120 ways to save money now!
Written by Kris Collingridge, Kathleen F. Miller, Kristen Russell and Maria Bellos Fisher
You always did love a deal, and these days, deals and discounts are everywhere! Heck, you feel like a heel if you pay full price for practically anything. And why should you?
Our editors have spent months combing the Internet, savvy mom contacts, blogs, message boards — anything and everything — to bring you this family-focused list of 120 ways to save money now. Peruse our list, and be sure to let us know of any we missed by commenting below! Also follow us on Facebook to get early word of new discounts and freebies on great local places to shop, eat, play and go green.
Want more? We've got 205 more tips waiting for you.
Learn how to strategize and shop bots, price alerts, coupon codes and little-known outlets: Here are dozens of best-kept shopping secrets.
1. FamilyFinds is a Groupon/Living Social-type service for families. FamilyFinds offers deeply discounted vouchers for goods, entertainment and services. You buy the vouchers in advance and must use them within a specified time frame.
2. Get coupons! RetailMeNot offers coupons from major retailers. Sign up and hear about lots of great deals. You can choose the frequency of the notifications.
4. Check out FrugalLivingNW – it’s a one-stop shop for deals, sales and practical frugal living. The site posts details of sales from major retailers, promotes local businesses and rounds up coupons that you can use.
5. Cardpool.com sells gift cards at less than face value, so you can, for example, get a $25 gift card for $20. You can get cards from many retailers, movie theaters and restaurants. A recent browse found discount gift cards to Applebee’s, Toys ‘R’ Us and Target among many others.
6. Shop online with Ebates.com. Sign up and shop 1,500 participating stores to get cash back for purchases. Cash back adds up, and if you buy big-ticket items, you can get more cash back. One ebates shopper bought her computer at Ebates and received $80 in the mail.
7. Take it back. When you experience the frustration of buying something right before it goes on sale, take it back to the store once the sale starts and ask the store to refund the difference. It’s policy to give the sale price within a specified time frame at many, if not most, stores.
8. Metal trash cans for just 10 cents and sturdy tables for just $10 are some of the amazing deals you’ll find at the University of Washington Surplus Store at 4515 25th Avenue N.E. in Seattle. The public is welcome to shop on Tuesdays, noon–6 p.m. View items online (and enjoy the offbeat wit of the listings!).
9. You’re never too old for a flash mob! Get alerts about special sales on cool stuff for moms, babies and kids up to age 7 by joining totsy.com.
10. Use your smartphone to save money with applications like Shopkick, which finds great deals within your area, and ShopSavvy Barcode Scanner, which will compare the prices of the same item in several stores.
11. Thrifty NW Mom’s website offers printable coupons on local deals for such things as a $60 iTunes card for $36, a discounted American Girl Magazine subscription and Nikon camera.
12. Save money on hair services by going to a training salon! Get great deals at Toni & Guy Seattle Academy (formerly the Greenwood Academy of Hair) in Shoreline; call 206-542-1111. The Gene Juarez Advanced Training Salon in downtown Seattle also offers great deals on a variety of hair services, and if you sign up for its customer email list, you’ll receive e-coupons every month for even more savings.
13. Scoop up current magazines for a quarter, paperback best-sellers for a $1 and hardbacks for less than $5 at the Bellevue Friends of the Library Corner Book Store at the Bellevue Library. Check the website for hours during construction.
14. Need dance gear? Check out the deals on pre-twirled tutus at Tree House consignment store in Redmond. 15742 Redmond Way; 425-885-1145.
15. Get your game on for a song! Play It Again Sports in Seattle, Lynnwood, Marysville, Woodinville and Renton has everything from skateboards to soccer nets, all gently used and at a great price.
16. Fashionista tweens already know this well: You can get great deals on gently used designer clothes (think Juicy, Lucky, Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch) at the Plato’s Closet stores in Lynnwood, Tukwila and Bellevue.
17. Love to ski? Check out a ski swap in your area next fall. We love the Newport Snowsports Swap, one of the largest in the area.
18. Get a great deal on a high-quality Hanna Andersson clothes at its Woodinville outlet store.
19. Run, don’t walk, to Woodinville to the See Kai Run warehouse sale on fabulous, butter-soft leather shoes for kids. Learn when the next sale will be held by signing up for the e-newsletter.
20. Cloth diaper your baby. The average cost for disposable diapers per baby is $2,500. You can diaper one baby from birth to potty training for around $500, and your next child (or children) are free. When you're done, donate your diapers to the next parent! Check out Punkernoodle Baby for all types of cloth diapers and how-tos.
21. Let savings.com find deals for you! At this site, you’ll find hundreds of e-coupons for stores that include Old Navy, Target and Umi children’s shoes.
22. Outdoorsy types will love scoring discounted and gently used tents, backpacks and outdoor clothing at Second Ascent in Ballard.
23. Get your Microsoft products free by participating in Microsoft usability studies.
24. Put yourself on the Jack & Jill list to get word of its giant consignment sales. (Psst! Next one is April 12, 13 & 14 at the Lynnwood Convention Center!).
25. Get great local sales alerts by visiting this cool site: seattlemomsdealfinder.com.
26. Crazy for kayaks? Take home your own at the Northwest Outdoor Center’s annual fall used boat sale.
27. Cotton Caboodle’s outlet store offers adorable kids’ clothes for infants to tweens at a big discount. In Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood.
28. Is your teen heading off to college? Check out the deals on furniture and dishes at Seattle Children’s thrift stores in Shoreline, Redmond, Seattle, Bainbridge, Port Townsend, Kent and Olympia.
29. Crave a frugal yet fancy pillow or comforter? Head to Pacific Coast Feather Co.’s warehouse in SoDo; 206-624-2034.
30. Before buying anything online, search Google or Bing for the store’s name and the words “coupon code.” You’ll often find codes that you can enter on checkout to get discounts on orders of more than $100, free shipping or other deals.
31. Buy the discounted 100-pack “Forever Stamp” first-class postage stamps at Costco.
32. Get a deal on a dapper dog! Save on dog grooming when you do it yourself at the Wash Spot at Marymoor Park. For less than $10, you get shampoo and use of dryers; the cleaning tubs are at waist height and feature ramps, so you don’t have to hoist your hound yourself. Located between the main parking lot and the P-Patch near the off-leash area.
33. Live big on a discount! Sign up for Hautelook’s sales alerts on designer brands for the whole family, including Plan Toys and Nest.
35. Recycled Cycles in Seattle offers great deals on used and reconditioned bikes. Why buy new for a growing kid?
37. Looking for great shabby chic furniture for your college student’s first apartment or the family cabin? Then check out the deals at Seattle’s and Bellevue’s Goodwill stores. Heck, you could score a great deal on a cool hoodie while you’re there.
38. Waiting for a sale to buy a big-ticket item? Visit zingsale.com, a price-alert service that combs the Web and lets you know where to buy to get the best price.
39. Deals that are “sew good” are available at the Pacific Fabrics and Craft Outlet in SoDo.
40. Save on gas by comparing prices online here: seattlegasprices.com.
They leave half of their dinner on the floor anyway, so why not get a screamin’ deal when you take the tots out on the town? This is just a taste of the great dinner and grocery deals we’ve found; visit our huge, growing “kids eat free” list at parentmap.com/free.
41. Buy the cow. You won’t get your milk for free, but you can purchase meats in bulk directly from the farmer and save big at Homegrown Cow or other farmers who sell directly. Some farmers offer grass-fed cows too. You must have plenty of freezer space but you’ll always have meat on hand.
42. Plan your meals. When you know what you’re going to cook, you know what you have and what you need, so grocery shopping becomes less expensive. Start with your pantry. What can you make with what’s in your pantry and few extra ingredients? Try Supercook -- it’s an online tool that tallies up your ingredients and finds recipes that use them. Then shop for those ingredients. Most money-savers recommend planning a week in advance.
43. Eat leftovers. Make a few big meals that you can have twice each during the week and buy fewer at the grocery store. Try foodonthetable, an online menu-planning tool.
44. Grocery shop once. Making multiple trips to the grocery store to pick up one or two things leads to impulse spending and can derail your budget. Make one list, stick to it and shop once. See “Plan your meals.”
45. Check unit pricing. Comparing different brands of the same item to get the best value is easy. Just compare the unit price, located on the items’ shelf labels, in smaller print.
46. Check out restaurant loyalty and punch cards for your favorite haunts. They’re free and with them, you’re eligible for in-store discounts, and sometimes special coupons. You don’t have to be loyal to one store to reap the benefits of these cards. Sign up at every store you frequent and for a little space in your wallet, these cards will equal big rewards.
47. Bag your lunch. Buying lunch at work in downtown Seattle, for example, can run $50 every week. Bring your lunch from home and save up to $200 a month!
48. Buy your drinks for work in multi-packs. If you drive to work, it’s easy to buy a case of soda and schlep it in, and if you don’t, buy multipacks at drug stores or markets close to work. They’re more expensive in town but the price still beats buying them individually.
49. Put the cream in your coffee. Make your coffee at home, put it in a “to-go” cup and voila! — save $2 or more — every day.
50. Kids 12 and younger eat free at many IHOP locations every day between 4 and 8 p.m. (Drinks aren’t included, and you get one free kids’ entrée per paid adult meal.)
51. Check out the “sunset dinner special” at Anthony’s Restaurants. Eat dinner between 4:30 and 6 p.m., Monday–Friday, and enjoy a four-course meal for less than $20.
52. Skip the schlep and cook takeout-style meals in your own kitchen! Visit eatingwell.com and search "Takeout" for healthy, family-pleasing recipes that mimic your favorite takeout meals.
53. Save serious scratch at the grocery store by packing coupons from thecouponclippers.com.
54. Buy an Entertainment coupon book — and then use it! You’ll get 50 percent off and two-for-one deals at many local restaurants.
55. Many Denny’s locations offer “kids eat free” deals for kids 10 and younger Tuesdays between 4 and 10 p.m.
56. e-mealz.com is an online “personal assistant” that plans your grocery shopping based on what’s on sale at your local stores that week, and then provides you a week’s worth of meal plans for just $5 a month.
57. Free pasta for kids! All area Pallino Pastaria restaurants let kids eat for free with the purchase of an adult entrée on Sundays and Wednesdays.
58. Local author and father of two, David Volk knows how to live it up for less. His new book, The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Seattle, is full of tips on how to save money on everything from the best local happy hours, wine and beer tastings, delicious free food samples and more. Check out the chapter on places where you can listen to free live music while you eat.
59. couponmom.com is a free site that provides lots of grocery-store coupons specific to your area.
60. Redmond’s Celtic Bayou offers free kid meals all day long with the purchase of adult entrées on Saturday and Sundays.
61. Check out thegrocerygame.com. For a small monthly fee, the site sends you a weekly list of sale items tailored to your shopping preferences.
62. Several local schools with culinary training programs offer delicious deals in their student-run, instructor-supervised restaurants, including Portfolio Restaurant at the Seattle Art Institute, Seattle Central Community College’s Square One Bistro and One World Dining, and Chef City Grill at Lake Washington Technical College in Kirkland.
63. Enjoy a three-course dinner from a local celebrity chef on Thursday nights at Seattle’s FareStart Café for just $25. FareStart provides culinary training for homeless and other disadvantaged people; these meals sell out, so make a reservation.
64. All this month, you’ll find special lunch and dinner deals at Seattle’s top restaurants from Sunday through Thursday as part of Dine Around Seattle. Check the website for dates of the events.
65. Use social networking and co-ops to buy in bulk, especially large purchases of staples, such as flour, with friends. Check out Azure Standard for bulk ordering of healthy, natural staples.
66. Shop at your local farmers market. Locally grown food is often less expensive and fresher.
67. Love New York Cupcakes at Crossroads Shopping Center in Bellevue? Grab a six-pack of still-mouthwatering day-old cupcakes for half-price.
68. On Facebook, don’t forget to “friend” your favorite grocery stores and restaurants. You’ll get printable coupons in return when they post them on their Facebook pages or Twitter.
An outing with the kids can cost you big bucks. A movie alone will set a family of four back by nearly $50 — and that’s without the popcorn! And don’t get us started on the really big, big family nights out to plays, circuses and other kid-oriented entertainment. Here are a few dozen suggestions for low-cost or free fun for you and the fam.
69. Be choosy about your movies. Go to a matinee instead of an evening movie. Matinees are a few dollars cheaper, even on weekends. Movie theaters also run specials on things like popcorn and candy. Check out the theater’s website before you go.
70. Speaking of movies, if you’re a frequent moviegoer, theater loyalty cards can save you some bucks. Most will give you points for purchases, and reward you at the box office with free coupons for stuff like popcorn and drinks.
71. Perceive the power of the play date. What’s better for your kids than playing with friends? It’s free and you don’t have to lift a finger.
72. “Like” and feel the love. “Liking” on Facebook and “checking in” to certain businesses can generate instant coupons, and even better, notifications of incredible sales. One PM fan got a vacation at a Hawaiian Outrigger resort for $39 per night just for checking her Facebook feed and booking during a four-hour sale.
73. Visit museums on their free days, usually the first Thursday or Friday of the month. Find our full list of free museum days at parentmap.com/free-museum-days.
74. Your local community center is a treasure trove of free or very low-cost activities for kids and families. Visit your city’s website to access information about gymnastics and music classes, indoor playgrounds and family nights — you’ll pay a fraction of the cost of private facilities.
75. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park in Pioneer Square highlights a fascinating slice of Pacific Northwest history — and it’s free every day of the year. Starting in May, look for kids’ programs and films.
76. You can explore parks on your own, but for low-cost (or free!) guided nature walks, classes and family days, head straight to Seward Park Environmental & Audubon Center. (Even if you don’t sign up for an activity, the free-roaming tortoise — and nature library — provide hours of fun for little ones.) Any natural area can become a free outing looking for birds and other wildlife.
77. Play hometown tourist and visit the Pike Place Market in the off-season. Sit on Rachel, the bronze pig sculpture, watch the ferries crawl back and forth on the Sound, and hang out at Pike Place Fish to watch the salmon fly. Unless you can’t resist the produce stands or restaurants, it won’t cost a cent.
78. The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard offer endlessly fascinating (and close-up) views of vessels large and small as they wait for water levels to rise or fall in the narrow passageways. A free concert series runs throughout the summer.
79. Climb the 106 steps of the Volunteer Park water tower for a gorgeous 360-degree view of the city and mountains through its narrow openings, and let the kids run around the circular inside deck.
80. Get an eyeful of sparkling glass creations while watching the cars zip by on the highway below at the Chihuly Bridge of Glass in Tacoma. The 500-foot pedestrian overpass links the Museum of Glass to downtown Tacoma. Museum admission isn’t free, but traversing the bridge doesn’t cost a cent.
81. Fifteen bucks will get a family of five into the Foss Waterway Seaport in Tacoma, a relatively unsung local treasure where you can look at recreational boats and explore a cool children’s area.
82. The Fremont Troll is a photo op, play space, sculpture and slice of urban weirdness all in one. It’s worth the pilgrimage to the dim underbelly of the Aurora Bridge.
83. Just a reminder: Your local library is great for checking out books, of course, but it also hosts free story times, workshops and cultural events for kids and families. Contact your branch for details.
84. Seattle Center offers teens a great deal on tickets around town (ACT Theatre, Burke Museum, Bellevue Arts Museum) through its Teen Tix program. On the day of any show or event, teens can buy a ticket for just $5. You don’t have to be a Seattle resident to sign up!
85. If you’d like to see a play with the kids, identify it early and look for the preview or pay-what-you-will shows that (usually) happen early in the run. Many theaters also offer day-of rush tickets for a significantly lower cost. Olympia Family Theater offers $5 tickets the first Thursday of each run.
86. Your local pool is an inexpensive outing on any day of the week, but many pools offer low-cost teen nights and special swims.
87. Check with your neighborhood bookstore or toy store for free author events, story times and workshops. Secret Garden Books in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood hosts a full schedule of book events for kids, and toy store Wind Up Here in Olympia offers free crafts and other fun the first Friday of the month. There are many, many others listed on our calendar at parentmap.com/calendar.
88. Seattle’s Center for Wooden Boats is just a cool place to visit. Wander the docks to look at vintage wooden boats, or rent one at cut-rate prices for a sail around Lake Union.
89. Buy a family membership and all three-hour public sails on the classic schooner Adventuress are free. Hoist the sails, sit in on a science talk and take in the scenery at locations all over Puget Sound. It’s a real deal.
Good for the wallet, good for the planet: Here are 25 green ways to save a little green. Know of any we missed? Comment down below and let us know!
91. There is an old saying, "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." Our grandparents and great-grandparents would be shocked by how wasteful people's lifestyles are these days, says Mukilteo mom Sandy Kaduce. Try taking the old saying to heart.
92. Give and accept hand-me-downs. When two moms — a mother of two boys and a mother of one girl — found themselves pregnant with opposite-sex babies, they switched castoff clothing and got a free wardrobe for the little ones. You don’t have to find that kind of serendipity to exchange hand-me-downs, just ask around your mom network.
93. Join a Freecycle group. Freecycle groups enable you to give or receive what you have and don't need or what you need and don't have — a free cycle of giving which keeps stuff out of landfills. There are several local groups in Puget Sound regions.
94. Check out Swap.com, a “valet service” that collects your unwanted clothes, gear, media, toys and décor and sells them on their site. You set the prices and you can take your windfall as cash or stuff.
95. Second Use offers a bevy of salvaged materials, tools and household items, everything from commercial ovens to dry-erase boards. In South Seattle.
96. Insulate your hot water heater. To see if you need to insulate, touch your heater. If it is warm to the touch, it needs additional insulation. You can lower your water-heating costs with this single step by as much as 9 percent a year!
97. Discounts on many “green” merchants can be found in the Seattle Chinook Book, on sale at local PCC and Whole Food stores.
98. Recycle your old lipstick and get one for free! Return six used MAC lipstick containers to the company’s U-Village, Downtown Seattle or Bellevue Nordstrom locations and get a lipstick for free.
99. Get your scrapbook supplies, mosaic glass pieces, arts and crafts supplies, marbles, magnets and much more at the magical Creation Station in Lynnwood. You can’t beat its prices and much of its inventory is recycled materials.
100. Save up to 30 percent on your monthly heating bills by having a home energy audit done by a professional. Ask if your local utility will cover some of the cost.
101. Organize a Halloween costume swap in September. This can be a great service project for a Girl Scout troop. Reserve a room at the local library and publicize to local parenting groups. Green Halloween is a great resource for greener, cheaper holidays year-round.
102. Buy a share in a community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm and support local, sustainable farming while your family eats fresh all summer long. A directory of CSA farms in King County can be found at pugetsoundfresh.org.
103. Rip out some lawn and plant a vegetable and flower garden. You’ll save a ton of money on food and will delight your children as they watch things grow over the summer. Need help getting started? Check out your local P-Patch or Master Gardeners association for resources.
104. Replace your showerheads with low-flow models. Low-flow showerheads can save you up to 15 percent of water-heating costs and reduce your water usage by as much as 20,000 gallons a year.
105. Ditch those dreaded sandwich bags and get some washable containers or bags. We love ReUsies. Created by two Seattle moms, these washable cloth sandwich and snack bags are made in Seattle.
106. Expand your hand-me-down circle. Organize a clothing swap for your co-op preschool or a group of friends. Everyone brings gently used and clean kids’ clothes to your garage; parents take as many items as they donated. The rest goes to charity.
107. Half Price Books will buy the gently used books you no longer want and will sell you the books, magazines, DVDs and CDs you do want — at half price. Many locations around the Puget Sound region.
108. Cut down on car trips and run your errands on your bike or on foot. Rusty on two wheels? Take a workshop from the Cascade Bicycle Club.
109. Save money by downsizing your garbage can. This will force you to step up your reusing, recycling and composting.
110. Have your kids make their friends’ birthday cards and wrapping paper. Paper bags are easily transformed with pastel crayons or markers, and kids love getting a handmade card — as do adults.
111. Make sure your thermostat is set properly. Lowering the default settings during the summer and at night could save you almost $200 a year, according to Energy Star. More tips at energystar.gov.
112. If your zoning permits, get some chickens and have fresh, free eggs every day. Get support and ideas at urbanchickens.net and your local 4-H group.
113. Dump your bottled-water costs. Buy snazzy metal water bottles for everyone in the family and a personal filter for your kitchen faucet, and you could save hundreds of dollars.
114. Replace your old light bulbs with LED bulbs. They last 15 times longer and use 75 percent less energy. Find stores with bulbs at energystar.gov.
115. Got an older house? Install double-pane windows and you’ll see immediate savings on your heating bill.
116. Need wood chips for your garden or some firewood? Arborists often will be happy to provide it to you for free. Find a certified arborist in your area through the Pacific Northwest chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture.
117. Reduce your postage costs and save some trees by paying your bills online.
118. Mold or mildew in your shower? Try an environmentally friendly and inexpensive cleaning solution of an equal amount of lemon juice or white vinegar to salt.
119. Get creative with gifts. One ParentMap editor recently gave her parents a “day of service.” On a predetermined Saturday, she and her two (tween) kids arrived at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and were handed a list of chores: cleaning out closets, culling kitchen cabinets, sorting through the garage. At the end of the day, the kids made everyone dinner. Green, free and so much fun!
120. When stuck in line at the bank drive-through or school pickup, turn off your engine. Get other “driving tips for tree huggers” on the Car Talk website.
*Originally published Feb. 22, 2011.
Catch the buzz
Boost your savings potential! ParentMap is thrilled to launch a sparkly new e-deals program that caters to parents: ParentMap Honey! You’ll get family-friendly deals twice a week and we’ll donate 5% of each purchase to our Giving Together partner— sweet! Sign up at honey.parentmap.com.