In these days of job insecurity, mortgage crises, and rising cost-of-living prices, now more than ever, homeschoolers need to tighten their belts and use money-saving strategies. As a helping hand in making ends meet, here are a few practical things you can do to stretch your family's finances and balance your homeschool budget:

Conserve gas by combining trips. Be careful about jumping in the car for short trips around town. If you're taking your children to a sports activity, music lesson, or a doctor's appointment, think ahead about the stores you'll pass on the way. Take advantage of being in the neighborhood and stop to shop for necessary items. Make errand lists and combine trips to the library, bank, post office, and grocery store into one outing.

Stash your staples. Doubling or tripling your purchases of regularly-used products eliminates the need to run out for last-minute replacements. Plus, when you add the benefit of purchasing these food and household items when they are on sale, which seems to cycle every 3-4 weeks), you'll save even more. You can also save by joining a food buying club to purchase regularly used products in bulk.

To make this stashing-system work, however, there are two important factors. First, you need to go easy on your family's cash flow and begin stockpiling only a few items at a time. Second, you need to train yourself to remember to buy the items before you actually need them. That requires planning ahead and teaching your husband and children to add the item to your shopping list whenever they open something new. Keeping a handy, magnetic notepad on the refrigerator works great!

Items easily stashed include toilet paper, paper towels, medicine, first aid products, shampoo, soap, personal hygiene items, cleaning products, garbage bags, canned vegetables and fruits, pastas, grains, flours, baking supplies, spices, and frozen meats and entrees. Just remember to use the oldest items first.

Start a vegetable garden. One of the most healthy, cost-saving activities a homeschool family can do is to grow their own food. All it takes is a few, inexpensive seeds, a hoe, and a shovel. With the aid of a vegetable planting guide, you can grow a garden and literally save hundreds of dollars on your food budget. Start small and plant only 2-3 vegetables your family enjoys. Extra produce can be canned, frozen, or sold at the local farmer's market for additional spending money.

Line dry your laundry. Although it involves more work, drying your clothes outside or on a drying rack indoors is environmentally friendly and can save over $50 per month on your electric bill. You can especially save drying your family's jeans and towels.

Tip: To reduce wrinkles, simply place items into the dryer for 2-3 minutes before placing them on hangers to finish drying.

Stop eating out. Not only are home cooked meals cheaper, but they are also healthier than eating out since you can control the fat, salt, and sugar amounts. Plus, home cooked meals pay the added benefit of forming lasting bonds within the family as you communicate around the table. Cooking can become a chore each night, but enlisting every family member's help reduces the workload.

Shop garage sales. Purchasing children's toys and clothing at garage sales can save your homeschool family hundreds of dollars. Plus, young children love the adventure of shopping at garage sales. It's like going on a personal treasure hunt!

What cost-saving tricks have you used to enable your family to continue homeschooling? Take a moment to share your insights and knowledge in the comment field below.