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12 Ways to Save on Your Food Budget

12 Ways to Save on Your Food Budget

As the cost of living creeps up, more and more people are turning to new ways to balance their budget at home. Food is one of the biggest expenditures for most Americans, and maximizing your opportunities to get the most bang for your buck in that department can lead to more dough in your pocket and your oven. By taking a fresh look at not just what you eat, but how you eat, you can start saving from the start.

1. Start clipping coupons.

If there was ever anything to make you feel more like your grandmother, it’s clipping coupons. However, shows like Extreme Couponing and websites such as Couponing101.com are fueling the fire of consumers looking to save a buck. Be sure to buy your weekly Sunday paper and set aside some time out of your week to go through and clip coupons for things you use. It’s also good to know your local supermarket’s coupon policies, as there may be days or times where they’ll double your coupons. There are also tons of “coupon classes” online, such as the one above, to teach you the basics before you even pick up the scissors.

2. Get digital.

Have a particular item that you use a lot? Get digging online. More and more retailers are using coupons as a way to drive traffic to their websites, social media accounts, and blogs. Digital coupons are also huge with supermarkets, with most of them offering a range that can be clicked online and used in-store with a card or your phone number. Lastly, check with coupon sites online for additional coupons you can easily print from home and use when you hit the shops.

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3. Ask yourself not what you want to eat, but what you can afford to eat.

A common mistake that consumers make is to figure out what they want to eat, rather than thinking about their budget. When you start clipping coupons, try to tailor your weekly menu around what’s on sale. Checking with supermarket flyers and advertisements, as well looking into information on how to create healthy budget meals, is also a great way to start figuring out your weekly menu. Don’t forget to take a look at what you already have in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer, as these items are already paid for and ready to go.

4. Buy in bulk.

Hitting up your local wholesaler may mean you’re lugging huge boxes of pasta out to your car, but it can also mean significant savings. Buying in bulk is nearly always your best bet for saving more money on your food budget. Look for bulk buys on things you regularly use, as they’re less likely to sit around on your shelves and go bad. Great bulk purchases include pantry items, such as canned goods, pastas and grains–all of which can be used to make a quick, healthy and not to mention easy meals.

5. Put your freezer to work.

Your freezer is a great key to saving more money on your food budget. This is particularly true if you’re buying in bulk, as you’ll be able to freeze meats, dairy and produce for use later on down the road. Take some time to learn the best ways to freeze various food items so you’ll know how to maximize your savings, as well as how to prevent freezer burn and food wastage.

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6. When you can, make your own.

Still buying jarred pasta sauces and loaves of bread? Why, when you can make your own more delicious versions for much less? Making your own sauces and food not only means you know exactly what went into them, it’s also generally more healthy as it’s less likely to be packed with additives and preservatives. Cost-wise, it can’t be beat. For example, making your own bread costs, on average, $0.66 per loaf. Compare that to a good quality sandwich bread at $3.99 and there’s really no argument.

7. Pay more attention to leftovers.

Just made a roast chicken for dinner? Now it’s time to throw away that pesky carcass, right? Wrong. Learning to use or repurpose your leftovers to make additional meals is an excellent way to save cash while eating deliciously. Turn leftover meatballs into hero sandwiches, roast bones to make stock, and use those leftover egg whites to make meringues for dessert. The more willing you are to think creatively about your leftovers, the more you’ll get out of them.

8. Kick food waste to the curb.

When it comes to your refrigerator and freezer, your new budget-conscious mantra should be: “No food left behind.” Before you head to the store, see what you still have left to use. You can even make it a challenge to come up with new ways to use those few lonely carrots languishing at the bottom of the vegetable drawer, or what’s going to happen with that sad leftover chicken breast.

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9. Eat seasonally.

Craving a tomato during the winter? That’s going to cost you a bundle. Focusing on seasonal eating means you’re going to chow down on more delicious produce, as well as preventing your pocketbook from taking a beat down. Learn about what’s great in your area and when its at the peak of availability. Not only can you stock up and fill your freezer, but you can do it a lot cheaper.

10. Don’t fear the cheaper cuts.

If you love meat-based dishes but aren’t sure you can afford it, then looking at the less lovely bits can be your ticket to carnivorous nirvana. As the nation’s food budgets become smaller, a new focus on cheaper cuts, such as chicken thighs, beef brisket and even offal, has become the hot new trend in American kitchens. Try focusing on a long, slow cooking with these meats to get the very best out of them. They also tend to freeze beautifully, making them a budget savior.

11. Start living like a veggie.

If you’re already working the vegetarian vibe, then you’re already on the path to saving on your food budget. Ditching meat from your diet, even just a couple of days a week, can offer significant savings to your bank account. Try signing on to the global Meatless Monday Challenge, or simply make a pledge to eat veggie for one meal each day. Not only is it a healthy way to live, you can also save some extra cash effortlessly.

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12. Grow your own.

Love fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables? Even the tiniest of spaces can help support your food budget. Try growing a kitchen window box with your favorite herbs, planting a small garden in your backyard, or even just trying out a basic outdoor planter with a few carrots, onions and potatoes. You can grow a surprising amount of food, and once you’ve had it freshly picked, it’s difficult to go back to store-bought.

Featured photo credit: cpyles via flickr.com

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

2. Keep Them Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

4. Short Term vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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5. To Each to His Own

The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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6. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

7. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

8. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

It is here where that classification will help.

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So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding,

Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

11. Measure, Measure, Measure

All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

The Bottom Line

This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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