How to save money on the 7 items your family spends the most on

The main expenses families pay for every year include housing, transportation, food, health care and entertainment. How can a family save money on some of these big budget items? Here are a few ideas.

How to save money on the 7 items your family spends the most on

The main expenses families pay for every year include housing, transportation, food, health care and entertainment. How can a family save money on some of these big budget items? Here are a few ideas.
  • The average family or household spent more than $50,000 in 2014 (the latest data available), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unfortunately, little of that money going out of a family's bank account was on vacations or other "fun" activities.

  • The main expenses families pay for every year are housing, transportation, food, insurance and pensions, health care, entertainment, and clothes and services, in that order.

  • With that much money to pay for almost all necessities, how can a family save money on some of those big things? Here are a few ideas.

  • Housing

  • Whether you're renting or buying, perhaps the most obvious way to save on housing is finding a modest home. Many families spend so much money on their home, they often find themselves "house poor." Your first focus should be on finding a home that satisfies your family's needs before looking at any extra wants. If you have a mortgage already, try paying half a payment every two weeks, so you will end up paying a full extra payment every year; be sure to have the private mortgage insurance removed from your loan once you have 80 percent equity in your home; shop around for less expensive insurance, and make sure your property taxes are correct. Check out a few more tips from,

  • Transportation

  • This category is hefty because it often includes loan payments on a car (sometimes more than one), maintenance, insurance, registration and gas. One of the biggest ways to save on a car is to avoid buying brand new. A new car depreciates in value as soon as you drive it off the lot, so if you want a fairly new vehicle, shop for reliable vehicles that are one to two years old. Consult sites like Consumer Reports or Edmunds that provide tools to show the "true cost to own" over a five-year period. Better yet, park your car more often and take public transit or ride a bike.

  • Food

  • This category is unavoidable. The Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that families' costs for buying food to prepare and eat at home stayed relatively stable for a few years, but the amount of money spent at restaurants has risen since the Great Recession.

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  • If you have a budget for restaurants, take the time to plan how much you can afford to eat out, and then use resources that are readily available online, such as Groupon, Entertainment Book, and to find discounts and daily specials. Most schools or youth programs also sell coupon books for local restaurants. Otherwise, sign up for email specials or follow your favorite restaurant on social media. By simply Googling the name of your favorite restaurant, you may discover additional coupons.

  • At home, the best way to save is to find the local store that has the lowest regular prices. Then either memorize or jot down how much you typically pay for the food you buy most often. When those items go on sale, stock up. Plan your meals for the week around particularly good weekly deals on meats or other main ingredients.

  • Insurance and pensions

  • According to, the best way to save on insurance, whether it's home or auto or renters, is to "self-insure." Create a savings account to pay for smaller problems that might come up, which will allow you to raise your deductibles, thus lowering your premiums. With any insurance, the site suggests, do your research before you meet with an agent, and know exactly what you need, so you don't get unnecessary coverage that's more expensive. With life insurance, take care of your health and cut out habits that will automatically raise rates, such as smoking.

  • Entertainment

  • As with eating out, plenty of websites and physical coupons can help you save money on entertainment. Every family does need some fun time together, after all. Sometimes, club stores will offer discounts that are the lowest price available to amusement parks or movies, for instance. Sign up for emails offering specials.

  • For regular entertainment expenses like cable and Internet, compare competing companies. If you've found one that works best for you, be sure every year or so to call and ask customer service if it can give you a lower price. Often, cable or satellite-TV companies will transfer you to a "loyalty department" that will give you a cheaper package that fits your needs or a discount. It never hurts to ask.

  • Clothes

  • Clothing and shoes can be expensive for a family - especially one with growing children - and the cost often hits your budget when you are least prepared for the expense. Perfectly nice clothes and shoes just won't fit during all those growth spurts. If you have a favorite store that is reasonably priced and has clothes that work well for your family, sign up for emails, follow the company on social media, or consider signing up for the store's credit card to get regular coupons and discounts. Try hitting the thrift shops and find out if your area has a consignment shop or "sales event" that allows you to sell your kids' outgrown items and buy others'.

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  • Health care

  • There are lots of options available for health insurance, but the marketplace can also make shopping for the best and most affordable plan confusing. Do your research and ask advice from those who have been there. Take advantage of agents who work for your chosen health plan to make sure you're getting the value from what you're paying for.

  • Try a service like <a href="tel:844-771-0022">MyHealth Pass</a>, which provides assets like 24/7 access to doctors over the phone or video chat to "fill in the gaps" of your insurance plan. Services include MyHealth Rx and MyHealth Pricing Tool, which help you find the least expensive prescriptions and medical procedure options in your area.

Cathy Carmode Lim is the founder of, a website that reviews books and gives them ratings according to content. She is also a copy editor and blogs at


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