5 Easy Ways for Families to Save Money

by Barb on January 9, 2014

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While families may feel like everything is becoming so expensive, there are ways to save in every family’s budget especially when it comes to having fun.

5 Easy Ways for Families to Save Money

1. Cut Your Family’s Hair

I’ve been cutting my sons’ hair for about 12 years. My husband gave me a pair of hair cutting scissors, a comb, and a Wahl clipper years ago for Christmas. The scissors and comb were under $20, and the Wahl clipper set ran about $50.

If I took the 4 boys to a budget salon ($8/child), I would spend about $277 per year. Adding in the cost of my husband’s haircut ($17) – $136 per year, the total cost for my husband and kids is $413 yearly for haircuts.

Cutting boys’ hair is simple. Generally for a boy, the sides are shorter and cut vertically while the top is slightly longer and cut parallel to the ears. There is an invisible line around the head about an inch or so above the ear where the direction of cutting is switched, and the length of the hair increases. As you practice, start with the sides and leave them longer about an inch above the ear until you get a feel for where the transition point is. It’s always easier to cut off hair than to add hair back in.

If the haircut is a complete failure, try a buzz cut. You won’t have to cut hair for a few months.

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2. Museum Memberships

Museum memberships can be a fantastic way for families, especially larger ones to save money on admission to museums. Most memberships pay for themselves after 2 museum visits.

  • Find out if the museum offers reciprocal admission with other museums.
  • Don’t buy it because you’re interested; buy it because your kids are interested.
  • Keep an eye out for deals.
  • Sign up for email lists for local museums to find out when they offer free admission days or special deals.
  • Sometimes it pays to go up a level in the membership.
  • Sometimes it’s better to stick with the individual membership level.
  • If you decide to join as a member at the last minute, find out if you can turn that day’s admission fees you paid into a membership.
  • Finally, ask for the membership as a family gift.

3. Have Leftover night Once a Week

Leftovers are money in the bank for families. The cooking is done already. It’s simply a question of serving the same meal a second time or turning it into a new meal with a few extras. One of my favorite resources for dealing with leftovers is the The Use-It-Up Cookbook: A Guide for Minimizing Food Waste.

  • Use cooked chicken or beef in a casserole. Many casserole recipes are based around cooked meat, a veggie, and some type of starch whether it’s pasta or potatoes. The ones using cooked meat usually need about 20 minutes to bake.
  • Make extra veggies one night and serve them warm or as a cold salad on another night.
  • Beef stroganoff can be made quickly from gravy, precooked veggies, and cooked beef.
  • Sauce-less cooked spaghetti can turn into a tetrazzini.
  • Cooked veggies can go into a quick omelet or a frittata.
  • Take a can of soup, either homemade or storebought, and add in cooked veggies like green beans and broccoli.
  • Keep a bag of sandwich rolls in the freezer for making sandwiches out of cooked chicken or sliced beef. Roasted veggies with a dressing or sauce are great for meatless nights.

4. Clothes and Shoe Inventory for Your Kids

Kids usually grow like weeds. We buy them new clothes and shoes at the beginning of the school year only to find they’ve outgrown them by Christmas.

To keep my 5 kids clothed and shod, I keep a running list of sizes needed next for clothes and shoes in my purse. Since we already have a large supply of hand me downs, my clothing list is a just a list I keep in the note section on my phone. Before that, I would keep the list in a small notebook I could tuck in my purse.

Making sure I have enough shoes bought for pennies on the dollar takes a bit more work. For simplicity’s sake, I wrote out a simple grid of sizes, one each for boys and girls. Twice yearly, I go through our 4 large boxes of shoes and update my shoe inventory which includes sneakers, school shoes, and winter boots.

When you’re out shopping, bring your inventory/list and check the clearance racks first before heading to the full price or sale items. Have a price point to determine whether or not you’ll purchase the clothes or shoes. My price point for clothes is usually $5 and under. Ideally, I would spend $5 and under for shoes, too. However, I find more clearance shoes priced at $10 and under.

5. Buy Used Sports Equipment

When kids are first starting sports, they generally need little in the way of sports equipment. Generally, a pair of cleats, a soccer ball or glove are all that’s required. As kids move up into travel teams, sports equipment increases in price, and kids simply need more stuff to be safe.

How to Save

Select sports that require less equipment. Soccer requires cleats and shin guards while footballs needs several sets of pads, a chin guard, mouthpiece, practice uniform, cleats, and whatever else the coach requires.

Select a sport that can be played as a pickup sport in the driveway or at family parties. This helps ensure that kids practice their new skills, plus it’s a great way to meet new people as kids get older and go off to college. Soccer, baseball, and street hockey are all great pickup sports.

Explore all the available sports programs. The local Y often offers reasonably low cost programs, though some require a program membership for signing up. Another option is a Christian or Catholic CYO. Run by volunteer parents, these are often extremely cheap, but expect to pitch in at times with equipment set up and transporting players to games. Another option is a program through your local township. These can be pricey, and require a lot of time on the part of the parent. However, township leagues often have the financial and organizational ability to set up clinics and camps for players, both beginner and advanced.


Not every piece of equipment has to be new. Garage sales, thrift shops, and the local Goodwill are places to find used equipment, but you’ll have to visit these places often to find equipment. Check your local yellow pages for used sports equipment stores like Play It Again sports. You’re more likely to find what you need in the right size.

Always examine used equipment before purchasing to make sure it’s good condition. When in doubt, buy new equipment especially head gear. With the rise in sports-related concussions among young athletes, head protection is vital for many sports.

What’s your favorite way to save money on family activities?

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Meet Barb

Barb Hoyer has written 3912 posts.

After working in the fundraising world for over ten years, Barb is an avid runner, writer, photographer, parent volunteer, and lover of dictionaries and thesauruses. Wife to an engineer and mom to 5 kids, Barb lives in the suburbs of Philly. Her idea of relaxation is an afternoon on the couch with a stack of books.

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Life with Kaishon January 9, 2014 at 6:53 am

Buzz cuts scare me a little : ).
I am glad you have found so many ways to save money for your family as the children have grown. Awesome.
Life with Kaishon recently posted..God gave me you. 14 years of wonderful.


Barb January 9, 2014 at 10:41 am

LOL – I still remember having to buzz cut my oldest son when he decided to cut his own hair, eyebrows, eyelashes. Good times!


April January 9, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Great ideas, Barb! I already utilize all of them except repurposing food. We just do regular leftovers, but I need to be more aware… they might all disappear if I do repurpose them. I’ve never made a casserole, but it looks like it’s high time!
April recently posted..If You Didn’t Believe Me…


Kristen @ Joyfullythriving January 9, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Great ideas! When our baby is old enough, I plan on cutting his hair. My Mom always cut ours – and it is indeed a great source of savings.
Kristen @ Joyfullythriving recently posted..My 2014 Reading Plan


Jill F. January 9, 2014 at 4:55 pm

I use leftovers for my lunches at work. Thanks for sharing these money savers on the Thumping Thursday bloghop.


Linda @ A La Carte January 10, 2014 at 11:17 pm

Great frugal tips! Thanks for sharing at TTF!
Linda @ A La Carte recently posted..Thrifty Things Friday #142


Marigene January 11, 2014 at 8:06 pm

Great ideas to save…I am laughing about cutting the hair…tried that many years ago when my son was in grade school…total failure at it…we still laugh about it 35 years later!
Have a wonderful week.


Barb January 13, 2014 at 4:51 am

Fortunately, he’s the only one that did that. My dd7 has snipped a few pieces off from time to time to get them out of her face. Now she’s decided she wants her hair to be long.


Diann @ The Thrifty Groove January 12, 2014 at 10:19 am

Some good tips here! I go a C.O.R.N. at least once a week (Clean Out Refrigerator Night). Thank you for joining TTF this week. I am featuring this post at TTG FB page today! Enjoy your Sunday! https://www.facebook.com/thethriftygroove
Diann @ The Thrifty Groove recently posted..Social Network Party ~ FACEBOOK


Barb January 13, 2014 at 4:33 am

Thank you! I love the acronym.


Snarkfinance January 12, 2014 at 6:28 pm

I have several coworkers who swear by museum memberships in terms of entertaining the kids for a day. In particular if your company offers free or discounted rates for passes or memberships. I don’t have kids, but I look forward to watching them discover fun and interesting things at museums. I also look forward to making them look like fools with home-done haircuts.
Snarkfinance recently posted..Shopping and Addiction: a Bad Combo


Mel @ brokeGIRLrich January 14, 2014 at 3:19 pm

I love the leftovers thing. In college, my roommates and I all loved chicken, so there was always chicken in the freezer, but we’d regularly make “trailer trash chicken” – where whatever we found in the fridge just went in a pot or skillet with the chicken and we hoped for the best. Some were winners…. some were not. Nothing was ever the same twice.


Barb January 15, 2014 at 9:17 am

Love it!


Sarah Mueller January 15, 2014 at 4:09 pm

My husband cuts our 4 boys’ hair – I’m so glad I don’t have to do it! I’m just a little too chicken :) Thanks for posting at Family Fun Friday!
Sarah Mueller recently posted..How to Track Your Spending. A YNAB Review


Rachel January 15, 2014 at 10:57 pm

I love reading about new ways to save money – thanks for the tips! Thank you for linking up to the Bloggers Brags Pinterest Party. I have pinned your post to the Bloggers Brags Pinterest Board.
Rachel recently posted..Skincare…What’s That?


Brian January 18, 2014 at 7:43 am

Great tips. Food waste was a pick issue for us. Since we make at least 1 trip to the store a week we cut down on the amount of food we purchase so that it doesn’t spoil and we end up throwing money away.
Brian recently posted..Week End Round Up # 15


Missy Homemaker January 18, 2014 at 10:23 am

Great point on hair cuts. I have 4 boys and recently had to pay for haircuts when our clippers were misplaced. $40 later…
I cut my own hair too. I keep my hair long making it easier to keep up. But, I’ve learned to trim, layer, razor cut, and cut bangs. Where we live, even a cheap cut for long hair will run $20 or more.
We save a lot of money simply by staying at home. We don’t run around a lot and when we do leave, we make sure to make it worth it.
Missy Homemaker recently posted..What holds you back?


Debby January 18, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Love these tips – even though my family consist of ‘just me’ for now :)
I wouldn’t cut my own hair, though, that would be a potential disaster!
Debby recently posted..Day 95 – Shock & Repetition.


erin January 19, 2014 at 6:54 pm

Thank you so much for linking up to Good Tips Tuesday this week! I love all of these ideas! I need to start cutting my sons hair!


Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life January 22, 2014 at 11:07 am

Buying used in general is a great savings tip. In NYC, most museums have free admission days or hours, so I capitalize on those when I want to visit.
Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted..Find Your Beach


GiGi Eats Celebrities January 24, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Ha! I cut my own hair once before….. Wound up having to go to the salon anyways, BAH HA HA! Whoops!
GiGi Eats Celebrities recently posted..Rachel Ray Better Watch Her Back


Barb January 26, 2014 at 6:46 am

LOL – I tried cutting layers when my hair was long. It was okay, just never as good as the salon. Nowadays going to the salon is my treat for myself.


Nicole Beard February 17, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Those are some great tips! We love consignment sales for our son and that’s how we save a lot on toys and clothes for him each season. :)
Nicole Beard recently posted..Homemaker’s Friend Daily Planner 2014 {Review + Giveaway}


Barb February 19, 2014 at 10:55 am

Thank you! We’ve found so many great toys at consignment sales and thrift shops.


Rachel December 17, 2014 at 8:47 am

Love these tips -thanks!


Marci December 17, 2014 at 9:24 am

As my kids get older I can see the used sports equipment being a great idea. Thanks!
Marci recently posted..Latkes + Applesauce


Gina B December 17, 2014 at 9:44 am

One important way we save is by giving the kids hot leftovers for lunch most days. They actually love it and get a bigger nutritional bang – and it saves me from buying tons of pricy Gluten free bread and deli meat!
Gina B recently posted..Bloggers & Brands Bring Christmas to Alaska! #TwinHillsSanta


Sarah December 17, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Great tips, thanks!!!
Sarah recently posted..VTech InnoTab MAX Learning Cartridges


Heather @ My Overflowing Cup January 22, 2015 at 2:22 pm

These are great tips, Barb!

The favorites for our family are outdoor activities like hiking and bike riding, playing board games together, and family movie night (we rent movies for free from the library).

It doesn’t have to be expensive to have fun!
Heather @ My Overflowing Cup recently posted..17+ Things We Don’t Pay For


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