December 2016
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Local Frugalista’s Speak Up

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As anyone who lives here knows all too well, Westchester County is vibrant, well-situated and gorgeous – but pricey too. So pricey in fact that MarketWatch recently ranked Westchester number three on its list of the “10 most expensive places to raise a family in the U.S.”

Like many new parents, you may be thinking about budgets and belt-tightening, given all those additional expenses. But does this automatically mean a grim coupon- clipping existence? Maybe not, says Jillian Ibelli, a local mom and blogger at My Family of Four.

“When people say, ‘Oh I have to go on a budget and save money’ they all immediately think it’s going to be boring, or that you have to stay home all the time.”

But according to Ibelli and a savvy new breed of “frugalistas” we talked to, life can still be creative and fun. This is not your grandma’s coupon clipping, agrees Michelle Platt, another local parent who blogs at My Purse Strings. She reframes the challenge as making your money work harder. “I don’t use coupons at all. I just never have. I’m more of a techie.”

So what are some of the best strategies for saving money today? Here are some top ones we identified.

1. Search for online deals first. Platt, a longtime online shopper says that before she buys anything, she always searches online first for sales and promotion codes. “Start Googling. Is there any promo I should know about for any purchase?” Platt says invariably she finds extra savings on items or services she wants. While she doesn’t clip coupons, she does leverage apps like Coupon Sherpa for in-store shopping.

2. Join forces with friends. Ibelli says con- necting with friends and passing around items such as maternity clothes, strollers and baby things also saves money. “All of my girlfriends are also having babies and are in the same position, so we really do things together.”

Taking it a step further, Platt says she and a group of friends formed a babysitting co-op a few years back. With a formal set of rules and token system, the co-op ran very successfully for about a year, says Platt, until second babies made things more complicated. She says she saved “hundreds and hundreds of dollars.”

3. Participate in the sharing economy. Beyond your immediate social circle, the sharing economy allows parents to tap into even more opportunities. Platt talks about those local Facebook buy-and-sell pages. “A friend of mine just bought these Hexbugs, those tiny, collectable, micro-robotic creatures. And she had tons and tons of them, and she said: ‘Can you believe I got all of these for $20?’ And there must have been $300 worth.” To realize savings from online sites and groups though, Platt says parents – especially first-time parents – need to change their thinking. “The mindset is that you actually can buy used things or take things from other people.”

4. Take up thrifting. Frugalistas like Westchester’s Dagmar Bleasdale who runs the blog, Dagmar’s Home, are inspiring others
by combing thrift shops and flea markets for vintage items, then repurposing everything into beautiful – albeit budget-conscious – home decor.

5. Embrace new technology. Platt has saved about $80 per month by “cutting the cord” of traditional cable TV service in favor of a new happy combination: Netflix, Amazon and iTunes offerings, plus PlayStation’s PS Vue service that provides network channels and DVR capabilities.

6. Collect rewards points. Rewards programs are great, especially for items parents need to buy anyway, like diapers. Ibelli says points from brands such as Pampers, Huggies, Carters and Disney really add up. “I just got my 14-month-old son a giant caterpillar, a toy truck, a book and a bear ... and I didn’t spend anything.”

7. Plan activities in advance. Finally, a few minutes spent planning family time can be really key, says Ibelli. “If it’s Sunday morning and you have no idea what to do with your family, sometimes you’ll end up at a mall spending money – or going out to eat.” She recommends buying ahead to get annual museum memberships and family rates at attractions. And of course, technology can literally save the day here. Before the weekend, Ibelli says, “I type in the date and ‘Westchester free events’. And I look up things that are going on ... then we have a clear plan for the day.” And of course the Westchester Family website,, has a calendar of events that lists many free family activities.

Connie Jeske Crane writes frequently for Westchester Family. 


Want to start saving? Here are some places to try.


Family Outings


Updated 12:25 pm, December 28, 2016
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