Posts Tagged ‘saving money’

Dollar Movies

Thursday, July 19th, 2012


The summer is a great time to go to the dollar movies, and yes, they still exist in many cities. The tickets usually cost $3.50 instead of $1, but that’s still good when you have a family of six. The movies have been out of the real theaters by the time you see them at a dollar theater, which is about two months behind.

In Spokane, the dollar movies are at the Garland Theater, which is huge and quite beautiful for an old movie theater. Yes, the floors are sticky, but who is going to complain? Oh, and every summer they show a free movie certain mornings, to help people get out of the heat. (Or to get them hooked on going to that theater so that they can stay in business throughout the year.)


We’ve watched several movies at this theater over the years, including “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and “Tangled.” It made us want to build boats out of sandwiches and float lanterns up into the sky. My kids love seeing movies on the big screen.

If you have a zero budget, another way to watch fun movies during the summer with your family is to get some entertaining DVD’s from your library. Not all the videos are educational. Some of them are just for fun, and many are recent releases. Check them out, go home, pop yourself some popcorn, and declare a movie night!

Related article: The Aftermath of a Movie

Do Warehouse Clubs Save You Money?

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

warehouse-clubsDo warehouse clubs save you money? The answer is: sometimes yes, sometimes no. Thankfully one of the perks of my husband’s job is that he gets a free membership to Costco, our local warehouse club. It would normally cost $40 or $50 a year, so unless you save more money than that, you are probably better off without a membership. Often items cost more at a warehouse club than at your local supermarket, and who wants to store a huge amount of something that just ends up rotting? Things that need to be refrigerated are especially horrible to store, because large containers jam all your space in your refrigerator door, making you wish you hadn’t bought such large containers.

I remember, though, back when many of my children were in diapers. There was a specific diaper that didn’t ever leak for my boys, so I wanted that name brand. A large box of those diapers were $10 less at Costco than at any other store at the time. This may no longer be the case, but other name brand items like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese used to be only 50 cents at Costco but a whole dollar at the grocery stores. So you basically need to know your prices if you actually expect to save money.

warehouse-clubs-2Gasoline is substantially lower if you are a member of Costco, and this alone could save you enough money to make the membership worthwhile. But do you actually buy your gasoline at Costco, or do you buy it at a gas station whenever you are running out? In other words, you might be saving money in your imagination because you only bought gas at Costco 4 or 5 times last year instead of every time. Don’t multiply your savings in your head unless you are actually buying it at Costco.

Some people say not to go on the weekends because there are samples, and you end up buying more. Other people are freeloaders that say you should take your whole family and gorge yourself on samples for lunch, thereby avoiding having to spend any money or effort making lunch for your family.

warehouse-clubs-3Meats are nicer at Costco, I have to admit. I think the prices are about the same as grocery stores (grocery stores are definitely cheaper during sales, and you can freeze the meat), but the meat has less fat in it and tastes better when cooked, when it comes from Costco. If you have a large family or are having people over for a barbeque, buying nice meat in bulk might be just fine. I remember, though, back to when my husband and I had only babies and toddlers. We had to buy freezer bags and freeze the meat in one-meal portions. Then the meat might get freezer burn, and you might as well have just bought it on sale at a grocery store for a cheaper price.

Kirkland Signature is the generic brand for Costco, and it’s actually really high quality, unlike grocery store generic brands, which taste like cardboard. So you could save money by buying the warehouse brand of salad dressing, grape juice, or whatever, and it will usually taste great.

warehouse-clubs-4Costco coupons are wonderful. They offer $3 off the toilet paper we love, and other great discounts on real food that you probably already are buying. They also sell tickets to amusement parks, hotels, and movies at a considerable discount, if you have the budget to have fun with your family in this way.

I got my eyes checked at Costco by an optometrist, and I bought my glasses there. It’s supposedly cheaper than other places, although the reason I did it was because I was already there. (Gasoline costs a lot, and if you are already at one location, you save money by not having to drive to another location.)

So do warehouse clubs help you save money? Maybe. If you have trouble feeding your family, or if you have any credit card debt, I would definitely cancel my membership. You can buy food at grocery stores called “loss leaders,” stocking up on the food that is on sale, and spend way less on groceries. But if you are a middle class family with no debt, and you go to Costco twice a month and buy your gas there, then it’s probably worth it.

Learn Value of Money at Chuck-E-Cheese?

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

chuck-e-cheeseWhen my children were young and I had no money whatsoever, I would feed the kids a full lunch at home. Then I would go to Chuck-E-Cheese. When the children walked through the door, each child was given one free coin. (I’m not sure if they do this any more.) I had my children come to a table, where we pooled all our coins. Then I would give one coin to the children. I said, “Choose a ride that you all want to go on, and get on. Then put the coin in.” I sat with my baby while the other three children walked around and weighed the pros and cons of each ride. They discussed with each other which ride they wanted to go on, and then they enjoyed the ride.

When the first ride was over, they would come back for the second coin, and on it went. Believe it or not, my children went on more than four rides. It was more like ten rides. How, you ask? I huddled the children together and showed them how other children would put coins into the rides, then walk away, not valuing the coin because they had so many. I told them to keep an eye out for empty rides that were still going. “Hop on and enjoy it!” I said. So my children rode on those free rides in between the four rides which we bought with our four free coins. When we were out of coins, the children played on the play structures. They had a fabulous time. It cost us absolutely nothing.

Other times, my husband found coupons for $20 worth of coins for $10. So we would get the coins, divide them in half, and use half the coins one evening. A couple of weeks later, we would come back as a family, and we would use the other half of the coins.

Now that our family is slightly better off, we go ahead and get the overpriced pizza and hot wings, because we want to reward Chuck-E-Cheese for all the times we played without buying anything. But even the $10 we spent for two nights was still a $10 profit to them. (Whenever I wasn’t buying anything, I would go during the off-hours so that other people would not see an empty Chuck-E-Cheese, because that looks bad for business.) We now use Chuck-E-Cheese as a reward whenever our kid swims across the swimming pool for the first time, or when they pull out a loose tooth that hurts.

Most children are too bratty to go without coins. They would just throw fits. But my young children expected nothing, so they were grateful for whatever coins they were given, and they were always careful with their coins. Later when they were older and had lots of coins, they still consulted their siblings and would ride rides together to maximize their money.

Saving Money on Groceries

Friday, October 29th, 2010


Saving money on groceries is something that everyone is trying to do in our economy. First off, I would stock up on “loss leaders.” Those are the promotions that the grocery store loses money on (or barely breaks even) to get you into the store to buy all your other groceries. What I did when money was really tight was this: I would spread out all the front pages of the grocery fliers (the ones you get for free that are delivered to your house). The front page of each flier had the best deals, and I would circle anything that we liked to eat. Then I would go to each store and buy only loss leaders, and maybe one or two simple things like eggs that I needed. I came home with $200 worth of groceries for less than $100. I did this regularly for years until the gas prices went up and two of my kids were lactose intolerant.


Then I had to change my plan. Driving all over town cost more than what I was saving on some of the groceries. Lactaid milk cost a dollar less per half gallon at Walmart than at any other store. It saved me $30 a month. I also noticed that generic Saltines were 99 cents regularly at Walmart, and normal grocery stores charged almost $4. We ate Saltines with soup all the time at our house; maybe 4 or 5 boxes a month, besides the home-made cheese and crackers and peanut butter and crackers that I made whenever my husband wanted to go out with the family any time around meal time. If I brought a cracker snack with us (and recycled bottles of water), we could make it home without fainting and without buying fast food, which we couldn’t afford back then.

This is not an ad for Walmart. They are not the cheapest for everything (especially meat), but if you combine coupons with Walmart’s low prices and buy meat at other stores during big sales, you can pretty much buy your food for much less. I ended up going to Walmart once every two weeks, which was my normal schedule for buying food. We would have fresh fruits and vegetables the first week, then canned or frozen the second week. If you go to the store fewer times, you save money. It’s a fact. Milk now lasts at least two weeks, so there is no reason to go to the store between times. Staples like eggs and bread, you should know how much your family normally eats. It was only once or twice a year that I had to send my husband to get one thing at the store. Otherwise I already had everything.


Another way I’ve saved money is by finding hunters. The hunters’ wives usually have extra freezers full of deer meat, and they are so sick of it, they often want to throw away perfectly good meat. I’ve often gotten 50 pounds of free meat this way. It was a life saver back when we had no money whatsoever. If you can’t stand the taste of deer meat, mix it with regular meat, and it’s not so bad. And recipes like chili are so strong that it wouldn’t matter what kind of ground beef was in it.


Make recipes with what you already have. So many months we had no money in the bank or in our wallets, and we had to make it two more weeks before paycheck. I would write down everything in the freezer, cupboard, and fridge. Then I would ration out the meat, fruit, and vegetables. I always made sure to give my children protein, milk products (for calcium), fruits, and vegetables each day. Then I filled up the rest of their belly with cheap carbohydrates like potatoes, rice, bread, or whatever. The children were always full, even though I was rationing the foods that were more expensive. Junk food was absolutely out of the question, since we barely had enough money for the core foods. I would sometimes get the coin jar, grab all the quarters, and go to the store for fruits and vegetables, because we ran out of these the fastest. My children were healthy.

I’ve never been able to grow my own food without a monetary loss. The soil and seeds cost more than the real food when it’s on sale. (This is purely from a monetary point of view. Of course, the food tastes way better from your own garden, if you can actually get the stuff to grow.) Sometimes people from church would give us excess garden produce. There was no way I wanted to waste any of it. One time we had an enormous amount of broccoli. This was back when broccoli wasn’t a favorite with my kids. I waited to serve lunch an hour late, so that the kids would be ravenously hungry. I made a heaping plate of steamed broccoli, and I put it in the center of a small table. I squeezed lemon juice on it, and I told them that the rest of their food for lunch would not come until the plate was empty. Then I distracted them as they ate by teaching them something, since I normally homeschool during lunch. They mindlessly ate it all. Now broccoli is one of their favorite vegetables. (I washed, chopped, and froze the rest of it so they wouldn’t totally get sick of it.)

In general, if you combine coupons with an item that is already on sale, you can get the food almost for free. But the number one thing I always did was to pray for the groceries I needed. God always supplied, and He is faithful.