There are a lot of websites and blog posts that are about the best money tips or how to save money. Some of the lists are good but we think that most of them are not really applicable to everyone or that they just don’t save that much money. We wanted to give you THE best list out there with tips that are the biggest bang for your buck. These tips will help you cut back on your budget so you can reach your savings goals quicker and reduce stress.
Make a meal plan and grocery list
Everyone eats out. Especially if you get home late from a long day of work,no one wants to cook something when all you want to do is relax. It’s a super convenient and a fun thing to do, but it adds up quickly. A Boston Globe article found it cost $23.84 per person to eat at Outback Steakhouse and only $11.84 per person to recreate the meal at home. Not only is cooking at home cheaper it can also force you to eat healthier foods rather than going out for fast food.
Don’t like to cook or worry about having to cook when it isn’t convenient? Invest in a crock pot and find some online recipes. A crockpot recipe usually makes 6-8 servings and requires very little preparation. You can usually start it right before you go to bed and you will have a meal ready to be put in tupperware for the next day’s lunch right when you wake up. Then when you come home from work at the end of the day all you have to do is nuke your meal and you are ready to binge Netflix.
We recommend that you make a meal plan for every meal of the week, including snacks, then make a grocery list based off of your meal plan. Sunday you go to the grocery store, come home with your groceries and meal prep and your week is ready. Throughout the week you may have to spend some time prepping more meals. Purchase some individual meal size tupperware so you can easily grab something to take to work or eat when you get home.
Here are a couple of meal prep plans:
If going to the grocery store and fighting the crowds isn’t your thing, Walmart Grocery provides free online ordering and pickup. It’s great! All you do is follow the link (get $10 off your first order and full disclosure we get $10 for referring you), order all the food (including produce) you want and select a pickup time. At your pick up time you just drive into the Walmart Grocery pickup parking spots and they come out with your order. Super easy! There aren’t any extra fees for the service and if they don’t have something you ordered they will substitute it for you for free.
Cut Cable and Satellite
Cable and Direct TV can cost hundreds of dollars per month with extra packages and channels. The FCC says the average cost of cable is $64 per month ($80 after fees and taxes). Now with online options like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO now and Crackle, you can watch most if not all the shows you want for way less per month than cable.
Here are the typical costs for each service:
Hulu plus: $7.99 ($11.99 with no commercials)
Amazon Prime Video: $99 per year or $8.25 per month. (Plus free shipping perks on Amazon)
HBO Now: $15 per month
Sling orange (Cable replacement) : starting at $20 per month
Digital Antenna: Free true HD local channels (Antenna’s are around $25)
With all these options, even just choosing two of these streaming services plus a digital antenna, you will have more than enough options for show watching.
Organize your expenses by due date
Most people don’t have issues with monthly expenses like their rent or mortgage, car payments, phone bill, electric, etc. They are typically about the same every month, if they do change you typically expect it (such as your electric bill increasing in the summer in Arizona) and they are due on the same date every month.
What we want you to do to get organized is to organize them by due date. Start with the first of the month and list them in the order that they are due. This could be as complicated as a spreadsheet or as simple as a post it note on your computer monitor. All you have to do is look at you list every payday, see what bills are due before the next pay day and pay those bills.
Organizing your expenses in this way makes paying bills a quick glance and significantly reduces stress about worrying about a missed bill. It’s funny how such a simple thing can make a big difference but we hear it time and time again from our clients on how much easier that makes their life.
Setting goals gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation . It focuses your acquisition of knowledge, and helps you to organize your time and your resources so that you can make the very most of your life. If you don’t have goals set for your money, you will not focus your efforts on what you actually want in life long term and end only focus on instant gratification.
Goals can be paying off debt, a big purchase like a car or vacation, college funds for your kids or savings. When it comes to goals “divide and conquer” does not work. We recommend that you choose one goal, the one that you want to achieve first, and focus all your extra money to that goal. Once you reach it you move on to the next one.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
This may not be very obvious to a lot of people but preparing for emergencies and unexpected bills is the best way to stay out of debt. A true “emergency fund” is actually a “loss of income fund”. This is money that you save up equal to one to three (or more) months of income in case you lose your job suddenly. This money will pay you for the time where you are in between jobs.
Other emergencies, such as car repairs, home repairs and such aren’t truly emergencies if you plan for them. The first thing to do is look at each of these expenses and think about how much you will need each year. If you have an older car that breaks down easily, maybe you need about $1200 in it. Maybe your house is a fixer-upper and you know that you will need a new water heater in the next year and that fund needs to be about $3000. Divide each by 12 and this is the amount you will save each month into a savings account.
Each fund needs a different savings account. If you have one large savings account that any expense can come out of you can feel pretty yucky taking out money for a vacation when you also have some home or car expenses coming up. We recommend Capital One 360 for unlimited free savings accounts. When you need to pull money for an expense, you just transfer the money right into your checking account and pay the bill.
Pay with Cash
You spend 12-22 percent more when you swipe your card than when you use cash. McDonald’s observed their average transactions rose from $4.50 to $7 when customers were allowed to use credit cards to make their purchase instead of cash. Research conducted revealed people spend more when they use their cards even if they paid off their credit card balance each month.
“Credit cards effectively anesthetize the pain of paying,” said George Loewenstein, Carnegie Mellon professor of social and decision sciences (SDS) and co-author of the paper. “You swipe the card and it doesn’t feel like you’re giving anything up to make the purchase, unlike paying cash where you have to hand over bills.”
Paying with cash can also deter you from buying junk food according to research by Manoj Thomas and colleagues. “The pain of paying in cash can curb impulsive urges to purchase such unhealthy food products. Credit card payments, in contrast, are relatively painless and weaken impulse control. Consequently, consumers are more likely to buy unhealthy food products when they pay by credit card than when they pay in cash.”