Buying groceries is a huge area where most people are spending too much money. I used to be one of the people who would just go into the store, fill up my cart as quickly as possible, pay and then rush home. This approach will have you spending too much and wasting half of what you buy. Before you go to any store again, look in all of your cabinets, your pantry, your storage shelves and your fridge. Get rid of anything that is past its date and make a list of everything that you are throwing out so that you can examine it later. Organize while you do this, all canned items together, all items in jars together, dried items (pasta, rice, flour, etc.) together and clean out your freezer(s). Know what is in your house and if it is not likely that you will cook and eat it, get rid of it. Again, making sure to write it down on the list of things you will be looking at later. Looking at the list of things you threw away, will ensure that you do not make the same mistakes again when it comes to food.
Once you know what you have in the house, think about ways to use what is there by looking up recipies online. If you are missing items for the recipies, write those down on a shopping list. You might find that the majority of the fresh items and staples can be used in several recipies throughout a week. Try to get a list together for items you will be cooking for an entire week and think in terms of “three meals per day” and remember to buy some fresh “snacks”.
Once you have your shopping list, check out the local ads for the stores that are directly in the areas where you live or work. You can save money buy figuring out which stores have the best prices on produce, meats, drinks and staples. I typically shop every few days and I never go without my list. It took me time to figure out which store had the best quality of produce for the money, where to buy quality meats and which store has the largest selection of staples for the kitchen and which store has better house staples, i.e.; toilet paper, paper products, soaps, detergents, shampoos, etc. I suggest making a trip to one store for everything you need first and later, checking out all of the other stores when you have time and trying out their groceries that are on sale if you need it later. That way, you will have the luxury of time to get informed. Remember, while shopping, to look at the price of what you want to buy, then check and see if there is a store brand for the same item and see if the sale price is cheaper than the store brand. If it is not, try the store brand. Where I live, many store brands items are much cheaper than the normal brands and taste either the same or better.
After you return from the store, put everything away in an organized manner. Have your recipies for the week somewhere handy in the kitchen. Cook! Cooking saves you lots of money. We all have to eat, if you buy microwave items or prepackaged items you are spending more money for things that are less healthy even though they might save you some time. I suggest you cook for yourself (and your family if you have one) try to make sure you have leftovers for your lunch the next day. Take some fresh fruit or carrot sticks for a snack, make sure whatever you take is something you like and take drinks from your home. Either something you make, like tea or coffee or something else you like that you purchased at the store. If you have to buy it from work or somewhere else, it will cost more.
Keep track throughout your week of all of the times you saved money by eating or drinking what you prepared at home instead of going out to eat and I am sure you will be amazed at just how much money you actually saved. Take the money you saved and put it aside, repeat this entire grocery process every single week and after a month you should start seeing just how much you will be able to put aside with this savings aspect alone.
The grocery/cooking area of our lives are merely a drop in the financial bucket of ideas on how to save money. Other suggestions are to look into selling of some of your things you no longer use or need and at the same time, to make space for a new roommate or to have fewer things to move to your new cheaper home or apartment. People have a habit of holding on to unnecessary things that they might need at some point in the future or that they feel some kind of attachment to. However, cleaning out your space can be a very rewarding experience both in terms of free space and in terms of letting go of unnecessary burdens. You can either sell or donate your things, or do both, and you will end up with some extra cash in your pocket and the knowledge that you did something beneficial on multiple levels. Also, if you are itemizing on your tax returns, your donations can become a dandy writeoff.
When it comes to entertainment and culture, a lot of people think that they will definitely have to give up one aspect of it on their frugal lifestyle – traveling and exploring new places. However, this is not necessarily true. There are two basic ways to do traveling on the cheap – backpacking and cheap RV living. Out of these, RV traveling is probably cheaper, because you can cook and you don’t have to eat out all the time – even fast food prices add up over time. Traveling with an RV is also more comfortable – you always have a roof over your head and a comfortable bed. The monthly expense for cheap RV living can be from $250 to $700 depending upon the size of the RV and your rental contract. This expense becomes really affordable if in the meantime you are renting out your house or apartment to tenants or if you share this fixed cost with a couple of traveling companions.
When you are transitioning into a new, more frugal lifestyle, it would probably help you a lot if you joined a community of people who are already doing it! There are a ton of online communities out there that talk about all the aspects of how to live on a budget. Whether you are interested in free cultural and entertainment events, or some easy and healthy recipes, or savings tips regarding banking and insurance, or even how to grow your own food, there are a lot of blogs and forums where people like you are discussing precisely these topics. So if you are looking to start your own
garden, but you have no idea where to start, head online and get all the advice you need for free, along with some encouragement and support as well. You might be surprised to find out how many people are talking about ‘how to save money’ tips. Share with them what you’ve learned so far and gather some fresh ideas that would fit into your lifestyle.
Learning how to live frugally can be a very fun and rewarding process if that is your attitude going in. It can inspire you to simplify your life, eliminate waste, and get back in touch with nature. If or when you find yourself in a situation to have to significantly cut back on spending, don’t despair. Remember that you can still enjoy a great quality of life if you adjust your habits accordingly. Hopefully, your takeaway from all of this will be that financial difficulties are bound to occur to most people sooner or later, and certainly it’s not the end of the world. In fact, many people start living frugally not because of financial struggles but because they simply want to increase their efficiency for a more sustainable way of life. So look at this process a learning experience. While you are learning how to live on a budget, joining a community will help make your transition smoother and easier. It always helps to hear the advice of someone who has already gone through what you’re going through. And you will probably end up making new friends along the way.