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Things I’ve Learned About Budgeting This Past Year
Over the past year, we have been down to one income while we try to grow Winey Parent. It has been an amazing journey, and a lot easier in some respects than I ever imagined. Yes, there are still stresses about finances, but, overall, we are happier and doing just as well, if not better financially than before. The changes we have made haven’t been massively life changing, but they have made a massive impact on our bottom line.
Let’s dive into these 10 ways to save money!
1. Meal Planning
The biggest, and probably hardest change was the way that we eat and grocery shop/meal plan. Food is usually every families biggest expense (aside from housing and childcare). But it is also one of the areas of the budget that you can make the most change. When Travis left his job over a year ago, we knew we had to stop eating out, getting take out, and wasting food when we did cook at home. This ONE change has impacted our bottom line so much (and our bottoms – good lord eating out is so bad for your waistline!).
Now, it is not easy to break the take-out habit. When we first started there were some really shaky meals that I put together (hello PBJ!), but once I got into the habit of it, and made a meal planning board, it was so much easier. I started out by heading over to Pinterest and finding some easy, and relatively inexpensive meals that my family would actually eat. I started writing those recipes down on index cards to easily access them when planning the week’s meals. All I had to do was clip the recipe card up on my meal planning board and then cook from that card. It took the stress out of figuring out what to eat. It also helped with the “we have nothing defrosted” dilemma.
Yes, by now most of us know how much you can save at Aldi, so I won’t go into extensive details. But this change has saved us hundreds of dollars. I still approach shopping at Aldi like I did when I shopped elsewhere. I first look at the sales, then I see what meals I can make with their sale items. Then, I make a list to STICK TO when I shop. If you don’t have an Aldi near you, at least make a list and look at the sales. Stock up on really big sales (but only if you are going to use it before it goes bad). And, again, definitely stick to the list.
3. Receipt Hog
I love receipt hog for its simplicity. I don’t have to search for products, I just upload my receipt each week and earn points. This isn’t going to make you tons of money, but it is easy and actually fun! You get slot spins each week you upload a receipt. So far, I have enough points to get $40 deposited to my PayPal account. That’s just bonus cash in my book.
This is another one I am sure you have heard about. It is similar to Receipt Hog in that you upload receipts, but for this one you can get extra money for certain products. Sign up here to start earning money today!
5. Amazon Pantry
I just started using Amazon Pantry and it is so nice to get some of those staples delivered to my door for the same price or LESS than I could get by going into the store. Another bonus of not having to go into the store is you don’t end up picking up a bunch of impulse buys while you are there. Plus, you save on gas by not driving to the store.
6. GetUpside App
While saving gas is great, we all need to fill up from time to time. Why not save money when you sign up by using Get Upside? I seriously love this app. All you have to do is check in on the app and pump your gas. Then just snap a picture of the receipt and you get cash back into your account. They have even updated their app so that if you are using a familiar credit card it automatically credits your account when you check-in. No receipts needed! Start earning money on something you are going to buy anyway by downloading the GetUpside app.
7. Get a New Credit Card
You may be thinking I have lost my mind on this one, but seriously, I switched to a new credit card that gives me 1% back on EVERYTHING I buy, AND 1% back for every dollar I pay off. That’s money for things I am going to buy anyway. The secret to this one is to pay off that card every month so you aren’t incurring huge interest. I have already cashed in my rewards twice (thank you for the summer money and Christmas cash!). Just make sure you pay off the balance or it is not a good deal.
8. Automatically Transfer Money to Savings Each Pay
Now this one might be really hard, especially if you are living paycheck to paycheck. But if you have been cutting back on the food budget like I mentioned before and earning money back on things you already need to buy, then you should have a little left over each month. Start small and then increase your automatic transfers as you start to adjust to living on less.
9. Pay Down Your Debts
Another common sense one here. The sooner you pay off debt, the less interest you are going to be paying. This one is hard for me, but I still try to work on it each month. We have gotten to a comfortable place with our bi-weekly savings, so if I have anything leftover after bills and automatic savings, it goes to one of our debts. I try to focus on one debt at a time. I still make the monthly payments on everything, but then focus any extra money on one debt until it is paid off. Then I have the money that I would be putting towards that debt to throw at another debt. It’s not fun to pay off debt, but it does feel good to have one less bill each month.
10. Cut Back on Any Extras
This is hard. We don’t go out as much or buy the kids things right away. But the kids have more appreciation when we do buy them something or do something special. And we still splurge from time to time to make sure we can still recharge. We just do it way less often, and we are much smarter about it. Our favorite restaurant, for example, was offering a Black Friday sale – 50% off all gift certificates. We stocked up. That will be our date night funds for a while.
Sharing Extra Ways to Save Money
We also cut back on things like electricity around the house. This summer, we set the thermostat higher than we had ever set it before. It was set to 72 degrees for most of the summer. Of course, we were able to adjust it on those severely hot days, but for the most part, we kept it warmer during the summer and it is cooler in the winter (69 degrees). We turn off lights when not using them and switched everything over to LED lights. After we moved in to our current home we had a home energy audit and made some changes to be more energy efficient. Little things add up over time.
What things have you done to save money? Share your tips and tricks in the comments, and as always, thanks for stopping by the Winey Parent!
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