Creative Savings & Budget Ideas

Living Within a Budget – It’s Easier Than Your Think

Give yourself a pat on the back—you’ve made your budget and you are ready to get started implementing it. Living within a budget can be intimidating to say the least, you know where your money is going and to whom, but how do you live with what is left over?

Living within a budget takes a bit of effort on your part. A sure-fire way to fail is to set your household spending money too low. Of course, you may not have much control over that area of your finances—what’s left over is all you have. Don’t panic just yet. Here are a few ways you can make living within a budget work.

1) Seasonal sales are one way to keep your spending on target and still get what you need. Christmas, Easter, Halloween and back to school sales usually start weeks ahead of schedule. If you can manage to wait it out and get to the sales a few days before they end, you can get some super cheap deals.

2) Watch for supermarket mark-downs. Meats, produce and other perishables will be marked down so the company doesn’t have to toss foods when they expire. Find out what days your grocery stores mark down these products (usually Tuesdays) and be there early to get the best choices. You shouldn’t buy more than you can use since tossing food is a waste of your money. Freeze what you can and plan on using the rest within a specific time frame.

3) Keep an eye on your favorite grocery stores and figure out the best days and times to shop. When do the sales items change? When do they mark down meat for the week? When are the shelves full and the parking lot empty? Knowing when you’ll find the best selection at the lowest prices can make quite a difference in your grocery budget.

4) Shop on the first and last days of the sale. Shopping on the first day means you can pretty much get what you want at lower prices. On the other hand, waiting until the last day may mean the prices will drop even lower so the store can get rid of the products. The selection might be limited, but you can really score some great deals by waiting it out. Remember, they are only deals if you really need the stuff.

5) Shopping online is one simple way to budget your money. Because you are shopping in your own home, there is no rush and you can compare products and prices until you find just what you are looking for at a price that fits your budget. Be sure to budget shipping costs too.

6) Stop impulse buying using this one easy trick. If you need to buy something, go window shopping and leave your money, checkbook and credit cards at home. Make a list of all the items that might fit within your budget, include their prices. Go home and study that list and make the best choices, then go back to the store and buy only the items on the updated list. This way you get the deals and you know exactly how much you will be spending.

Living within a budget requires you to keep up on the local and online sales so you can find the best prices. You don’t have to live without, you just have to spend the money you have wisely.


6 Ways to Save Money at the Grocery Store

It seems like the hardest place to try and save money is the grocery store. Prices keep going up and as your family grows up, they tend to eat more. What’s a mom to do? Here are 6 ways to save money at the grocery store that don’t require too much effort on your part.

1) Buy less. You may have heard that buying in bulk saves you money, but that is only if you are buying non-perishable items that you use often. Purchasing too much of one food usually guarantees that most of it will go into the trash. Only buy in bulk if you know you will use that ingredient within the expiration date or if you have room to freeze it all.

2) Make a budget book. Keep track of the groceries you buy often. Make a list of things like bread, butter, milk and all the other usual suspects, and write the prices down for each after your shopping trips. Buy doing this, you can see how the prices fluctuate from week to week, and you can also compare between grocery stores. Keeping a budget book is also a good way to match savings with coupons and flyers using the average cost of these items, to see if you are really getting a deal.

3) Buy meat wisely. The meat department is where the bulk of your budget goes. Try making a few meatless meals to save money. If your family isn’t going to go for that idea, then buy cheaper cuts and make lots of stews and casseroles. You can sometimes get a good deal at the butcher shop for a side of beef, but keep in mind you need a big freezer for this purchase.

4) Do your own processing. It costs more money to buy products that save you time. Sorry, but in order to save, you may have to put a little elbow grease into your meals. Buy your produce in tact and cut it up when you get home. Buy chickens whole and cut them up yourself. For a few weeks, use your budget book to keep track of the regular purchases, then buy your items whole and process them yourself. You will be quite surprised at the price difference.

5) Buy store brands. Store brands save you money. Even if you have a coupon for a name brand product, the off brand will more than likely be cheaper. Compare the ingredients and you will see that there really isn’t that much of a difference between name brand and store brand. On the other hand, if you family absolutely hates the store brand, then you aren’t saving money if you have to throw the food away.

6) Always shop with a list. Walking into the grocery store unprepared is a sure way to wind up with lots of food you have no use for, and not enough of anything to make a complete meal.

There are numerous ways to save money at the grocery store. The six ways mentioned here are easy to implement and should show immediate savings.


Don’t Throw It Away! Save Money By Finding New Uses For Old Items

When most of us make the decision to start saving money, the focus is on the actual dollar amount we spend every month. Did you know that you can also save money by reusing old items that you would normally throw away? Our elders knew how to get the most use out of everything they owned and you can do the same. Here are some ways you can save money by finding new uses for old items.

1) Leftover cookies make excellent pie crusts for cream pies. When you have a few cookies leftover, put them in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Put them in the freezer for future use. Get really creative and mix different types of cookies together for an interesting piecrust. Replace the graham crackers with cookies in homemade piecrust recipes.

2) Soap chips were never thrown away by your elders, they were used in many different ways. One way to reuse these small chips is to take a large washcloth, sew the edges all the way around leaving just enough room to insert the soap chips. Sew up the small opening and you have and instant loofah.

3) Need to keep your feet warmer this winter? Use old carpet or rug remnants inside your shoes for extra warmth and padding. Trace your feet, not the shoe, onto the remnant and cut out. Place inside your boots to keep your feet toasty warm. This is a money saver if your boots are great on the outside, but torn or worn on the inside.

4) If you have a wooden roller shade that is ripped remove the shade (measure length and width before tossing) and save the roller and slat. Purchase an inexpensive shower curtain or table cloth measure and cut to the size of the original shade. Staple to the roller and you now have a cute replacement shade for a fraction of the cost of a new one.

5) Save plastic mesh bags that come from oranges and potatoes. They can be used when washing items like stuffed animals in the washing machine or you can reuse them to store other fruits and vegetables that you buy in bulk.

6) You can reuse pickle juice. Add slices of cucumbers, cauliflower, peppers and onions to the juice and let it sit for a few days in the fridge before eating. You can use the same jar the pickles came in.

7) Bread crumbs and pieces of all types should be cubed or ground in the food processor as soon as possible before the expiration date. Store them in plastic bags and freeze. Use the cubes for homemade stuffing or croutons and the ground pieces for meatloaf and meatballs.

Finding new uses for old items can save you money over time. A penny saved is a penny earned when it comes to budgeting your money every month. What new uses for old items can you come up with?


Clever Ideas to Make Your Paycheck Last Longer

If you are like most families, you count the days until you get paid again. It really isn’t that hard to make your paycheck stretch the whole two weeks, you just need to make a few small adjustments. Here are some clever ways to help you hang on to your hard-earned cash a little longer every month.

1) Bump up your take-home pay. If it has been a few years since you began working for your current employer, it may be time for an update on your W-4 form. You may have claimed zero so you wouldn’t owe taxes at the end of the year, but with all the new tax cuts for families, this may no longer be a wise choice. If you start claiming more exemptions, you will have less money withheld from your paycheck and more in your pocket, plus money back come April 15.

2) Put yourself on a daily budget. On payday spend your money like you don’t have any. Pay the bills that are due and buy groceries of course, but with the left over money you need to budget it carefully, and here is how:

Divide the lump sum by the amount of days left until payday. That is how much you can spend a day. If you have $200 dollars left and you have 12 days until payday, you can spend around $16 dollars a day. If you spend only $10 of that money a day, you have $72 left come your next payday. Save that money every month and you have Christmas paid for!

3) Stop the coffee habit. You knew this one was coming. Yes it is fashionable to go through the Starbucks drive thru, but it costs a lot of money to flaunt that designer coffee cup around. If you really want to save money, wake up and smell the home-brewed coffee! Add a flavored coffee creamer to your own coffee and get over it. At $4 a cup twice a week, you would be saving yourself around $400 a year.

4) Do some repairs yourself. It used to be that if anything went wrong with your car or appliances you had no other choice but to call a repairman. There is a better way to fix some things and save money: It’s called YouTube. If the blinker light goes out on your car, look up how to replace the bulb on YouTube. There is a video out there for almost anything and it would be wise to check there before you call the handyman.

5) Stop your guilty conscience spending. If you are one of those parents who has to spend lots of time away from home working, you may ease your guilty conscience by purchasing extravagant things for your kids to make up for it. Stop spending money and start spending quality time with your kids. That may only be a few hours every night, but make those hours count by making popcorn and watching a movie together or spend time reading or playing games. This is low-cost time well spent.


Paying Your Bills – There is a Method to the Madness

There is nothing worse than having to sit down with your checkbook or at your computer and pay bills, yet it is something that has to be done every month whether we like it or not. Here is some good news, there is a method to this madness that can make the job a little easier for you, and save you some time when tax season rolls around.

Keep all your bills on a spreadsheet or in a notebook. List the name, due date and amount; you can add other information if you need it. Pay attention to the due dates so you never miss a payment and incur late fees. Also remember to not pay too early if you have an interest-bearing checking account because everyday your money stays in the account, the more interest you accrue.

Pay all your monthly bills that have a fixed amount like your rent or mortgage first and then go in and pay your other monthly bills. Fixed bills are usually the most expensive and are always due on the same day every month. Pay your other monthlies by the due date and in the order of importance. For instance, pay the electric bill before paying the cable bill. If something should go wrong, you at least have heat and lights.

If for some reason you cannot pay a bill when it is due, don’t throw it aside and pretend it’s not there. Call the company and make arrangements to get it paid as soon as you can. The last thing you need is to have a bill turned over to collections, especially if you can make payment arrangements.

File your receipts as you go and you will find tax season goes by a little easier. Make files for all your categories like medical, donations and the like. After you pay the bill, put the receipts into the appropriate file folder. This only takes a few minutes and it can save you time in locating receipts when you need them.

While you are paying bills, it is a good time to sort receipts for items you may have purchased that month. File receipts alphabetically so you have instant access to them incase you need to use a warranty or return an item to the store.

Setting up your filing system and your account log whether it is on your computer or hard copy, takes time. It isn’t going to be a fun job, but if you take the time and do it, you will see that paying your bills and keeping track of all your paperwork becomes second nature to you. Go ahead and start getting those files ready so you can make paying your next round of bills a little easier.

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