My Top 5 Budget Buys

I haven't always been good about saving money. I used to spend money as soon as I had it: I paid my bills, yes, but I also bought new clothes, new shoes, new make up, almost every week. When I think back to it, it was really fun, but it was really irresponsible. I had a tiny savings account and no idea what I would do if something really big happened. I was more than breaking even, but I was still limping the closer I got to pay day. 

My big wake up call came when I had Forrest. My husband and I had been saving pretty effectively for a long time, but at the tail end of my pregnancy, we were using our savings to occasionally pay off credit card bills (I needed a new crib set and swing, ok?). Forrest was born premature and our hospital bill was huge. The amount that was sent to our insurance was $12,000 just for Forrest's stay. We ended up paying over $8,000 total for my preeclampsia stay, labor & delivery, and our stay after Forrest was born. That's a lot of money--which we didn't totally have. 

I was lucky to have help paying off that monumental bill, but many people aren't so lucky. That's why it's so important to save. With our next baby, I don't want to be blindsided by another huge hospital bill. That meant starting a strict savings plan and cutting our monthly expenses. 

As a result, there are some things I just buy cheap or in bulk. These are my five favorites. 

1. Buy Formula at Costco

Costco is one of the easiest places to stock up on supplies, but realistically, not everyone has the income that allows them to drop $200 at one place. As well, storing that much toilet paper and paper towels can be a challenge, even in the biggest homes. However, if you're a mom who is formula feeding an infant, Costco is the place to buy formula. Why? They take the manufacturer checks AND they have their own generic brand of formula. They sell the major brands as well. A $50 pack of formula from Costco saved us about $20 a month and I didn't have to rush out and buy formula without a coupon. Total win. 

2. Use Cartwheel at Target

If you have a smartphone and you shop at Target, do yourself a favor and download Cartwheel immediately. It took me forever to start using it, but it's genius! I scan everything in my cart as I'm walking to the register and add any deals. I usually save $3-5 per trip, which isn't a ton (although I also use my Redcard to save 5%!), but it does add up. Staples like cotton balls, q-tips, household cleaners, etc. are almost always on Carthweel, as well as discounted in the store. You can get some amazing deals! 

3. Use Amazon Prime

I'm not a fan of subscription deals. The only one I really use is my Honest diaper bundle, but I'll be honest (har har): that saves me time, rather than money. However, Amazon Prime is my go to place to find affordable, household items that I don't feel like trying to track down in stores. That means, picture frames, bulletin boards, bookshelves, bins to hold items in the pantry... all those little things that are hard to find in stores for affordable prices. 

4. Shop the Dollar Store

"Oh, I loooove those vases in your window!" A friend cooed to me several months ago. News flash: they all cost about $1 a piece. I saved up beer, wine, and other glass bottles, spray painted them with leftover spray paint I had around the house, and used fake flowers from the Dollar Store for the flowers. Easy. Cheap. Quick. 

Whenever I need something decor related, I go to the Dollar Store. I made cake platters for Forrest's birthday party out of candle holders and plates from the Dollar Store; my pantry is organized with bins and labels from the Dollar Store; and whenever I need cheap table clothes, napkins, etc., I go to the Dollar Store. There is literally no need to spend tons at party supply stores. I can make or find almost everything at the Dollar Store. Really. All the decor for Forrest's party cost me about $15, not including spray paint. 

5. Shop on Fridays (or whenever your favorite grocery store has deals)

Our local grocery store has $5 Fridays. What does that mean? Along with any coupons they have from the Sunday insert, they also have special deals on certain items. One Friday, I got boxes of Wheat Things for 3 for $5 (a bargain). Or packages of pineapple (which you can freeze) will be 3 for $5. There are multiple $5 deals every Friday throughout the store and it can save us a ton of money. Most grocery stores do things like this--it might be Thursdays or Saturdays as well. Find the best time to grocery shop and you can save big. (And remember--shopping early in the morning might be a pain, but it's when grocery stores are least busy!)