Dollar stretching techniques are key to being a single mom, SAHM or a WAHM. As a single mom, widow & full time college student I have had to become very, very careful with my money. My dollar stretching techniques really affect every aspect of my life and that is okay because we manage to have everything we need. In order to spend my money wisely I do the following things: budget, prioritize, cut costs, and earn simply.
Keys to Dollar Stretching
My first step to figuring out how much dollar stretching I needed to do was to create a budget that included my current income, set expenses and flexible expenses. I looked at this budget to see where most of my money was going and why it was going there, giving me a clear picture of what needed to be changed.
Before considering cost cutting you need to figure out what budget items are most important. Shelter, utilities and food should be your most important expenses and paid for first no matter what the situation is. All other expenses should come after this by how much you need them.
- Shop Generic – In order to stick to my $150 per month food budget (1 adult & 1 teenager) I shop at discount grocery stores like Aldis (and sometimes WalMart) for almost all of my food. In order to stretch my dollar even more while at discount grocery stores I shop either first thing when the store opens or about an hour before it closes in order to get discounts on fresh meat & poultry.
- Stop Ordering Out – I cook dinner at least 4 nights per week making enough leftovers for at least one if not two additional meals. Also, I am a HUGE fan of my crockpot even though I am just cooking for two because this gives me many additional meals to freeze for the future.
- Lower Utility Bills – Learn when your utility companies off peak and therefore less expensive hours are (usually at night / early morning) and take advantage of it. For example running the dishwasher, doing laundry, and charging electronics during that time. Unplugging small appliances that are not in use and turning off surge protectors where the plugged in items are not being used also help lower utility bills. In the winter lower the heat a few degrees and wear warmer clothing or add a blanket, in the summer keep the house closed up & dark during the day.
- Lose The Cable – It is much cheaper to have subscriptions to services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon to stream media (via computer, tablet or Roku) than to pay monthly for a cable service. For example I pay $29.99 per month for my internet plus Netflix & Hulu Plus for a total of $45.97 which is about half the cost of having cable service.
- Use Coupons – In the name of dollar stretching you have to let go of a lot of your product preferences. If you are not tied to a brand your options for goods are almost endless. To get my coupons I print them out from the internet, are given coupon inserts by family & friends, and sometimes even purchase coupon inserts in bulk online. I use coupons in drugstores, at the dollar store, at the mall and when doing online shopping.
- Comparison Shop – Always compare store prices for items you need whether they are brand specific or not because you can save a lot of money this way. For example: I am getting a cat this weekend who due to age & health issues is on Hill’s Science Diet Adult Optimal Care Original Dry food. This food is one of the more expensive ones that you can buy at $39.99 per 17.5 lb bag at most pet stores. However, after searching I found the same food on Amazon for $28.04 per bag and even cheaper if you subscribe to auto ship it so that is a savings of at least $11.95 per bag (I get free shipping from as a Prime Student Member so that makes it more worthwhile).
It is very easy to make money while doing basic tasks & shopping online. I use sites such Swagbucks and I earn points for searching via their search engine, shopping at certain online retailers, doing surveys, watching short videos, printing coupons, and more. It does not take up much time to rack up a decent amount of points either.
These points then can be redeemed for gift cards/codes for different retailers and paypal deposits. You do however, need to compare the point redemption costs for the gift cards to make sure you get the most for your points. For example a $5 Amazon gift card is 450 points while a $10 gift card is 1,000 points so obviously it is better to get the $5 cards.
This week alone I redeemed enough Swagbucks to get 3 $5 gift cards to Amazon. Previously I mentioned that I purchased a large bag of expensive cat food from Amazon listed at $28.04. Even with taxes, after I applied my $15 in gift cards I only ended up paying $15.28 so that is $0.87 per lb instead of the original $1.60 per lb (in store price $2.29 per lb yikes!) . Plus, I also earned 5 Swagbucks per dollar spent by using their link to purchase the food.
There are other programs like Ebates where you can earn cashback for each dollar that you spend at certain online retailers again by using their links. I have had success with Ebates and have earned enough to be paid out to Paypal and earned a $10 Walmart gift card for signing up and making my first purchase from their links.
How do you save money in your household? How do you feel about online programs like Swagbucks & Ebates?