How to Save Money on Your Grocery Bill

Photo Credit: Robin DeGrassi James via Flickr

Photo Credit: Robin DeGrassi James via Flickr

One of the largest expenses that most students have outside of tuition and rent is groceries. Here are some tips that can help you both save money without resorting to ramen noodles and eat healthy without forking over hundreds of dollars:

  • Budget: Have a specific grocery budget for the week and stick to it. One great way to do this is by shopping with cash.
  • Make A List: Set aside some time each week to plan out your meals and make a specific grocery list. Try to base your meals on what is in-season, on sale, and what you already have on hand. Then organize your list according to the layout of the grocery store, you’ll save time and money by avoiding impulse buys!
  • Coupons: Check the Sunday paper or your local grocery store website for this week’s deals. Check out Couponsuzy.com or CouponMom.com both sites feature printable coupon deals organized by region. Check out this post on couponing for more tips and tricks.
  • Buy In Season: Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season, they are cheaper and a lot fresher. Try going to a farmer’s market, you can find good deals and the produce is fresh! Or, support a local farm by joining your local CSA.
  • Going Organic: It can be hard to buy organic on a small budget. You may not be able to buy everything organic, but you can be more conscious about where you get your food. Check out your local co-op, join a CSA, or go to a farmer’s market. Or, try out one of my personal favorites Trader Joe’s that features tons of organic food and products at lower prices.
  • Buy Less Meat: Meat is often very expensive. Try cutting down on your meat consumption by eating vegetarian for most meals. If you find a good deal on a large amount of meat, re-portion it into individual servings and freeze it for later use.
  • Store Brands: Don’t neglect the generic store brands, often they are the same product as the name brands. Sometimes the store brands even offer organic or all-natural options!
  • Avoid Prepackaged Foods: They may be convenient but they really add up. Instead of buying prepackaged cookies, why not make your own?
  • Check Unit Pricing: One of the best tips for finding a good deal is to check the unit pricing on items. This will quickly help you find the best deal.
  • Watch the Scanner: This will help you keep track of costs, make sure your coupons actually went through and it will keep the cashier more alert.
  • Limit Your Trips: Make fewer, larger trips. While shopping around can be very good, it can cost a lot in time and gas. Check out what you can get for the best price at different grocery stores in your area and make trips once a month to those stores for specific items.

Join the Conversation: What tips do you have for saving money on your grocery bill?

Advertisements

Fall Budget Challenge Step 2: Create Your Budget

Posted on Flickr by  Tax Credits

Posted on Flickr by Tax Credits

One month ago we started the fall budget challenge! If you missed the first budgeting post, check it out! Hopefully, you have tried tracking your spending for the past month. If not, it is never too late to start! This week, I will show you how to create your budget for the next school year.

Before we begin with the budgeting, let’s spend some time learning from your hard work of tracking your spending. If you were able to track your spending for the last month, great job! If not, you can certainly use your bank and/or credit card statement as a start. Take a look, where does most of your spending go? Housing? Car? Groceries? Entertainment? Dining out? Are there any surprises in your spending? Is your spending going to the places that you want it to go to? Are you spending in accordance with your values? What spending habits do you have, both bad and good? One of my biggest surprises when I first started tracking my spending is how much of my money goes towards groceries and eating out. Check out this article “Confessions of a Foodie” from last summer for more information. Keep these discoveries in mind as you create your budget.

Now, how to create a budget:

1. Choose your system: You can choose to create and track your budget using a variety of different tools. You might want to use the same one that you used to track your spending, or switch to another one.

  • Worksheet: Some people still enjoy putting pen to paper, if that is you check out this worksheet.
  • Spreadsheet: Excel offers a variety of different worksheets. This site features a few good templates that you can use with Excel or Google Docs.
  • Envelope System: Create your budget then take out cash for all of your expenses and put cash in specific envelopes. You can only spend what is in the envelope. For more information check out this link.
  • Budgeting Software: There are a variety of different programs out there; one of the most popular is Quicken.
  • Online Site: Again, there are a variety of sites. I use Mint.com because it syncs with my bank account, categorizes my transactions and tracks my budgets all in one place. You might also check out these personal finance apps.

2. Create your budget: The goal of the budget is to make sure that you are both living within your means and spending in accordance with your values. Over the past few weeks you have tracked your spending. You will want to use this information to help you create your budget categories as well as decide on how much money to allot to each category. Begin by calculating your different streams of income such as student loans, scholarships, job income, gifts, etc and how much you have in each category for each month. Then, calculate your different expenses making sure to include both needs (bills, rent, tuition, groceries, gas, etc.) and wants (dining out, coffee shops, shopping, entertainment, etc.). You can create as many or as few categories as you like, it is just important that every specific spending item fits into a category.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you begin outlining your budget:

  • Prepare for the Unexpected: Do you have an emergency fund to draw on if you lose your job or incur unexpected expenses (car repairs, medical bills, etc.)?
  • Plan for the Future: Do you have a savings account that you regularly contribute to? Even a small amount (such as $25) every month can add up. Are you investing in your retirement? Are you saving up for a large purchase (computer, car, house, etc.)? If you have student loans, could you pay off the interest now?
  • Save for Occasional Expenses: Do you have a way to pay for occasional expenses? Make sure that you take into account how you will pay for Christmas and birthday gifts, travel for the holidays and other occasional expenses so that they don’t end up breaking your budget.
  • Problem Areas: As you tracked your spending did you find any problem areas? If so, gently challenge yourself to be more frugal in those areas. Remember to start out slow, it takes a long time to change a bad habit.
  • Have Fun: Where is your discretionary spending? Many people when they are first budgeting forget to give themselves some room to have fun. While it is important to be frugal and align your spending with your values, it is important to have some space in your budget for the fun stuff such as dining out and entertainment.
  • Be Flexible: It can be difficult to precisely predict your spending, especially if this is your first budget, so be flexible. If you have to switch some things around to better fit you, that’s fine!

Happy Budgeting!

Join the Conversation: What are your budgeting tips?

Fall Budget Challenge: Step One Discover Your Habits

By 401(K) 2012 under CC BY-SA 2.0 on Flickr

By 401(K) 2012 under CC BY-SA 2.0 on Flickr

Fall is here and the school year is now in full swing! As you get used to the new school year and the challenges it brings, why not consider how this year will affect your finances? Fall is a great time to set your budget for this year. Whether you have never had a budget or you religiously track each purchase, it is a great to consider or reconsider making a budget that works for this year. This is especially important if you are just starting school, have a new job, new living situation or you want to get a better picture of where you stand financially. Budgeting can help you see how much money you actually have (probably more than you think) and where that money is going (probably more places than you think). This fall join me in the Fall Budget Challenge. Together we will discover our spending habits, align our spending with our values and create a budget that we can maintain, all in just a few weeks!

We begin by discovering our spending habits. Over the next month, you have one task: track your income and your expenses. You may think you know where your money is going, be prepared to be surprised. Over the next few weeks track every dollar that comes in and every dollar that goes out. This includes everything from bills to paychecks to birthday money to the dollar you used to get a diet coke from the vending machine. Every penny counts. There are a variety of ways that you can do this:

  • Journal Method: Carry around a small notebook or journal and track every purchase you make whether with cash, credit or check. On another page track your income.
  • Excel Method: Instead of using a journal, track all of your income and expenses in an excel spreadsheet. This works best if you set aside some time each week to put in each transaction, if you do it with any less frequency you might forget some of the smaller purchases. This method works best if you keep your receipts from all of your purchases and write down those for which you don’t have a receipt. Microsoft provides a variety of personal budgeting templates.
  • Software Method: If Excel isn’t your thing, but you still want to track your spending on the computer there are a variety of different programs out there, one of the most popular is Quicken. This software will also be helpful later when we create a budget.
  • Online Method: There are a variety of websites that can help you track your income and expenses as well as create a budget. I use Mint.com because it syncs with my bank account, categorizes my transactions and tracks my budgets all in one place. There is also a great app that allows me to track on the go! Again, it is important that you set aside time each week to track your expenses on the site to make sure everything is categorized correctly and all of your cash purchases are included as well. For more information on other personal finance apps, check out this article.

Happy Tracking!

Join the Conversation: What has been your biggest surprise that you found out about yourself while tracking your spending?

Frugal Wedding Gifts: How Much to Spend and What to Give

Blog Author, Grace, with her best friend, Betsy, at Betsy’s wedding May 2011.
Photo Credit: Synergy Photography

We are right in the thick of wedding season. In addition to weddings, there are also showers, bachelor/bachelorette parties and engagement parties in abundance. While it is certainly a blessing to be invited to a wedding and other nuptial celebrations, it can often feel like a curse if you are on a budget. How do you keep your head above water and still celebrate the couple?

How much to spend?

While you are certainly not required to bring a gift to a wedding, I would say it is the right thing to do unless you absolutely can not. It can be easy to say that “your presence” is a gift in itself, especially if you have travel and hotel expenses, but it is much better to give something small than nothing at all.

Pay no attention to the adage about spending as much as the cost per person for the wedding. I looked at many articles on wedding gifts prior to writing this post and most of the sites that I have seen say that you should spend nothing less than $50 and spend even more for a close friend. On average, friends generally spend $79 on the wedding gift while family spent $146. If you balked at that number, don’t worry, so did I. If you are on a tight budget, it can often be difficult to spend that much, especially if you are invited to the engagement party, bridal shower and bachelor/bachelorette party as well. Even the etiquette queen Emily Post says that your gift should depend on your budget and your relationship with the couple

Begin by looking at your budget. How much can you afford to spend on the wedding without breaking the bank? I wouldn’t spend less than $25 on a gift, unless you are making/doing something creative. If you are bringing a date to the wedding, it is customary to spend more on the gift. Be sure to consider other gift opportunities not just the wedding gift. The knot wedding website says that you should spend 20% on the engagement gift, 20% on a shower gift and 60% on the wedding gift. If you are in the wedding party, budget carefully as you will also likely be paying for a dress/suit and other attire. It is not worth going into debt over a wedding gift, so plan ahead and be creative.

After looking at your budget, think about the couple and your relationship with them. What kinds of gifts would the couple prefer? Would they appreciate a handmade gift? Something from the registry? Money for the honeymoon or a down payment on a house? A gift to their favorite charity? What kinds of gifts would they find most useful? Then, consider your relationship with them. Are you family? close friends? acquaintances? co-workers? These questions can help guide your decision of how much to give as well as what to give.

What to Give?

If you are looking to be more frugal, but still give a nice gift here are some ideas:

  • Registry Gifts: Look at the wedding registry early so that you get your first pick of the items in your price range. If possible, choose something that is significant to your relationship. If you know that the couple loves margaritas, grab the margarita glasses. If you worked at camp together, choose some camping gear.
  • Group Giving: Get a group of people together to buy a more expensive gift on the couple’s wedding registry. Even if you can only contribute a small amount, the gift will be more significant together.
  • Use Your Talents: Help with a specific part of the wedding—create the invitation, sing a song, take some engagement photos, create the décor. Use your talents to give in time, what you may not be able to give in money.
  • Get Creative: Create something special for the couple. Frame a photo of the couple or their favorite poem. Stitch a pillow case or blanket for them.
  • Cover a Wedding Expense: Cover a specific wedding expense for the couple, like stamps for the save-the-dates, the bride’s bouquet, some décor for the tables, etc.

For more ideas check out this blog post!

While weddings can often be hard on your budget, continue to remind yourself that at the end of the day it isn’t about the gifts, it is about the couple and the love that they have for each other. It is a blessing to be able to celebrate with people on their special day. If you plan ahead, the celebration can be joyful for you as well as for them.

Join the Conversation: How much do you generally spend on weddings?

Frugal Vacations: Think Summer

Where is spring? For those of us here in Minnesota, the weather is dreary and snowy. My longing for spring flowers, sunshine and a little warmth makes me think of vacations. So as you read this article I invite you to envision yourself at your favorite vacation destination, whether that is the relaxing at the beach, exploring ancient ruins, traversing a national park or taking in the culture of a new city.

Are you itching to get out of town but fearful of the cost of travel? Here are some frugal ideas to help you in planning your next vacation:

  • Plan Ahead: Don’t wait until just a month before to start planning your vacation. Begin a few months if not a year in advance. Start researching the area, get an idea of the cost of travel, accommodations, food, activities and any other extra costs. Get a good sense of the cost so that you can begin planning out how you can pay for the trip.
  • Save Your Money and Your Perks: Set up a vacation savings account so that you can save for your vacation all year round. If you don’t have any extra cash to spare, think about some regular discretionary purchases that you could occasionally give up for a chance to go on a vacation, like coffee drinks or dining out. Any extra cash you get from odd jobs, tax returns, or even Christmas/birthday money put it in the fund. Also, save your gift cards, credit card rewards, and frequent flyer miles to use towards your vacation.
  • Volunteer and Work Trips: Believe it or not there are actually ways to get a free vacation by volunteering or working while you travel. Most of these trips include food and accommodations, you only pay for your travel expenses to get to the destination.
  • Ditch the Crowds: Take a vacation in the off-season, go right after the rates drop in the fall or right before they go up in the spring. Just make sure that the amenities that you want are available in the off-season. If you decide to vacation in the prime season, consider staying in a town nearby your destination to save money on your hotel.
  • Online Deals: Search for deals on Groupon, Living Social, and Twitter. You can often find some really great vacation package deals, just make sure to read all of the fine print.
  • Frugal Accommodations: While hotels are certainly alluring, why not travel to a place where you can stay with friends or family? If you are traveling with a large group, try renting a cabin or a house rather than purchasing a block of hotel rooms. If you have a house, you might also try house swapping.  Or, if you are feeling adventurous, why not stay in a hostel?
  • Buy Tickets Wisely: Use your student status to your advantage by looking at the exclusive deals on student universe and STA Travel. The best time to buy airline tickets is mid-week (Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday) about eight weeks out from your trip. If you can, be flexible on your travel dates, even shifting a day or two can save you a lot of money!
  • Eat Light and Local: Make a simple lunch/breakfast in your hotel and just go out for dinner. If you have a kitchen, you could also have fun making your own dinner in. Avoid the tourist restaurants; eat where the locals eat. You will save money and experience more local flavor. If you want to go to some of the pricier restaurants, go for lunch instead of dinner.
  • Take Advantage of Discount and Free Activities: Before you travel, check out the free activities and events available at your destination. Pick up a coupon book. Look for student discounts at museums, parks, and even restaurants. Many museums offer free times each week or month, plan your visit during one of those times if possible.
  • Make It Worth It: While a measure of frugality on vacation can go a long way, make sure that the frugal choices are worth it. Remember the differences between frugal and cheap. Make sure that the benefits of your frugal choices out weigh the negatives.
  • Stay-cation: If you are not sure if you can afford a vacation, why not try a stay-cation?

Don’t forget to relax and enjoy yourself! While you can definitely save some money, it is ok to set a budget and let yourself splurge a bit. This is a vacation after all!

Join the Conversation: How do you save money on vacation?

Frugal Foodie: 5 Healthy and Delicious Frugal Recipes

I absolutely love to cook, but it can be hard to find delicious recipes that are not only healthy but frugal. We’ve all tried those “frugal” recipes that taste cheap or flavorless. What a waste of money! The good news is that there are some recipes that meet the trifecta: healthy, delicious, and frugal! Below you will find 5 recipes that I have sampled myself. Try them out and let me know what you think!

  • California Grilled Veggie SandwichesThis is my boyfriend and I’s 7633favorite go-to recipe! It is quick, healthy and cheap. While you can make it any time of the year, it is especially good in the summer and fall when all of these veggies are in season! The sauce is so tasty it can make any carnivore forget they are eating a veggie sandwich. 🙂
  • Beef and Bean Chili Verde: I absolutely love crock pot recipes, but sometimes I don’t have enough time for them. This chili recipe is quick and tasty. It is perfect for those days when you are low on time. I especially love the addition of the salsa, it makes this recipe so much more flavorful!
  • Chicken, Snow Pea, and Cashew Fried RiceStir-frys are the ultimate frugal recipe. They are quick, tasty, and incredibly versatile. This is one of my favorite stir-fry recipes because it is chock-full of veggies and protein. If you want an even more frugal recipe you can remove the cashews and substitute more veggies!
  • Nachos: Ok, so this is probably the least healthy of the bunch, but it is possible to make “healthier” nachos. Make your own tortilla chips or grab some whole-grain ones. Go lighter on the meat and cheese, add some black beans and pile it high with veggies like peppers, onions, tomatoes and lettuce. I also like to compliment it with a little sour cream (or greek yogurt) and some salsa. I have never used the linked recipe, because I usually just wing it, but if you need a guide this looked like a good one.
  • Cinnamon Tortilla Chips: I am a bit of a dessert fanatic. I love chocolate, dairy and pretty much everything on a restaurant dessert menu. I am convinced that being frugal and healthy doesn’t mean that you have to give up dessert, but it may mean that your dessert will look different. This tasty treat is quick and cheap, it is also a great dish that can help you use up some of those extra tortillas in your fridge.

Looking for some more healthy, frugal, and delicious recipes? Check out my new frugal recipe pinterest board! Every week, I will be adding new recipes. Also, check out the 4 healthy and frugal recipes that I featured in another post. These websites feature some great healthy, frugal recipes: Healthy Budget-Friendly Recipes, CheapHealthyGood Blog’s Recipe Index, Frugal Foodie FamilyThe Frugal Chef, or Ten Dollar Dinners. Bon Appetit!

Join the Conversation: What are some of your favorite healthy and delicious frugal recipes?

Give First

625456_742535680785_121657861_nIn late January, the car that I had been driving for the past ten years, my Volkswagen Bug, decided to call it quits. I soon found out that getting a new vehicle brought with it a whole new set of expenses, namely car payments and higher insurance rates. I spent many nights staring at my budget wondering how on earth I was ever going to make these payments happen. I cut down much of my discretionary spending, like entertainment and dining out, but the hardest expense for me to cut was my giving. For the first time in my life I had to cut the percentage of my income that I give to the church and other non-profits that I really care about. The decision grieved me, and quite honestly still does. One of my greatest joys in life is giving money away to causes that I care about. But, I knew that this is what I had to do for the time being.

As I have talked to other young adults, I’ve realized that I am not alone. Those who come to graduate school after being in the work force often face decisions like this as they learn how to live on a considerably smaller income. Young adults coming out of college or graduate school with debt feel this tension as they realize what portion of their income will be going towards their student loans. Similarly, young couples who are buying their first home also have to make these sorts of tough decisions as they realize that their mortgage payments will consume a large portion of their budget. In the face of such financial pressures, giving often ends up on the bottom of our budget or as a piece of what is left over (if there is any).

But, what would it look like to give first?

In The Soul of Money, Lynne Twist writes, “You feel vibrant and alive when you use your money in a way that represents you, not just a response to the market economy, but also an expression of who you are. When you let your money move to things you care about, your life lights up. That’s really what money is for.” (119) When I think about the things that I really value in life the first things to come to mind are not usually my apartment, groceries, or student loans, while I know that I need all of those things. Rather the first things to come to mind are sustaining my relationships, fostering my faith community, ending world hunger, and providing scholarships to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to get a good education. What comes to mind for you?

Giving first, as a part of my normal budgeted expenses, no matter how small the amount, makes me feel alive! It reminds me that no matter how little I have to give I can still make a difference in the world through the causes that I believe in. This is not to say that there aren’t other ways to give outside of money. There are many great ways to give of our time and talents that make a huge difference for the causes we love. But, when we only give of our time and neglect our money we forget the great power that money has. Twist writes, “One of the greatest dynamics of money is that it grounds us, and when we put money behind our commitments it grounds them, too, making them real in the world . . . Money is a great translator of intention to reality.” (194) When we give money to places that we value, it reminds us that we are not only consumers but also givers and that economic pressures do not need to have the last word.

So, I challenge you to join me in giving first; to let your giving be intentional, rather than an after thought. In the worlds of Lynne Twist, I invite you “to imbue your money with soul—your soul—and let it stand for who you are, your love, your heart, your word, and your humanity.” (257)

Join the Conversation: What do you think about giving first? Is this something that would work for you?

Best Personal Finance Apps

mint androidAre you looking for an easy way to track your budget and save some money? These personal finance apps are one of the best ways to do just that. These apps can help you to track your spending, pay your bills, create a grocery list, and even find cheap gas! Here are five free apps to put on your smartphone:

  • Mint.com: This app comes from the makers of the popular personal finance website Mint.com. This app works in sync with the your free, Mint web account to automatically track bank accounts, credit cards, loans, spending, and much more. While you can’t modify your budget on the app, it does offer you easy access to look at your budget while you are out to make sure that you are on track. The app has the option of being passcode protected, so if you lose your phone no one has access to your accounts. The app is simple and easy to use, definitely the number one finance app in my book.
  • Easy Envelope Budget Aid: This app puts the popular envelope budgeting system on your phone. You can add some envelopes (budget categories) and then add a transaction every time you spend. It’s simple, clean, and free. Like Mint, Easy Envelope Budget Aid (EEBA) is an app that has been created to work together with its web tool which has a variety of free and paid plans. While EEBA functions similarly to many budgeting apps, it also has the ability to be shared with another family member or significant other.
  • Bill Tracker: This easy to use app allows you to view your outstanding and upcoming bills on your phone. It helps you track your bills and features a helpful reminder system that notifies you when a bill is due. It also includes an archive of past bills so that you can see your full payment history. There are free and paid versions available for this app.
  • Check: Check, like BillTracker, is a free app that helps you manage your bills. However, this app also features bill pay for $0.30/transaction. After linking your accounts, Check packs your information into a standardized, easy-to-read format with intuitive navigation paths. A few quick taps allow you view transactions and pay your bills. Begin by creating an account.
  • Ziplist: This is one of the easiest meal planning and grocery shopping apps that I have found. This app can help you search for and save recipes, plan meals, organize grocery store trips as well as look at grocery deals and coupons. You can also share your weekly shopping list with family and friends. This app syncs with the ziplist website.
  • Gas Buddy: This is a simple app that helps you to find the cheapest gas. You can find gas near you using GPS or search by city or zip. You can look at the options in a list or on a map.

Join the Conversation: What is your favorite personal finance app?

Easy Ways To Reduce Your Monthly Bills

This week I am continuing my New Year’s Resolutions series, with an article on reducing your monthly bills.

Have you ever wondered if you are paying a little too much on your cable bill, insurance, cell phone or electric bill, but you decide not to look into it because you don’t think that it is worth the hassle? Paying a little bit too much each month can add up really quickly over the course of a year. If you can reduce these regular expenses, even by a little bit each month, that can make a huge difference. Here are a few small things that you can do to stop overpaying and reduce your monthly bills:

  • Car Expenses: Cars are very expensive, any way that you can reduce your monthly auto payments will significantly help your budget. If you are in a family with two cars, consider consolidating the one. Save money on gas by taking public transportation or car-pooling. If you are driving an old vehicle that is costing you a lot of money in maintenance, know when to stop putting money into it and invest in a new vehicle.
  • Cell Phone: Cell phones plans can be very costly. Shop around. If you can, try to get on a “pay as you go” or family plan. You don’t necessarily have to be family to be on a plan like this, you can just be a group of friends. Track your usage and make sure that you find a plan that best suits your needs. You shouldn’t pay for anything that you aren’t using.
  • Cable Packages: First, ask yourself if you really use your cable. If you don’t, getting rid of it can save you a lot of money. There are many cheaper options outside of cable such as Netflix or Hulu that still allow you to see the shows that you love. If you do decide to keep the cable, be sure to look out for deals and consider negotiating and re-negotiating your package on a frequent basis. For other ways to save money on cable check out this article .
  • Energy Bill: Be conscious about turning off lights and unplugging devices when they are not in use. Invest in energy efficient bulbs and smart power strips that eliminate phantom charges (electricity used by devices that are off or on stand-by mode). You can also use regular power strips for your electronics and simply turn off the strip when your electronics are not in use. Lower the temperature in your apartment when you are away, adjusting the temperature in your apartment by just a few degrees can make a big difference.
  • Water Bill: Take shorter showers, use an egg timer to help you keep your showers down to just a few minutes. Only use water when you need to. Don’t keep the water running while you are brushing your teeth or while you are scrubbing dishes. Do laundry only as often as necessary.
  • Insurance Bills: Make sure that you have the minimum coverage that you need. Don’t purchase more than you need. If you can, raise your deductible. Also, shop around to look at various companies, get a few quotes and see if your insurance can match those rates. If they can’t, switch!
  • Credit Card Bill: If you have a large credit card bill that you are paying off ask your credit card company if they can lower your interest rate. Often, all it takes is you asking. If they can’t, you should consider switching your balance to another credit card with a lower rate.
  • Membership Fees: Do you actually use the memberships that you are paying for? For instance, if you belong to a gym, are you actually using it enough to make it worth it? Why not consider working out at home?

I realize that this list can be overwhelming, choose one or two suggestions to focus on for this month and see if you can see a difference. You can save a lot of money on bills if you are willing to invest a little bit of time into the process. Don’t let yourself over-pay every month without looking into possible deductions that may be out there.

Join the Conversation: What are your ideas for saving money on bills?

Frugal Fitness Challenge: Save Money on Your Grocery Bill

This is my third post in the Frugal Fitness Challenge series. If you missed the first post on fitness or the second post on nutrition, check those out! This week I want to focus on ways that you can save money on your grocery bill. While this may not seem directly related to fitness, it is certainly a large part of healthy, frugal living. It is possible to eat healthy and save money without buying all organic foods or living solely off of ramen noodles. Here are a few money saving tips to keep in mind as you shop for the nutritious foods that I discussed in last week’s post.

  • Budget: Have a specific grocery budget for the week and stick to it. One great way to do this is by shopping with cash.
  • Coupons: Check the Sunday paper or your local grocery store website for this week’s deals. Check out Couponsuzy.com or CouponMom.com both sites feature printable coupon deals organized by region.
  • Buy In Season: Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season, they are cheaper and a lot fresher. Try going to a farmer’s market, you can find good deals and the produce is fresh! Or, support a local farm by joining your local CSA.
  • Make A List: Set aside some time each week to plan out your meals and make a specific grocery list. Try to base your meals on what is in-season, on sale, and what you already have on hand. Then organize your list according to the layout of the grocery store, you’ll save time and money by avoiding impulse buys!
  • Going Organic: It can be hard to buy organic on a small budget. You may not be able to buy everything organic, but you can be more conscious about where you get your food. Check out your local co-op, join a CSA, or go to a farmer’s market. Or, try out one of my personal favorites Trader Joe’s that features tons of organic food and products at lower prices.
  • Buy Less Meat: Meat is often very expensive. Try cutting down on your meat consumption by eating vegetarian for most meals. If you find a good deal on a large amount of meat, re-portion it into individual servings and freeze it for later use.
  • Store Brands: Don’t neglect the generic store brands, often they are the same product as the name brands. Sometimes the store brands even offer organic or all-natural options!
  • Avoid Prepackaged Foods: They may be convenient but they really add up. Instead of buying prepackaged cookies, why not make your own?
  • Check Unit Pricing: One of the best tips for finding a good deal is to check the unit pricing on items. This will quickly help you find the best deal.
  • Watch the Scanner: This will help you keep track of costs, make sure your coupons actually went through and it will keep the cashier more alert.
  • Limit Your Trips: Make fewer, larger trips. While shopping around can be very good, it can cost a lot in time and gas. Check out what you can get for the best price at different grocery stores in your area and make trips once a month to those stores for specific items.

Join the Conversation: What tips do you have for saving money on your grocery bill?