20 Ways Your Family Can Save Money During a Pandemic

Living frugally is better for our bank accounts and for the environment

By Sasha Leyva, publisher of Macaroni Kid South Hill - Puyallup, Wash. November 3, 2020

This year my family and I are working to become more frugal because of the uncertainty of the economy during the pandemic.

For example, we no longer use paper napkins during meals, we try to buy in bulk as much as possible, and we use wool dryer balls instead of one-time-use dryer sheets. That's the kind of small changes that have worked to save our family money. Although we have to think long-term — dryer balls cost more initially than a box of dryer sheets. And buying in bulk is more expensive than buying a single item. But over the long term, those decisions will save us money! 

Along with saving us money, many of the ways we've found to be frugal also are better for the environment. I will never go back to purchasing one-time-use products if I can avoid it! Here are ways you can consider making small changes at your home to live like a frugal family:

1. Use cloth napkins 

Check out how Macaroni Kid Colorado publisher Julie Dikken uses bandannas in place of paper towels in her home.

2. Switch to bar soap instead of liquid

Whatever you use, always wash! Don't miss this creative idea on how to take soap on the go!

3. Invest in reusable straws

And suck up the savings!

4. Use wool dryer balls 

Replace those one-use dryer sheets with dryer balls you can use over and over.

5. Don’t overlook second-hand

From furniture to clothes, you can find amazing secondhand deals that will save you a ton of money.

6. Cancel or pause cable TV or streaming networks

More family game nights!

7. Upcycle gift wrappings

There's no reason to buy new gift bags, tissue, ribbons, or even wrapping paper when you can reuse!

8. Use your library

Your local library is a wonderful resource for books, magazines, music, and movies. All you need is a library card! Leave that credit card at home.

9. Buy in bulk

It might be more costly upfront, but in the long run, buying the food your family eats most often in bulk will save money. 

10. Make a weekly dinner plan

Write it out and create a shopping list. Here's how to create a meal plan that works for your family.

11. Stick to the list!

Don't impulse buy at stores. Stick to the list of items you came to get.

12. Get a programmable thermostat

Thermostats that can be set to automatically go down a few degrees at night or during the day when no one is home save money.

13. Open up the windows

Warm out? Open those windows and let the fresh air blow through -- no reason to turn on the AC!

14. Turn off the lights

Turn those lights off every time you leave a room. Kids? Are you listening?

15. Bake

Bake your own birthday cakes and cookies -- they'll be cheaper than the store bought versions, plus the recipient will know they are made with love.

16. Use leftovers

How many times do you throw away leftovers because no one has eaten them? Have a leftover night once a week where everyone can choose their own leftover meal. Or make a brand new meal from leftovers. See how our Macaroni Kid EATS! editor Erika Veduccio did just that.

17. Repurpose items

We recently tore down our fence and decided that instead of throwing it away, we'd repurpose it to make garden beds.

18. Use cold water when you can

Save money on the electricity to heat your water heater.

19. Find new uses for old papers

Kids can use the blank sides of letters, bills or other correspondence for drawing or arts and crafts. No reason to use a fresh sheet of paper!

20. Use cloth diapers

Cloth diapers have come a long way! Give them a try on your little one's tush ... or even go diaper-free, if you dare!

Sasha Leyva is the publisher of Macaroni Kid South Hill - Puyallup, Wash.