It’s no secret everyone wants to save an extra dollar, or two, or three—or, as much as possible! And so we find ourselves periodically looking over our bank statements only to lament how we, once again, blew past our budget for coffee and Chinese takeout. And, if our regular indulgences weren’t to blame, we somehow still overspent.
It’s easy enough to do, thanks to any number of party invites or birthday we dinners we forgot to budget for. It’s all the worse when something unexpected, like a car bill or sudden illness leaves us with less cash flow.
But here’s the thing: Big, drastic and sudden changes in budgeting rarely work in the long-term. Instead, try this. Regularly save small everywhere you can. Remember that small savings turn into big savings over time. And it’s often the small purchases we repeatedly make that lead us to thoughtlessly overspend. If you make small changes on regular purchases, you’ll not only save immediately , but you’ll build up the muscle for better long-term savings practices.
To get you started, here’s how to save on groceries and all the other ordinary stuff you buy regularly.
Meal prepping is certainly one way to maximize your weekly grocery budget. You can easily whip up multiple days’ worth of meals with some batch cooking recipes. The key, however, to saving while at the grocery store, is simpler still. Make a list.
If you’re concocting elaborate recipes in your head for your upcoming meal prep, you’re going about this the wrong way. Take stock of what’s in your pantry and refrigerator first before you go shopping. Make note of any perishable items (i.e. produce and raw poultry) that you can cook with for the week.
Then, make two to three recipes you think can easily cook using the ingredients you already have. Pro tip: Search for recipes online by listing two or three of the key ingredients you want to work with. Chances are, you might only be short a handful of items you can then shop for at the grocer’s.
It’s no secret that buying items in bulk saves money (Hello, Costco!) Admittedly, this can be harder to do if you’re living alone or with little access to the buy-in-bulk stores. You do have some alternatives, though. The first is, find someone to split the costs with for items like trash bags, toilet paper, dish soap, etc.
Perhaps you have a roommate, or a family member nearby who wouldn’t mind alternating trips to a store where you can buy items in bulk. You can set a budget and alternate payments or simply split costs as they arise.
Another alternative: Shop through an online retailer like Amazon and sign up for a subscription. Using Amazon’s Subscribe & Save option, you can select which items you regularly purchase and how often you’d like a delivery. This can save you 15 percent on your total purchases.
Weekly coffee drinks
Munching on snacks and coffee during the work week is a surefire way to eat up your budget. This is one instance where investing in a coffee machine that works best for you is ideal. Whether it’s a Keurig single-cup espresso machine at home or a traditional drip-pour, making your own coffee at home will save you from that $5 small latte.
If your work office has a machine, take stock of whatever little extras you need to spruce up your cup of ‘jo. Bring your own milk creamer or sweetener in your own tumbler and you’ll resist the urge to spend at the local coffee shop.
There’s no way to control on a micro-level how much the local price of oil is in your city. What you can, do, however, is try and earn rewards while pumping gas. Consider this a way to earn back some cash you can then either add to your budget or use to pay down debt.
Some credit cards offer rewards of points for charging at a gas station. (We’ve rounded up some of the best rewards credit cards.) Research, too, whether your local grocery store has any partnerships with a gas station. Based on how many points you earn while grocery shopping, you can can earn a few cents to a dollar off each gallon pumped.
It’s true that some beauty products might be worth their weight in gold. But, for the most part, you can do with a good assortment of drugstore makeup and beauty products. Not only are the best drugstore beauty products cheaper than what’s at the department store, you can also often use coupons to lower the sales price.
Alternatively, you can make sure to get the most bang for your buck by ensuring you use every last drop, ounce or bit of makeup. Makeup packages are often designed for style, not function, so it can be hard to squeeze our the last ounce of face lotion or foundation from a tube. It’s doubly hard to get the last bit of lip product from the bottom of your favorite lipstick. Crack open the tube or cut any bottles and scoop out the remaining product. Or, you can use a teeny spatula like this one.
Drinks and food at the bar
Eating at a fancy restaurant and ordering even two drinks can easily cut into your budget faster than you can say “another round, please.” To save cash while dining, opt for an appetizer instead of a full dinner plate. Ask for a lemon slice in your water. Order the beer on tap versus the fancy cocktail. The gist is: avoid recipes and cocktails that are too complicated. They will cost more.
And, it’s worth remembering: Happy hour is your friend. It just is.