Living on a Budget: How to Stretch One Income Twice as Far

If you stay at home with your children, you know that part of your job is to stretch those ends until they meet.  

And anything's possible. Your Money or Your Life author Vicki Robin lives on the $6,000 that her investments generate each year.

Here are some tips for stretching every dollar.

1. Save a penny, keep a penny.
Dump your pocket change into a jar each night. Invest it in a high-interest bearing account at the end of each month.
Woman’s Day magazine recently suggested this money-saver, adding that if a couple puts just one dollar each into the jar every day, the sum will top $700 at the end of the year.

Invested at 10 percent interest over 10 years, that pocket change will grow into $12,000.

I have a friend who keeps her change in an empty Swiss Miss hot chocolate container. She calls it her "Swiss Bank Account," and it has already funded two family trips to Mexico.

2. Use your computer
You can save big money by shopping online, if you know where to look. Find online coupon codes for leading web merchants here: http://www.momscape.com/coupon-codes/htm

You'll also find information on how to download local coupons, as well as how to get a 2003 Entertainment book, which will help you save money in your own neighborhood.

I use mine all the time for groceries, oil changes, and dining out. And because 2003 has already begun, you'll get the book for $10 off, plus free shipping.
Shopping online saves a lot of headaches, too. I love that I can buy diapers at discounted prices (with an online coupon) without having to haul my three wee ones to the store.

3. Write letters.
Whether you love the product or hate it, write the manufacturer a letter. Customer service is key for companies these days and a company that receives a complaint is bound to make amends.

On the same token, many companies will acknowledge--and encourage--your satisfaction with coupons and discounts.

4. Shop smart.
Look at the grocery store ads before heading off to the store. Maybe you can reserve a few items for purchase at a nearby store that is offering unusual bargains.

5. Ban impulse buying.
Make it a family policy: if you see something you like, write it on a wish list and wait at least three days before buying.

6. Watch out for "nickel and dime" expenses.
Those little snacks and coffee stops can easily add up to more than $500 per year.

7. Shop around.
Research purchases on the internet. Before making a big online purchase, visit http://www.dealtime.com and http://www.mysimon.com.

8. Refinance your home. 
Signing a few papers a few months back saves us $100 per month on our mortgage payment.

9. Examine credit card use.
If you have credit card debt, make a promise to yourself to pay it off.

If you’re paying credit card debt, you’re paying not just 17 percent more for your purchases than you need to, you’re also missing out on the money that the sum could earn for you if you had invested it.

Comparison shop cards online with http://creditcardmenu.com.

Or simply call your credit card company and let them know you have been offered a card with a lower rate. Then, ask if there is a way to decrease your rate.

One two-minute phone call recently reduced our rate by 4 percentage points. That was one call I wish I’d made a long time ago.