When we followed our dreams–and Jon’s job–to Silicon Valley 7 months ago we knew we would be in for some changes. Some of the changes were welcome, like the consistent sunny-and-70-degree days. Some of the changes, however, would be challenging, like the crowds and the traffic. There is one challenge to living in Silicon Valley, however, that trumps everything else: it is so freaking expensive here.
According to several research indexes, Silicon Valley has become the #1 most expensive place to live in America. And I believe it. We feel the pinch every time we have to pay rent (which is nearly 3 times more expensive than our mortgage in Seattle), or preschool tuition (which costs more than my undergrad tuition in 2001), or the ridiculous water bill (a reflection on the area’s years-long drought).
And don’t even get me started on trying to actually own a piece of this overpriced land. The housing market here is so competitive that potential buyers literally stalk houses waiting for them to go on the market so they can pounce with their million-dollar cash offers before the dozens of other million-dollar cash offers roll in. Or, if they’re really savvy, they’ll buy the house before it’s even for sale (I have several friends who have canvassed potential neighborhoods with flyers touting their merits as human beings and potential homeowners, imploring the current homeowners to sell them their house off-market if they ever decide to move. True story). At any rate, the cost of living here is just plain stupid.
In order to help meet our budget, I’ve come up with some creative ways to save our family money. I’ve always prided myself in being a thrifty spender, and have always enjoyed the thrill of finding a good deal. Now more than ever before, I’m finding creative ways to save and spend wisely. I will now share with you, dear friend, some of my best real-world money-saving strategies:
Take your kids shopping with you
This is a simple strategy that will save you money every time you use it–plus, the more kids you have, the more potential you have to save money! First, put your kids in the shopping cart. Then, try to do your shopping. With all your kids in the cart, there will be no room for anything but bread and milk, so you’ll be sure to save money on the grocery bill. If you can’t convince your children to sit in the cart, just set them loose in the store. It will only take about two minutes before your children have caused enough havoc to make you want to run out of the store screaming so, again, you’ll save money on the groceries you didn’t have the patience to shop for. Kids: best shopping buddies EVER!
Sure, you can clip coupons and actually use them in a store. However, if you coupon correctly (yes, “coupon” is a verb) then you’ll be spending 10-20 hours a week compiling your coupons, scouting out the best deals, and shopping around town for your savings. But with two little boys keeping me busy at all hours now I find that by the time I have actually clipped and organized all my coupons, there is no time left to actually go shopping. And when you don’t have time to go shopping, you don’t spend money. Problem. Solved.
Go on a family vacation
Now this may seem counter-intuitive, because vacations cost money. Just hear me out, though. Here’s how it works: plan a nice little vacation for your family. Go through the stress of organizing the trip, packing ten million extra kid items, calming crying babies and rambunctious children on an airplane or a long car ride. Try to enjoy yourself when you reach your destination, but find that you can’t actually relax because even when you’re on vacation you’re still a parent. Get through all this, and you will realize that vacations just aren’t worth it. You’ll probably never go on another vacation again (or, at least, until your darling children move out of the nest). Think of it as an upfront investment for long-term pay-outs.
Skip the car wash
Who needs to pay someone else to wash the car when your kids’ favorite game is already getting wet and playing with bubbles? I say just strip down the kids, send them out with a bucket and some sponges, and call them in when both the car AND the kids are clean. Two birds, one stone.
Eliminate gym fees
Save yourself some time and money by creating your own workout routines away from the gym. After all, you probably already have some of the best workout equipment at home: your kids. Children can be used as stretching partners, weights, or even foot holds. If you need some fit-spiration, just watch this power mama.
Let your children dress themselves
Most children I know tend to fall into one of two dressing categories: 1)They only like to wear one thing, and they will wear it every day until it withers away into a mere memory, or 2)They are tiny nudists who prefer to wear nothing at all. Either way, you’ll only need to buy your kids 1 or 2 outfits max.
So, there you have it. Real-world strategies for saving real families real money. Happy saving!