Thursday, March 13, 2014

Money Saving

In case you didn't already know, this is me:

If you don't understand this reference, stop right now, go watch Home Alone, then come back and keep reading.

Alright, I'm not quite that bad, but money saving has been on my mind a lot lately. Saving money was my #1 new year's resolution this year, and so far I've done a pretty good job of sticking to it. So, I thought I'd share with you guys some of the things we've found to be helpful when it comes to saving money.

Saving on Food:
This is by far the hardest part for me, but it is also the change that is making the biggest difference in our finances. We used to eat out all the time. Every. single. day. I hated grocery shopping and I hated cooking. We'd go to the store only once or twice a month and drop anywhere from $200-$350. Then we'd throw away half the stuff we bought because it would go bad before we got around to eating it. Such a waste of money and perfectly good food. So, I knew I had to make some changes. 

I started meal planning, which looks like this:
Every Friday I find five recipes for the next week and I make a grocery list of everything I'll need. I try to find recipes that utilize ingredients that I already have at home. (This happens a lot with tortillas. I usually buy a 10 pack of tortillas because they are the cheapest, but after taco night, we've only used 4. So the following week I'll make enchiladas because I know I've already got the tortillas at home and I don't want them to go to waste). Then I scour my pantry and fridge, just to make sure I don't already have something on the list. Now I'm fully equipped with the most efficient list possible, it's off to the store I go. Once there, I keep an eye out for replacement ingredients that are cheaper. (Last week, the turkey was on sale for $2.99/lb. so I bought that for my spaghetti instead of ground beef like I had planned because it was $5.99/lb.) I also buy generic brand for pretty much everything. Honestly, you can't taste the difference if you prepare your meals properly. Except with noodles. Don't buy VALUE brand noodles from Kroger. They are tough. Like Ford tough. Anyway, with this plan, I've got enough for five dinners and the leftovers serve as lunches for both me and my hubby to take to work. Since January I've been averaging $65/week at the grocery store. This is so much cheaper than what we were spending before when you consider how much we spent at restaurants. 

Saving on Gas
I buy my gas from Kroger, because we can get discounts depending on how much we spend on groceries. Each time I fill up, I save anywhere from 3 cents/gallon to $1.00/gallon. If at all possible, share a shoppers card with your friends or family. Your rewards will stack up quicker this way. (I share a card with my mom and she grocery shops a lot more than I do, so the gas savings are worth it for me, and she never fills up there anyway!)

Saving on Electricity Bills
I'm going to start signing up for short term contracts (like 3 months) because you can get a much better rate that way. This is especially important during the summer! 

Saving on Travel
Use Groupon. We bought our hotel for our anniversary trip to California on Groupon and it was a great deal and a wonderful experience. (Read more about that here.) Also, if at all possible, travel in the off season. Again, our trip to California was in February, not exactly peak travel time for wine country. But it was significantly less expensive and still gorgeous! BONUS: There weren't crowds everywhere we went. Lastly, don't eat out for every meal while traveling. When we went on our honeymoon, we filled up the mini-fridge in our hotel room with lunchables! So much cheaper than going to a restaurant every day for lunch. 

Saving on Home Improvement
Basically my entire blog is about this. But you should definitely go read this post for more details.  

Cut back on "extras"
Everybody has splurges here and there, but consider if the value you are getting from these "extras" is really worth the cost. For example, we recently decided to cancel our gym memberships. We live in a wonderful area that is very conducive to walking, jogging and biking. Besides, I really enjoy exercising outdoors more than inside a gym anyway. We've also got several work out DVDs and hand weights at home, so there is no reason why we can't work out for free. This change alone will save us $140/month (we were paying for two memberships, and for a personal trainer which was great when I was training for my half marathon, but afterwards it wasn't really necessary).  

Am I forgetting anything? Do you have any tips to make life a little less expensive? 


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