a risk and ask questions...you never know what you will get. I haven't quite gotten to that level yet but I do ask about discount items or things we consider buying that might need to be marked down or have a flaw or something and most times managers will give you a discount so just do it.

Also on this note - accept things from friends and family who offer them! Zachary is the first grandchild on both sides..in other words, he is not hurting for toys and not because his parents don't say no. BUT we also have some great friends who have given him toys that their children no longer need or want and guess which items always become his favorites. Yeah, the hand me down swing set, the perfect condition used little tykes car from his friend wesley, the little tykes turtle sandbox from another family who no longer used it, the free car garage, and honestly the cars from the dollar tree that he usually prefers over his hot wheels. (He is his parents child!!). Just don't be ashamed to say "yes" if someone asks you if you could use something they have access to. They are usually happy to have it out of their way if it isn't being used anymore.

5 - Gift ideas - when grandparents/other relatives/friends ask what would be a good gift for your children for birthdays/christmas - think outside the box. Last year my in laws gave Zachary a 1 yr membership to the zoo. We have been to the zoo many, many times throughout this past year and it is still one of his favorite places to go. It has been the best gift possible because not only does it give us somewhere fun to go without spending $ but he learns something new everytime and has somewhere to get rid of all that energy during the day. We have LOVED having a zoo pass. There are lots of places like this - childrens museums, bounce houses, etc that could be great "gifts that keep on giving" for your kids...and your whole family honestly. Just present the ideas when people ask.

6 - Use coupon sites like groupon.com, livingsocial.com, and the countless others that are starting up these days for great deals. We have gone to a bounce house for $4...regular admission $9 and gotten a museum membership for a year for $26...regular cost $70. There are always great deals for families and kids popping up - just don't get trigger happy and over do it. Stick to things that are REALLY awesome deals, that you would be doing anyway, or that you know will save you money in the long run.

Ok, thats enough. Sorry this is so long and I hope it gives someone some good ideas that they didn't already have. I have several more specific things that I want to tell people about....a lot more specific than the kids ideas are but they will have to wait for another day.
Maybe I will be back soon!!