Don’t think you can afford to follow your dreams of traveling around the world or taking a year off from work?
The truth is, there are plenty of simple ways to save money in your day-to-day life that will help you build up your savings account, letting you take some time off and have the adventures you’ve always wanted to have. Here are the top 6 money-saving tips to make it happen.
Make a shopping list
Before hitting up your local supermarket, sit down and make a detailed shopping list. (We’re not kidding.) Meal planning makes it easier to stick with a budget, track what you spend and cut back on impulse buys.
It also means that you’ll have everything you need when it comes time to cook or bake! And with hundreds of online meal planners, it’s never been easier or more convenient.
But even so, some people still don’t plan meals. If you’re one of them, try setting aside an hour every week or two to plan out your upcoming meals for each day of the week.
You’ll be amazed at how much money you can save by doing something as simple as planning out your weekly meals.
For example, if you decide to buy four pounds of chicken instead of three pounds and make twice as many dishes from it over a week, then you’ll end up saving money overall.
Another great tip is to always look for sales—even during non-sale months—and keep an eye out for good deals. By stocking up on-sale items when they’re available, you can put together healthy meals at bargain prices.
Plan meals before you go shopping
If you shop on an empty stomach, you’re much more likely to make impulse purchases.
When you go grocery shopping without having eaten first, chances are high that you’ll end up buying more than necessary because your brain isn’t functioning at full capacity. So eat before heading to the store; better yet, pack a lunch and bring it along with you. This way, once you get there, all you have to do is grab exactly what’s on your list and head straight home.
Plus, going through your cabinets at home will help you determine what you already have and what’s missing. Go shopping only after making a list of everything you need and sticking with it when deciding what products are worth your cash.
Forgot to buy something? Don’t go back: Sure, there may be some ingredients that are necessary for tonight’s dinner or breakfast tomorrow morning, but most of us can skip one meal without too much trouble. Remember: You can always stop by that store tomorrow! And if not tomorrow, then next week—you don’t want to drive around aimlessly trying to find that one product while spending money unnecessarily along the way.
Cook at home
Cooking at home, even if you eat out for lunch and grab a coffee on your way to work, saves money.
Plus, there’s a lot of health benefits research that shows cooking food at home is better for you than eating out, since most restaurants cook with lots of extra oil and salt.
When you cook your meals at home, you can control how much salt and fat are added.
You can also save time by cooking multiple dishes at once—and freezing them for later use.
For example, make a big batch of soup or stew on Sunday night and then freeze individual portions so you have healthy dinners ready to go during busy weeknights.
Saving money while making sure your family eats well? Sounds like a win-win situation.
Use these tips when shopping for ingredients to help stretch your budget further:
- Avoid buying single servings of fruits and vegetables; buy large containers instead. Packaged items are usually more expensive per ounce than fresh produce.
- Buy frozen vegetables if fresh ones aren’t available; they last just as long as fresh vegetables and tend to be cheaper.
- Plan recipes based on ingredients that cost less rather than those that cost more, such as ground beef vs steak or chicken thighs vs chicken breasts.
- If you have a coupon for an item you don’t normally purchase, use it! Coupons can save you a lot of money on food. Check out grocery store ads online before heading out to shop—you might find some great deals on things you need anyway. If you don’t need all of an ingredient right away, freeze it so it will last longer. Or stock up on-sale items and freeze them until you need them later in the month.
Know Where It’s Cheapest to Shop
If you’re new to couponing, learning where it’s cheapest and easiest to do so is a good way to start.
It might be worth it to use a coupon app like Groupon or RetailMeNot. Once you get used to shopping with coupons, you can better determine whether you want to shop somewhere else if there aren’t any good deals on offer.
Also, remember that store brands are often cheaper than name brands. For example, Costco has Kirkland brand products that are often less expensive than other brands of their equivalent products (e.gCoca Cola).
Keep an eye out for these types of stores when shopping for household items. When it comes to food, you may want to stick with generic brands—although I’ve found them at times to taste just as good as their more expensive counterparts! You can also save money by buying things in bulk.
Many grocery stores now have bulk sections for people who prefer to buy in large quantities. You can even save money by buying produce at farmer’s markets, which tend to be much cheaper than produce sold at supermarkets. Finally, you should always take advantage of coupons and discount codes before making purchases online.
Check unit pricing
In some states, it’s required by law. In others, it might just be good practice. Whenever you buy a bunch of stuff at once (groceries, birthday gifts), take a few minutes to scan unit prices—the price per ounce or pound or another measurement.
You can save big if you spot a really good deal on something you need and plan your purchases accordingly.
For example, ground beef may seem like a better deal than chicken breasts when comparing per-pound prices, but check out their respective unit prices: A $5 pack of frozen ground beef yields about 12 ounces; a $6 pack of chicken breasts yields three times as much meat for only an extra dollar. And remember that sale prices are often per-unit, too.
So if a package is marked down from $3 to $2 because there are two fewer slices of cheese inside, that’s not necessarily a great deal—if each slice was originally priced at 50 cents.
Stop Eating At A Restaurant
Eat out less often, but better when you do
It’s easy to overindulge at restaurants, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up eating out altogether.
Try ordering a side of grilled veggies or getting a salad instead of an entrée. And skip dessert! (How often do you need it?) Consider bringing your lunch instead of buying it on campus.
You may not think you’re saving much, but every little bit adds up! When you eat out less, you’ll also spend less money and avoid gaining weight from consuming too many calories. Be smart about it and try not to lose sight of your long-term goals just because there are free cookies at work today.
If you can keep your daily spending down by $10 per week for one year, for example, that would add up to $520 saved—and maybe more if interest is factored in! That’s enough to buy some new clothes or put toward a vacation fund.
Because you don’t want those new clothes hanging in your closet unworn, here are some other ways to save: Make sure you aren’t paying more than necessary for utility bills; shop around for cheaper cell phone plans; get cashback when shopping online with cashback sites like Ebates, and use coupons whenever possible.