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Editor’s Note:  This post was written by Our Small Hours contributor Donna Fitzgerald.  To find out more about Donna visit our Current Contributor’s page.

4 Ways to Save Money This Year

At the start of a new year, many families make a resolution of some kind. While some may vow to have less screen time and more quality time, others make it a goal to save up enough for the dream trip to Disneyland, and then others may make a resolution to have more money left over at the end of the month.

Raising a family can be expensive, according to the Fraser Institute, the cost of raising a child to 18 years old costs about $72,000 while the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated a whopping $243,660. Either way it seems like a lot (and it is a lot), but seems particularly daunting in a less-than-fruitful economy. However, as parents, it’s our job to make it work and somehow it always does. Our children will still be able to participate in extracurricular activities and will attend college at some point, it just might take a little more managing of our personal finances (which could always use a little adjusting).

If saving money and following a budget are goals for you and your family this year, here are some ways to get started and be successful:

Create a Budget

Without knowing your budget, there’s no way to know how to create a budget. Figuring out your monthly expenses can be extremely stressful, especially since many people are unaware of how much money they actually spend or how much they really need to live comfortably.

Money causes arguments and sleepless nights, but it doesn’t have to. The sooner you figure out your expenses and get organized, the sooner you can decide if you need to cut corners or get rid of some unnecessary expenses.

Want to see how much your family needs to live modestly, yet adequately? Check out the Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) Family Budget Calculator; you may find out you don’t need as much as they suggest.

Make Cuts on Unnecessary Expenses

When creating a budget, many families notice a bunch of unnecessary expenses or even some that they were paying for automatically, but had forgotten. Unsure what an “unnecessary expense” is? Here’s a good rule, ask yourself how and if it enriches your family. Think of it as a closet full of clothes. If you don’t wear something in three months, you donate. Here are some examples of monthly expenses that many families feel as if they can go without and ultimately end up saving a great deal of money each month:

  • Cable Television: Cable tv is a blessing and a curse for many families. It can be an educational tool, but more often than not, it is the culprit of too much screen time. If you already have a subscription to streaming services like Hulu or Netflix, it’s a good idea to say goodbye to cable. Besides, you can catch a lot of stuff online.
  • Gym Membership: A gym membership is one of those good intentioned expenses, but many gym goers slack off on attendance, particularly after the first couple of months of the new year. Rather than spending your time alone at the gym, figure out ways to get active with your family such as yoga at home or unearthing those free weights from the basement.
  • Rethink Some Daily Habits: Do you like to buy scratch off tickets a couple times a week or a latte every morning? May seem like a small amount of money, but it adds up quickly over time. Rather than giving up everything you love, reconsider how often you buy. Make that latte a “Friday Treat” or buy lotto tickets a few times a month rather than a couple times a week.

Lower Your Transportation Costs

Although gas prices are improving, filling up the tank can be a costly weekly expense, especially when driving to work, running errands, and taking the kids to and from extracurricular activities. If you are a two-car family, consider carpooling and drive the vehicle that is the most fuel efficient. Have a gas guzzler? Look into trading in one of your vehicles for a more fuel efficient model. Even if you don’t feel like a newer car is in the cards, it may be a good investment for your financial future.

If you can’t part with your vehicle, there are always ways to save money at the pump. If you are a member of Sam’s Club or Costco, you may be able to save on gas. Additionally, some grocery stores have free reward programs that build up points that result in savings per gallon. If you’re tech-savvy, check out a gas saving app like GasBuddy. Without having to drive all around town for the best gas prices, the money saving app will tell you the price of gas at each local gas station.

Invest in Family Time

Families that spend too much money often spend time alone rather than doing things together. Rather than dropping one kid off at the mall, the other at a movie, and the other at the batting cage, try to do more things as a family.

Everyone is entitled to alone time, but choose activities that can improve the quality of your time together as a family. Go to a park, on a nature hike, or host a family/friend gathering at your house. When you take the time to spend quality time with your family, your children might grow up valuing quality time over spending money.

Easy Ways to Save Money

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