Category Archives: Saving Tips

The Surprising Benefits of Being a Frugal Weirdo

Today’s post, “The Surprising Benefits of Being a Frugal Weirdo,” is a guest post from Mrs. Picky Pincher, the blogger and money saving-maven behind PickyPinchers.com. She writes about paying off $225,000 of debt while living the good life.

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Read on to see the benefits of taking frugality to new levels!


There’s nothing wrong with saving money. Nobody wants to pay more money to live the good life. We all want to be the next money-saving savant, but there’s just one small problem. To really save money in this world, you’ve got to be a total frugal weirdo.

We live in a culture that loves big-ness: big houses, big cars, and big mounds of stuff. The bigger you are, the more successful you clearly must be. But too often big-ness comes at the cost of high debt loads, stress, and working until you collapse to pay off your sports car.

Nobody wants to make debt payments until they’re 80 years old. And that’s why it’s so important to be an utter and complete frugal weirdo.

A frugal weirdo is a person who rejects most of the conventional rules about what we need to spend money on. Instead, the frugal weirdo saves his or her buckaroos to work towards financial independence, whether that takes the form of paying off debt, saving, or investing.

We all want to save money, but there's just one small problem. To really save money in this world, you've got to be a total frugal weirdo.

Car payments, credit cards, student loans, and even laundry soap are all up for elimination when you’re a frugal weirdo. It’s the key to escaping debt and retiring early. There’s no way you can live independently if you’re chained to a bank note for 30 years, after all.

Don’t get me wrong; it does suck a bit to be the odd gal out. I’ve experienced my fair share of witch hunts from people who want me to upgrade my car, buy a bigger house, and not pump all my money into debt payments.

Haters are gonna hate, though, y’all. I like marching to the beat of a different drummer, and that’s how I’ve discovered the surprising benefits of being a frugal weirdo:

It’s cool to be weird!

Tips to Embrace Your Inner Frugal Weirdo

Thankfully, I’ve never been cool or popular or remotely interesting, so it’s been easy to live on my own terms. Here are a few of the frugal-yet-weird lifestyle changes I’ve made to save a lot of money–and how they’ve benefited me tremendously.

Cloth napkins and hankies

I did the math and realized we spent $15 a month on Kleenex and paper towels. That’s small potatoes to most people, but to me, it was money literally in the garbage.

After poking around Pinterest, I realized I could make my own reusable items to replace pricey one-use items. I was tempted to toss out the toilet paper, too, but Mr. Picky Pincher nearly started a household mutiny, so the toilet paper stayed (grumble grumble).

To replace our paper towels, I bought a set of very nice cloth napkins from my thrift store for 25 cents apiece. I paid a grand total of $1.50 and I had fancy cloth napkins instead of Brawny. It took a bit of training to get out of our paper towel habit, but now we feel mighty fancy using cloth napkins to wipe the spaghetti sauce off our faces. Ahhh, luxury.

I couldn’t find cloth hankies at the thrift store to replace my beloved Kleenex, so I made my own hankies. I took a few of Mr. Picky Pincher’s old flannel shirts, rags, and fabric scraps and went to town. I’m not a great sewer, but thankfully all I had to do was cut the fabric into squares and put a hem on them to prevent fraying. The result was 40 pieces of homemade hankies for $0.

Making yogurt 

I am addicted to all things dairy. I have at least five different types of cheese in my refrigerator right now, several quarts of yogurt, and a gallon of kefir. Ahhhh, heavenly deliciousness.

My favorite snack is yogurt, which I used to buy in single-serving cups from the grocery store. It wasn’t until I analyzed my spending habits that I realized how much my dairy obsession cost each month. After doing the math three times, I was shocked that I spent $20 just on yogurt each month. What the hell??

At first I laid off the yogurt and forlornly ate a banana when I was hungry. Then I realized that plenty of people make yogurt at home. I’m clumsy and mess everything up, so I was nervous to do any type of fermenting (knowing my luck, I’d get botulism or something). But my love for yogurt was so strong that I took the plunge and made my own yogurt.

And you know what? I’ve been making my own yogurt for over a year! Instead of spending $20 a month on single-serving yogurt cups, I make one gallon of organic yogurt a month for about $7. 

Weird? Definitely. Worth it? Absolutely. 

And you know what?

I was ridiculed for my weird ways. But by making small life changes and cutting my expenses ultra-low, I was able to save over 50% of my income. It wasn’t easy and I spent plenty of nights huddled over pints of ice cream, wondering if my life had gone off the rails.

Final Word

The surprising benefits of being a frugal weirdo come down to the numbers. I paid off $14,000 of credit card debt, eliminated a $10,000 car payment, paid for a $12,000 renovation in cash, and paid off $20,000 in student loans. There’s no way I could have done that with my previous spending levels!

The lesson I’ve learned is that it’s more than okay to make your own rules. You’ll find that there are plenty of pleasant surprises when you do what’s best for you.

Thanks again to Mrs. Picky Pincher for sharing her frugal wisdom. Be sure to check out PickyPinchers.com to learn more about the journey to Make Frugality Cool Again.

What frugal tips do you have to share? Would you consider yourself a frugal weirdo?

We all want to save money, but there's just one small problem. To really save money in this world, you've got to be a total frugal weirdo.

11 Genius Money and Time Saving Routines

Have you heard the old adage “time is money?” While this is true, I often remind myself that time is so much more than that. Time is the great equalizer for all people. For example, Mark Cuban is a billionaire, and you’re most likely not, yet you both only have 24 hours in each day. What counts is how well you utilize your time to live your best life. And with so many things competing for your attention in the noise of life, developing time saving routines can be critical to maximizing your life satisfaction.

As a full-time teacher, realtor, and blogger, I have learned to build time saving routines into each day. They are the reason I am able to pursue three career avenues while also maintaining time for family, friends, and recreation. To be fully transparent, I haven’t always been so efficient with my time. I developed my routines through trial and error, and from time to time, even extreme efficiency cannot help me to juggle it all.

Looking to save time and save money? They go together! Our tips will give you the routines you need to save tons of time, reduce stress, and be happier.

Life-Changing Money and Time Saving Routines

If you’re overwhelmed by life and feel that there just isn’t enough time to do it all, the following time saving routines may be the tricks you need to make the most of your time and boost your happiness! Pick a few to implement this week after reading the tips below.

1. Start Your Day the Same Way Every Day

If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, then it also stands to reason that the first half hour of your day is the most important. I strongly believe that the first 30 minutes of my day can set the tone for the rest of my day. After coming to this understanding, I decided to structure my waking moments as follows:

  • Press “Snooze” on my alarm clock (not my iPhone – more on that below!) and spend five minutes in quiet to pray and run through the events of the day in my mind.
  • Get out of bed, shower, and get dressed for the day.
  • Let our dogs out and pour myself a cup of coffee (set to brew on a timer from the previous night) while standing at the island in our kitchen.

On the surface these steps may not seem like time saving routines, but if you look a second time, you’ll notice that I don’t do what nearly every person does upon waking up: check my iPhone. 

In the past, I used to spend an easy 30 minutes (or more!) reading the news, scrolling through Facebook and Twitter, checking e-mail, and more before even getting out of bed. One day, it dawned on me that this is a huge time vacuum! And the worst part is that it often led me to start my day out grumpy and stressed out about everything I needed to do that day.

My time number one money and time saving tip is simple: find time saving routines that work for you and implement them to start your day off in a positive way.

2. Choose Your Clothing the Night Before

At the risk of having my man card revoked, I’ll be honest: I like clothes. A lot.

In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for me to stand in our closet and decide on outfits for several minutes each morning.

By choosing my clothes the night before when I am far more alert, I save myself an estimated 30 minutes each week.

3. Set-up Automatic Payments on Everything

Have you ever sat down to pay bills and realized you didn’t have any envelopes? Cue a trip to Office Max. You resume the process and discover you don’t have any stamps? Off to the post office you go.

Today, there is no reason to waste so much time paying bills when you can automate payments through your various service providers or your bank. Make a list of your regular bills and set up auto pay as soon as possible.

Related Tip: It’s a wise move to review your bills for unused subscriptions every few months to make sure you’re not just throwing money down the drain for services you don’t use.

Trim Financial Manager can help you with this task – and it’s free! Trim Financial Manager, help you find unused subscriptions and even help you cancel them!

4. Handle Mail and Other Documents Only Once

When my wife and I got married, we quickly developed the dreaded pile of mail on our kitchen table. Maybe we thought the other person would just take care of it, or if we just ignored it maybe it would go away. Even today, it rears its ugly head when we both are unusually busy.

Of all the time saving routines I have implemented, handling mail and other documents only once may be the easiest to apply consistently. When I open mail, I quickly choose a course of action: recycle it, shred it, act upon it, or file it.

5. Make the Most of Idle and Busy Work Time

Call me weird – you know you want to – but I enjoy menial tasks even when they’re simple “busy work.” Mowing the lawn, folding laundry, cleaning the house, and running errands are my jam.

Why? I make the most of this time by listening to podcasts, audio books, and even writing articles for this site via voice dictation. For a driven, type A personality, accomplishing two things at once is thrilling.

While I caution anyone against multi-tasking – it doesn’t really work – making the most of your time by engaging your mind during mindless activities is one of my favorite time saving routines.

6. Set Limits Using Timers

I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but I have a rare ability to make even the quickest tasks take a ridiculous amount of time if I know I have time to burn. For example, I once spent an hour writing a simple thank you note that should have taken only five minutes. My face should probably be plastered all over posters for Parkinson’s Law (work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion).

Setting timers to keep yourself on task is one of my favorite time saving routines because it provides the simplest form of accountability. Do your best to set realistic time limits for all tasks and your productivity will soar.

7. Maintain an Electronic Family Calendar

Whether you are newly-married or have a large family of several children, saving time is all about being organized. My wife and I do not have children, but our electronic family calendar is often the only thing keeping us on top of everything that we have going on.

You can use any number of apps to share an electronic calendar with members of your family. We keep all of our important events, birthdays, bill due dates, vet appoints for our dogs, and much more on our shared Google calendar. It only takes a few minutes to update each week and even less time to check each day, and it is one of the easiest time saving routines you can implement.

8. Tidy Up Often

Have you even gotten to the end of a busy week only to realize that you had let dishes, clutter, and dirty laundry slide for five days? I have, and it’s awful.

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One of my least favorite but most impactful time saving routines helps us fight back against the weekly build up of clutter: we take five minutes each day to tidy up our house. I like to use a small basket or box and collect items that haven’t been put away, round them up all at once, and then put them away. Even if you do this every other day, it will make a big difference and help you save weekend time for more important and fun things.

9. Cook With Your Crock Pot

If you’ haven’t embraced the mighty power of the Crock Pot, let me say this: it’s time, and you’re going to love it! I estimate that Crock Pot cooking saves us a minimum of 2-3 hours each week.

Related: Get started with our 10 favorite money-saving Crock Pot meals.

10. Batch Meal Prep and Cooking

On a related note, batch meal prep and cooking saves us time when we aren’t using our Crock Pot. It uses fewer dishes, knives, cutting boards, and also cuts down on prep and clean-up time.

11. Carry a Water Bottle

How does carrying a water bottle count as one of our time saving routines? Your efficiency in any task is greatly diminished when you are dehydrated. By carrying a water bottle regularly, you will help your body work closer to its peak efficiency and you’ll avoid having to drop several dollars on bottled water each day.

Start Implementing These Tips

As mentioned earlier, you only have so many hours and minutes in each day. Implementing time saving routines and making them a consistent part of your week can greatly help your efficiency and improve your overall life satisfaction.

If you’re looking for tips to save money, be sure to check out the articles below – they are full of money saving tips that may help you save hundreds or thousands each year!

Related Reading:


What time saving routines do you recommend? Do they also help you save money?

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How We Save Money on Food During the Summer

Summer is almost here, and with its arrival often comes big changes to the average person’s diet. Hearty soups, casseroles, and chili are replaced by seasonal vegetables, fruit salads, and delicious grilled meats. In this post, I’ll be sharing tips and tricks that help me and my wife save money on food during the summer months while still eating well.

Generally speaking, the tricks we use to  save money on food during the summer are somewhat similar to how we save on food any time of the year. However, there are a few tricks that work far better in the summer months than they do during any other season. So grab a notepad and pen, and read on to see the steps we take to save on food during the summer!

Summer is here! Check out these tips and tricks we use to save money on food during the summer months and keep more money in your budget now! Learn how to save money on produce, store your produce safely to maximize its freshness, find great deals on meat for the grill, and eat lots of fruits and vegetables without busting your budget.

You Must Start With a Plan

Have you ever found yourself at the grocery store without a list, with no idea what you have in your pantry and refrigerator, and an empty stomach? I’ve been there, and I can tell you that this is a recipe for disaster.

However, heading to the grocery store without a list during the summer months can be worse than any other time of the year. Our local grocery store of choice always has fresh fruit and vegetables near the main entrance. It’s almost like a trap, and if we don’t have a list, we fall for it. Every. Single. Time!

If you don’t have a list when you enter the store, you’re far more likely to end up with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in your cart. Normally, this is a good thing. But if you’re buying far more than your family will eat in a month, you’re just wasting food and money.

Related Reading:

Check Ads and Circulars for the Best Deals

Ten years ago, it was a normal practice to check weekly ads for the best grocery deals. I remember watching my parents do it every Sunday and Thursday. In a digital world, fewer and fewer people have a newspaper subscription, so ads can be hard to come by in some communities.

It is always a good idea to check out your grocery stores’ weekly deals, even if it means checking their website or downloading their app. Especially if you regularly shop at a few different grocery stores, checking out the deals in advance can help you save as much as $20 per week!

Helpful hint: We use our favorite grocery store’s app to save money automatically and earn rewards on items we would normally buy anyway.

Check out Farmer’s Markets to Save on Food During the Summer Months

If you live in a community with a farmer’s market, you owe it to yourself to check it out. As a kid, I spent many Saturday mornings visiting the markets with my Grandpa. He always had an eye for deals, and it wasn’t uncommon for us to head home with a back seat full of fresh beans, corn, tomatoes, apples, and watermelon.

Word of caution: Your local farmer’s market may not necessarily help you save money on food during the summer months on a weekly basis. Plenty of variables, such as your local economy, weather patterns, and even fees charged to merchants at your local market can have a big impact upon prices.

Download the Ibotta App

Simply put, the Ibotta app is one of the simplest ways to save money on the items you would already buy anyway. It is an easy replacement for people (like me) who hate couponing, and the savings add up very quickly over time. The best part is that they recently overhauled their app, making it much easier to save money.

Saving with Ibotta is easy. 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 over 300 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, which you can later transfer using PayPal or use to buy gift cards.

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.

Know How to Store Fruits and Vegetables

Summer is by far our favorite time to buy and enjoy fresh produce. In our area of the country (the Midwest), it is also the best time of the year to get fresh, locally-grown produce.

One of the most important things to know when buying fresh produce is how to best store it to maximize its shelf life. Download the free printable to store on your refrigerator when you enter your e-mail address in the box – don’t worry, we won’t SPAM you or share your email address with anyone. You’ll also receive periodic communication from us, but you can unsubscribe at any time!

Score the Best Deals on Fresh Local Meats

Balancing the desire to support local farmers with the need to save money on food during the summer can be difficult. I know that when we host large groups for a barbecue at our house, I’m very conscious of how much money we spend.

If you are comfortable buying meat in bulk, 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.

Pro Tip: Orders from Zaycon tend to be larger than the average family’s needs, but you can recruit a friend or two to divide up the bill, allowing everyone to save and still eat delicious meat!

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

Stop Buying High Calorie, Dehydrating Beverages

During the summer months, hydration becomes even more important than it is during other seasons. If you routinely spend money on high calorie beverages, such as soda, juice, and alcoholic beverages, you can significantly reduce your budget during the summer by increasing your family’s water intake.

During the summer, my wife and I use these blender bottles for smoothies and water on a daily basis. If you make it a habit to carry a water bottle with you at all times, you’ll avoid the urge to splurge on expensive bottled water or sugary drinks when you’re on the go.

Try $5 Meal Plan

I’ll be honest: I can understand how buys families struggle to save money on food during the summer months. My wife and I don’t have children yet, but we see our close friends are always on the go to baseball practice, swim lessons, games, and much more.

When you’re this busy, it can seem like it is impossible to meal plan. Stopping in for a visit to McDonald’s is much easier, but the hit on your wallet can very severe.

If this is you, it may be time for $5 Meal Plan to come to your rescue. With their free, 14 day trial, summer can be a great time to try out their plans at no risk.

When you sign-up, 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)

As a member, you’ll also gain 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.

Final Word

I hope these tips and tricks will help you save money on food during the summer months and beyond. They have helped us save money on food during the summer while still enjoying good meals, and I believe they can work for you, too!


If you have any other tips and tricks to share that others could benefit from, please leave a note in the comments and I will add you tip to this post.

Summer is here! Check out these tips and tricks we use to save money on food during the summer months and keep more money in your budget now! Learn how to save money on produce, store your produce safely to maximize its freshness, find great deals on meat for the grill, and eat lots of fruits and vegetables without busting your budget.

 

 

The Best Items to Buy at the Dollar Store

Now more than ever, low-price retailers are locked in a fierce battle to earn your loyalty as a customer. As buyers develop more and more purchasing savvy and shop online even for items like toothpaste, toilet paper, and peanut butter, the stakes are higher than ever. The bottom-line is that shoppers are always on the lookout for the best possible value when making a purchase, even if the local dollar store offers the best value. But it isn’t always easy for buyers to determine the best items to buy at the dollar store.

At the end of the day, the average buyer simply wants a good deal. However,  he or she isn’t interested in spending the time to analyze things like cost per unit, compare manufacturers, and evaluate the effectiveness of a product and its ingredients.

Who has time for that? 

Not every purchase at the dollar store helps you save money. Check out the best items to buy at the dollar store and start spending wisely!

A List of the Best Items to Buy at the Dollar Store

With busy work lives, never-ending house chores and yard work, and shuttling kids to activities, you probably don’t have time to play home economist. If you have three minutes, keep reading and we’ll show you the best items to buy at the dollar store to help you save money and still get maximum value from your purchases.

Cleaning supplies

Marketers know exactly how to hit your pain points and convince you that you need expensive chemicals to keep a clean house and a healthy family. Tapping into your fear and pride allowed them to create a multi-million dollar industry.

The truth is that basic cleaning supplies, such as bleach, ammonia, toilet boil cleaners, toilet cleaning brushes, brooms, mops, dust pans, and dusters are manufactured nearly identically across the board. They are without a doubt some of the best items to buy at the dollar store without sacrificing value.

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Candy

Packaged candy quantities seem to change frequently, but many varieties are among the the best items to buy at the dollar store. Stock up on thin mints, hard candy, and generic favorites to save money on your next at home movie night.

Personal hygiene items

These purchases may require a bit of trial and error, as products come and go, but many personal hygiene items at the dollar store are made with the same ingredients as their more-expensive counterparts. This is especially true of shampoo and deodorant. Just be careful with dollar store toothpastes, as many are not FDA approved.

Dishware and flatware

If you’re in the stage of life in which things inevitably get broken by your kids, pack away the nice dishes and use these for a while instead. The ceramic plates and mugs in particular will last a long time. You can also use them for display purposes if you prefer keeping your dining room table set.

Basic Tools for a Starter Toolbox

You won’t find Craftsman or other elite brands there, but if you’re looking to build a basic starter toolbox, the dollar store is the place to start. You can find small toolboxes, hammers, screw drivers, nails, tape measures, duct tape, bungee cords, zip ties, glue, paint brushes, and more at most dollar stores, and these tools are more than adequate for light household use.

Greeting Cards

If you dislike spending $4.99 on a greeting card and don’t have time to make one yourself, cards rank among the best items to buy at the dollar store. Many stores sell them 2 for $1.00.

Party Supplies

Throwing a party soon? Your local dollar store is the best place to score deals on plates, napkins, cups, decorations, and balloons – and you’ll save money compared to visiting a designated party supply store.

Pregnancy Tests

It sounds too good to be true, but it’s not: dollar store pregnancy tests are usually just as accurate as their more expensive counterparts when used correctly. Since it takes the average couple several months to one year to conceive, the enormous money saving potential makes pregnancy tests one of the best items to buy at the dollar store by a wide margin.

Hair accessories

Hair clips, scrunchies/ties, bobby pins, combs, and brushes are usually inexpensive no matter where you shop, but if you look carefully and find them in good quantities you can save money at the dollar store.

Home decor

Most dollar stores have taken a cue from their rivals and now offer a selection of home decor items, including vases, decorative plates, mugs, mirrors, and picture frames. Wise shoppers will scrutinize the quality of some items, but they are there to be found.

Similarly, most dollar stores offer a great selection of seasonal holiday decor, from window decals to traditional Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter decorations.

Wrapping paper and gift supplies

While picking up greeting cards, grab wrapping paper and/or gift bags while you’re at it. These items won’t be as fancy as their counterparts at more expensive stores, but they’re just going to be ripped and discarded anyway.

Reading glasses

Many dollar stores offer specialized reading glasses. They are a great value at only $1.

Disposable containers

If you’re planning to prepare a meal to take on the go or bring to a pot luck, pick up disposal containers at the dollar store first. You’ll save a ton of cash by avoiding higher prices at the local grocery store.

Books

Finding good books at the dollar store isn’t easy, but it’s not out of the question to find several best-sellers waiting on the shelves.


What are your favorite items to buy at the dollar store? Tell us in the comments section below.

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?

 

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?