How to Stick to a Food Budget

If you’re spending a lot of money on food, the quickest fix is to take a look at how and where you are buying food and eat out less (or not at all). In addition to cutting back on dining out, here are a few easy ways to keep your food budget in check!

Don’t wander around the store: It might be convenient to get all your shopping done in one location, but that might not always be the best money saver. There are certain items you can purchase at the grocery store, but if you’re looking to save – it’s probably best to buy these items elsewhere. Think: Cleaning products, detergents, medications, and so on. You might not be a fan of having to drive to another store, but the money you’ll save by purchasing these household items at Walmart or Target will quickly change your mind.

Don’t buy what isn’t on your shopping list: No matter where you’re shopping, it’s easy to buy something that’s not on your list. This can be especially true when at the grocery store, and can break your budget. One important thing to remember: Never shop while you’re hungry. Be sure to have a snack or meal prior to going to the store to protect your budget. Also ensure your list is complete before you go to the store, and force yourself to stick to it.

Sometimes it pays to buy in bulk: It’s never a good idea or money saver to buy more than you really need, but for those items you buy often (and that aren’t perishable), it’s usually best to buy a larger pack. If you’re a member at a warehouse shopping club, you already know about saving money by buying in bulk. Even if you aren’t a warehouse shopping club member, your local grocery store may also carry household necessities in bulk for a cheaper price (paper towels, toilet paper, etc.). Just look at the price carefully and the quantity before you buy, to make sure you are getting the best deal and maximizing your savings.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

How to Stop Thinking Your Paycheck isn’t Enough

Do you ever feel like your paycheck just isn’t enough to do everything you’d like to do? Maybe in some cases it may not be or you may have to find other ways to supplement your income, however most of the time – this feeling is a mindset that you can make positive changes to.

Here are five ways to change your thinking:

1. Stop comparing yourself to others. Social media is very good at allowing us to compare ourselves to other people. You see your friends posting a brand new car, going on lavish vacations, buying expensive shoes or clothes, and the list goes on. If you want what others have, you will always be disappointed. You also don’t know another person’s financial situation – maybe they put all those vacations on a credit card and will spend the next five years trying to pay it off. The bottom line is, stop looking at what others have and focus on all the good things in your life that you are grateful for.

2. Pushing your lifestyle ahead of schedule. What you can afford is different if you earn $20k a year, $100k a year, or $1 million a year – and for everything in between. If you make $50k a year but are trying to live a lifestyle of someone who makes $100k or more – your paycheck will never be enough and you will probably be in a great deal of debt. Change your mindset and live and spend within the means of your annual salary and your annual salary alone.

3. Take note of what you have, not what you’re lacking. If you make an espresso in a regular large coffee mug, it won’t look like a lot of coffee – right? The answer here is that it’s not about volume, but about contents. Don’t look at the glass as half empty, but instead half full. What are you thankful for? Try to appreciate what you do have rather than what you think you’re missing.

4. Cut off your spending on occasion. This idea is in relation to things that are not necessities. For example, think about any subscription services you pay for (cable, Netflix, gym, Amazon Prime, etc.) or extras that you might buy (coffee each morning on the way to work, snacks from the office vending machine everyday, and so forth). Do you “really” need these to survive? If you take a break from them do you miss them, or can you find other ways to satisfy these habits? This exercise will make you realize what are truly necessities and where you can scale back on your spending and save the money for something else more important.

5. Look for alternatives. There is probably a cheaper option out there for pretty much anything you want to do or purchase, you just have to do a little research. For example – do you really need brand name food? Opt for the store brand instead, you are guaranteed to save money and most times it is the exact same product. If you’re looking to cut your cable bill you might try using just Internet service and connecting through an online subscription like Hulu to save some money. The possibilities are endless, you just have to experiment and find what works for you.

The moral of the story here is that if you think your paycheck is never enough, it never will be. The goal is to change your mindset, save as much as you can, and research cheaper alternatives to getting what you want. You can do it!

Article Source: David Ning for Moneyning.com

How to Actually Save Money Every Month

It’s easy to stop pulling out your wallet every so often, but in actuality it’s our recurring expenses that typically get us into debt. Many people often ignore monthly expenses because they are subconsciously used to just paying the usual bills each month. However, there are a few areas that when you eliminate them or find ways to cut them down – you can actually save yourself some money on a monthly basis.

Take note of the following bills – can you cut any of these out completely or down?

  • Cell Phone. First look to see if there are any items you can cut from your monthly plan that will save you money on your bill. If not, consider switching carriers – there are often plenty of deals out there. Something else to look into is a prepaid cell phone plan. This may not work for everyone, but many have had success with saving a lot of money on their monthly cell phone bill this way and only using their mobile phone when they truly need it.
  • Home Phone. Is this something you actually use, or can you get away with just using your cell phone as your monthly bill? If you are still paying your cable company for a land line and you don’t use it – find out if eliminating this can add some savings back into your bank account each month.
  • TV. More than likely you probably pay way too much for your favorite shows through your cable provider. Have you sat down and looked at what you can still watch through avenues such as Hulu or Netflix for a fraction of the cost?
  • Gym Membership. Do you actually go to the gym and use your membership? If you do go daily, this would probably be one bill worth keeping. However – if you rarely go and continuously pay money each month, this may be one membership to consider cancelling and instead jog outdoors when the weather is nice or run at your local park instead.
  • Other Subscriptions. Included in this category would be newspaper or magazine subscriptions, warehouse shopping clubs, meal prep services, and so forth. How many subscriptions do you really need? Be honest with yourself. Are you paying a lot more for groceries by using a meal prep service? Really take a good look (and a calculator) at how much you are spending per month in this category and cut out as much as possible.
  • Utilities. Make sure your lights and electronics are off and unplugged whenever you aren’t in the room or using them. Open the windows and use fans during interim seasons when you don’t need the air conditioning yet. Besides helping your utility bills, these actions also help the environment.
  • Medications. Always ask to switch your prescription medications to the generic brand when possible. This will save you a lot of money. Also when you can, see if you can purchase a 90 day supply of maintenance medications. Usually this is a cheaper option instead of going to the pharmacy every 30 days for monthly refills, and more convenient too.
  • Vehicles. In the nicer weather, you will save money by washing your own car at home instead of going to the car wash. Also look for coupons and deals online before you take your car for regular maintenance such as oil changes or tire rotations, there is usually always one available.
  • Insurance. Call around and see if you can find a better deal and pay less. This includes car insurance, homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance and the like.

Things to try:

  • Don’t Bring Your Credit Card Out for 1 Month. At first, you will probably feel restricted but this exercise will help you realize what you are spending money on. Which most of the time it’s probably an impulse purchase or an item you don’t truly need. When you pay with cash, you’ll often find you are more conservative with your purchases.
  • Pretend You’re Broke. Try this for 30 days – live on ramen noodles like your college days, and so on. This will show you that the salary you work hard for now should not be wasted on things that aren’t absolutely necessary.
  • Add Up Your Monthly Subscription Costs. As mentioned previously, jot down how much you are paying out in subscriptions every month. Even something that’s $40 a month adds up to nearly $500 a year. That’s a lot of money.
  • Check Your Statements. Watch out for those monthly automatic payments. Review all your monthly purchases and really scrutinize what you are buying. It always adds up to more than you think.

Need some help creating a monthly budget? Check out our easy fillable PDF budgeting worksheet!

Article Source: David Ning of Moneyning.com

Ways to Get Through Winter on a Budget

Winter can be expensive – between higher utility bills, paying for heavier clothing, indoor activities, transportation in regard to weather conditions, and more. Here are a few tips to help you save during the coldest months of the year.

Lower Your Heating Bill

You have probably heard this before, but it really does work: add an extra layer of clothing and lower your thermostat at home. You may not like wearing heavier clothes around the house at first, but when you get your heating bill in the mail – you will be very glad you did. Besides lowering your home thermostat, other ways to save on your electric or gas bill in winter include making sure you have properly insulated windows and doors. All of these items can really add up and become a huge waste of resources, and your money.

Pay Less for Winter Clothing

If you have children, take a look at their winter coats. Can they be handed down from one child to the next, or how about extended family – do you have anything you can pass on or maybe other family members have coats that can be passed onto your kids? Winter coats aren’t cheap, so if you can avoid having to buy new ones each winter before they get outgrown – family or friend hand me downs are a great idea.

If you do need to buy a new winter coat for your children, try to purchase it at the end of the winter season for next year. If you don’t get a chance to buy off-season, remind yourself to take advantage of winter sales at the end of the year on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These tips work for adult winter clothing as well. Plus, don’t forget to check out apps like Poshmark and Mercari where you can often find new or gently used brand clothing items for a steal (and even sell your own clothing and shoes).

Save on Winter Sports

Does your family enjoy winter sports? Winter sports like skiing, snow tubing, and snowboarding can get very expensive when you take into account the cost of equipment, maintenance, and warm clothes and boots. Plus, if you don’t live near the mountains – the added cost of travel, hotel, access tickets, or equipment rental.

This is another area to buy winter sporting equipment and clothing off-season to save money. At the end of this winter season, look for items that can be used next winter and get them on sale. You can also look for deals on access tickets online or if you’re a frequent visitor, research and see if you can save by buying family passes for the entire season.

Winter Activities

Because it’s often too cold to be outside, winter indoor activities can really add up. When it’s warmer out, it’s easy to go to the local park and allow your kids to play outside (for free). If you find your family going to the movies each weekend (which isn’t cheap either) and then buying refreshments there, or going to an indoor theme park and again paying for what seems like endless amounts of food and beverages – think about doing some research and making a few changes to the winter family activity budget. Maybe some weekends you can instead rent a movie at home and purchase popcorn and snacks from the grocery store, have a family baking or cooking day at home, and look for coupons online if you do decide to hit that indoor theme park or the movies. It may take a little legwork and planning, but doing so can really help your bank account and still allow for plenty of family fun during winter months.

Article Source: Vered Deleeuw for Moneyning.com

Meal Planning on a Budget

The beginning of a new year is a great time to change up your diet in a way that fits your budget. Meal planning is popular among those who desire to eat healthy while maintaining a healthy budget. While there are many resources available for recipes, we have a few tips on how to make the most of your meal planning options.

Plan your shopping trips and meals in advance.
Take some time to look at the grocery store circulars or online deals to see what is on sale for the week. Once you know what meats and seasonal fruits and vegetables are being offered at a good price, you can research recipes to maximize your meal planning options for the season. Then, compare your recipes to determine your budget before you’re in the store.

Check out meal planning resources through Google search and on sites like Pinterest. There are meal prepping tips and plans available from places like Home Cooks and the Food Network. There are plenty of cost-effective options out there.

Choose different recipes with the same source of protein.
Whether you’re making meals for a family or you’re making lunches for yourself, buying in bulk is typically best. If you’ve found a few recipes for chicken that you think you’ll like, buy the chicken in bulk and freeze what you don’t use right away. For example, you could use chicken for the following meal planning recipes:

  • Chicken Burrito Bowls
  • Teriyaki Chicken Bowls
  • Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice

There are so many different choices that make meal planning flexible and customizable depending on your particular preferences and tastes. Be sure to mix it up, which is easy to do with meal prepping.

Choose recipes that require a limited number of ingredients. 
It’s easy to get carried away when you’re looking at what sounds and looks good for meals. Make sure to get recipes that have either a limited number of ingredients or items that you need to buy. If you find recipes that have common dried spices that you already have in your kitchen, this could be helpful to your wallet as well.  Have a little fun and experiment with flavors that you’re confident will work well together.

Be sure to budget for meal planning and keep track of all your transactions. If you use these simple tips and tricks, you will be well on your way to becoming a savvy meal planner – that works for both your taste buds and your monthly food budget!

 

3 Steps to Reduce Your Impulse Spending

It can be tough to resist spending money. When you see something you want, especially when it’s at a price you like – it can be difficult to keep from making the purchase. With the way the internet and our smartphone apps have made it so easy to shop, the solution isn’t as simple as just avoiding the stores. If you’ve got an itch for shopping, here are three steps you can take to help you get back in control of your finances.

Take your time: During an impulse buy, for the most part – the whole process from finding the item to paying for it only takes a few minutes. Next time you’re about to hit the “buy now” button, slow down. Put the item in your online shopping cart, but wait before completing the transaction. Try not to buy anything the day you add it to your online cart. Let it sit and think – do you really need this item?

Think it over: If you’re still thinking about that item after sleeping on it, go back into your online shopping cart. In your cart you’ll be able to see the total price (including taxes and shipping), and decide for yourself if the item is really worth that total cost. At this point, look around some more online and try to find a better deal, but still – don’t buy the item (yet). After you’ve done all your research, put the item on your wish list or save it for later.

Be ready: You’ve thought about your purchase for days now, and you know you’re going to buy the item. You’ve done the research and you’ve found the lowest price. Do you have the money to make the purchase in your checking account? If the answer is yes, then go ahead and complete the transaction. If you don’t have the money now, save and start the process over when you’ve saved up enough to buy it without going into debt.

These same steps work for in store impulse purchases too. If you see something you’d like to buy when physically in the store – think about it for a day. The next day do some comparison shopping to make sure you are getting the best price. Still want the item on the 3rd day and you have shopped around and have the money to buy it? Head back to the store and make your purchase.

It pays (literally), to be a savvy shopper and reduce your impulse purchases!

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com