How to Afford to Stay or Work At Home

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Like many people, I didn’t become a work-at-home success overnight. In fact, it didn’t happen quickly at all. From the time I wanted to work at home to the time it happened was several years. There are many reasons why it took me longer that it should have. One is that I thought I had to replace my income to stay home, when in fact the expenses related to my job ate up most of what I made.

The second is that I didn’t realize how much I’d save by working at home. Some of that savings comes from not having to commute and other job-related expenses (I’ve bought pantyhose only twice — both for weddings– since I left the traditional workplace).  The other is that by being at home, I have time to research deals and take care of household needs instead of spending money on convenience. I’ll admit I’m no extreme coupon queen, but I have been able to shave off several hundred dollars a month on household expenses (I bought those previously mentioned pantyhose with CVS Extra Care Bucks, so essentially they were free!) Reducing my household expenses meant I had to earn less to stay home. It’s a philosophy that I still subscribe to today.

When I started cutting back on my expenses, finding deals wasn’t as easy as it is now.  Today the Internet is loaded with coupons, rebates, special offers and more. Smartphone apps help you find the best prices and will even store your shopper savings cards eliminating all the plastic cards on your keychain. Here are some tips and resources to help you save money so you can afford to work at home.

1) Learn about effective couponing. For a long time I bought generic products because they were cheaper than the name-brand even with a coupon. Since then, I’ve learned to combine a coupon (or two if it’s a store and manufacturer’s coupon) with a sale to save more. Sometimes I get things for nearly free. BTW… coupons are not just for grocery stores. Department stores, office stores and restaurants have coupons. Why pay full price if you don’t have to?

2) Sign up for store loyalty programs. If you don’t, you’re paying way too much.  If you spend $200 in groceries, as much as $30 could be saved by having the store’s discount card. But it gets even better. By signing up for a saving card, the store will send you coupons that are often better than manufacturer coupons. I just got a free jar of Rago with a coupon from Kroger. Most coupons are not for free items, but you still get good deals. Because the card allows the store to monitor what you buy, it usually gives you coupons for items you use. Don’t forget to sign up for loyalty programs at Staples, Office Depot and/or Best Buy. I rely on these stores for business tools and office supplies. Recently I had a $10 HP ink coupon and got a free set of pens from Staples.

3) Compare prices…the easy way. I don’t like to shop multiple stores unless the savings is worth it. The challenge is knowing the price of items at the different stores. At one time I had a list of items — milk costs $2.99 at store A and $3.99 at store B etc. Now I use a free app on my smartphone called Shop Savvy. All I have to do is use my smartphone to scan the barcode of the item in question and the app will tell me if its cheaper elsewhere.

4) Don’t throw money away around the home. For a few bucks you can weather strip doors, lower your thermostat (in summer), put electrical items on a powerstrip that you turn off at night or when you’re away, and more to save money on energy. Check your cable and phone bills. Do you really need all those services? Can you renegotiate your package price. My cable bill went up to $100. I called and was able to get a year long deal for $75 that included HBO, which we’d never had before. When it goes up in a year, I’ll call again. Look over all your expenses to find areas you can save or cut all together.

5) Cook from scratch and pack lunches. I hate to cook, so if I’m telling you to cook from scratch, I mean it. Cooking from scratch often only requires a few extra steps and the food will be so much healthier (and probably tastier). My husband and children all take lunch to work/school. Often it’s leftovers which are yummier and cheaper than cafeteria food. While you’re at it, bring your own afternoon snacks. Vending machines are way too expensive.

6) Learn to do-it-yourself. There are some things you still need to hire out for. When my air conditioning broke, I tried the breaker and to reset it, but ultimately, I had to hire someone. But other things you can do yourself. I clean my own house (well… sometimes), I clear my own drains and do many of the other fix-it jobs around the house. If you do have to hire help, ask your friends for referrals, find coupons (i.e. Val-Pak) and don’t pay for after hours service. When my air conditioning went out, I told a friend who suggested someone. I was afraid I was going to have to buy a new unit or spend thousands. In the end, I paid $169. That’s the value in research and using your network.

One of the easiest and quickest ways to save money starting now is on groceries. For many families, this is the largest expense except maybe for rent or mortgage. Through savvy shopping I was able to cut my grocery bill by 20% immediately ($100 per month saved!) and through a little more study, save even more! Again, I’m no supershopper like some of the coupon queens out there, but I know I’m saving big compared to if I didn’t engage in savvy shopping.

Here are some of my favorite resources for saving money on groceries:

CellFire– Save grocery coupons directly to your supermarket savings card – no clipping!

Savings Star– eCoupons saved to your savings card – no clipping!

Cool Savings– Print free Grocery Coupons

Coupons.com!– Printable grocery coupons

Savings Angel – Find the best deals and matching coupons for the stores you shop (This saves me loads of time planning my grocery shopping as it lets me know where the deals are and what coupons are available to save even more!)

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