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Stop throwing your money into the garbage. Literally. When you put time and effort into saving money of food, allowing food to spoil is like taking a step back. The average American household throws away $600 in groceries every year, and I have been part of the guilty party in the past as well. Here are the ways I have found to cut down on my food waste.
Showcase your produce – Vegetable crispers are the most common place to store produce. Supposedly these bins help to increase the life of your produce, but it seems that fruits and vegetables become buried a large heap and rot. I store my process foods in these drawers instead like cheese and lunch meat. I place whatever fruits and vegetables I have in plain view. I will routinely place apples, oranges, peaches, and mangos together in a large bowl in the fridge so that they are easy to see and ready to be selected.
Make your perishables a grab-and-go snack – One of my classmates used to go shopping for fresh produce every Sunday and then cut up all her fruit so that she had a prepared fruit salad to pack in her lunches all week. Preparing fruits and vegetables ahead of time makes a huge difference in how likely you are to chose them as a snack. Below is my latest fruit prepackaging. I simply prepared one container each of strawberries and grapes from Costco and packaged them into these empty gelato containers we had lying around. I gave one to my friend as a snack and she didn’t want to take it initially because she said it looked expensive. I actually had to explain it was a cheap self-creation!
Tupperware and small mason jars are also great containers to use to make your fruits and vegetables very accessible at all times. To make the snack more interesting, you can put a squirt of your favorite dressing or hummus at the bottom and then fill the rest of the container with carrot, celery sticks, cucumber slices, or cherry tomatoes. Some other ideas include putting Cool Whip with sliced strawberries or apple slices with peanut butter.
Stock up your freezer – fruits and vegetables that are about to go bad can be cut up, places in a freezer bag, and stored until ready for use. Most fruit can simply be cut and frozen. You can put 1 serving of fruit into each freezer bag so that they are smoothie-ready as well. Vegetables have more variation in how they are best frozen. The following link from Gardenguides.com simplifies the guesswork for us: http://www.gardenguides.com/416-freezing-vegetables.html.
Eggs can also be frozen and then thawed in the refrigerator prior to use. I would recommend using the eggs for recipes where they are mixed in rather than as an omelet. It is just a guess though! http://whatscookingamerica.net/Eggs/FreezingEgg.htm.
Downgrade your services. Do you really need 100+ television channels? Many of us grew up with basic television and survived just fine. My friend made an excellent point when she said, “I have basic cable. I thought about upgrading to one of those packages with a lot of channels, but I find so much to watch with the channels I have now that I would probably never leave the house if I had anymore.” Bottom line: If you have it, you will watch it, but do you need it?
We currently pay $19.99 a month with Dish Network for basic channels plus a few others like Food network, Cooking channel, DIY network, and Nickelodeon. Dish Network also has a program where you can refer a friend and both the referrer and referee get $50 off their bill.http://www.dish.com/customerservice/referral/. Last year, my Comcast bill for cable and internet was $100 for two TVs and no DVR and that was being a new customer. Now I have AT&T for $19.99 a month which puts my total at $40. That means $60 a month extra in my pocket!
Another way to get cheaper services is to call the company and ask for a price reduction. Whenever my grandpa’s cable bill goes up, he calls the company and says he cannot afford the increase and would like to cancel. They lower his bill every time. Right now he is paying $14.99 a month for a similar package to mine. Don’t want to call yourself? Billcutterz.com is a service that will call the provider for you and then split the difference in your savings. For example, if they lower your monthly bill from $100 to $70, you save $15 a month and they profit $15 a month so that you are paying $85 instead of $100. http://billcutterz.com/cpf
Buy your stuff second hand. I just moved into my first unfurnished apartment, and Goodwill has been very good to me. My apartment would be very empty right now had I not discovered it. I bought three chairs for $14.99 each, 3 end/coffee tables for $14.99-$19.99 each. Target also donates products that they couldn’t sell or that have damaged boxes to Goodill stores. I have a brand new computer chair I bought for $24.99 which retails at the actual store for $99.99. All parts were present and I had no problems putting the chair together. You can also buy kitchenware, clothes, games, and printers there. My boyfriend recently wanted a rice cooker. I could not find one in stores for less than $25. We ended up getting a really nice one at Goodwill for $6.99! If you sign up for their free rewards card, you save an extra 5% any total over $20 and you receive a 25% coupon on your birthday as well as other promotional offers.
Aside from Goodwill, the popularity of second hand stores is expanding very quickly. Second hand stores are usually small, quaint, and you may have passed them several times without realizing that they are there. Just type “second hand store” into Google Maps to find locations in your area.
As well priced as second hand stores may be, they do not beat FREE. Craigslist has a free section where people post items they want to get rid of. There is also Freecycle.org which is similar and is based on the idea that it is better to give away something you don’t want rather than have it end up in a landfill. Alternatively, you can always send and e-mail to some friends and family and ask if they have what you are looking for. You never know what is sitting untouched in someone’s garage or basement.
Ditch the expensive gym membership. If you go to the gym religiously or attend fitness classes a few times a week, the membership may be worth the money. But if you are spending $50 a month for a gym you go to less than once a week on average, you can easily pocket that money and find cheaper alternative ways to exercise. Try checking out fitness DVDs from the library or access them on Netflix. Once you find one you like, then consider purchasing it. If you prefer to just buy your entire collection of workout DVDs, swap them with a friend once you fell like you need to change up your routine. Between pilates, yoga, kickboxing, strength training, and dance videos, there is most likely something out there for you to enjoy. If you are looking for an intense cardio workout, The Biggest Loser DVDs are a great option.
Running and jogging are classic, cheap options, but if that is too much for you just walk. I personally enjoy my walks more if I have a destination in mind, so I will walk to a park that is a mile and a half away or to a grocery store that is 2 miles away. It ensures I am walking a long enough distance and I am motivated to get there because I have a target in mind.
For strength, purchasing a pair of weights will take you a long way, but if you don’t want to spend the money you can use heavier food items like cans. There is a vast quantity of on-line strength training pages. Even the Mayo Clinic has a video series on strength training with can be found here: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/strength-training/MY00033.
Get money back on your purchases. There is no reason not to get money back on your purchases anymore! I use my Chase Freedom credit card because it is linked to my checking account and it takes me 30 seconds to transfer the funds to pay my balance. My benefits include 1% cash back on all purchases and 5% back on certain purchases determined quarterly (right now grocery stores and movie theaters). In depth reviews of various credit reward cards can be found at the following link: http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/top-credit-cards/nerdwallets-best-rewards-credit-cards/
Credit cards are not the only way to earn cash back. My mom does a lot of online shopping and swears by Ebates.com which is a great way to earn money back on your online purchases. It is free to sign up, and you get a percentage of cash back on your online purchases which vary from store to store. They then send you a check in the mail. I am not a huge on-line shopper, but I see this site as being very handy around the holiday season. J
This concludes the two part budgeting series. Just remember, small changes add up to big savings! Good luck and thanks for stopping by!