Advice from the Frugal Mama

May 30, 2012

Amy Suardi uses cost-saving and stress-saving strategies to maintain her family’s lifestyle. Below, she shares some advice.

For the home

Recipes make life complicated. Steer toward basic cooking techniques, such as oven-roasting vegetables or sauteing meat, that can be applied to any food you find at a good price.

Dine in. Instead of going out to dinner, invite someone over. Don’t worry about your house or the meal; people are just happy to be invited.

Join a neighborhood group, parent circle or school club. Smaller groups are best for trading hand-me-downs, baby gear, lawn equipment and cups of sugar. Bigger ones are great for canvassing the area for good handymen, doctors or mechanics.

Hiring a decorator or a landscape designer will pay off. You get good design and quality workmanship, and you avoid painful and costly mistakes. Renovating is so expensive and permanent; doing it right the first time is important.


Virginia Suardi completes one of her daily household chores: sweeping the kitchen after dinner. The Suardi children earn an allowance each month with the understanding that 50 percent of what they earn must go directly into savings. (Katherine Frey/THE WASHINGTON POST)
For the children

Getting ready for school and bed can be tough times of the day. Give children a list (or series of pictures, depending on ages) of what is required as well as a timer or clock. Set up a rewards and consequences system where kids earn points for getting ready in time. Points go toward prizes; consequences can include going to bed early or doing an extra chore.

Teach money management with an allowance. Try giving an allowance on the condition that 50 percent of it is saved (for a long-term goal) and 10 percent is given away to a good cause. The remaining 40 percent can be used as the child likes.

For the finances

Plan ahead. It’s the single most important way to save money.

When shopping, use the delay tactic. You may realize you can make do with something you already have. Someone may give you what you need, or you just may change your mind.

Ignore sales, coupons and Groupons. These kinds of advertisements hurry us to buy things we don’t need.

Write down everything you spend. Use pen and paper initially, because there is a deeper awareness when we write things down. Post a daily spending chart and agree to record every penny so you can determine where all your money is going.

Define your hopes and dreams. Saving money is easier when you have a reason, whether it’s a comfortable retirement, starting your own business or adding on to your house. Once you decide your short-, mid- and long-term goals, write them down and figure out how much you need to achieve each one.

■Make it easy. For essential goals such as paying off debt or amassing an emergency fund, set up automatic transfers to a less accessible bank account. Use charts to track your progress.

■Remember: Frugal does not mean cheap. It’s okay to spend more on things such as recycled paper, organic food or interior design. If those things are important to you, resolve to cut back on other things.

More from The Washington Post

Chat Thursday at 11 a.m.: Ask Amy Suardi your questions

How a Frugal Mama lives: Amy Suardi isn’t afraid to spend when it counts

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