Like a lot of couples, when Topher and I started out we were broke. We had 3 people living off a teacher’s salary, living in a cheap apartment so drafty you had to hang blankets over the windows for a wind break, and the curtains would still sway on a breezy day.
I planned on going back to work after I had our daughter only to realize almost my entire paycheck would be going to daycare, gas, and a business-acceptable wardrobe. I figured if I was going to be, basically, spinning my fiscal wheels, I might as well stay home with the baby. With only only income, I knew we would have to be budgetarily creative.
When leaving the hospital, they gave us a lot of formula to take home. The next day they asked if we needed anything, and I joked “Yes, a lot more formula!” They happily gave us more since they could only keep it short while without it expiring. That’s when I realized there were probably lots of free things available I just needed to keep my eye out.
I started shopping for baby clothes at yard sales. Almost everything I bought had either only been worn once or still had the tags on them. I knew winter would be coming, and yard sales coming to an end, so I bought clothes in upcoming sizes. I had Rubbermaids I kept under the bed marked 6 months, 9 months, etc. As she grew I would just pull the next box out.
This continued as my daughter grew, and every year my daughter’s teachers would comment about how she was the best dressed kid in class.
When she reached middle school, she was less willing to accept garage sale clothes. So again I had to be creative. Since we live in a nice suburb and send our daughter to a somewhat affluent school, it was about this age she began asking for more expensive “stuff”, such as Miss Me jeans, Juicy charms, and Ugg boots. Since I wouldn’t pay extravagant prices for the jeans in the store, I started looking on ebay and found unworn jeans for $50. The same Ugg boots for $150 in the store, I found new in the box on ebay for more than half off. She then still had what the other kids had, just at a fraction of the price.
I read in a magazine article that you could get samples of products on line. I jumped on the computer and sure enough, there were new listings everyday of new products. Companies send them to you free of charge, usually of their newest products to get you hooked. I was hooked, everyday I went out to the mail box to find toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, granola bars, etc. Plus I just loved getting little boxes or padded envelopes in the mail every day. Even though we are doing better financially, I still sign up for these freebies today. Since they’re typically smaller sizes, they are great to stick in my daughter’s cheer bag, my purse, or to travel with. In the last 15 years, I don’t think I have bought deodorant, toothpaste, or razors once.
Also, back in the day, if you test drove certain types of new cars, they would give you gift cards as a promotional. I can’t lie, there were times I would just walk in with my screaming toddler and tell them I was just there for the gift card, and sometimes, they would just sign the paper and then 2-3 weeks later I would get a $50-$75 gift card in the mail for anywhere from Target to just a Visa gift card. Occasionally some car companies still do this, but just not nearly as often as they used to.
There are also places that you can do a 3 minute survey in exchange for magazine subscriptions. I am subscribed to nearly every magazine out there, and I don’t pay a dime for any of them. A lot were rewards through services like My Coke Rewards, MyPoints.com, or RecycleBank.
In the beginning I started with yard sales as a necessity, but now I go to them to see what kind of treasure I can transform. Yes, today I can squeeze store-bought toothpaste into the budget, but why would I when companies gladly give it to you for free?
This little table I got for free. It was an ugly gold color. I painted it with an aqua chalk paint and waxed it. I love the great lines it has.