With soaring prices and stagnant wages, balancing the family budget can be tough, no matter what your income is. Clipping coupons and pinching pennies may no longer be enough to allow you to pay your bills and still have money left over for fun.
Fortunately, the Internet makes saving money a snap by allowing you to compare prices and explore deals in your town and around the world. Rather than cutting out all your favorite extras, check out these top money-saving sites to learn how to get the most from your money.
10: Dress Your Kids For Less
ThredUP is the perfect site for families looking to cut clothing expenses and minimize clutter. The site allows you to buy a box full of gently used kids clothing for just $5 plus the cost of shipping. ThredUP doesn't provide pictures or exact descriptions of what's in each box, but you will get info on size, gender, season and colors. When the box arrives in the mail, you and your child get the chance to sort through and enjoy the surprises. The company even partners with retailers to provide GoldenThred boxes, which are full of new clothes for a few lucky site users. When you're ready to get rid of your child's old clothes, pack up your own box and list it for sale on the site.
In 2010, the company added toys to its popular clothing swap program. Rather than wasting money on brand new toys that your kids will soon tire of, spring for a full box of used games and toys for just $5.
9: Cut Your Food Budget
For many families, groceries eat up a huge portion of the weekly budget. You've probably heard stories of moms who use coupons to save big bucks on groceries, but who really has the time to track sales and clip coupons on their own? CouponMom.com does the work for you, and claims to help you cut your grocery bills by 40 to 50 percent or more. The site is free to join, and provides weekly shopping advice to more than 3 million members.
Once you sign up, CouponMom.com shows you how to combine coupons, loyalty programs and weekly sales in your area to maximize your savings while still enjoying the foods you love. The site is organized by city and state, making it easy to find deals relevant to your family.
8: Pick the Right Time to Buy
Savvy shoppers scour the Web before making a big purchase, comparing deals from different brands and retailers. You may be surprised to learn, however, that the timing of your online purchases may impact their price even more than where you shop.
Before you make a purchase online at Amazon.com, check out Camelcamelcamel for historical pricing info on thousands of items. This site gives you an overview on recent prices, and helps you determine when to buy to maximize savings. You can even sign up for free e-mail alerts to receive notifications of price drops on items you're watching. Best of all, the site includes pricing data from both United States and international Amazon.com marketplaces, which helps you cast a wide net to find the best deals on toys, electronics and household items.
7: Designer Style for Less
Frugal moms know plenty of tricks for scoring great deals on kids clothing. When it comes to fancy designer goods, however, discounts can be scarce. It's no surprise, then, that special occasion dresses for prom, homecoming and graduation can be a major budget-buster for many families.
RentTheRunway can help you or your teen enjoy the latest designer fashions at less than 10 percent of the retail cost. For the price of a single dress from the local mall, this site lets you rent high-end gowns and accessories for parties and special events. Membership is free, and RentTheRunway even sends you two different sizes to help you find the perfect fit. After the big event, simply slip the dress back into the postage-paid envelope and drop it in the mail. A $5 insurance policy protects you from accidental spills and stains, and the company handles all the cleaning.
6: Score Coupon Codes for Online Shopping
When you reach the checkout screen at your favorite online shopping site, you'll probably see a spot to enter money-saving coupon codes. While there may be hundreds of different sites claiming to offer these codes, many are out-of-date or require fees or registration.
To get up-to-date coupon codes without the hassle, try RetailMeNot. This site provides one of the largest and most accurate lists of online coupon codes, which can help you net free shipping or big discounts on your next purchase. Site users rate each code for accuracy, and make corrections or add codes to the database. There's no need to sign up to see the codes, but those who register will receive e-mail alerts of new codes or big sales at their favorite retailers.
5: Minimize Monthly Bills
While it's easy to get caught up trying to save money on the small stuff, it's often the big monthly bills that do the most damage to the family budget. Sure, skipping that daily latte can save you some money, but the real savings come from reining in big cable or phone bills.
BillShrink makes it easy to spot potential savings and switch to low-cost cell carriers or cable plans. The site can even review your monthly statements for you and suggest cost-cutting measures based on your family's usage and activity. Registration is free, and the site can also help you evaluate credit card rates, find great rewards cards, or search for low gas prices in your area.
4: Protect Yourself from Price Fluctuations
Ever made a big purchase, only to find out later that the item went on sale? Rather than leave your finances up to chance, check out Priceprotectr before you buy. Once you complete the free e-mail registration, Priceprotectr will let you know of price drops on your recent purchases. As long as the store you shopped at has a price protection policy in place, you'll be able to recoup the difference between what you paid and the new price. The site even provides free forms and advice to help you secure your refund. To ensure the best price before you buy, sign up for low price alerts to help you time your purchases just right from the beginning and cut costs.
3: Beat Boredom Without Breaking the Bank
Social discount sites like Groupon and ScoutMob are all the rage with frugal families who want to find a way to fit fun outings into the budget. These sites partner with local retailers to offer fantastic bargains on dining, shopping and entertainment. After your free registration, you'll receive a daily e-mail highlighting a new deal available in your city. One day you might find half-price Tae Kwon Do classes, while the next day could bring free appetizers or discounts at popular restaurants. With Groupon, you pay up front and use a voucher to redeem your deal. ScoutMob allows you to simply download deals you're interested in directly to your mobile phone. Load the deal to your phone and show it to the retailer to redeem.
If you end up purchasing a Groupon you don't think you'll use, or miss out on a great deal of the day, check out Lifesta. This site allows users to buy, sell or trade previously purchased Groupons to keep the offer from going to waste.
2: Find the Lowest Gas Prices
Between shuttling the kids to soccer practice and that weekly trip to grandma's, gas prices can make a major dent in the family budget. Rather than driving all over town to find cheaper gas, check out GasBuddy to find the best places to fill up in your area. GasBuddy relies on price reports from users, and can tell you where to find cheap gas near your home, work or on your next road trip. The site awards weekly prizes, including free gas, to users who report in often. GasBuddy can also help you with fuel-saving tips, maps and pricing info through your PC or mobile phone.
1: Daily Deals in Your Town
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Want to be the first to learn about all the great deals in your city, without the hassle of searching multiple sites each day? CitiesOnTheCheap searches for the best local deals and freebies, then combines them into a single daily newsletter for members. You'll learn about the current Groupon specials in your area, as well as deals offered directly by local stores. The site even provides coupon downloads, as well as free MP3s and other types of entertainment.
Membership is free, and you can even browse each day's newsletter without signing up if you like. Best of all, CitiesOnTheCheap covers a large number of cities and towns to meet the needs of locals and tourists all across the country.