Oct. 14, 2008 -- When work friends Marsha Flood and Kathy Sullivan were laid off from their jobs, the women knew they had to get serious about saving money.
The Chicago-area moms went well beyond saving a few bucks a month. Flood cut her family's annual budget by $35,000, and Sullivan paid off her mortgage in just five years.
Flood said once she started, saving became second nature, and she recommends people save as much as possible in good economic times, so they'll be prepared if money gets tight.
"It really does get ingrained in your brain, you can't really get rid of it," Flood said. "It is innate, it is just something you feel guilty [about] if you spend too much."
Flood saved at least $3,500 by hiring a medical claims professional who makes sure she gets a fair shake on medical bills.
She stretches out the time between haircuts by doing her own trims. When she does need a color and cut, she saves $75 a visit by getting it done at a beauty school.
She says she spends just $2 or $3 a day on food by cooking from scratch, freezing in bulk and limiting meat to three-ounce portions.
"It is good for your waistline, all my kids are very thin," she added.
Flood even files her receipts alphabetically by store name so it's easy to ask stores to match competitors' prices or adjust a price if something goes on sale. To her, every little bit adds up.
Do It Yourself
Sullivan paid off her home in just five years by sending all her extra money to the bank each month to go toward the principal on her loan. She saved $36,000 in interest payments.
Her philosophy is to go after the big savings.
"People spend $5,000 on furniture, and if I only spend $100 that is huge," she said.
She resisted making any home improvements until the home was really hers. Instead, she found solid wood furniture by hunting garage sales and thrift stores.
And she transformed herself into a do-it-yourselfer and saved $450 by refinishing an old bathtub and $250 by installing her own anti-flooding pump.
"I just go to the hardware store, get the materials and figure it out," she said.
Sullivan only buys used cars and pays for them in cash.
Without big bills to pay, the single mom managed to stretch her savings and stay home with her kids for three years after getting laid off from her job.
The frugal friends have different ways of cutting costs, but the results are the same -- little to no debt and some peace of mind even in a bad economy.
Tips From the Frugal Moms
Cook From Scratch
Going out to eat can get costly, especially when you factor in purchasing meals for an entire family. By whipping up meals at home, not only can you get in some quality time with the kids, but you'll also have leftovers to tide you over. You can pack a lunch the next day.
Get a Used Car
You might really want the latest, sexiest car with all the bells and whistles, but do you really need it? The monthly loan payment would be an extra drain on already tight finances, not to mention the higher cost to insure your brand new baby.
If you must purchase a vehicle, you may want to look at used, or in the car dealers' euphemism, "preowned" vehicles. A really good one could save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars and still have a lot of life in it.
Shop at Thrift Stores
Angst-filled teens and vintage clothes lovers already know this. You can find a ton of cool garments at secondhand stores. Dress them up with items you already own, and you've got a look that's uniquely you, for a fraction of the price.
The added bonus is you likely won't see anyone with the exact same clothes, unlike if you shop at a mall.
Pay Down Your Mortgage
Doing this could free up a lot of money for your family. Those extra funds can be distributed to other household needs.
This seems simple enough, but often people don't do it. Always be on the lookout.
Is it really going to cost that much? Maybe not. Double-check any estimates you receive, phoning competitors to see their pricing. You'll have a better idea of what the price should be.
Learning how to do your own hair could save you plenty of cash. You can ditch the pricey salon. Sure, you may not become a stylist, but you'll be neatly groomed and bank that money. And what looks better than more money in your wallet?
Price Matching and Adjustments
If you're not checking your receipt every time you check out, you could be giving away money. Everyone makes mistakes and cashiers are no different. Make sure the price that's on the paper is the price you thought you'd pay.
Also, as with anything else, shop around and see which stores have the best prices. Some retailers will match the lower price of their competitors.