Most families have to be on some kind of budget but that definitely doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy all that the Upstate, SC has to offer. We have lots of ideas on how to save money and enjoy time together.
Some months I really cringe at my credit card statement, even though I am a conscious spender and try to be frugal and thrifty with our family’s resources. But, my goodness, those grocery trips, shopping for shoes yet again that my kids have somehow outgrown, planning a family trip, and trying to keep the heat low or the AC not terribly high certainly are all at the top of my mind as a parent.
I’ve got a few ideas on how to handle these daunting tasks as a parent while having fun with your kids.
Save Money on Groceries
At this point, no one is surprised that grocery bills have shot up in the last year due to several factors like supply chain issues and inflation. The USDA estimates that families spend more than 10% of their income on groceries. I’d say it’s more. The government agency breaks down grocery spending for a family of four into four groups: the thrifty plan, which costs $939/month on groceries, the low-cost plan, which they estimate families will spend about $1,000/month on groceries, the moderate plan, which they estimate costs up to $1,263/month on groceries, and the liberal plan, which costs more than $1,500/month on groceries.
This doesn’t even take into account teenage boys, which they estimate will eat a boatload of pasta daily. I’m only half-joking. How in the world do you manage this?
You’ve got to plan out your meals or you’ll be reaching for your credit card and buying either a lot of junk food or a lot of take-out meals. I sit down once a month and try to plan out meals for at least a month in advance using less inexpensive ingredients like rice, beans, bulk meat, pasta, vegetables, and things I can freeze or buy on sale.
Shop the Sales
Pay attention to grocery store circulars and compare prices. Be sure to look at the unit cost and not the total cost so you aren’t paying more for less.
Use a Grocery Pickup or Delivery Service
I use Instacart and have for the past several years. Yes, it costs a bit more and I pay a monthly fee to use the service but I save way more money in time and impulse buys than I would if I had to take my kids with me in the store and buy whatever I felt like instead of only the items on my list.
Here’s a list of grocery delivery services in the Upstate.
Shop Seasonally and Locally
Farmers Markets are a good way to obtain quality ingredients. If you go later in the day, you may be able to score a good deal on food they would rather sell at a lower price than cart home. Here is a great list of Greenville Farmer’s Markets and farm shops where you can find local produce in the Upstate. Seasonal produce and vegetables are also going to be a lot cheaper than when they aren’t in season. I will usually buy a bunch of strawberries and blueberries over the late spring and summer and freeze them for later on. Same with peaches. Yum. You can also consider joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to get local food every week from a farm here in the Upstate.
Kids Eat Free
There are several restaurants in the Upstate that offer Kids Eat Free (or cheap) nights where a kids meal is free with an adult purchase. This could be a lifesaver some nights!
Save Money on Travel
I really enjoy traveling. It opens up a whole other world for my kids and me and gives us quality family time together. While traveling isn’t inexpensive, there are definitely ways to save money.
Go During the Off Season
If you and your family can travel during the off-season, prices are always lower. For example, right after leaf peeping season – so late October through January or February – is the off-season for Western North Carolina so hotels and AirBnBs will typically be a fraction of the cost than during other times of the year. Same goes for the beach. If you travel during the fall through early Spring, you can usually score better deals on lodging.
Stay Someplace Where You Can Cook
Eating out when you travel is often a huge part of your budget but if you stay at a place where you can cook, that cuts out a big portion of your travel budget and saves a ton of money. Look for hotels with kitchens or kitchenettes or stay in an AirBnB. If you don’t want to cook while on vacation, make a bunch of meals beforehand and freeze them to take with you (if you’re driving). This is what we do when we travel and it’s awesome. We also do eat out a couple of times during our trips but definitely not the majority of meals.
If you do decide to eat out, try to plan your restaurant meal at lunchtime. You’ll likely save money as lunch menus tend to be cheaper. Then plan an easy low-key dinner at your hotel or rental house. Try something like sandwiches or a charcuterie-type meal and keep it simple.
Keep an Eye Out for Promotions
I’m on the email lists of several of my favorite resorts and hotels so I can check for promotions. I also watch their social media accounts for special deals and since I homeschool, I’m always on the lookout for homeschool deals like the ones at Dollywood, Wilderness at the Smokies, or Ripley’s Aquarium.
Having Fun in Greenville on a Budget
This is an easy one since there are so many free things to do in Greenville!
Do the Free Stuff
We have lists of more than 50 free things to do in Greenville in general plus put out seasonal lists of free things to do. Think parks and playgrounds, splash pads, hiking trails, waterfall chasing, Halloween and Christmas light driving tours, farms, and special events and festivals.
I love, love the outdoors and you’ll find me on a lake or chasing waterfalls in the summer, on a mountaintop in the spring and fall, and probably back on a trail in the winter. There are many lakes, parks, and playgrounds that are all free in our area. Camping and fishing are also low-cost (or free) activities to do with your family and don’t forget the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville – totally free to bike, run, or walk on.
Don’t Overlook Memberships/Passes
I calculated one year how much money having a South Carolina Parks Pass ($99) saved me. If I didn’t have the pass, I would have spent something like $330 in park entrance fees so yeah, that was a big savings. I also have a Roper Mountain Science Center membership ($95), which has saved me a ton of money since we use it to not only go to their planetarium shows, Summer Adventure, and Afternoon Explorations events but also use it for free entry into other science centers. I’ve gotten in free to places using that reciprocal membership in North Carolina and Florida, saving my family probably more than $100 in entrance fees.
Save Money With Frugal Shopping
Kids grow out of clothes and shoes at lightning speed plus us parents need to update our wardrobes occasionally. So how do you do it while not emptying your wallet?
There are several great kids consignment stores around our area that have gently used (and even some new stuff with tags) clothing, shoes, outerwear, and toys that you can get for a fraction of the cost of brand-new items in stores. You can also sell your gently used items back to many of these places so you end up with a credit to the store or cash. Win-win. Some of our favorites are Once Upon A Child for kids and Clothes Mentor for women. And if you love the outdoors, REI has garage sales on used items for members throughout the year and there are some great used gear shops in our region (Next Adventure Outdoors in Brevard, NC is amazing).
Thrift Store Shopping
This takes a bit more effort sorting through clothes, shoes, and toys but the finds could totally be worth the effort, especially if you pay attention to days when a certain color of tags is half off or even 75% off the price. Miracle Hill is a popular one for our readers. I managed to get brand-new roller skates for one of my kids at a local Miracle Hill for under $5!
Facebook isn’t just for posting your photos of family and friends. It’s actually pretty awesome for buying second-hand items or selling them. You can score lots of great deals locally, just be sure to search by “pick up” and not “shipped”. This is especially helpful for appliances since many people will sell appliances that are in great working condition when they are remodeling.
Big Consignment Sales
There are several huge consignment sales during the year in Greenville, usually in the fall and spring. You can shop for clothes, home goods, toys, shoes, books, backpacks, stuffed animals, and baby items. Prices are set by the individuals who consign items so they really vary but you can find really good deals usually.
These are just a few ways that my family and I try to spend wisely while raising kids and having fun together. If you’ve got more ideas, drop them in the comments!