Set a specific budget. This tip may sound basic, but as I just said simply thinking about “not spending a lot of money” DOES NOT work! Here’s how to structure a budget…
Pick a realistic budget amount that you will adhere to each week or month. I personally think a weekly budget is easier to follow because you can’t go too far over budget before you realize you are in trouble.
Consider using cash in an envelope so going “over budget” isn’t even possible. (For those who’ve heard of Dave Ramsey, yes, we’ve both read his book!) Also, no matter what, make a commitment that if you do for some reason go over budget you will deduct that amount from the following week or month.
Define what will and will not be included in the budget. Will it just be for food or for household items too? What about alcohol, entertaining, and going out to eat?
Keep track of all your expenses on paper whether you use cash or not. It is important to see where your money goes.
Share and discuss the running budget total with the other adults in your household…accountability is what it’s all about!
Be organized and plan out your meals for the week. Last minute purchases that you haven’t put a lot of thought into can add up fast.
Minimize waste by saving all uneaten food instead of throwing anything away.
Know and use what you have on hand especially if it’s perishable. Even consider keeping an inventory list of food on your fridge or freezer so different family members can check off items as they use them. I know my husband is more likely to eat something in the fridge if I leave a note telling him it is there (don’t ask me why)!
Make substitutions in recipes to reduce how many things you have to buy…or even leave out a small ingredient all together.
Maximize “cheap” foods like bananas, beans, and pasta. Here are some of our favorite super cheap recipes:
Easy Slow Cooker Refried Beans
Banana Ice Cream
Sweet Potatoes and Apples
Split Pea Soup
Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
When making inexpensive meals like soups and pasta dishes double the recipe and freeze the leftovers for when you have one of those days where you just don’t have time to plan out a good dinner.
Make sacrifices like drinking water instead of milk and skipping juice and other flavored beverages all together. If you really have trouble kicking the juice habit at least water it down a little so the juice lasts longer.
Reduce your consumption of meat and desserts. Meat can be a big-ticket item and while dessert is certainly a “nice to have” it is by no means a regular necessity (sorry)! Also experiment with “stretching” your meat dishes by mixing in veggies and/or beans.
Buy produce that’s in-season and if you like to frequent your local farmers’ market try going just before closing time to get some great deals on items the vendors won’t want to haul back to the farm.
If you can’t afford the organic version of everything consult the dirty dozen list.
Check your receipt after you get home to make sure your money was spent wisely (most grocery stores accept returns and I’ve been known to take stuff back on occasion!).