In a previous post here I discussed the basics of a spending plan and tracking your spending. If you have been wondering where you are going to find the money to pay yourself first in that top Savings category check out the following ideas that could free up $500 or more a month!
Cut Out the Daily Coffee/Lunch Out
A daily stop at Dunkin or your local coffee shop (or ahem… the corner 7-11 for an energy drink and muffin) can cost you $5 a day. Lunch’s out can range anywhere from close to $10 for a quick drive through those yellow arches to $20 or more for a sit down with your colleagues. Even if you still allowed yourself one splurge day a week, cutting out the other four can add up to significant savings in a month. Make your own coffee at home that tastes just as good as the coffee shop by investing in a $15 coffee grinder and a $20 French press. Purchase whole beans at the grocery store, grind them each morning and brew in your French press for a fresh and rich tasting cup of Joe in the comfort of your own home. Brown bag that lunch (or invest in a nice lunch bag) and eat in the breakroom. Or, if you live close to home like I do, head home on your lunch, throw some leftovers in the microwave and spend your lunch hour getting some extra cuddles in with your dog.
Potential Savings: $80 to (gasp) $320 per month
According to the USDA’s most recent report as of February 2019 which breaks down the cost of food at home at four levels you could be spending anywhere from $650 (thrifty plan) to $1300 (liberal plan) on food per month for a family of 4. Where does your grocery spending fall on that spectrum. If you are on the liberal end can you challenge yourself to reduce your food costs by $250 a month to be more in line with the moderate cost plan? There are several ways to reduce your food spending and no I’m not going to tell you to become an extreme couponer so you can open up a store selling shampoo out of your basement. Here are 3 of the easiest ways to cut your food costs.
- Make a meal plan. Dust of those recipe books, or search Pinterest. My favorite searches are frugal gourmet and frugal foodie. My husband loves to cook and I’m not telling you to buy Ramen here. Make a grocery list from said meal plan and when you get to the store STICK TO THE LIST! I recommend leaving the kids at home as they will beg for at least one item per aisle. Taking my teen to the store actually costs us about $50 more each time!
- Do not be brand loyal. Especially with cereals. That sugary shot of hyper can cost upwards of $4 of box for brand names these days. However, if you just can’t bring yourself to switch from that box with the beloved leprechaun to a bag-o-cereal with a random character, then definitely find a coupon. You can still find coupons in your Sunday paper or print them online from coupon sites. The best place to go to find high value coupons is directly to the manufacturer’s website. There are also multiple cash back grocery apps out there that will credit you for buying certain products and uploading a receipt.
- Shop at multiple stores. I know, I know you’re probably sitting there thinking “how am I supposed to shop at 5 different grocery stores in between running one kid to dance three nights a week, the other to play practice on the other two, and scout meetings or events every other Monday, Friday, and sometimes Saturday?” Stay with me here though. Once you have your meal plan and a grocery list, and familiarize yourself with the layouts of each store you will be zipping right in and out of them instead of your usual hectic running through each aisle trying to decide what to make for dinner in the next hour. Discount stores are especially my favorite, some even take coupons.
Potential Savings: $100 to $300 per month
Cell Phone Plan
The days of cell phone contracts are over. Why are you still loyal to your cell provider? How long has it been since you shopping around for a cell phone plan, 6 flip phones ago? WhistleOut.com compares up to 63 different cell phone plans. For a 4 line family plan I found several offers for $100 a month with unlimited talk, text and data. Companies change their offers often so shop around every six months to make sure you are getting the best deal. Just be careful of any fees for activation and network SIM cards if you are switching often, as these can eat into your savings. If you don’t switch at least review your plan to see if there may be a cheaper option with the same carrier. Look at your usage. Are you paying for unlimited data but using 10 gigabytes or less? See if switching to a limited gigabyte plan would be a savings.
Potential Savings: $50 to $150 per month.
Insurance rates can change over time so it’s best to compare quotes at least once a year. Pull out your current auto and home policies and make sure you are comparing coverages that are at least equal to what you currently have. To shop car insurance you will also need the mileage and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) for each car on the policy as well as the driving history for every person included. The easiest way to compare multiple policies at once is to use a comparison site such as insurify.com or nerdwallet.com . Find a cheaper policy but don’t want to switch? Contact your current insurance company and ask if they will match the quote from the cheaper insurer. While you have those policies out review them to make sure you have the best coverage for your needs. Do you have too much coverage in one area? Should a traffic violation have fallen off your record by now but hasn’t been reflected in your rating? Squeeze out the savings you can without sacrificing coverage you need.
Potential Savings: $100 to $200 per month.
Whether you try one or all of these suggestions, any amount you can free up for your Savings category (otherwise known as your Future Spending category) is a start. As you get the savings momentum going I can guarantee you will be hooked on finding other ways of saving money! In future blog posts I will share more tips to free up your money as well as some ideas on generating more income to work with. Try a few of these ideas in the next month and see how much money you can free up for your savings.