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Buying More Stuff Won’t Make You Happy

Do more. Work harder. Jump higher. Go faster. Phrases like these illustrate just how obsessed with increase our culture has become. Holiday spending, Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and overall consumption in general prove that we are a culture primarily focused on material possessions. If you’ve bought into the hype and spend your time and money striving to accumulate more and more, you need to know the truth: Buying more stuff won’t make you happy.

I’ll be the first to admit that happiness is one of the greatest mysterious of life. It comes and goes seemingly as it pleases, often without any obvious reason. And when it inevitably goes, human nature leads me to medicate the pain with stuff. But I’ll also be quick to admit that my human nature has led me down the wrong path many times in life, so it probably shouldn’t be trusted.

In a culture obsessed with increase, everyone wants more and thinks it will make them happier. But the truth is buying more stuff won't make you happy. Real happiness and contentment is deeper and lasting. When it comes down to it, each of us has a choice to make: will we live a life focused on accumulating more possessions with the goal of increasing our happiness, or will we learn to find authentic happiness in other places?

Take a moment and think back on some of the birthday gifts you desperately wanted as a kid. I’m talking about the gifts that you truly thought would change your life forever, like a new bike, video game system, or special toy.

Do you still have that item today? I didn’t think so.

Logically, it follows that your happiness wasn’t really dependent on that one special thing after all.

So why do we buy more and more even though stuff won’t us happy?

The short answer: we’re looking for the quick fix of adrenaline that buying things provides.

The long answer: we don’t understand the true nature of what makes us happy.

When you buy that new car, trendy pair of imported shoes, or new house, it is often for the wrong reasons: making a statement, impressing others, trying to fill an emotional void, or suppressing other feelings.

On the other hand, if you’ve planned ahead, spent within your budget and means, and truly value the items you’ve purchased, then that is a wise purchase. The difference lies in self-understanding and developing an accurate picture of what you value most.

Why Buying More Stuff Won’t Make You Happy

The bottom line is that more often than not buying more stuff won’t make you happy. Check out the following reasons to see for yourself why this is true.

More stuff leads to more responsibility

Sometimes my wife and I like to walk our dogs along a trail near some of the largest homes in our neighborhood. It usually leads to a discussion about what it must be like to live in such a large home.

Not everyone will share our viewpoint, but it is undeniable that living in a larger home and having more possessions leads to more responsibility. Psychology shows us that people thrive when their responsibilities provide them with purpose in life, but the opposite is true when too many responsibilities make people overwhelmed.

Buying more stuff can lead to debt

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m so happy to be drowning in so much credit card and student loan debt! At least I’ve got this sweet pair of Jimmy Choos!”?

No? I haven’t either.

The truth is that many people buy stuff they can’t afford to buy and end up deep in debt. Once the adrenaline rush of that new purchases feds, stress and regret move in quickly.

I like to think that it’s not a coincidence that debt and regret rhyme so nicely.

You are not your possessions

My wife and I watch Friends re-runs now and then, and one of my favorite show moments involves a conversation between Monica and Roger, a psychiatrist. After a long conversation, Roger leaves Monica and Ross, who are sitting at the table eating cookies.

“Mon, um, easy on those cookies, okay? Remember they’ re just food. They’re not love,” Roger says.

We laugh, but the same can be said of the stuff we buy. Remember, they’re just things.

They’re not happiness.

And they certainly don’t define you in any way.

Your stuff won’t make you happy because happiness is deeper.

Your stuff is costly

While a lot of items we buy are expensive, that’s not what I mean by the heading above. Your stuff is truly costing you in more ways than you realize.

For example, if you bought a boat and financed the purchase, the cost goes beyond just the principle and interest payments you make each month. Your time spent earning money to make the payments, missed opportunities to do other things because you have a boat that needs to be used every weekend, and lost time and money to maintenance and repairs are additional costs.

Stuff ties us down

The above example of the boat also illustrates another way stuff won’t make you happy: it leads to obligations and limitations on your life.

I’ve watched friends and family buy campers, motor homes, recreational vehicles, bigger houses, new cars, and yes, boats, only to see the initial euphoria replaced by the sinking feeling of a boat anchor firmly resting at the bottom of a lake.

Put simply, if you buy the wrong stuff, your still will have you.

Emotions change

It is true even for the most-stoic of people – emotions change.

All. The. Time.

This is precisely why it is dangerous to allow your emotions to be dependent on the presence of physical items. Every time the initial rush of a new purchase wears off, you’ll be desperate to replace that feeling.

Too many possessions are not healthy

When you have too many possessions, you cannot possibly use them all. Even if you’re not a hoarder, keeping too many things around starts to affect their utilitarian value.

Many experts recommend getting rid of one or two items for every new item purchased. My wife and I follow this guideline when buying new clothing. We also clean out our closets a few times each year and purge clothes that we haven’t worn in over a year. This decision has made both laundry and planning our clothing choices much easier.

Focusing on possessions leads us to miss out on what is most important

At the end your life, do you think you’ll rest in your final moments and recall the experiences you had with your favorite possessions? Or will you cling to your loved ones, recall special memories with them, and cherish your relationships?

Personally, I don’t fear death, but I do fear reaching the finish line of life and realizing that I lived by the wrong values and priorities. Living a life that worships stuff is a sure-fire way to one day end up old, tired, and full of regret.

If you take away one thing from this article, it should be this: stuff won’t make you happy. 

Please don’t wait until your deathbed to discover that this is true.

What choice will you make?

When it comes down to it, each of us has a choice to make: will we live a life focused on accumulating more possessions with the goal of increasing our happiness, or will we learn to find authentic happiness in other places?

In a culture obsessed with increase, everyone wants more and thinks it will make them happier. But the truth is buying more stuff won't make you happy. Real happiness and contentment is deeper and lasting. When it comes down to it, each of us has a choice to make: will we live a life focused on accumulating more possessions with the goal of increasing our happiness, or will we learn to find authentic happiness in other places?

10 Must-Try Crock Pot Meals On a Budget

Few tools can compare to the money and time saving powers of the Crock Pot. In our household, we use our two Crock Pots several times per week, which saves us from expensive trips to Panera or calling for pizza. We have a steady rotation of Crock Pot meals that we love, and they’re even budget-friendly!

Our 10 Favorite Go-to Crock Pot Meals

In this post, we’re assembling a round-up of 10 of our favorite quick and cheap Crock Pot meals. Some of them are original recipes that my wife and I have created from scratch, and others are tried-and-true recipes created by others that we instantly loved.

Related Reading:

Few tools can top the money and time saving perks of the Crock Pot. Check out these 10 quick, cheap, and delicious Crock Pot meals that everyone will love, including recipes for spaghetti, chicken tacos, beef stew, BBQ meatballs, Cuban Pork, mac and cheese, beef tacos, chicken noodle soup, and chicken tortilla soup. The best part? These recipes are budget-friendly!1. Chicken Tacos

On extremely busy days, chicken tacos are our go-to meal because the ingredients list is very small and prep time is almost non-existent.  The tacos are ready to eat when we get home from work, they’re delicious, and clean-up is a breeze!

Source: FinanceSuperhero.com

Ingredients:

-2 pounds chicken breasts or tenderloins
-One jar of salsa (we prefer Simply Nature Organic Thick and Chunky Medium Salsa from Aldi)
-1/4 cup water

Steps:

1. Place all ingredients in the Crock Pot.
2. Cook on Low setting for 8-10 hours.
3. When cooked, shred chicken using forks.
4. Serve on tortillas with desired ingredients (lettuce, cheese, sour cream, etc.).

2. Crock Pot Spaghetti

Source: LifeShouldCostLess.com

When I was young, my aunt made a great spaghetti recipe – sometimes with her Crock Pot, and sometimes on the stove. This recipe from Sarah at Life Should Cost Less is just as good and is very time and budget-friendly!

Here are my favorite aspects of the recipe:

Prep time is only 5 minutes if you’re using pre-browned ground beef
-The noodles cook in the Crock Pot
-Clean-up is a breeze
-You can change up the recipe and use a variety of noodles (bow ties, angel hair, farfalle, etc.)
-You can substitute your favorite sauce or even use homemade sauce

3. Chicken Tortilla Soup

Source: Justapinch.com

To be 100% honest, I don’t love many soup recipes because they get pretty boring after eating them several days in a row. However, this awesome chicken tortilla soup recipe from Carla Smith never fails to keep my taste buds interested for days on end. It is a perfect mixture of bold, spicy flavors and hearty, satisfying textures.

Technically, this recipe doesn’t fall within the “Crock Pot meals” category. However, you can easily cook the chicken in advance and make the rest of the recipe using your Crock Pot.

4. Ground Beef Tacos

Source: FinanceSuperhero.com

Ingredients:

-2 pounds ground beef
-1/2 cup Ketchup (more or less to taste)
-3 tablespoons chili powder (more or less to taste)
-1 teaspon paprika (optional)
-1/2 teaspon Cayenne pepper (optional)

Steps:

1. Crumble the uncooked ground beef in the Crock Pot
2. Cook on Low for 6-8 hours
3. Drain excess grease and return ground beef to Crock Pot
4. Add desired spices and Ketchup to the ground beef and mix thoroughly
5. Allow ground beef and sauce mixture to warm and thicken slightly (5-10 minutes)
6. Serve on tortillas with desired toppings (lettuce, cheese, sour cream, etc.)

5. Game Day BBQ Meatballs

Source: FinanceSuperhero.com

Ingredients:

-2.5 lb bag of frozen, fully-cooked meatballs (or substitute homemade meatballs to save more money!)
-1 jar of Heinz Chili Sauce
-1 jar of generic grape jelly
-(optional) 4 drops of Wright’s Hickory Liquid Smoke

Steps:

1. Add all ingredients to Crock Pot and cook on low, stirring occasionally

Note: This recipe is a tried and true favorite and may already be a party staple in your family. The addition of liquid smoke adds a unique depth of flavor and adds new life to this classic recipe.

6. Ridiculously Easy Pulled Pork

My wife and I are huge barbecue fanatics, and few Crock Pot meals satisfy the urge for barbecue like this simple pulled pork recipe.

Source: FinanceSuperhero.com

Ingredients:

-1 whole pork loin
-1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
-3 tablespoons chili powder
-1 tablespoon garlic powder
-1 cup water
-(optional) Barbecue sauce of choice
-(optional) 4 drops of Wright’s Hickory Liquid Smoke
Pretzel or ciabatta rolls

Steps:

1. Place the pork loin in the Crock Pot with the fattiest side down
2. Mix the dry rub ingredients in a bowl and apply liberally to the top side of the pork loin
3. Add the water and liquid smoke to the Crock Pot, making sure to avoid rinsing the dry rub off the pork loin
4. Cook on low for 8-10 hours
5. Remove pork loin from the Crock Pot and shred using forks
6. Place shredded pork back in the Crock Pot and add your desired barbecue sauce (optional)
7. Allow sauce to warm and thicken, then serve on pretzel or ciabatta rolls

7. Boxcar Beef Stew

Source: FinanceSuperhero.com

When my wife was younger she was obsessed with the children’s book series The Boxcar Children. Her mom created this simple Crock Pot meal to get her and her brother to eat their meat and vegetables!

Ingredients:

-2 lbs beef stew meat
-4 large carrots, chopped
-1 onion, chopped
-4 celery stalks, chopped
-4 medium potatoes, pealed and cubed
-1 can tomato juice
-1 cup water

Steps:

1. Add all ingredients to the Crock Pot
2. Cook on low for 8 hours

8. Set and Forget Mac and Cheese

Source: Pipandebby.com

I seriously wish all recipes could be this easy. This simple mac and cheese recipe from Pip and Ebby is as easy as it gets – and it is delicious!

Making this recipe is simple. Follow the link above, throw all of the specified ingredients in your Crock Pot on low, stir occasionally, and serve 2-3 hours later.

Tip: You can spruce this recipe up even more by adding grilled Andouille sausage and fresh cut scallions. 

9. Cuban Pork

Source: Amy at Bellyfull.net in collaboration with Smithfield

I had never eaten Cuban pork sandwiches until we attended my niece’s first birthday party. Now I fear I may be developing a new obsession.

This recipe from Amy at Bellyfull.net is very similar to the recipe my brother-in-law used and is every bit as good. I’m seriously drooling just looking at the picture to the right.

My favorite aspect of this and other similar Crock Pot meals is versatility. You can serve this on your favorite rolls, tortillas, or over a bed of lettuce and rice.

10. Chicken Noodle Soup

This is one of our go-to Crock Pot meals simply because it is fast, easy, and doesn’t make an overbearingly high number of servings. You’ll love this chicken noodle recipe on cold winter nights.

Source: FinanceSuperhero.com

Ingredients:

-1 lb cooked chicken breast, shredded
-5 cups water
-4 chicken bullion cubes
-1 teaspoon salt
-4 cups egg noodles
-1/3 cup celery, chopped
-1/3 cup carrots, chopped
-2 potatoes, peeled and cubed

Steps:

1. Pre-cook chicken in oven, grill, or stove top; shred
2. Place all ingredients in Crock Pot
3. Cook on low for 8 hours, stirring occasionally



What are your favorite Crock Pot meals? Share your recipe below in the comments!

Few tools can top the money and time saving perks of the Crock Pot. Check out these 10 quick, cheap, and delicious Crock Pot meals that everyone will love, including recipes for spaghetti, chicken tacos, beef stew, BBQ meatballs, Cuban Pork, mac and cheese, beef tacos, chicken noodle soup, and chicken tortilla soup. The best part? These recipes are budget-friendly!

The Biggest Reason Why Budgets Fail and the Easy Solution

If you’re like most adults, you have a love-hate relationship with your budget. You love the hope and optimism your budget gives you at the start of the month, and you hate tallying up the numbers at the end of the month only to realize that you didn’t stick to your budget – again. It is a discouraging cycle, to say the least. And it causes many people to abandon budgeting once and for all and leaves them wondering why budgets fail.

The biggest reason why budgets fail isn’t just about numbers or behavior. Budgets don’t fail or succeed because you switched from Excel to paper-and-pencil. And they don’t fail because you missed a day recording purchases. The truth is that most budgets fail because you haven’t given yourself a good enough reason to follow it.

A budget is easy to create and very hard to stick to consistently. The real reason why budgets fail is so simple that it may surprise you. We'll show you how to create a budget that won't fail you - yes, a budget that you can actually stick to consistently - just by taking a few simple steps. You'll even gain access to a FREE, 10 page printable toolkit!

Examples of Why Budgets Fail So Easily

When many people set-up a budget for the first time, they follow a simple template or pattern their budget on an example they have seen. This practice makes sense, but it isn’t fail-proof.

Part of the reason why budgets fail is the fact that many people simply copy budget parameters without considering their own realistic circumstances. For example, if you use the popular app Every Dollar to create a budget, the app guides you to create your budget based upon the following recommended percentages:

These categories and recommended percentages are definitely a great starting point when building a budget, but blindly following them without considering the specifics of your situation can doom your budget to fail.

Blindly following percentages is just one reason why budgets fail
Click to see larger version (Source: EveryDollar)

For example, maybe you aren’t big on recreational activities. Or maybe you work from home and don’t own a vehicle. In those cases, blindly allocating 5-15% of your total budgeted spending to those categories wouldn’t make realistic sense or add any value to your life. Failing to give each dollar a specific purpose in this manner is one example of why budgets fail.

A second example of common budget failure is setting unrealistic goals. For example, if you’re currently spending an average of $900 per month on groceries for two people, aiming to cut this spending down to $450 in one month isn’t very realistic. It would be much more sensible and achievable to gradually reduce the budget to $450 over the course of 3-4 months.

Similarly, a third reason why budgets fail so often lies in creating a budget that is too restrictive. When you create a budget, think of it less as a drill sergeant trying to inflict misery and more like a coach who is encouraging you to win. It’s much easier to follow a person, or in this case, a budget plan, when you know that it is leading you to where you’re trying to go.

Prevent Budget Failure By Creating a Values-Based Budget

If budgets fail because they blindly follow templates, set unrealistic goals, and tend to be too restrictive, how to create a budget to help you Take Back Control of Your Life and Money becomes clearer:

A successful budget is one which combines recommended percentages with your realistic circumstances and is designed to help you achieve the financial goals that you value the most.

If you’re going to create a budget that will succeed, you have to start with a vision of what financial success looks like to you! The best way to create this vision is by identifying your values.

Why are values the key to a successful budget? Your values are what are most important to you. When you identify your values, you realize the important reasons why you decided to create a budget in the first place.

Simply put, a budget without values sets empty, meaningless targets. If you don’t understand and feel the significance of your budget goals, you will not stay motivated to stick to your budget once the initial excitement wears off.

This is similar to filling a jar with coins for no specific reason.

Put another way: Values are the driving force for meaningful goals. Show me a significant goal, and I will point out the values that underpin the goal. Values are the reason that Michael Jordan became the greatest basketball player of all-time after getting cut from his high school team. His love for Competition and Accomplishment gave him all the fuel and motivation to stick to his goals, work hard, and become the best.

Again, the reason why budgets fail is because we haven’t given ourselves a good enough reason to follow them. Identifying your values and linking them to your budget solves the problem!

Stop Your Budget From Failing and Start Winning With Money Today!

I strongly believe that the reason why budgets fail is they focus too much on “how” to manage money responsibly and not enough on “why” it matters. A values-based budget can help you fix the problem.

If you’re ready to take the next step in fixing your budget problems by identifying your values, I’ve created a FREE printable resource to help you.

The MONEY VALUES TOOLKIT is designed to help you create a budget that is built on a foundation of your Values. It will help you

  • Discover your Purpose and Values
  • Review and improve your budget in light of your Values
  • Create Values-based goals to stay on track with your budget

This 10 page guide is a great value, and again, it is FREE. Simply use the form above to become a FinanceSuperhero subscriber and you’ll receive an e-mail with instructions to download your printable PDF toolkit.


What struggles keep you from sticking to your budget? In your opinion, what is the reason why budgets fail?

20 Budget-Friendly Whole30 Tips to Save Money

Starting Whole30 for the first or fiftieth time? It can be expensive! We'll show you 20 tips to eat Whole30 on a budget and save money at the same time!Do you ever feel frustrated by how expensive it is to eat a healthy diet? Are you waging a constant battle between your desires to eat well and also be frugal? My wife and I can sympathize. We have tried a number of different diets, and though each one was different, one thing seemed to remain consistent: eating healthy food and eliminating or reducing junk food was incredibly expensive! When we started the Whole30 program for the first time, I braced myself for a big hit to our budget. To my surprise, we were able to eat Whole30 and save money instead of spending more.

Whole30 is a powerful program capable of changing not only your relationship with food but also the relationship between food and money.Whether you’ve tried Whole30 many times or don’t even know what it is yet, I hope that the tips and tricks below will help you and your family try Whole30 without spending your whole paycheck on food.

What is Whole30?

If you are familiar with Whole30, please skip this section – otherwise, read on.

The Whole30 Program has been used by millions of people since 2009. Over the course of 30 days, participants eat only real food and follow only a few fairly common sense restrictions. The payoff? At the end of 30 days you’ll feel much better, and as you slowly reintegrate foods back into your diet, you can find your trigger foods. The Whole30 website describes the program well:

Eat moderate portions of meat, seafood, and eggs; lots of vegetables; some fruit; plenty of natural fats; and herbs, spices, and seasonings. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re whole and unprocessed.

Participants may NOT eat any of the following items:

  • Added sugar of any kind, real or artificial (honey, agave, Stevia, etc.)
  • Alcohol of any kind, even if used for cooking
  • Grains of any kind
  • Legumes (includes peanut butter)
  • Dairy products of any kind
  • Carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites
  • Imitation baked goods, sweets, or junk foods, even if they are made with 100% approved Whole30 ingredients (i.e. you can’t make pancakes or pizza with approved ingredients)

There are notable exceptions:

  • Natural fruit juice is allowed
  • The following legumes are allowed – Green beans, sugar snap peas, and snow peas
  • Salt (technically, most salt contains sugar, but this is allowed)

If you’ve never experienced Whole30, I get it – it sounds like the worst idea of all time. But if you’re willing to push yourself and make big changes, you can completely change your relationship with food and make major improvements to your health. I’m by no means a doctor or an expert on Whole30 – so take what I have to say at face value and with a grain of salt – but I have seen the program have a great impact on dozens of friends. It worked well for me and my wife, and we still follow many of the guiding principles of the program.

Put simply: Whole30 works.

Frugal Whole30 Tips and Tricks

If you’re ready to eat Whole30 and commit to 30 days of change – great! I’m confident the experience will teach you a lot. My hope is that the following tips and tricks will help you to eat Whole30 while still maintaining frugal habits. They helped us avoid raising our food budget, so I’m confident they can work for you, too.

1. Stay Out of Restaurants

Confession time: I love eating out, so staying out of restaurants was impossible for me. I was able to find Whole30 approved options at a few places, namely Chipotle, but staying out of restaurants and cooking at home is your best bet. You’ll save money and enjoy better meals.

2. Plan Meals At Least One Week in Advance

This principle applies to anyone trying to save money on groceries, so it definitely applies to Whole30 participants – if you don’t have a plan, plan to fail.

Plan all of your meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – one week at a time. Make a chart similar to this one and list everything you will need on your shopping list.

3. Buy Diverse Ingredients

This is also a universal meal planning principle. Maintaining stock of diverse, Whole30-approved ingredients will help you in a pinch if, for example, a meal is ruined or you don’t make it out for your next shopping trip. You’ll avoid an unexpected run to Chipotle.

4. Buy Meat in Bulk

Likewise, buying meat in bulk is a majorly frugal way to eat Whole30 without destroying your budget. This is a great time to put your Costco membership to good use.

Eat Whole30 on a budget and save moneyYou can also shop locally when buying meat in bulk and save a ton of money through a free program called Zaycon Fresh.

Zaycon Fresh provides high-quality, farm fresh meat directly from local farmers to your table – and their prices typically beat even Aldi and Wal-Mart!

When you sign-up for FREE, Zaycon will leverage the buying power of several local families on your behalf and help you save money on food by purchasing items in bulk. They send you daily e-mail alerts on local sales events, and when you place your order, they take care of the rest. When your order is ready, you bring your receipt to a designated pick-up location near your home and collect your fresh, inexpensive meat without even leaving your car.

Zaycon Fresh is currently available in 1,200 communities nationwide, and you can sign-up for FREE to save money on food today.

5. Buy Frozen Vegetables

Frozen vegetables are a life saver on Whole30. You can often find buy one, get one free sales on many frozen vegetables at your local grocer. Keep a healthy stock of green beans (technically a legume, but Whole30 approved), carrots, broccoli, and other vegetables that can be used in a variety of meals or eaten as a snack.

6. Freeze Nuts

Credit goes to my friend Mrs. Picky Pincher for this tip. If you freeze your Whole30-approved nuts, they will stay fresh for much longer. Nuts are expensive, so don’t waste them!

7. Shop at Aldi

I know it isn’t as cool or trendy as Whole Foods, but if you haven’t visited Aldi recently, you might be pleasantly surprised if you give it another chance. The growing grocer has expanded its offerings, including organic and Whole30-approved options, to help shoppers save money on food and live a healthier life.

Aldi is currently investing $1.6 billion to remodel 1,300 of its 1,600 stores by 2020. Low prices won’t be affected by these changes, the company insists.

8. Plate Portions For Your Family

Have you ever prepared enough food to last for two meals only to have hungry family members take seconds or thirds, leaving you with you no meal for the next day? Apparently I do this to my wife all the time.

You can stretch Whole30 meals further by plating meals yourself rather than allowing family members to serve themselves family style. Controlled portions will ensure that your kids don’t waste half of their dinner, and as a bonus, everyone will avoid overeating.

9. Eat Salads for Lunch

Eat Whole30 on a budget and save moneyI’m about as close to a carnivore as a person can get, but I started to look forward to my salad at lunch while on Whole30. If you add in a few pieces of grilled chicken, approved nuts, fruits, and even a few dates, you’ll have a satisfying and frugal lunch.

10. Carry a Water Bottle With You Everywhere

Did you know that people often confuse signs of thirst with signs of hunger? Especially while you are trying to eat Whole30, carry a water bottle everywhere. Staying hydrated will help you limit snacks between meals.

11. Eat Lots of Eggs

If you’re like me and don’t care for eggs, this won’t work for you. But my wife ate eggs nearly every day on Whole30. Per serving, eggs are one of the most economical breakfast foods, especially if you buy them in bulk.

12. Buy Whole Chickens

Buying a whole chicken is not as convenient as buying packaged chicken breasts or thighs, but it can save you a lot of money while you eat Whole30.

13. Cook with Olive Oil

Especially when you start to eat Whole30, your body will crave the fats you used to feed it. Olive oil is a healthy fat that also happens to be very budget friendly, so don’t be afraid to use it!

14. Use Spices to Achieve Bold Flavors

If you eat baked chicken, potatoes, and broccoli every day, you’re going to lose your mind. Experiment with new spices to add new twists to every day meals. A few changes here and there can help you create totally different meals to satisfy your food urges and keep you from running out to Chipotle.

Here are a few of our favorites:

15. Bake Your Own Plantain Chips

If you’re a fan of plantain chips, you probably know that they are often expensive at your local grocery store. We used plantain chips to add crunch to Mexican dishes like tacos and pork carnitas, but we didn’t make our own. Next time around we will follow this simple recipe (and omit the sugar).

16. Eat Larabars for Breakfast or Lunch

Not all Larabars are Whole30 approved – so be careful – but I grew to love having a Lemon Bar Larabar for breakfast or lunch most days. Amazon has great prices on Larabars, so set-up a price alert and wait for good deals.

Here is a helpful list of approved Larabars.

17. Don’t Buy Organic Everything

The Whole30 website suggests that organic is the best way to go while on the program, but I don’t believe it is worth blowing up your budget to buy everything organic. If the non-organic alternatives are significantly cheaper, take advantage of the opportunity as long as it doesn’t bother you.

18. Use a Crockpot

If you don’t have a Crockpot, getting one and using it is crucial to Whole30 survival. A Crockpot can make even inexpensive cuts of meat melt in your mouth like butter.

If you already have one, I recommend buying a second. We often used both of ours to cook multiple meals for the week on Sundays. I also highly recommend purchasing a model with a timer function – the few extra dollars are definitely worth it!

19. Use Clarified Ghee

If you’re missing dairy while you eat Whole30, ghee can help cure your urges. We used ghee available at Trader Joe’s a few times each week to help limit our cravings.

20. Chipotle is Your Last Resort

As I’ve hinted at above, Chipotle can be your life-saving line of defense if you’re in a pinch during Whole30. A salad bowl with pork carnitas is 100% Whole30-approved, delicious, and comes in under $10 – which is much less expensive than many other Whole30 options! Just be careful to avoid other meats, as they are cooked in oils which are not Whole30 compliant.

You CAN Eat Whole30 AND Stay on Budget!

Making a decision to take on the Whole30 Program doesn’t have to be a commitment to spend your whole paycheck on food. If you do it the right way, you can improve your health and save money on Whole30.

Whole30 is a powerful program capable of changing not only your relationship with food but also the relationship between food and money. Whether you’re about to try Whole30 for the first or fiftieth time,  I hope that the tips and tricks above will help you stay frugal at the same time. 


Have you tried the Whole30 Program? Did you enjoy it?

I’ve you’ve tried Whole30, did you spend more money on food? What tips and tricks helped you save money?

Starting Whole30 for the first or fiftieth time? It can be expensive! We'll show you 20 tips to eat Whole30 on a budget and save money at the same time!

How to Cut the Cord, Save Money, and Still Watch TV

Confession time: I really like TV! I don’t watch much TV these days, but I have a few shows that I hate to miss. We still have cable and DVR service, mostly because it is one of the few luxuries we allow ourselves to enjoy in an otherwise strict budget. One of the most asked questions I hear is “How can I cut the cord but still watch all of my favorite shows and sports?”

Cable and satellite are expensive! We'll show you how to cut the cord and save money while still watching all your TV shows, movies, and sports - legally!Today, there are more options than ever before to say goodbye to cable or satellite, save money, and still watch most or all of your favorite shows and teams. You’re probably familiar with many of the options, but when it comes to saving money, you should always gather as much information as possible, weigh the pros and cons, and go with the solutions that work best for your family.

Side Note: Word has it that there are also plenty of illegal ways to watch your favorite shows and teams online. That’s called breaking the law, and it’s not a smart move – even if it helps you save money!

Check out the following ways to cut the cord and still watch your favorite TV legally and free up some serious cash in your budget!

Common and FREE Ways to Cut the Cord

Thanks to the wonders of the internet and bandwidth growth over the past decade, you can watch many of your favorite shows and even sporting events for FREE online. Here are some of my favorites:

WatchESPN 

According to their website, live and archived content on WatchESPN is available to anyone who subscribes to a participating TV or internet provider. You can stream events using their mobile app or webpage as soon as you have authenticated an account – this process only takes a few minutes. In many cases, you can stream the event to your TV using your Apple TV, Roku Streaming StickRoku ExpressRoku UltraPlayStation®4, Google Chromecast, or Amazon Fire TV.

CBSSports

Similar to WatchESPN, you can stream content through CBSSports after authenticating your participating provider. I recently watched NCAA tournament basketball games through the app with my brother-in-law and was impressed by the quality.

HD Antenna

In many areas you can access a surprising number of channels using a standard HD Antenna. The 1byone Amplified HDTV Antenna, along with other options, has a 50 mile range and excellent ratings. Most users can access most of the standard area networks in crystal clear HD – and it’s FREE.

The Next Step Up

If over-the-air network television and streaming sports networks available through your internet provider aren’t enough, subscription services are your next best bet.

Netflix

Netflix has become the leader in streaming TV content in many areas. An HD plan costs only $11.99 per month, and it allows you to stream HD and Ultra HD content on up to 4 screens, download select content to watch without an internet connection, and watch unlimited TV and movies. You can also get a FREE one month trial.

Netflix also has branched out in the last few years and has produced compelling original content (Making a Murderer, Stranger Things, Fuller House, and countless others). It is our favorite streaming service.

Hulu

Hulu is emerging as a strong competitor with other rivals. They offer two plans: the Limited Commercial Plan, which includes -shocker of shockers -limited commercial interruptions for $7.99 per month, and the No Commercials Plan for $11.99 per month. You can try both with their FREE one month trial.

If you prefer TV over movies, Hulu has a better selection than Netflix overall. They also offer quicker access to TV shows during a current season, while users have to wait a while for shows to hit Netflix.

Amazon 

Not to be outdone, Amazon also offers its own streaming service via Prime Video. Users can stream thousands of TV shows, movies, and original Amazon content for $8.99 per month.

On a related note, Amazon Prime members also receive the benefits of streaming music, FREE shipping on Amazon purchases, Kindle books, and photo storage. You can receive a FREE 30 day trial when you sign-up here.

More Advanced Options

Despite the affordability and convenience of the previously-listed services, many TV viewers still want more. This is the exact reason that many people are afraid to cut the cord!

SlingTV offers viewers access to popular cable/satellite channels without the hassle of contracts, hidden fees, and poor customer service – all without the high prices of cable or satellite.

Here’s how it works:

  • Users can stream SlingTV at home or on the go on their TV, computer, tablet, or mobile device.
  • Shows are available via live stream, and some shows are available on demand.
  • Users can customize their channel lineup to receive only the channels they want and need. The Sling Orange Plan is only $20 per month, while the Sling Blue Plan offers more channels for only $25 per month (see channel line-ups below).
  • Video replay is available
  • New customers can take advantage of current deals on devices
  • Extras and add-ons are available for premium sports networks, movie channels, and international content. Most add-on content starts at an additional $5 per month.

Cable and satellite are expensive! We'll show you how to cut the cord and save money while still watching all your TV shows, movies, and sports - legally!

Cable and satellite are expensive! We'll show you how to cut the cord and save money while still watching all your TV shows, movies, and sports - legally!

Currently, SlingTV does not offer any DVR-like functions, but there have been rumblings that a similar feature could be coming in the future. You can try SlingTV for FREE with a 7 day trial when you sign-up here.

Options for Displaced Sports Fans

When I first moved from Michigan to Chicagoland, I became an even greater die-hard fan of my Michigan teams. I used to go to great lengths to watch the Detroit Lions, Pistons, Tigers, and Red Wings, and it was expensive!

Cable and satellite are expensive! We'll show you how to cut the cord and save money while still watching all your TV shows, movies, and sports - legally!If you’re a fellow displaced fan and still want to watch your favorite team without spending hundreds of dollars on NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL packages, there is an affordable solution.

The Slingbox allows users to take their TV content in HD with them anywhere there is an internet connection. My parents live in Michigan and technically are the owners of the Slingbox that I use. I connect to the device on the Slingbox app and can stream live and recorded (via DVR) Lions, Pistons, Tigers, and Red Wings games (and anything else on TV in Michigan) directly to my TV through my Apple TV console. There is even an on-screen remote control that looks exactly like the one my parents have at their house!

The Slingbox 500, the highest-rated model, currently sells for  a retail price of $250, which means that the device pays for itself in one season when compared to the purchase of the NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL packages. I have saved at least $1,000 over the past several years thanks to my Slingbox.

If you’re not a major sports fan, you can get by just fine without a Slingbox. If you are a sports nut like me, the Slingbox is HANDS DOWN the best way to watch your favorite out-of-town teams.

Useful Devices

One of the best parts about cutting the cord and still watching TV is quite literally that you don’t even need a TV to do it! You can watch content just fine on mobile devices, tablets, and computers.

If you’ve already invested in that stunning 70-inch LCD TV and don’t plan to part with it, there are plenty of affordable ways to stream content to your TV through the services mentioned above.

Here are a few of the most popular devices:

Depending on your circumstances, you could get by with just one of these devices; some users might not need one at all depending on their existing equipment.

You CAN Watch TV Without Spending a Fortune!

Cable and satellite costs have risen drastically over the years, but there are more options than ever before to cut the cord, save money, and still watch your favorite teams and shows. Free apps, streaming services like Hulu and SlingTV, and countless other devices have leveled the playing field for consumers.

If you’re looking to Take Back Control of Your Life and Money, the decision to cut the cord can help you accomplish both! Use this guide to check out and evaluate what solutions might work best for your family, take advantage of free trials, and start saving money today!


Have you cut the cord? What services and devices do you use? What other tips did we miss?

If you haven’t cut the cord yet, what is holding you back?

13 Tips to Reduce Food Waste and Save Money

Could you afford to throw away $2,000 each year? Due to food waste, that's exactly what you're doing. Follow these 13 simple tips to save $183 per month.Could you afford to literally throw away over $2,000 each year? If you’re like most families, the shocking answer is YES – because that’s exactly what you’re doing. No, you’re not tossing cash in the trash, but your food waste is costing you at least that much – if not more!

A study from the Natural Resources Defense Council revealed the unthinkable – American households throw away $165 billion in food waste every year, which equates to $2,200 per family. Yes, that’s $183 per month! And according to the report, this figure has increased by 4 times over the rates from the 1960s.

13 Ways to Cut Your Food Waste and Save Money

If these statistics make you feel sad, shocked, or even angry, then you’re ready to take back control of your food budget and stop wasting money on food each and every month. The following tips will help you control food waste and stop throwing away your hard-earned money each month.

1. Expiration dates are a guideline, not a hard-fast rule.

Thanks to well-meaning friends and fear-mongering family members, most people think expiration dates are rigid rules which were put into place to prevent food poisoning. Not so fast! The truth is that most expiration dates have little to do with food safety.

Most products today are labeled with one of two different types of dates – “best by” and “sell by.” Best by dates indicate quality, maximum freshness, and peak flavor, while sell by dates exist to help retailers ensure that they are only selling fresh stock. In any event, these dates actually tell you very little about the safety of food products, as most products should remain safe to eat for several days after these dates have passed.

The best rule of thumb is to use your best judgment when evaluating food freshness and safety. If it looks bad, smells bad, or otherwise worries you, be cautious and toss it – just don’t let dates scare you into unnecessary food waste.

2. Freeze Foods Before They Go Bad

We’ve all been there – you have a bad day at work and pick-up pizza rather than whipping up chicken alfredo, but you don’t want to waste perfectly good chicken.  Most food waste can be prevented by freezing unused foods, especially meats and vegetables, before they have gone bad.

When you freeze items, use a permanent marker to label the item with the date you froze it so you can be sure you use it within the recommended window. Also include the date by which you should use the food (see the guidelines from FoodSafety.gov).

3. Check your refrigerator temperature

Another way to reduce food waste and stop throwing away money is to prolong the usefulness of the food that you buy and use it all. The problem is that once you buy food you begin a race against the clock, and your food starts to develop bacteria.

You can keep your food fresh for longer by making sure that your refrigerator is set at no higher than 40 degrees – most refrigerator manufacturers and food scientists recommend 35-38 degrees. If you maintain the right temperatures your food will stay fresh longer.

4. Don’t Stuff Your Pantry and Refrigerator

Buying in bulk and taking advantage of sales is a great way to save money, but going overboard can lead to costly food waste.

When you overload your pantry, it is difficult to see what food you have in stock and use it before it goes bad; the same can be said for your refrigerator. And to make matters worse, refrigerated foods will not remain fresh if your refrigerator is jam-packed, as it needs adequate space to properly run cooling cycles.

5. Make a List and Stick to It!

I am constantly amazed at the number of people I see grocery shopping without a list. I love lists so much that I have had to hold myself back from making lists of lists – true story – but a shopping list is a must for all shopping trips.

When you shop without a list, you are more likely to buy extra food you don’t need, which leads directly to future food waste. Stores know this, and they prey on our tendencies to give in to impulse and buy items on end-caps and special displays. Stick to your list and you’ll avoid wasting money.

6. Use left over ingredients in future meals

Left over night was one of my biggest fears as a kid, but today it is one of my favorites. I enjoy the challenge of using whatever we have on hand to make an interesting meal.

For example, suppose you had left over cooked carrots, a can of crushed tomatoes, two grilled chicken breasts, brown rice, and green onions. You could add in Moroccan spices and make something delicious like this:

Could you afford to throw away $2,000 each year? Due to food waste, that's exactly what you're doing. Follow these 13 simple tips to save $183 per month.
Grilled chicken, rice, crushed tomatoes with a Moroccan spice blend, garnished with carrots and green onions – fresh from our kitchen

7. Make vegetable stock

If you have left over vegetables that will otherwise go to waste, you can easily reuse them to make vegetable stock. Here is a simple recipe to pin for later.

8. Plan and Serve Smaller Portions

When my wife and I first were married, I used to get in trouble for taking large servings that left us with not quite enough left overs for a second meal. She started plating my dinners for me, and I never complained because it was nice to be treated so well!

If you routinely find yourself tossing small portions at the end of a meal, dividing up portions and setting aside food is an easy way to cut food waste.

9. Take left overs for lunch

If you do find yourself with left overs that aren’t quite big enough for another dinner, use them as lunches instead. They will taste better than fast food and save you money.

10. Keep perishable foods in sight

Last month I found a wilted and mushy apple behind a bottle of olive oil on our lazy susan. It must have rolled out of the bag when I put the apples away.

One of the easiest ways to cut food waste is to keep perishables where you can see them. This will also help you to make healthier snack choices.

11. Wash fruits and vegetables right away

While it is good to have perishables conveniently in sight, this won’t help you prevent food waste unless they are prepped and ready to eat. If you wash produce soon after returning from the store, your family will have no excuses about not eating their fruits and vegetables.

12. Plan better meals

Could you afford to throw away $2,000 each year? Due to food waste, that's exactly what you're doing. Follow these 13 simple tips to save $183 per month.At the end of the day, no tips will help you eliminate food waste if you’re not planning smart meals. If you’re willing to sit down, read recipes, and form a meal plan, chances are good that you will be successful.

The truth is that not everyone is good at meal planning. Some people just don’t have time to plan well. If that is you, there’s no shame in admitting it.

I recommend $5 Meal Plan for those who struggle to make a plan and follow it. Here’s how it works:

Each Friday at 11 AM ET, you’ll receive a meal plan in your e-mail inbox. The meal plan includes a shopping list and a detailed menu complete with the following:

  • Five dinner entrees with sides – Each week they include one freezer friendly, one slow cooker, and one 20-minute meal.
  • One lunch and one breakfast, plus,
  • A random goodie each week – sometimes dessert, sometimes a beverage, and sometimes it’ll be a snack (sometimes more than one!)
  • Gluten-free options (upon request)

When you sign-up you’ll receive access to a private Facebook group to share recipes and tips with other subscribers as a FREE bonus.

If you’re skeptical, try it for FREE for 14 days and see for yourself.

13. Organize, Organize, Organize!

Could you afford to throw away $2,000 each year? Due to food waste, that's exactly what you're doing. Follow these 13 simple tips to save $183 per month.Be honest: which picture does your refrigerator look like? If you don’t take regular, consistent steps to organize your food and rotate items, you’re setting yourself up for unnecessary and costly food waste. If you make a plan to regularly clean out both your pantry and refrigerator and rotate stock based on dates, you will save yourself time and money.

Stop Wasting Food and Money Today!

You would never intentionally toss $2,200 in the trash, but that is exactly what you’re doing if you close your browser now and fail to act on what you’ve just read. The above tips are easily to implement, and they offer fail-proof solutions to help you cut food waste and save money at the same time. Pick a few and get started today!


What tips and tricks help you avoid food waste and save money?

 

11 Fail-Proof Grocery Hacks to Save on Food

It’s a cold, hard fact: food is ridiculously expensive! The average household spends anywhere from 5-20% of its monthly budget at the grocery store. Why exactly is it so hard for most families to save on food?

Food is expensive! If poor habits have you spending too much money on food, there is hope. These 11 tips are easy and can help you cut your grocery spending and save on food each month.Like most life and money problems, poor habits are often to blame. You and I have great intentions to be the hero our spouses and kids deserve, but it can be hard to change and transform new practices into permanent habits. You may need to step back and re-evaluate your routines from time to time. Your grocery list is no exception.

The solutions to spending too much on groceries may surprise you. Extreme changes are rarely lasting – that’s why most diets fail – but smaller, manageable changes can make a huge difference. So skip fasting, fad diets, and eliminating occasional sweets from your grocery list and try the tips below instead. As you’ll see, you can save on food without suffering!

How to Save on Food – 11 Tips to Tame Your Out of Control Grocery Spending

If you’re struggling to save on food, find yourself staring at a full pantry yet have nothing to eat, and can’t figure out why there is always too much month left after your grocery money runs each out each month, read on. These 11 tips will help you save on food costs, eat better, and save time each month!

1. Create a Plan – and Stick to It!

If you’ve ever found yourself grocery shopping without a list, you have probably experienced the pains of shopping for groceries without a plan. In my experience, this leads to

-wasting money buying ingredients you already have at home
-wasting time back-tracking throughout the store
-buying expensive prepared food items on impulse

Before grocery shopping, take stock of ingredients remaining in the refrigerator and pantry. If you have items that will soon perish, plan meals which will make use of them right away. From there, continue to make a list of the items you will need to cook your remaining meals – again, be sure to buy only what you need.

2. Buy Diverse and Purposeful Ingredients

I’m sure I can’t be the only one who has opened up the pantry to door to find 8 cans of diced tomatoes, a bag of croutons, olive oil, two boxes of saltine crackers, and a can of baked beans. Staring into a full pantry yet seeing nothing to eat is an awful feeling. You can save on food every week and curb hunger by making sure you keep diverse and purposeful items in your pantry at all times.

These go-to items may be different for your family, but they are consistent in our household. At any given time, our pantry and freezer contain:

-spaghetti/other red sauce
-white and brown rice
-various frozen vegetables
-frozen chicken tenderloins
-chicken broth
-farfalle noodles (or similar noodle)

At any time we are able to prepare 5-6 unique meals from these on-hand ingredients alone. These items have a long shelf life, and they are usually purchased on sale (see number 3). A diverse stash of in-stock ingredients helps eliminate costly last-minute trips for missing ingredients.

3. Buy In Bulk During Sales

The best way to keep diverse items on hand and save on food is by buying in bulk during sales. It’s important to avoid going overboard, but savings add up quickly during sales. For example, we have taken advantage of buy-one-get-one-free sales on frozen vegetables and purchased bulk family packs of meat to save money.

4. Use Ibotta to Save

If couponing is too time consuming and boring for you, thank your smart phone. Ibotta is a free money saving app that helps you save money on food, other groceries, new clothes, or ordering food.

Saving with Ibotta is simple. First, sign-up for free using my link - you'll receive a $10 welcome bonus just for signing up. Then download the app (available for Android and iOS) – you’ll need it later to scan your receipt. Next, find your go-to stores (click here for a list of 365 participating stores) in the app, link store loyalty accounts, unlock available rebates, and go shopping. When you’re finished, scan the bar codes of items featuring a rebate, snap a picture of your receipt, and submit. You’ll receive cash back into your Ibotta account within 48 hours.

Ibotta offers rebates on a wide range of products, including $2.00-$5.00 rebates on many varieties of beer/wine, toiletries, snack foods, and over the counter medicine, among other items. Again, Ibotta is FREE to use and you'll receive a $10 BONUS if you sign-up today.

4. Shop at Aldi

If you haven’t visited Aldi recently, you might be pleasantly surprised if you give it another chance. The growing grocer has expanded its offerings, including organic options, to help shoppers save money on food and live a healthier life.

Across the country, Aldi stores are being renovated and redesigned to compete with grocery giant Whole Foods. Aldi is currently investing $1.6 billion to remodel 1,300 of its 1,600 stores by 2020. Low prices and won’t be affected by these changes, the company insists.

5. Shop Locally For Meat

Balancing the desire to support local farmers with the need to save money on food can be difficult for families on a budget. Zaycon Fresh is aiming to change that one community at a time.

Zaycon Fresh provides high-quality, farm fresh meat directly from local farmers to your table – and their prices typically beat even Aldi and Wal-Mart! When you sign-up for FREE, Zaycon will leverage the buying power of several local families on your behalf and help you save money on food by purchasing items in bulk. They send daily e-mail alerts on local sales events, and when you place your order, they take care of the rest. When your order is ready, you bring your receipt to a designated pick-up location near your home and collect your fresh, inexpensive meat without even leaving your car.

Zaycon Fresh is currently available in 1,200 communities nationwide, and you can sign-up for FREE to save money on food today.

6. Ditch Family Style and Plate Portions For Family

Have you ever prepared enough food to last for two meals only to have hungry family members take seconds or thirds, leaving you with you no meal for the next day? This was my wife’s biggest complaint about my eating habits when we were still newly-weds.

You can save money on food and ensure meals are stretched further by plating meals yourself rather than allowing family members to serve themselves family style. Controlled portions will ensure that your kids don’t waste half of their dinner, and as a bonus, everyone will avoid overeating.

7. Shop the Perimeter of the Store

Ever notice that fresh produce, meat and dairy, and seafood are located on the edges of your favorite grocery store? Marketers don’t want you to know this, but most grocery stores are designed to funnel consumers toward the middle of the store and keep you there until your cart is full. If you shop the perimeter of your grocery store, you will avoid expensive processed and prepared foods and save money on food by filling your cart with nutritionally-dense food.

Ready-to-eat foods are convenient, but the cost is steep, both financially and nutritionally. Fresh foods will make your wallet and body happy.

8. Eat Breakfast for Dinner Once Per Week

Experts claim that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not have it twice? Eating breakfast for dinner is an easy way to save money on food simply because many breakfast foods are inexpensive.

For a few dollars per person, you can make pancakes, American fries, and eggs into a great dinner. Steel cut oats and breakfast sausage or bacon can also satisfy even the biggest appetites at a minimal cost.

9. Cut Empty Calories

Isn’t it ironic that some of the least nutritionally-dense foods are the most expensive? Soda, candy, and ice cream are the biggest culprits, and even though they are delicious, they may be killing your grocery budget. Cut your spending in half in this area and you’ll notice a big improvement.

10. Use $5 Meal Plan

If you’ve tried all of the previous tips without success, it may be time to get more help – that’s where $5 Meal Plan comes to the rescue. If you’re skeptical, try it for FREE for 14 days and see for yourself.

The $5 Meal Plan process is simple. Each Friday at 11 AM ET, you’ll receive a meal plan in your e-mail inbox. The meal plan includes a shopping list and a detailed menu complete with the following:

  • Five dinner entrees with sides – Each week they include one freezer friendly, one slow cooker, and one 20-minute meal.
  • One lunch and one breakfast, plus,
  • A random goodie each week – sometimes dessert, sometimes a beverage, and sometimes it’ll be a snack (sometimes more than one!)
  • Gluten-free options (upon request)

When you sign-up you’ll receive access to a private Facebook group to share recipes and tips with other subscribers.

If meal planning just isn’t working out, I recommend giving $5 Meal Plan a try. Again, you have nothing to lose when you sign-up for their FREE 14-day trial.

11. Use the Cash Envelope System

I know many people who make a plan, shop with their list, and overspend their grocery budget week after week. If you find yourself here, don’t lose hope – the cash envelope system may be the solution you need to save money on food!

Food is expensive! If poor habits have you spending too much money on food, there is hope. These 11 tips are easy and can help you cut your grocery spending and save on food each month.The cash envelope system is simple. Divide your monthly grocery budget by the number of weeks in the current month (or shopping trips you plan to take that month), place that amount of cash in an envelope prior to leaving for the store, and leave your debit and credit cards at home. You may only spend the cash you have in the envelope during your trip – and not a cent more!

This system is extreme and not for the faint of heart, and it will require discipline. It may cause embarrassment when you have to take a few items off the conveyor belt in order to stay under budget. But if you follow the system it is guaranteed to help you save on food simply because you cannot buy groceries with money you don’t have.

YOU CAN DO THIS!

It can be challenging to save on food, but you can do it if you follow the tips above. Extreme changes to your grocery habits will likely be short-lived, but the above tips are easy to implement and maintain over time. Print this list, implement a few suggestions, add in a few more, and your grocery budget will be in great shape in no time!

Don’t forget – check out Ibotta, Zaycon Fresh, and $5 Meal Plan!


What are your best tips to save money on food?

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Budgeting Made Easy – 15 Money Saving Hacks

It’s true: Many people hate the B word. I’m talking about  BUDGETING. These days, budgeting is not in style. Most of my friends do not have a budget. Unbelievably, the state of Illinois recently went an entire fiscal year without a budget. But the unpopular truth is that budgeting is the number one way to make sure that you are on track with money.

Budgeting is the number one way to take control of your money and stop money stress. Make a budget you can stick to by following these 15 money saving tips!I like to think of my budget as a road map. It tells me where to go and how to get to my chosen destination – hopefully as efficiently as possible. But I am still the one who puts together the map and follows each step. Putting together a road map is easy, and so is making a budget – sticking to a budget can be much harder.

It has been many years since I created my first budget. In September 2009, I got my first real job and was on my own for the first time. Just before the school year started, I accepted a job teaching music, moved from Michigan to Illinois, and found a roommate.

At the time, I had no idea how to manage money. I had just read The Total Money Makeover , but I didn’t know the first thing about budgeting an “adult” paycheck. This was going to be the first time I had ever earned a paycheck which included a comma in the amount field! So I did the responsible thing – I sat down and made the budget you see below.

Budgeting is the number one way to take control of your money and stop money stress. Make a budget you can stick to by following these 15 money saving tips!
In all its glory, my very first monthly budget, from September 2009

My first attempt at a budget was OK. I overspent my budget in many categories and spent more than I earned overall. To be honest, I’m sure I would have fared far worse without a budget.

15 BUDGETING TIPS FOR EVERYONE

Looking back, I wish someone had sat down with me at age 21 and showed me how to budget. Figuring it out on my own through trial and error was tough. Today, my wife and I are on the same page with money thanks to our budget. Whether you’re looking to start your first budget or fine tune your budgeting skills, the following 21 tips will help you take back control of your life and money.

1. Make a Budget Every Month

Every new month brings new expenses and circumstances, which makes this first budgeting tip the most important: you need to create a new budget every single month. 

You can use previous monthly budgets as a template, but your budget needs to be realistic if it is going to help you. For example, your expenses in December (holiday gifts, wrapping paper, decorations, baking ingredients) look completely different than those in July (sun screen, bug spray, Popsickles). Plan ahead for variable expenses and include them in your budget.

2. Manage Housing Costs

For homeowners, housing is likely to be your biggest expense until you pay off your mortgage. If it has been a while since you have considered refinancing, now is a perfect time to consider your options and possibly save hundreds of dollars each month. I recommend you take a few minutes to check out offers with GuideToLenders and LendingTree. Both processes took me less than 3 minutes to examine refinancing rates.

If you just starting out and are renting, finding a roommate can help you hack away half (or more) of your housing costs from your budget each month. In my case, I avoided spending $1,000 per month for a one-bedroom apartment and spent $400 to rent a home in a two-bedroom condo. By sharing costs I avoided spending 40% of my net income on housing costs.

3. Include All of Your Debt Obligations

When budgeting you may feel the temptation to leave out debt payments, especially if you have student loans in deferment. But avoiding your debts will not make them go away, so gather this information, including total principal, interest rates, minimum payments, and loan terms for each debt.

If you’re not sure how much you owe and to whom, you should pull your credit reports from all three major bureaus. If you are also in the market for intelligent identify theft monitoring, MyFico can provide both. Or you can pull a free credit score report from MyFreeScoreNow.com. You can also contact the appropriate customer service departments, if you have their information, to gather loan balances. Once you have a clear picture of your debt, include the monthly minimum payments in your budget.

If you’re facing high interest  rates, you should call to negotiate better rates, especially on credit cards. Be persistent and don’t take no for an answer. You can also refinance high-interest student loans with LendEDU, a company I have found to offer the best rates to people looking to save money. Even if you think your rates are good, you could save thousands of dollars in interest in a matter of minutes.

4.  Cook at home 

Preparing your own meals at home will accomplish two goals: you will save money, and you will not gain weight eating low nutrition/high calorie fast food. If you’re willing to learn basic cooking techniques and how to use spices effectively, you can slash your food budget significantly. And if planning isn’t your strong-suit, $5 Meal Plan will do it for you and send meal plans to your inbox every Friday!

5. Live simply

If you have set a precedent of living extravagantly, you have set yourself up for failure. Do you remember college life? When I was in college, I appreciated a coffee and bagel just as much as I do a steak dinner today. If you strive to live simply and manage your expectations, budgeting will be much easier.

6. Don’t lease or carry a car payment

When it comes to cars, the key is to make sure pride doesn’t influence your decisions. If your current vehicle gets you from point A to B, it’s a keeper, especially if you own it outright.

Related: Your Car Lease Is Killing You

7. Brew Your Own Coffee (and Get a Pot With a Timer)

Budgeting is the number one way to take control of your money and stop money stress. Make a budget you can stick to by following these 15 money saving tips!In general, the small things like coffee won’t ruin your budget. So by all means, enjoy the occasional coffee without guilt. But if you’re in the habit of buying a $5 mocha every morning, it’s time to pump the brakes and make your own coffee.

I learned this the hard way when at the end of my first budgeted month I had spent $80.77 on coffee on my way to work. I had a decent Mr. Coffee Coffeemaker, but it didn’t have a timer feature. If I happened to be running late to work in the morning, I resorted to a quick Starbucks stop, which cost me significant money without contributing to my happiness or nutrition.

8. Stay in

I get it: many people, especially singles, will feel the temptation to go out night after night. This habit will kill your budget. Instead, invite friends or your significant other back to your place, where food and drinks are cheap and Netflix is nearly free.

9. Save With Groupon and Restaurant.com

I’m not even sure if Groupon and Restaurant.com existed when I made my first budget, but taking advantage of them today is a key part of our dining out experience. With either platform, you can purchase certificates for what is usually a fraction of the value, which allows you to realize significant savings and still enjoy a night out. The most common Restaurant.com offer is $10 for a $25 gift certificate.

9. Build an emergency fund as quickly as possible

A key component to your budget is your emergency fund. When your budget cannot handle unexpected expenses, your emergency fund will ensure you don’t have to swipe your credit card. Whenever possible, include contributions to your emergency fund in your budget.

Related: 5 Tips to Save $1,000 Fast

10. Give Money

I have always given 10% to charity and missions organizations, but I know this isn’t for everyone. If you’re not a natural giver, start small. Even $10 per month will benefit worthwhile organizations, and the act of giving will be freeing. You will learn to value the money you have and appreciate the little things.

11. Share Your Budget

Finding a friend to help you with budgeting can be eye-opening. He or she may find solutions or wasted money that you missed. And sharing with another person can help you stick to your budget.

12. Budget In Fun

If you only budget for required expenses, you will quickly grow to hate your budget. Plan for fun expenses when budgeting to avoid budget burnout and create a budget that you can live with each month.

13. Budget Based on Your Values

Your budget should align with what you value most. In other words, your budget should be a reflection of your priorities. Someone who barely knows you should be able to look at your budget and determine what is important to you.

Related: Building a Values-Based Budget

14. Be Open About Your Budget

It is OK to explain to people that you are on a budget. In fact, if you keep it a secret, it will be more difficult to stick to your budget. Be honest with friends about how you’re using a budget to take back control of your life and money. It will be less awkward if you explain before you are invited out for drinks and dinner every weekend. And it will make it that much easier to say no.

BUDGETING WORKS

It won’t always be simple, but budgeting will keep you on track to take back your life and your money. At first, budgeting may feel restrictive, but remember – you are in charge. Your budget is only a road map for your money, and you are the one who charts the course. Use these 15 budgeting hacks to improve your own budget today!

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Readers, what budgeting tips help you stay on track?

How to Build an Emergency Fund – 5 Ways to Quickly Save $1,000

An emergency fund is the best way to protect yourself from financial disaster. We’ll show you how to build an emergency fund and save $1,000 quickly.

Did you know the average American is unable to pay for unexpected expenses of over $500? This statistic may be shocking, but it is a sign of the times. The average person has allowed lifestyle inflation to grow out of control since the mid 1990s, and as a result, many American families are spending more money than they earn on a monthly basis. If you find yourself in a similar situation, it is time to build an emergency fund to protect yourself from future financial disasters.

Many financial experts recommend $1,000 as the starting point for developing an emergency fund. You may feel secure with a smaller emergency fund if you earn less than $20,000 per year, or if you are a high income earner, you may wish to bump up the size of your emergency fund. The following advice will help you take several steps to build an emergency fund of $1,000 and beyond.

Why You Need an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is the best way to protect yourself from financial disaster. We’ll show you how to build an emergency fund and save $1,000 quickly.Some financial experts scoff at the concept of an emergency fund. They argue that your money is better applied when invested in your 401k, IRA, or other retirement accounts. Mathematically speaking, there is no disputing this fact; the interest earned on wise investments should always outpace interest earned on savings and money market accounts.

So what’s the catch? While interest earned on solid investments like mutual funds, index funds, or even CDs is higher than savings and money market accounts, these earnings pale in comparison to the devastating effects of high interest rates associated with credit card debt. Simply put, liquid cash in an emergency fund is the simplest way to ensure that you do not waste your hard earned money on credit card debt each time an emergency arises.  Everyone should build an emergency fund for this reason alone; peace of mind and increased confidence are icing on the cake!

Emergency Fund Basics

When looking to build an emergency fund or grow an existing fund, everyone should follow a few universal principles. First, you should keep emergency fund money separate from your primary checking account. This will ensure that a sale at Target or DSW doesn’t become an “emergency.” Second, it is best to keep your emergency fund in a high interest bearing savings or money market account. The goal is not to build wealth in your emergency fund; it exists to protect you from going into debt when true emergencies occur.

If having emergency fund money within close reach (electronically or otherwise) is tempting for you, you have options. Opening a savings account with a different bank is one option. Opening an account with It's quick and easy to sign-up with UberEATSmay also be a good move. For those who are unfamiliar with the platform, Digit is a free and secure service that helps you save money each day by transferring only what you can accord directly from your checking account to your savings account. It’s an efficient way to be sure that your emergency fund will continue to grow over time. And you can access your saved funds as soon as the next business day. Click here for more information or to sign-up for FREE.

Build An Emergency Fund – 5 Simple Ways to Save

If you are like many Americans, your current budget may already be stretched beyond comfort, leaving you feeling like it is impossible to build an emergency fund. The tips ahead will offer creative solutions to both increase your income and reduce both necessary and unnecessary expenses so you can quickly build an emergency fund.

1. Review Your Insurance Policies

I get it – reviewing your insurance policies comes in slightly behind watching paint dry in the weekend fun rankings. But it remains the simplest and easiest way to potentially save hundreds of dollars in under an hour.

If you’re like me, you setup your homeowner’s, auto, and life insurance policies long ago and thought you were set for life. The truth is that you should be reviewing your policies on an annual basis, as you could be leaving savings on the table (or worse – you could be underinsured!).

You can receive a quick online quote for auto insurance from Esurance. Most consumers are able to save significantly by updating their auto insurance to reflect their current protection needs. Check out your savings now!

An emergency fund is the best way to protect yourself from financial disaster. We’ll show you how to build an emergency fund quickly and easily.

If you currently are paying for whole life insurance, you can potentially save HUNDREDS of dollars per month by switching to term life insurance. With term life insurance in place, you’ll not only save money; you will also increase your overall death benefit if you should pass away while your policy is in effect. If you are in good or fair health, don’t smoke, and are not employed in a high-risk career, you can most likely pick up a $500,000 term life insurance policy for the monthly cost of a few deep dish pizzas. Just be sure that you do not cancel any existing policies until you have replacement policies in effect!

Related: Term Life Insurance Vs. Whole Life Insurance

POTENTIAL SAVINGS: $200-400

2. Return and Sell Unused Stuff

The other day I saw a friend advertising brand new clothes with price tags intact for sale on her Facebook page. To my amazement, mutual friends were snatching up these high end clothing items left and right. In some cases, they were paying handsomely!

If you have unused clothing or other items that you no longer use, selling them via social media can be a great way to build an emergency fund in a hurry – and with little effort! Simply lay out items in a brightly lit area of your home, use your smart phone to snap pictures of each item, and upload them in a new Facebook album. Whenever possible, take advantage of your friends’ brand recognition habits to drum up interest.

Before you sell unused items online, be sure to check store return policies first. Depending upon when and where the items were purchased, you may be able to receive a cash refund or store credit, both of which can free up money in your monthly budget. A few months ago, my wife and I were able to return a few unused items for cash even though we had purchased them several months ago; it never hurts to try!

POTENTIAL SAVINGS: $100+

3. Drive for Uber

You work hard during the week, and the last thing you probably want to do is work more on the weekends. I never said it would be easy to build an emergency fund – just simple and fast. If you crave the flexibility to work only when you want to work, Uber may be just the side hustle you need to build an emergency fund!

Most of the time, your car is not an asset – Uber has changed that forever! As long as you have a clean driving record and suitable vehicle, you can earn several hundred dollars driving for Uber. You have full flexibility to set your own hours at the push of a button. Once you get started and earn favorable reviews, you’ll be on your way toward higher earnings in a hurry. It only takes 4 minutes to sign-up and get started!

An emergency fund is the best way to protect yourself from financial disaster. We’ll show you how to build an emergency fund quickly and easily.

Don’t want the predictable schedule of pizza delivery or the potential awkwardness of driving strangers around as an Uber driver? UberEATS is the program for you!

Take trips for a few hours in the mornings, every night, or just on weekends – you set your own hours. You are your own boss and you can choose when and how much you work. And unlike the standard Uber program, you don’t even need to have car – a bike or scooter work, too, though you’ll likely earn more if you have a car.

It's quick and easy to sign-up with UberEATS, and you can be on your way to making more money soon.

POTENTIAL EARNINGS: $200+ per day

4. Negotiate Better Rates on Phone and Cable Bills

It is true that many companies have expanded training of retention specialists, making it harder than ever to negotiate better rates on phone and cable bills. But if you’re willing to be persistent and step up your game a bit, you can still pull the right strings and save money on these services. Why? It is much cheaper for companies to lower your rates in order to retain existing you as a customer than it is to invest in advertising and promotion designed to recruit new customers.

Experts like Dave Ramsey agree – you need an emergency fund! We’ll show you how to save $1,000 and build an emergency fund quickly, easily, and painlessly.Connecting with the right people is the key to negotiating savings which are significant enough to help build an emergency fund. Below you will find the best customer service phone numbers to call when negotiating your rates. Remember to be polite, emphasize your history as a loyal customer with the company, and make it clear that you have a promise of cheaper rates with their competitor. Ask them to reduce your rates to match their competitor. If you do not get what you want, politely ask to speak with the representative’s supervisor. You may have to be persistent, but it will pay off!

COMCAST: 1-800-XFINITY – When prompted, say “Discontinue service.”

VERIZON: 1-800-837-4966

SPRINT: 1-889-211-4727

AT&T Uverse: 1-800-288-2020

DIRECTV: 1-800-531-5000

POTENTIAL SAVINGS: $100+ per month

5. Pet Sitting

If you love pets and are willing to welcome four-legged visitors into your home, pet sitting and walking can be a fun way to build an emergency fund. In fact, you could earn $1,000 in under a month! A few of my friends registered with Rover.com and list their dog walking and sitting services on their website. Because they are clearly dedicated to providing safe, loving dog care in a hospitable home, they have been very successful.

To get started with Rover, visit this page and fill out the brief form. From there, you’ll be directed to create a profile, upload pictures, and complete a background check. The Rover team will manually review your application within one week, and once you are approved, you can begin accepting requests and start making money! Rover is active in over 10,000 cities nationwide, and you can easily set your own schedule and rates using their site or app. It is the easiest way for animal lovers to build an emergency fund!

POTENTIAL EARNINGS: $1,000+ per month

Next Steps

Don’t allow yourself to continue on without an adequate emergency fund. Financial emergencies are bound to happen in life, but you can protect yourself and your family when you build an emergency fund. By updating your insurance policies, automating savings each month, selling or returning unused stuff, driving for Uber, negotiating phone and cable rates, and becoming a dog sitter with Rover, you can save and earn $1,000 in a hurry. What are you waiting for?

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Do you have an emergency fund? How would you pay for an unexpected expense of $500 or more?

9 Things Your Realtor Won’t Tell You – But I Will!

According to the National Association of Realtors, there are approximately 2 million active real estate professionals in the United States. Real estate is a multi-billion dollar business, and buying a home is an important transaction. The pressure understandably gives pause to both buyers and sellers. In fact, a reported 68% of Americans surveyed do not trust their realtor, according to a 2013 survey by Choice Home Warranty.  Why? The average buyer or seller has been led to believe that there are things your realtor won’t tell you.

While this is somewhat true – for example, there are certain things that your realtor cannot legally tell you – your typical realtor is an honest, hard-working individual who is trained and committed to look out for their client’s best interests. In fact, in any real estate transaction, a realtor is responsible to provide superior service by following the Code of Ethics. The Code, as it is often called, requires the following:

  • Realtors must promote their clients’ interests while treating all parties fairly
  • Realtors must not discriminate based upon race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, or sexual orientation
  • Realtors must remain truthful in all advertising and marketing, including when listing a home for sale

There are things your realtor won't tell you - even if you have a great one! These home buying and selling tips will help you have a smooth transaction.

SPILLING THE TRUTH – The Top 9 Things Your Realtor Won’t Tell You

The Code has done wonders to tame the previous Wild-Wild-West nature of real estate, but as previous statistics showed, people still have their doubts. Can you really trust your realtor? Or is he or she just looking to collect a commission check and head for the hills?

As a part-time realtor who loves serving buyers, sellers, and renters, I will outline 9 things your realtor won’t tell you – but I will!

1. You Should Interview Your Realtor

Before you choose a realtor, whether as a buyer or seller, It is important to know the following about a realtor:

  • How many buyers and sellers with which they typically work at a given time
  • Whether they work as a part of a team
  • How well they personally know and understand the areas you have targeted (if you’re a buyer)

To be transparent, no realtor wants to be interviewed by their potential clients! It can be intimidating and even feel a bit unnatural, but it is vital to ask the right questions. The purchase or sale of a home is one of the largest financial transactions you will ever make, and it is important to have a knowledgeable, committed, and available adviser in your corner.

2. Zillow Is Actually Useful

Inevitably, if you gather a group of realtors together, it’s only a matter of time before they start complaining about clients who rely on Zillow as if it were The Gospel. Truthfully, though most realtors tend to pour out hate on Zillow, it can be helpful.

For example, when I begin working with a buyer who has spent time searching on Zillow, I know that they have likely developed an idea of what they are looking for in a new home. By looking at hundreds of homes and thousands of pictures, it becomes easier to create a wish list, even if it may not be 100% realistic at this stage.

Zillow is also a good tool for casual buyers who are just interested in window shopping. However, Zillow data should not be trusted in most cases. It is often outdated (in some cases by nearly two weeks), inaccurate, and sometimes hilarious, as any realtor who has viewed an absurd “Zestimate” can tell you.

So keep using Zillow for window shopping, but when you get serious about buying, don’t bother. The data your agent pulls from the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is the only data you can trust.

3. Pre-approval Is Everything

If you’re a buyer and one of the first questions your agent asks is “Do you have pre-approval?” you have found yourself a winner! By asking this question, your agent is protecting his time and best interests, but he is also doing the same for you.

Written and signed notice of pre-approval from your lender is must if you want to be taken seriously, especially in a hot market. Without pre-approval in place, you could waste your time viewing homes which you cannot afford, find a home only to have another buyer’s offer accepted because they were pre-approved and you were not, or worse – you could discover that your credit history or debt to income ratio makes you ineligible for a mortgage!

Before you seek pre-approval, it is important to review your credit history. I recommend that you pull a free credit report to be sure no surprises or errors ruin your chances for a timely pre-approval. I recommend MyFreeScoreNow.com for this purpose, and they are – you guessed it – FREE!

Your 2017 Credit Score May Have Changed. See Your FREE Credit Score – $0 from MyFreeScoreNow.com. Sign up Now!

When you are ready to seek pre-approval, it is advisable to gather multiple quotes from a variety of lenders. Don’t worry – this will not damage your credit! I recommend Lending Tree as an option for my buyers because they provide personalized rates with a variety of options to meet a buyer’s lending needs. They have facilitated over 55 million loan requests, and they work quickly to get buyers pre-approved.

I have also had buyers who had good luck with SoFi. If you have good credit (700+ credit score), you may be able to save money with them. Contrary to what many realtors will tell you, SoFi works with buyers who have down payments as small as 10%.

4. This isn’t HGTV – it’s Real Life!

Touring a home like people do on HGTV doesn’t cut it. Most of those people are actors! Even if they’re not pros, they are being coached to say certain things and ask certain questions.

I like HGTV as much as anyone, but you must remember that it is all about entertainment value. When you are a serious buyer, you aren’t looking at houses to be entertained – this is important, so act like it!

Open closets and cupboards, check out the unfinished basement and look for cracks, and go walk around the yard. You’re not a professional home inspector, but you can save yourself a lot of stress, heartache, and money if you perform a DIY mini-home inspection prior to the true inspection.

5. You Can Request Multiple Showings of a Home

Yes, it is true: you can ask to see a home a second, third, or fourth, time. And, yes, it is equally true: your agent won’t like this. But you should do it if you’re at all on the fence. The additional 15-30 minutes of time are worthwhile for everyone, so don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and tell your realtor what you want.

Among the things your realtor won’t tell you, this item is fairly inconsequential, but it is good to know that you’re not out of line in this request.

6. There Are No Stupid Questions

In real estate and in life, there are no stupid questions – other than the ones you don’t ask.

In short: ASK QUESTIONS! Your realtor is an expert on the home buying and selling processes. If you don’t ask questions, you won’t receive the best possible service.

No, realtors don’t always have all of the answers. If you are asking good questions, most of the time we will have to get back to you.

7. You Will Learn As You Go

The process of buying a home is a learning experience. While you should determine needs vs. wants before your first home tour, we know that you will probably still be feeling out this process during the first several tours. It is a good practice to keep a check list of features that you desire and review it while touring homes.

8. It’s OK to Buy the First House You See – Sometimes

A good buyer agent shouldn’t push you into a quick offer, but if the home meets your expectations, is priced right, and is in a hot market with lots of competition, you should move fast.

Our team hates to see clients walk into the house of their dreams and decide to “wait it out” for more options because it often leads to disappointment. It happens far too often all because buyers haven’t reached a point of emotional readiness needed to buy.

9. Your Attorney is More Important Than Your Realtor

In most states, your attorney is more important than your realtor. While your realtor is there to advise your search process, complete offers using fillable form contracts provided by their local professional associations, and negotiate on your behalf, your attorney holds far more power. He or she is your last line of defense in protecting your legal options, modifying transaction documents, and in some cases, facilitating the closing process.

Your realtor is always happy to recommend a quality attorney who will facilitate a smooth closing, but virtually any experienced real estate attorney would be a wise choice.

YOUR NEXT MOVE

If you’re planning to buy or sell a home, you need a committed, available, and connected realtor on your side. With nearly 2 million real estate professionals currently working in the United States, you’re sure to have your choice among many quality realtors. With pre-approval in hand and in the guidance of a good realtor, the home search can be a pleasant process.

Throughout the process of hiring a realtor and buying or selling, put your trust in your realtor. Though there are things your realtor won’t tell you, he or she has your best interests in mind and wants to make the process as smooth as possible.


Readers, do you have a realtor you can trust? Have you had any poor experiences with a realtor?