Friday, September 13, 2013

Stuck at Home? Save Some Money

People like me might sometimes find themselves stuck at home with too much time and too little work on their hands.  As a self-employed, at-home parent of two, I’m super busy with the kids, but right now, work is lacking.  This doesn’t mean that I’m content to sit on my hands and wait for money to start falling from the sky.  And while decent paying working isn’t exactly knocking on the door, this doesn’t mean that all is lost when it comes to finding ways either to save money or even make some money by doing a few simple things while I’m stuck at home.

Shopping returns
You know those birthday and holiday gifts, the items you bought as gifts for others or even yourself that you never used, or just those things that were well-intentioned purchases for around the house that just never got opened and have been sitting in closets, cupboards or on shelves?

Well, our family had a few such items hanging around.  And with a little extra time to get organized, find old receipts, and get to the store, I recouped a few bucks off of things like an unopened container or baby formula, some unopened baby gas relief medication, and a few baby outfits that our little one had already outgrown by the time we got ready to use them.

Insurance review
Vehicle insurance is one of those financial obligations that we often pay and then forget about for six months or until the next bill arrives.  Sometimes it seems like one of those bills that we just can’t do much about when it comes to cutting costs.  But this isn’t always the case.

Recently, I took the time (since I had it available) to do a little research regarding the Kelly Blue Book value of our vehicle.  Our SUV is over 10 years old now and its estimated value is under $2,000.  After analyzing our insurance bills and considering our driving habits, we’re considering eliminating our comprehensive and collision coverage which could save us an extra $200 a year.  

Organize a garage sale
Being stuck at home with plenty of time on my hands can present a great time for that final push toward preparing for our annual summer garage sale.  While we tend to work on our preparations throughout the year -- setting things aside in bags and boxes until sale time arrives -- we still do a final push in which we make harder decisions regarding possessions that we just weren’t sure whether we wanted to get rid of or not.

Besides this aspect of our preparations, I can also sit down and start narrowing down dates for our sales, ensuring our supply bag (containing things like pens, tape, string, scissors, markers, etc.) is ready to go, contacting friends and family members who might like to partake in our sale, write up our advertisement for the local paper, and complete our sale signs.

Tax documentation
Not everyone has to do their own taxes like I do to take some time at home and get their tax documentation together.  Lately, I’ve been spending time online doing further research regarding deductions for which our family might be eligible.  Learning more about these money-saving possibilities (work-related tax deduction, charitable donation deductions, child deductions and credits, etc.) and organizing the necessary documentation to prove eligibility for such deductions (bills, receipts, and similar documents) means that I’m better prepared to take advantage of these tax savings when tax season rolls around. 

Meal planning
Another way I make use of my extra time at home is through better meal planning.  It might not seem like much, but getting organized when it comes to our family meal plan has allowed us to cut our grocery costs by almost 30 percent over the past year.

I tackle our meal plan in two ways.  First off, I create a running list of anything we need when we make our weekly trip to the store.  This keeps us from forgetting items, and in turn having to return to the store where we could potentially spend more than we mean to or need to on impulse buys.

Second, I create a weekly dinner menu.  This keeps us on track with our food consumption, ensures that we use leftovers or finish up the things that could spoil first, and maximizes our food dollar while minimizing waste.  This also cuts down on last minute decisions -- or worse yet indecision -- regarding dinner that could lead us to pricier fast food options.

Through these methods, I’m able to continue to stay useful and productive around the house, saving and sometimes even making money even if I’m not “working” a regular job.

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