How to Cut Back on Every Day Expenses (and Be Happier)… for the Working Person

 

What does a normal work day look like for you? Is it scrambling to get to work on time, running to the cafeteria or out to eat for lunch, and then figuring out what’s for dinner while you’re on your way home?

Sometimes when you’re working full-time (or more), it feels like all you can do to just stay afloat, financially and physically. But just staying afloat shouldn’t be the goal for your life or mine.

Did you know that a few minutes of preparation can save you hours down the road? And that doesn’t just apply to areas like travel, vacation, or big events. I’m here to tell you how it can apply to your daily life and to your finances as well!

If you can implement just a couple of these tips and plan out your week in advance, you can absolutely overcome some of the financial, physical, and emotional struggle of the daily grind. (Although, the focus is definitely more on the financial benefit here!)

Use less product. Americans use so many products in day-to-day routines, and we get so busy that we don’t even think about how much we are actually using versus how much we actually need. If your hair only needs a quarter-sized amount of shampoo, don’t use more. If you can feel clean without squirting on the shower gel three different times, then don’t. You’d be amazed how much longer your products last! (We’ve also discovered that we can survive without paper towels – here are some more tips on that!)

I realized how much money I could save in this area when I started washing my hair less frequently than every day. That one trick has saved me money and lots of time! I’ll save the details for another post.

Take your lunch to work. If you’re not already doing this, you’re missing out! Taking your lunch to work saves money AND time! Even if you don’t eat out for lunch but instead go home, you are still saving gasoline and drive time by simply packing a lunch. (Just be sure to get your needed time away from your work station in order to still thoroughly enjoy your lunch, to reduce stress, and to come back more effective.) Take a couple minutes in the morning to pack a sandwich and clean an apple. This few minutes will save you a roundtrip for lunch (wherever that is) and will likely save you some calories and/or some stress on your pocketbook.

Carpool. Despite gasoline not being quite as expensive now as it has been in the past, it’s still a money-saver to carpool. You’re not only saving gasoline, you’re saving the wear and tear on your car (and there’s an estimated average of $515/year that our roads put on our automobiles!).

Use less energy. If you haven’t heard of “ghost appliances,” it’s a real thing! This lady saved 26% by unplugging items when not in use, so let the unplugging begin! Be sure your AC and heat are only set to be on when someone is home. If you can put your dinner in the crockpot on low during the day, it will save you on those summer evenings from your house getting too warm (and thereby causing your AC bill to go up). Think through your personal situation to see if there are any ways you are wasting money while you’re away, at work, etc.

Meal plan. Like I said earlier, a few minutes of preparation can save you hours down the road, and while that applies to many areas of life, it definitely applies to our meals! Meal planning will save you from going out to eat – what a money sucker! – and from going to the grocery store after work, and from buying items unnecessarily. Because if you’re going to the store at the last minute or straight from work, you likely will forget if you also need milk or oil or a particular spice, etc., and, therefore, you end up spending more money on “impulse buys” than you needed to or had budgeted.

Additionally, when you plan out your meals, you lower your risk of wasting food…there’s no wondering how you’re going to use the extra this or that. When you shop, you buy exactly what you need (which also saves you money). Meal planning is a post in itself, but for now, I suggest checking out one of these helpful printables to get started:

Free Weekly Meal Plan, Shopping List, Recipe Cards, Calendar

6 Meal Planning Templates

Isn’t it amazing that daily routines can have such a huge impact on your life? Little things certainly add up. What can you get started on today to make your week better than last week, physically, emotionally, or financially? Let me know if you have any frugal ideas to add to this!

Photo credit: taxcredits.net

Why Have a Budget

Yep, I just said the B-word. And maybe you should, too. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, nearly 67% of Americans do not have a detailed budget.

So I’m not surprised Forbes reported last June that 63% of Americans do not have enough cash on-hand to pay for a $500 emergency. $500 is a considerable chunk of cash, but a $500 emergency can easily pop up. Did you blow a tire? Well, of course, you should always replace them in pairs. Poof. You are in debt (or getting in great shape as you ride your bike all over town), and your $500 credit card swipe becomes $600 or more after interest. These statistics say that “normal” means being broke.

Have you ever looked at your bank account and thought, What happened to all of my money? Do you know what it feels like to have the cashier inform you that your debit or credit card was declined? Maybe you’re tired of juggling bills, trying to keep the lights from being turned off. I’m here to tell you that there is a better way, and you can live it! All it takes is a little planning and learning how to control yourself.

Someone smart once said, “Money flows from the careless to the conscientious.”

I’m not here to convince you to sell your furniture, ditch the car, or eat Ramen noodles for the next fifteen years. Gross. All I’m saying is that you don’t have to live that way any more.

How would you like to:

  • Tell your money exactly where to go instead of wondering where it went?
  • Stop going further into debt, and not have to worry about who is calling?
  • Get the best deal possible on pretty much every major purchase you ever make?
  • Never have to wonder if you can pay your bills?
  • Decide for yourself how much you want to have available to cover an emergency?
  • Ditch the debt hole you’ve been digging and start to build real savings?

Okay, so a budget is not magical. It won’t do any of those things for you. But unless you have an uncle on this list (and if you do, call me: we should be friends), it is highly unlikely that you will experience any of these things without a budget. We’ll get to specifics in my post next week, but for now, just answer this question:

Who makes the decisions in your home: you or your bank account?

PS – If I still haven’t convinced you to come back next week for how to create a budget, take a look at this. Or this. Or this.

 

Photo credit: Pictures of Money

20 Items to Remember to Budget!

Ever built a budget for the month and realized later that you forgot about something so obvious? Been there! If you’re like me, you had an extensive meeting with your spouse to make sure every detail was cared for, but yet something came up that you probably should’ve expected and should’ve discussed in that “extensive meeting” and just didn’t.

Well here’s a list of basic things to be sure to add to your budget so you can build your best budget possible. It works for our family of 2, but I think it will be a decent guideline for any size of family (food is still food and bills are still bills, right?). I’ll start with the obvious and move to the less common.

Side note 1: we use a free app called Every Dollar for our budget, and we love it!!

Side note 2: get out your calendar for the month so you have an idea of the extra items like birthdays you’ll be spending money on!

Side note 3: for extra tips on saving money on your bills, check this out!

Here we go! (and if you use Every Dollar, you can choose to have your budget copied from last month, create an entirely new one, or edit your last month’s budget for the coming month…so no need to remember these items each time!)

1. Mortgage/rent

2. Food – groceries and restaurants (will you be having company at all this month?)

3. Gasoline

4. Electricity/gas

5. Water/garbage

6. Phone bill

7. Car insurance

8. Car maintenance/savings for car maintenance

9. Clothing – dry cleaning or needed items

10. Entertainment (Don’t forget your friends asked you to go to that show with them!)

11. Gifts (Whose birthday or baby shower is coming up?)

12. Emergency fund (for a flat tire, sudden death in the family, etc; $1,000 is a good goal for this!)

13. Savings

  • Short term funds (for things like computers and vacations that need more than one month’s budget to purchase)
  • Long term savings (for a house, a new car, bigger emergencies; Dave Ramsey suggest saving 3-6 months worth of income for the bigger unexpected things)
  • Retirement (don’t rely only on the government, please!)

14. Life insurance

15. Health/health insurance

16. Travel

17. Home maintenance

18. Homeowners/Renters insurance

19. Education

20. Miscellaneous

Bet you didn’t think the list could be so long for “basics!” Let me know if I missed something!

Photo credit: Pictures of Money | Cropped

3 Ways to Save $2,400 a Year on Bills

TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read): Call or shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible on your monthly bills.

Ever looked at your account and wondered where all the money went? Ever think that it’s disappearing before your eyes? It’s easy to feel that way in a normal day of adulthood and even easier when you don’t have a budget you stick to and check up on. I – of course – would urge you to get a budget if you don’t have one. And if you do have a budget and disparage of your finances still, it might be time to take a look at your bills to know for certain you are getting the very best deal possible.

Here’s a look at some of the ways we’ve saved at least $200 a month on our bills. That’s $2,400 in a year!

Shop around for the best car insurance rate. “We switched to Geico and saved $60 a month!” isn’t just a statement you hear on a commercial! Geico might not be your best option, but for us, switching from Allstate to Geico literally cut our bill in half, and we are getting the same, full coverage! If your insurance rate increases every time your policy is up for renewal, it’s highly doubtful you’re getting the best price. Geico has actually gone down a bit from the time we started. Don’t be bashful or feel bad about calling to ask for a discount. The easy switch saves us $60 a month.

Check your phone carrier’s competitors. We made the switch to T-Mobile and save at least $120 a month! Again, maybe T-Mobile isn’t the best deal for you. When we were faced with a large phone bill for average service and coverage and very average data, we asked AT&T to lower our rate, and when they didn’t, we decided to shop around. T-Mobile was having an excellent deal, and we were able to get unlimited data, talk, and text; 2 lines for $100 total. That is half what our other bill would have been. And there’s no contract. Consider what you could be saving and ask yourself this question: would I rather have great cell service or $100 extra per month? 

Get smart about your utilities. 

  • Electricity – Did you know electric companies charge more per kilowatt at certain times of the day/days of the week or after passing a certain threshold of electricity? It does pay to be smart about your utilities! If you really want to save more on electricity and/or gas, you’ll change your tolerance level for the temperature in your home. It may mean adding or shedding a layer of clothing or adding a fan to your home (look here for even more helpful tips from a real guru). I even try little things like ironing all at once so that the iron doesn’t waste electricity getting heated up each time. Yes, it can be inconvenient, and it might not feel like you’re making a difference, but when you get your electric bill, you’ll know it’s paying off. We recently received a $15 bill for electricity (for our 2 bedroom apartment, to be fair), and I was one happy woman!
  • Gas (natural) – Our heat is from natural gas, so during these winter months, we are especially careful. Personally, I now enjoy bundling up when I go to bed, so I don’t think of it negatively. You might be able to close a vent in a spare room or keep the curtains closed to help keep the heat in. Between the two of these, we’ve cut our gas and electric in half, saving at least $20 a month.

You may not be able to cut $200 of your monthly bills, but I certainly hope you can look at your budget, determine where you might be overpaying, and decide what to do about it. Call the company and ask for a lower rate. Shop around and let competitors know your current rate and ask if they can do better. Figure out where electricity is getting wasted and fix it. Feel free to let me know some ways you save on your bills each month or if there’s something I missed! I’m all ears.

Photo credit: 401Kcalculator.org

7 Tips for Saving Money in the Kitchen

I tend to spend a lot time in the kitchen, and that’s also where I get to do a lot of thinking. So I started thinking of ways I could be saving money in the kitchen. These are some random, money-saving tips for the kitchen: basic and unusual. 

1. Use washcloths instead of sponges. I get that some things just clean better with a sponge (or so we like to think), but if you’re trying to save money, use a washcloth that can be washed and reused, and if you think some items might need a sponge, soak them for a while.

2. Rinse all your dishes before washing, particularly if you don’t have a dishwasher. Having food and beverage residue stuck and dried onto your dishes will undoubtedly require more soap. And since water is cheaper than soap, rinse those babies! This also keeps away bugs if you’re not able to or choose not to wash them right away, and that saves you more than just money!

3. Meal plan. If you’ve never tried this before, you must try it! There are some great, free meal plans out there! If you’ve tried it and it didn’t work out as well as you’d hoped, I encourage you to give it another try. I’ve experienced personally the savings from this – savings of money and time and stress, simply by making a comprehensive grocery list for the next week or two. If it seems daunting, try doing just one week. You’ll be glad to not have to make more than one trip to the grocery store, and you’ll save money by having food on hand and not going out to eat or making impulse purchases during another trip to the grocery store.

4. Save resealable, plastic bags and containers. Unless you use the plastic bag for raw meat, why not wash and reuse? My husband taught me the easiest way to wash plastic quart or gallon sized bags: turn them completely inside out and then wash! Works magically. I’m only referring to quart and gallon sized bags, as sandwich bags are so flimsy and thin that it’s not worth the time and effort to me. But hey, if you can get another use out of it, why not?

5. Wash and reuse foil. I just recently started doing this, but so far I like it and appreciate not messing with tearing off the foil again!

6. Save paper bags from take out or other shopping and use them as lunch bags or whatever else you want to transport! I use these again and again for taking lunches or snacks to work.

7. Repurpose citrus peels to make an amazing aroma on the stove (that’s my favorite use for them – just add some cinnamon, clove, or rosemary and water!) or use the peel to make a zest to save for later (dry out before storing), or if nothing else, use it to freshen your disposal.

Have you tried any of these? How do you save money in the kitchen department? I’d love to know. Let me know in the comments!

Photo credit: Ginny | Cropped | No endorsements