I have a confession to make. I’m kind of a cheapskate. My degree of cheapskated-ness is nowhere near that of the mother using newspaper for toilet paper, but I do cringe at the thought of spending more than $20 on eating out. It bothers me to my core in a way that probably doesn’t bother the average Joe. I wasn’t always this way, but as I’ve grown in my wisdom (I’m getting older y’all) I realize now that by putting a little more ingenuity into my spending habits, I don’t have to become a victim to overspending.
This works in my household because, luckily, I’m married to a fellow cheapskate. I think sometimes we have unwritten cheapskate wars. Who can be the bigger cheapskate? My cheapness seems to be getting worse as I take on my new role as a stay-at-home mom and no longer have a two-income household. I think it’s also getting worse due to losing my feeling of independent wealth; I had this by bringing in a pay check made out to my name. But being a cheapskate stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean we can’t have any fun. And it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a nice iced coffee made by a handsome twenty-something barista. I’m all about fun. I’m all about coffee. I’m sort of about a handsome twenty-something barista.
While I’m not auditioning at any open calls for the Ultimate Cheapskates show on TLC (or whatever channel it’s on), I have come up with a few tricks to keep things financially trim and have fun. Because, quite frankly, I cannot stand sitting around my house with the kids all day. They don’t like it. I don’t like it. They don’t like me when I don’t like it. It pretty much gets us all in a bad mood all the way around.
Here are my 5 favorite cheapskate tricks for $5 or less. With these, you can still have fun with your little ones, treat yo self to time away from the kitchen and get some fresh air away from your toy-infested living room.
- Split things (like Slurpees). I call this one “Slurpees at the park”. Yum. What kid doesn’t love a good slurpee? Make a park trip more exciting by picking up a slurpee on the way. The park is free and the slurpee is just over a buck. Hold on, though, it gets better. My cheapness doesn’t end here. The trick is in splitting things. If you have more than one kid, split a slurpee. I get the medium-sized slurpee and fill it up, steal an extra cup (lid and straw, too) and then I just cut it in half into the two cups when I get into the car. The 7-Eleven worker never has any idea, or they do and are simply taking pity on me as I stand there with a kid on every hip. My kids don’t even drink the half of each slurpee that I give to each of them. Most kids won’t. Also, you can grab an always-needed coffee or Diet Coke while making your slurpee run. You’ll have a nice, refreshing beverage to enjoy while you sit back and watch the kids play.
- Just say no to the Happy Meal. Going to McDonald’s or Chik-fil-a can be a great way to entertain the little ones, particularly on rainy days since they offer indoor playgrounds. However, if you get yourself a meal, and two or more happy meals, you are likely to spend $20 (or more). And chances are your kids are not going to eat more than half of their meals. Who likes those stupid acid-drenched apples anyways? That ain’t fresh. Here’s what I do: Step 1: Order always-needed coffee or Diet Coke. Step 2: Order 20 piece chicken nuggets. Between my two kids and myself, it is plenty of food for us to share and the 20-piece is only $5. Seriously, the kids (ahem: my living room) do not need the toy and my hips do not need the fries. It’s a win all around. I’m lovin’ it.
- Splash pads: the free ones at local parks. This one obviously only applies to summer. But, hey, it’s getting hot in here… so take off all your…okay, we know how the Nelly song goes. Splash pads provide tons of fun and entertainment. It’s a very simple but amazingly fun way to spend a free afternoon. I prep by taking a lunch, snacks and drinks with us so that we can stay and play as long as we want, and the kids enjoy the picnic. Splash pads are also great for small kids because you don’t have drive yourself crazy worrying about one of them drowning like you do at a pool. They are zero-depth, meaning that there is no water to actually sit in. Splashpads are great even for the littlest guys and gals.
- Sneaking snacks into the movies. Yes, I admit to doing this. It’s a simple one. If you want to take your kid to the movie and you KNOW your kid is going to want candy, just go to the grocery store on the way and buy some candy.. They’re not purse-checking at the theater. I even sneak in a tasty and, yes, you guessed it, always-needed iced coffee alongside the candy. Once again, win for mom and win for the kids. Big mom purse for the win!
- Want a new toy? Perfect. You can’t go to the new toy store because your kid will want everything and you’ll leave broke. There’s good news, though! Your local thrift store probably has a bunch of toys which are in perfectly good working order. I know because I’ve donated many good toys in perfectly-working order (that my kids have outgrown) to Goodwill and other thrift stores. Thrift store toys are super-cheap and the kids like their toys just as much as the toys they see on the shelves at one of your big box stores. If your kids are small, they won’t know you are buying them a used toy and they just won’t care. If you find a thrift store you like, find out if they have any half-price days. My favorite local thrift store has a half price day once per month. Those days are awesome! And if you really want to multi-task here, you can unload a box of toys your kids have outgrown while you are there. Of course, the final icing on the cake to this little adventure is picking up that always-needed coffee or Diet Coke on your way to the thrift store. Once there, sit back and sip while your kids bathe in the excitement of a new-to-you toy.
So now that I have shared this and will probably never be invited out to dinner again by any of my friends, I’ll leave you with this. Cheapskated-ness is an art. You can either be smart with your money or you can take it to the extreme. Use these tricks to tidy up your expenses a bit. But always look out for the douchebag cheapskate who pretends to leave his or her wallet at home.