How to Contribute to Your Family Financially Without Earning a Dime: 7 Tips For Stay-at-Home Moms (and Dads)
By Robin Shreeves
Before I was a mom, I had a job. You know, the kind of job most people actually consider a job. One that contributes financially. Then I became a mom and my financial contributions stopped while our expenses increased because of diapers, formula, baby food, etc. Our family income went down; our family expenses went up. Sound familiar?
I saw my husband working so hard to bring in money, and I decided that I could show him how much I appreciated his hard work by spending the money he brought in as wisely as possible. I made it a project to figure out how I could contribute to my family financially.
I knew that buying things on sale, using coupons, eating most of our meals in, shopping around for the best long distance plan, and trading babysitting services with a friend would save my family some money. They were all no-brainers. But I looked for ways I could further save some money. Here are a few things I did–and you can do, too.
- Donate to charity (and keep track of it!). It’s easy to keep track of donations to organizations that send you an end-of-the-year statement, but there are other donations that you need to keep track of yourself. Sure, it’s a pain in the neck to tally up donations of clothing, keep receipts where you can find them at the end of the year, and be on top of it all. Go ahead and whine about it and then get over it. If you are diligent, when tax time comes, you will have helped your family earn a nice tax deduction. You won’t be whining then.
Donations of clothing and items to non-profit organizations are deductible if you have a receipt. Make a list of all the items donated (clothing can just be a tallied list of number of pants, shirts, coats, etc.). Estimate the value of the donation, and staple the list onto the receipt.
Other things that I personally keep track of are food items bought to donate to my church pantry, the items bought for our town’s Christmas Wish Tree, Thanksgiving basket donations, etc. I simply keep my register receipts and circle the items that were donated on them.
Oh, and this is important–put all your receipts in a designated spot immediately.
- Use coupon codes when shopping online. I hate, hate, hate paying shipping and handling charges. I know it’s the price I’m supposed to have to pay for the convenience of shopping in my PJs, but I still hate it. I’ve found a way of getting around those charges at some online retailers. Here’s my secret.
Online stores including J.C. Penney, Chadwicks, One Hanes Place, LL Bean and many, many others often send their preferred customers coupon codes for percent-off discounts or free shipping. There are websites that keep track of these coupon codes and anyone can use them when checking out.
Sometimes the coupons are for free shipping (yippee!) and sometimes they are for a percentage off one item or your entire order. Now, if I can get a percentage off that equals or exceeds the shipping and handling charges, I’m a happy camper.
Two good sites are onlycoupons.com and getcouponcodes.com. If neither of these websites have what you are looking for, Google the name of the store and the words “coupon code” and you may come up with something.
- Join Upromise (Upromise.com). Upromise works with hundreds of merchants and when you spend money at those merchants a small percentage of what you spend gets donated back to you to use for college savings. You can even earn money back on your weekly groceries by registering your supermarket savings cards with the site.
The savings add up slowly, but let me tell you, when you’re forking out the money for baby food week after week, it takes the sting out of it just a little to know that 3% off all you spend will go into a college savings account for the kid.
- Take your couponing up a notch. Hate clipping coupons? Let someone else do it for you!
Use a clipping service such as Coupon Clippers. The Coupon Clippers has thousands of coupons from the weekly circulars and other sources that you can get for a small handling fee. Instead of just getting one coupon in your Sunday circular for those granola bars that your kids go through like crazy, you can order five or more coupons for them, taking real advantage when they go on sale.
- Sign up for your local Freecycle. You’ve got lots of stuff lying around that is no longer useful to you. So do lots of other people. Freecycle allows people to post items they want to give away to other people who live in the same county. It’s a great way to find things you need for free and find new homes for things you don’t need. And it keeps those things out of landfills which is a really great thing for the future of those kids you’re staying home for in the first place.
- Make your own birthday cards for kids, recycle gift bags, and use the Sunday comics to wrap presents. Once your kids get past the age of, say, two months, they will suddenly be invited to at least one birthday party a month. Once they get in preschool that number goes up exponentially.
I have set a general limit for $10 a gift for friend’s birthdays. But when you add in a card (about $3.00), and gift wrap or bag (another $1.50-$2.00) you’re suddenly increasing the price by 50% and that 50% will end up in the trash within a day or two of the party. It’s ridiculous and wasteful.
Think about it. A minimum of 12 birthday gifts a year–that’s $60 you’ll save. If you’ve got two kids–that $120. When I see a savings of $120, I see a potential massage.
There are several places online to print out birthday cards that your kids can color. They don’t even need an envelope. Just tape the card right onto the package. And that package–use the Sunday comics to wrap it or a gift bag that you saved from your kid’s birthday.
- Give older kids an allowance. “How can giving money to your kids save me money?” you ask. By giving them their own spending money, you have the perfect retort when they want to have something they see in the store–”Sure, you can have it if you can pay for it.” They may not like it, and you may get accused of being the meanest parent in the universe in front of the Target check-out line, but it will save you money.
Robin Shreeves is a work-at-home mom who has been published extensively online. Visit her website at robin.shreeves.net.