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Budget tips for stay-at-home parents

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The stay-at-home parent contributes to the family in unexpected ways with budget-smart choices. Here's how single-income families can squeeze more from every dollar without feeling the crunch.

1Create a budget.

Winging it every month means that you're clueless on opportunities to save money and eliminate unnecessary costs. Instead, track the money; know what's coming in and what's going out. Once you have your financial picture clearly defined, you'll be confident in the amount you can spend, put aside in savings, or use to pay off debt.

2Shop smart.

A few budget-savvy shopping strategies can cut your big family grocery bill down to size:

  • Plan your meals in advance, and don't shop without a list. That way, you'll get everything that you need and nothing more.
  • Look for coupons and use them. For frequently purchased items, coupons may be available at manufacturers' websites.
  • Avoid buying processed food. Made-from-scratch food tastes better, is healthier for you and costs less.
  • Use leftovers to make soup. You can buy cheaper cuts of meat for chili, stew and soups.
  • Buy non-food items such as detergent, toothpaste and shampoo at discount and warehouse stores. They're typically cheaper there than at grocery stores.

3Plan expenditures.

You'll avoid buyer's remorse if you plan your purchases. Studies show that people spend less when they pay cash instead of with a credit card -- and there's no interest payment. If you have the storage space, stock up on non-perishable items when they are on sale. And to save gas and time, pick one day a week to do your shopping and errands. Keep a list of errands you need to do and complete them all during a single outing.

4Have (free) fun.

Living on a budget doesn't have to limit family fun:

  • Plan a picnic in the park or at the beach.
  • Visit the library to borrow books and dvds; many libraries also have free special children's activities.
  • Have a family board game night. You can stock up on board games at after-Christmas sales.
  • Get the whole family in on a complicated jigsaw puzzle, or get the giggles over a game of charades.
  • Ride your bikes or go on a hike together. You'll have fun, get exercise and enjoy the fresh air.

Vicki Clinebell majored in journalism at the University of Colorado, and headed an advertising agency before beginning a long career in broadcasting, spanning production and copywriting to sales and management for an ABC affiliate station. Deciding to switch gears and write fulfilled a lifelong ambition. She started as a blogger for a diverse group of businesses, and now writes for a number of websites for companies in her hometown in the Rocky Mountains, and provides advertising copy and media buying for national and regional clients. She finds the research as interesting as the writing, learning about subjects as diverse as construction scaffolding, child safety seats, and newest trends in beauty and fashion. As a long-time devotee of SheKnows, she’s thrilled to see her own work on the pages.