Living Well On A Budget With America’s Cheapest Family

Thursday, November 22nd 2007, 11:00 pm

By: News On 6

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on our blessings and one family has a lot to be thankful for, their biggest accomplishment is raising a family of seven without debt and without paying high prices for anything. News On 6 anchor Craig Day reports over the years they've earned about what the average Oklahoma family makes, but they really stretch their dollars. In our 6 On Assignment, anchor Craig Day and Photojournalist Michael Blair went to Arizona to meet America's Cheapest Family.

Scottsdale, Arizona, a Sonoran Desert town in the Valley of the Sun. It is a city known for fine art, and great golf. Scottsdale has also been called the most ‘Western Town in the West,’ and the ‘Beverly Hills of the Southwest,’ and it is home to America’s Cheapest Family, Steve and Annette Economides.

"Frugal, thrifty, tightwads, thriftoholics," said thrifty shopper Annette Economides.

The Economides have been called many things, but America’s Cheapest Family has stuck.

"If you spend more than you earn, you're in a world of hurt," Steve Economides, America’s Cheapest Family said.

The Economides are the authors of the "Home Economiser" newsletter, and that led to a book, “America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money: Your Guide to Living Better, Spending Less, and Cashing in on Your Dreams.” Both are designed to save people money.

"Our goal there with the newsletter and with the website, is to help people beat the system, to stop living under the pile of debt and discover the freedom that we found," Steve Economides, America's Cheapest Family said.

That freedom comes with a lot of planning, which pays off first in savings at the grocery store.

"Hey, they've got some mark down stuff in the wall deli, they've got some Deli Creation Hot Sandwich Melts for 49 cents," Steve Economides said over a walkie-talkie to his wife during a trip to the grocery store.

Armed with their walkie-talkies and coupons, Steve takes the outside aisles of the grocery store, mostly meat and produce. Annette gets the rest.

"You've got to look at your prices carefully," said Steve Economides, America’s Cheapest Family.

The Economides plan family menus in advance and only shop once a month to avoid impulse buying. The family also clips coupons, but only if they have time and if it is something they would want to buy.

"Don't stress. If you don't have the time to do couponing there are plenty of other strategies that can be employed to save on your groceries," Annette Economides, America's Cheapest Family said.

One of those strategies is watching the sales ads closely.

"Grocery ads that are in your newspaper are like your lottery ticket," Annette Economides said.

The couple sets a buy price on everything.

"Ninety-nine cents a pound that's our buy price, if we can get it under a dollar we're going to pick it up," Steve Economides said.

And if something meets that buy price, they stock up.

"When jelly is 32 ounces for 99 cents that's the time to buy six or 12 of them, not one," said Annette Economides, America's Cheapest Family.

"That will set us up until the next time it is on sale," Steve Economides, America's Cheapest Family said. "So we're never paying retail price for anything."

The family has whittled their grocery expenses down to $350 a month for a family of seven. We gave them $100 for groceries to see how far it would stretch.

"All right, you saved $114.37, and that is 53%," said the cashier at the grocery store.

The Economides went a little over, but Steve and Annette bought more than $220 worth of groceries for $103.03.

From the grocery store, we turn to the consignment store, where the family gets all of their clothing. The Economides say at consignment stores you can find name brand clothing for ten cents on the dollar.

"That's a Chaps suit for $60," Steve Economides said while shopping the racks of a consignment store.

"If you're a little squeamish about used stuff take it home and wash it or have it dry cleaned," said Annette Economides, America's Cheapest Family.

Annette says consignment stores have dramatically improved and are now clean and organized.

Again, we gave the family $100 to see if they could outfit the whole family. They did it for less, $84.26. The family says planning in advance and looking for bargains can save.

"And the truth is as you gain success, little by little, it actually becomes fun and really addicting," said Annette Economides.

The family's strategy is not just about saving money on groceries or clothing, it's also about being totally debt free. No credit cards, no car payments and paying off the house as quickly as possible.

"Only spend what you have, know where you are and you've got to have a system," Steve Economides, America’s Cheapest Family said.

For the Economides family that system is a budget. Everything is pre-planned, including saving to pay cash for cars, and every purchase is evaluated.

"There is money for food, there's money for clothes, there is money for medical things,” said Annette Economides. “If you can go to sleep at night knowing you're all up to date, there is peace."

And for the Economides family, peace also comes from contentment, being happy with what they have, what they earn and what they do without.

"We spend too much time focusing on what we don't have and what other people do have," Steve Economides, America's Cheapest Family said.

"Don't beat yourself up, don't be depressed, don't say I will never be able to crawl out of the hole that I'm in," Annette Economides, America's Cheapest Family said. "Get up today and just start doing something."

Annette says garage sales may save you money on clothing, but they're too time consuming, especially when you consider you have to find just the right sale to get clothes that are your size and a style you like.

The family also stretches its entertainment budget. They bowl at a college in Phoenix for less than half the cost of a normal bowling alley. They also save on vacations by planning ahead and using coupon books for things like rental cars. As for lodging, the Economides say you can save money over the summer by renting out a college dorm room. One in Hawaii was as cheap as $40 a night. During fall, spring and winter the family recommends YMCA summer camps, which will run you about $25 a night.

For more money saving ideas click the links below.

Saving On Groceries

Save Money Eating Out

Lowering Your Electric Bill

Tips For Saving Money On Gas

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