15 Major Money-Saving Tips for Moms in San Diego

Any mom raising her kids in San Diego knows that the city’s cost of living can be quite expensive. Of course, as “America’s Finest City” and one of Southern California’s most populous areas, paying a premium to live here is somewhat expected. While there’s really no getting around the high mortgage and rent prices, there are still plenty of ways for San Diegan moms to save money on all sorts of household expenses and bills. More specifically, here are 15 money-saving tips that will actually have a profound impact on your ability to reduce expenditure as a family in San Diego:

1. Install a Solar Panel System

Installing solar panels might not save you money right away because you’ll have to pay for the cost of the system and installation, but it starts you on a track towards not having any energy expenses at all. Every mom knows that electricity bills are some of the biggest drains on monthly budgets behind only mortgage and food-related expenses. If you own a home in San Diego and plan on raising your kids there, you might as well get in on the solar trend, as the city is one of the fastest growing solar cities in the country.

There are plenty of solar companies in San Diego that will give you a quote on how much an installation would cost, so you should be able to find a provider near you.  Semper Solaris is one of the top solar providers in San Diego, offering a diverse line-up of solar panels and installation services. They’ve become one of the area’s most popular installers due to their 50-year protection warranty. Even though it may take 5 years to recoup your investment, you’ll have another 45 years of free energy before you’ll even need to worry about paying for panel maintenance of any kind. Obviously, four and a half decades of guaranteed free electricity is worthy of an extended spot at the top of this list of money-saving methods. 

2. Take Advantage of Taco Tuesday

Taco Tuesday is a pretty big deal in San Diego, in case you either just moved there or are the type of mom who tends to miss out on restaurant deals in an effort to be frugal. Usually, eating out does the opposite of saving money, but if you have to pick a day of the week to splurge, it should be Tuesday because the city is home to a number of restaurants that offer tacos of various kinds for prices ranging from $1-$2. Of course, since San Diego borders the Mexican city of Tijuana, it’s not surprising that you can find some of the cheapest and most authentic tacos in the country here.

3. Beaches Provide Plenty of Free Fun

There are a million ways to exceed your budget and go for broke in San Diego, but there are also plenty of ways to have a great time without spending any money other than fuel costs. The area’s beaches and surrounding coastal towns are home to an abundance of awesome scenery and cheap things to do. Take a ride up the north coast on the Coaster train to check out the more affordable and scenic towns of Oceanside, Solana Beach, and Encinitas. The best beaches in the area include Pacific Beach, Flat Rock Beach, Ocean Beach City Beach, La Jolla Shores Beach. South Mission Beach, and Bermuda beach.

4. Farmers Markets and Picnics

San Diego is home to a number of great farmers markets where you can find high-quality produce for surprisingly affordable prices. Accumulatively, the city’s markets are home to more than 5,000 farmer who sell a smorgasbord of premium fruits and vegetables. Some of the most popular farmers markets in the area include Hillcrest, Little Italy Mercato, State Street, Poway, Leucadia, and Vista. Check out some of the area’s top-rated delis for sandwich meats and bread, then hit up a park like the 6th avenue playground for a delicious picnic and play session. This is a great money-saving option for getting your food and entertainment done in one trip while still having leftovers to enjoy when you get home.

5. Limit Dining Out to Once or Twice Per Week

San Diego has about 4,000 restaurants to choose from, so you could easily dine out every day of the year for more than a decade before you try every dining establishment in the city. Of course, living like that would be the opposite of frugal. Limiting your dining out experiences to no more than once or twice per week ensures that you’re not getting too carried away. The biggest problem moms have in big cities like San Diego is that there are so many fast food restaurants and gas station convenience stores that provide the temptation for quick snacks. If you only spend $10-$20 per day on fast food, you’re adding a $300-$600 per month bill to your budget.

6. Look for the “Kids Eat Free” Specials

While having such a huge selection of dining establishments definitely provides frequent temptation, it also means that you can always find restaurants that are offering “kids eat free” deals. Usually these deals will happen on a specific day of the week. For example, Monday is kids eat free day at Fuddruckers. Denny’s is one of the few restaurants that does this deal every day – two kids aged 12 and under can eat free when accompanied by an adult who orders an entrée and a drink. So, if you have 4 kids and two adults, the whole family of 6 can eat for the price of two adult meals.

7. Prepare Meals Ahead of Time

Meal planning and preparing can help you save a significant amount of money on your food budget every month while also making it easier to keep track of your child’s nutrition. You can find plenty of specific meal planning guides and videos that will show you how to prepare food for your entire family for as little as $75-$150 per week or less. Preparing meals ahead of time not only makes it easier to stick to a food budget, it also makes meal times more convenient because all you have to do is dole out premade servings instead of having to cook three times a day.

8. Start Couponing

If you’re on a mission to save money and you haven’t started couponing yet, you could be missing out on one of the greatest money-saving tools a mom can have. If you’re thinking of an obsessive coupon clipper who spends her time sifting through newspaper cut-outs, you’ve got an outdated view of what couponers do in 2019. Basically, all you need to do nowadays is collect online codes and hunt for the best limited time sales. You can join social couponing groups on a site like Facebook to make the search easier through networking and sharing. 

9. Buy Used Clothes by the Bundle

You might be one of those moms who only wants to buy brand new clothing for their kids, but you can’t really knock the second-hand clothing market until you’ve tried it. In most cases, the clothes are still in great condition and have been well taken care of by the previous owner. In fact, most of these bundles are only sold because the child outgrew the clothes. You can find entire buckets of clothing for your kid for ridiculously low prices because the owner no longer has any use for them.

10. Browse the Yard Sales and Thrift Stores

San Diego is home to a never-ending flow of yard sales, especially during the summer months. People will practically give you toys and clothes at rock bottom prices and sometimes even for free. This can be a fun alternative to going to the toy store, as your kids can find lots of interesting and originally valuable stuff to buy for petty prices like a quarter or a dollar. Likewise, thrift stores aren’t just warehouses of junk, as you can actually find some very decent deals on quality items in San Diego thanks to the huge population of clothing and toy donors.

11. Have Your Home Weatherized

Weatherizing your home involves caulking cracks, fixing ducts, installing new insulation, and sealing doors and windows to keep air from escaping or getting in. This simple step can save you hundreds of dollars on your utility bills annually. Many weatherization steps can be done on a do it yourself basis with a few simple tools and materials. However, you may want to see if you qualify for one of California’s weatherization assistance programs, which would pay for a local provider to come and inspect and weatherize your home. Most newly built homes in San Diego are already weatherized, so this would usually only be an applicable tip for moms who live in older homes.

12. Dry Clothes in the Sun

Aside from your oven, HVAC system, and hot water heater, your dryer is one of the most energy intensive appliances in the home. Unfortunately, most moms use their dryers way more often than necessary. You can cut down on dryer usage by washing bigger loads or by opting for a clothing line instead. This adjustment will have you doing a few minutes’ worth of work for each load, but in exchange you’ll save roughly $10-30 for every ten large loads that you dry outside instead of in the dryer.

13. Create a Monthly Budget for Everything

If you don’t already have a predefined budget to help you in your role as a financially stable mom, you’re not doing it right. Sure, some moms can keep every single expense in their heads, but most would rather not. Use budgeting apps to help you account for everything that you’ll need to allocate funds towards during the upcoming month. Since your kids’ needs are constantly changing as they grow older, creating a set-it-and-forget-it budget isn’t really an option. Thus, you should try to set aside about hour of your time each month to develop the next month’s budget with your calendar events in mind.

14. Schedule Automated Transfers to Your Savings Account

Saving money is a lot easier when you know exactly how much you’re going to set aside each month. Talk to your bank about setting up automated transfers to your savings account from your checking account on a scheduled basis. This is a good savings method to use if your employer pays you via direct deposit on predictable dates, as you can ensure that a sufficient percentage of your income is being immediately stashed away for expenses and emergencies.

15. Use a Home Exchange Network to Take Vacations

All of the previous tips are great if you plan on staying within the San Diego area, but what about when you want to take a vacation? Online home exchange networks let you connect with other homeowners in different parts of the country or world to arrange mutually beneficial travel deals in which you stay in their home and they stay in yours. In this way, both families gain access to all the comforts of a real home without having to pay any hospitality expenses.

Create a Saving To-Do List and Follow Through

Any time you have a list of 15 or more things lined up, even getting started can seem a bit overwhelming. To ensure you’re really going to utilize the tips given above, it may be best to prepare your own list of five steps that interest you the most and begin your efforts with those. Segmenting your saving strategies into separate stages will make it easier for you to implement a large number of changes quickly without feeling like you’re being overloaded with tasks.

Eventually, once you’ve implemented all of the tips listed above one-by-one, you should notice that not only are you living a more affordable lifestyle, but you’re also having more fun with your kids and helping the environment in the process. In closing, the biggest incentive you have to save money as a mom is that you’ll be able to pass those savings on to your children in the form of gifts, clothing, travel, and other fun and nourishing experiences.

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