4 Ways to Easily and Painlessly Cut Family Expenses

This frugal couple helps families find hidden ways to save and raise cash.

January 23, 2015, 3:12 AM

— -- intro:Lauren and Mark Greutman live as frugally as possible, clipping coupons, buying in bulk at the grocery store and driving an old car. But that wasn’t always the case.

“We had no idea what we were doing, we had no idea where our money was going and then suddenly we turned around and we’re $40,000 in debt,” Lauren Greutman said.

A married couple with four kids, Lauren and Mark said they had to start from scratch. They said they lost their dream home in the mortgage crisis, and started pinching pennies. With downsizing and doing their finances together as a couple, instead of separately, the Greutmans realized they could reduce their debt with a few changes. Lauren said it was as much of an emotional makeover as a monetary one.

“It really was more, I think, an emotional connection that we had to make, rather than numbers connection,” Mark said. “We had to figure out you know where this came from and how we were going to move forward.”

The Greutmans said they not only got rid of their debt, they put money away for retirement. Lauren now dishes on her meal plans and extreme couponing expertise on her blog, IamTHATlady.com. She and her husband now enjoy helping other couples that are facing financial ruin.

For “Nightline,” the Greutmans helped the Williams family of Oswego, New York, go over their finances, and even did a walk-through in their home to figure out where they could cut costs and get out of debt. Find out how they did it on “Nightline” tonight at 12:35 a.m. ET and see some of the Greutman’ tips for living frugally below.

quicklist:1title:Sell Your Used High-End Items text:As she walked through the Williams family home, Lauren Greutman pointed out high-end items they could sell on Craigslist, including a Sharper Image massage chair, a foosball table, some pairs of shoes out of Mark Williams’ Air Jordans collection and a Keurig coffee machine.

“If you sell this, I bet you could get at least $50 for it,” Lauren said.

After Mark Greutman realized he was spending thousands of dollars every year on take-out coffee, he started roasting his own every morning at home, which he said also helped save money. “You can buy these green beans online for $5 or $6 bucks a pound and I have this DIY coffee roaster I made,” he said.

Lauren suggested selling the massage chair for $150, the foosball table for $50 and those Air Jordans in Steve’s collection for $100-$150 a pair. In the end, the Gruetmans found $1,500 worth of saving for the Williams family in 15 minutes.

quicklist:2title:The Freezer Is Your Friendtext:The Greutmans are huge couponers and use it to their advantage by buying food in bulk and sticking it in the freezer. For example, Lauren was able to buy nine loaves of bread on the cheap with a coupon and freeze them, giving her enough bread for a month.

“Being frugal doesn’t mean that you have to eat junk food all the time,” Lauren said. “You just have to know when to stock up on things that are healthy.”

The family gets their meat from a local farmer and will buy enough at once to last them a whole year, putting what they aren’t eating right away in the freezer. “We have a half of a cow that we bought from a local farm in here,” Lauren said, pointing out steaks, ground beef and beef loin.

They will also make a week’s worth of pre-cooked meals at once and freeze them until ready to eat to save time and money.

“We actually have 15 freezer meals so about once a month we get together, spend about three hours and make about 20-25 dinners at one time,” Lauren said. “You just pull it out of the freezer stick it in the slow cooker … so we have macaroni and cheese and chicken enchiladas, Alfredo sauce, homemade spaghetti and meatballs all ready to be eaten just like that.”

quicklist:3 title:Shop Smart at Thrift Stores, Garage Salestext:When Lauren Greutman shops for clothes at thrift stores or garage sales, she checks the labels for clothes that come from mall stores.

“I usually buy all of my kids clothes at garage sales,” Lauren Greutman said. “We spent about $30 at a garage sale this summer to buy his whole wardrobe. That included 10 pairs of pants, six pairs of shorts, about a dozen t-shirts.”

quicklist:4 title:Cut Out Monthly Expensestext:The Greutmans encouraged the Williams to make a budget together and cut out monthly expenses, such as take-out food and premium TV channels. Lauren even cuts her husband's and their kids' hair.

“People have hidden money in their house all the time,” Lauren said. “Finding an emergency savings in your house right at this moment gives you momentum so that you don’t have to go into more debt.”

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