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

How to Save Money Even on a Tight Budget

Saving money is important, but sometimes it can be hard to find extra money to save – right? While saving money can often be a challenge, it’s not impossible to do – even on a strict budget. Here are three ways you may be able to save when your spare funds are on the lower side.

Find deals online: Sites like Groupon or Living Social have a lot of deals in terms of entertainment and dining out. Did you know you can use them for much more? Both often have deals on electronics, automotive repair, health and beauty, home services and more! The best way to find these deals is to register with your zip code and browse around to find how you can save locally. If these are products and services that you’re already going to pay for or that you’re in need of, saving money in the process is an added bonus!

Trim it up: When you go on a diet, you may notice a little bit of weight loss in several different areas of your body. You should treat your budget the exact same way. Don’t try to cut back on (or completely cut out) one budget item, but trim a few dollars from different places. Some bills you aren’t going to be able to budge on, but you will most likely find a few areas you can cut back here and there. Take advantage of these savings and you’ll start to see it add up. Plus, you won’t feel as if you’re cutting anything out of your budget completely.

Spend more time at home: The more you’re out and about, the more you’re going to eat meals out and spend money on items you don’t really need. Instead of meeting your friends out for dinner and a movie, host a potluck dinner (ask everyone to bring something) – and watch your favorite movie or rent one from your local Redbox. You’ll save money, plus you can pause the movie when you need to and not spend a fortune on movie theater snacks. That’s a win-win for everyone!

Need help budgeting? Check out our online budgeting fillable worksheet!

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

 

How to Save Money and Still Have Enjoyable Work Lunches

Your work lunches don’t have to be boring, or expensive either.  Is it really a good idea (or good for your budget) to continually buy lunch out 5 days a week though? This can quickly add up to spending anywhere between $1,000 and $5,000 extra per year – depending on where you go and what you order. That’s a pretty large chunk of change! Below are some money saving tips to keeping your work lunch budget in check (and exciting to eat).

Pack Leftovers

Working people have been packing lunches for years. Before there was an office cafeteria or restaurants around, this is the way it was. Leftovers from your dinner the night before make the perfect lunch for the next day at work. Purposely make more food for dinner than you expect to eat. Put the rest in a lunch portioned container and enjoy it the next day. If you don’t want the same meal the next day, freeze it and have it for lunch one day the following week. This also makes your morning routine easier too. Grab your pre-packed lunch from your fridge or freezer and head out the door. It doesn’t get much simpler than that!

Plan Ahead

Sit down and look at the grocery store circulars when they arrive, or visit your preferred store’s website to view the weekly specials. Which meats and cheeses are on sale this week? Determine how much you need for the week and buy just that. When you have a plan in place you are much more likely to follow through on making your lunch and not wasting your money or food supply. Preparing your lunch in the evening is another way to improve reliability. It is much easier to find five minutes to prepare your lunch before bed than it is to find extra time in the morning. This way it’s done ahead and you won’t talk yourself into just buying lunch that day in the morning when you are rushing around.

When You Have to Eat Lunch Out

Sooner or later, even if you usually pack your lunch, you are probably going to end up eating out at some point. What options will allow you to stick to a budget?

  • The Dollar Menu – There is nothing wrong with ordering off the dollar menu. A sandwich, drink, and fries comes out to $3 plus tax.
  • Coupons – Go out with a coworker, look for a buy one get one free coupon, or one that offers 50% off a second meal. Drink water or share an appetizer.
  • Eat Small – Restaurants typically offer generous portions, so a full-sized entrée is probably more than you may be able to eat for lunch. Order an appetizer as your meal instead. You will save money, enjoy eating out, and get plenty of food.
  • Split a Meal – If you are close with your coworker, you might want to try splitting an entrée to save money on both ends. If you have a refrigerator in your office to store leftovers, eat half the meal and store the rest at work for the next day.

Work lunches shouldn’t be a large part of anyone’s budget. Planning is the key to enjoying your lunch and saving money at the same time!

Article Source:  Moneyning.com

 

6 Ways to Avoid Going Out to Eat

Probably the most common piece of personal finance advice out there is to save money by avoiding restaurants. It sounds so simple: cook at home or brown bag it. For some people, this can be tough.  Here are a few suggestions that can help you if you find it hard to avoid the temptation to go out to eat your meals.

1. Think about why you like to go out to eat.

Is the food better than you can make at home? Do you enjoy the convenience? Are you too tired at the end of the day? Do you find it difficult to cook at home because of a lack of organization and planning? If you know more about why you like to eat out, it will be easier to find a solution that meets your needs. After all, you can have a fully stocked fridge and a gourmet kitchen – but if you’re too tired or unmotivated to cook, you may give into the temptation of dining out.

2. Think about any negatives of going out to eat.

Perhaps you don’t like the noise in restaurants or having to wait for service. It can be a hassle to find parking and time consuming. Restaurants cost a lot of money, the food is often less healthy than homemade, and the portions are larger.

3. Find a way to eat home cooked meals that work with your schedule.

For some people, it’s weekly menu planning. Others may stock their freezers with frozen entrees or live on sandwiches, salads, fruit and cereal. If you aren’t sure how to organize and plan a week’s worth of meals, you can find a wealth of resources like shopping lists and recipes online.

If you don’t love to cook, you can always assemble instead. Why not stock your fridge with ingredients for sandwiches and salads? Many crock pot recipes also take very little effort and can be made well ahead. Restaurant food is great, but remember they generally use more fat, salt and sugar than we normally would at home.

4. Find the right balance in your life.

If you don’t have the time or energy to prepare food at home, it’s time to look at your schedule and find out what you can cut to get that time and energy back. If you have a partner or older children, there is no reason why everything should fall on one person. Even if they are not able to cook, they can help our with some of the other household chores to give you a break.

5. Take care of yourself.

If you’re not getting enough sleep and working long hours, it could be difficult for you to resist the temptation to eat out and have the energy to make smarter food choices. Many times we look at eating in a restaurant as a small treat for ourselves or a break from other responsibilities. By eating in a restaurant you won’t have to cook, serve, or clean up – all you need to do is order, eat, and pay the bill. It’s important to have things in our lives that make us feel good too. If restaurants filled that role for you, you’ll want to find something else that invokes similar feelings and is good for both your wallet and your health.

6. Remember that it’s still okay to go to restaurants, once in awhile.

Be sure to fit eating out into your goals for spending and healthy eating. If going out to eat is not completely off limits, it can make it easier to resist instant gratification. Try to choose places that are memorable and offer you a unique dining experience, without being overpriced.

Article Source: David Ning for Moneyning.com