Nowadays, it’s very expensive to be an American citizen. Prices have been escalating in different ways, such as in heating and gasoline, making everyday living much more expensive than it used to be. In order to go with the flow, it pays to be resourceful and frugal. By cutting back in one section of your budget, you will hopefully have more money to apply to another, to balance your finances. Here are a few ways that can help to cut back on costs.
Buy everyday items you use in bulk
For example, don’t buy the measly, little four-pack of toilet paper at the grocery store. Buy the biggest package you can find, which gives you the most paper for the money. Consider both overall price and how much paper is on each roll. Look to see if you can get double or triple rolls in large sized packs for a good price. I buy my paper goods by the case through Amazon.com, and it saves me a lot of money. This works well with paper towels, too. the pick-a-size paper towels bought in bulk last a lot longer than the regular-sized paper towel sheets.
Stocking up on inexpensive but healthy food
Cut out most frozen foods, for example. Frozen TV dinners are quick to eat your budget so avoid them. Some frozen foods make sense, like buying frozen bread dough. It is cheaper to buy three or four unbaked loaves together, than to buy one loaf of bread in the bread section. Forego the fancy styles of bread until finances improve. You can dress up frozen bread dough by rolling it out, brushing it with butter and spreading cinnamon-sugar. Just roll it back up and bake. Voila, you have cinnamon bread. Throw in raisins or pecans for variety.
Buy less convenience foods, and more staples like dry beans, rice, fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, milk and butter (store brand.) For meat, freeze each piece separately, vacuum-sealed to keep the freshness in. Buy food in bulk whenever possible. Forego the nicely packaged pre-made honey butter, mashed potatoes, or other prepared foods. I love convenience like the next guy, but not when these foods aren’t hard to make. Mashed potatoes are a good, healthy side dish, and are simple to make. Get a bag of potatoes and make your own, or a baked potato. Fresh and not as pricey as that small dish of the same thing, for a lot more cash. If you love yogurt, buy yogurt starter mix and make your own. King Arthur flour company is one online website where you can buy it.
Eat out less
When times are good, I eat or order out nearly every day. If my finances tighten up, going to restaurants or coffeehouses is the first thing I forego. Prying myself away from Starbucks was the hardest. Just figure how much going there every morning for a Caramel Frappucino costs, every week, of every month? By the end of the year it is a good chunk of money. Go once a week instead, buy the Starbucks brand coffee at the grocery store and brew your own during the rest of the week. You can buy a whole bottle of those fancy syrups (for those who cannot live without flavored lattes) from Starbucks for less than $10. One bottle of syrup lasts awhile. It is a lot more economical than having someone else make your drink for you. It’s not exactly the same thing, but in a pinch, it will at least allow you a little splurge without feeling guilty.
If you must eat restaurant food, get the whole meal as a take-out. That saves you from buying pricey mixed drinks, paying gratuities, and buying that fancy dessert you couldn’t live without but didn’t need. Get the main meal and enjoy it at home. Ok, it’s not as fun as eating at the restaurant, but you won’t be deprived of that Blooming Onion you were craving, and think of the money you save overall.
Forget fast food completely
Fast food is a nationwide obsession. It’s convenient, tastes good and you don’t even have to leave your car to get it. Whatever. Get out of this habit, to curb money wasting. You can buy a big bag of frozen hash browns, a jumbo box of pancake mix and a large bottle of syrup for a lot less money every week. If you don’t have time in the morning, make it the night before, then throw the meal in the microwave before going to work.
Think of less expensive recreational activities
Instead of going to the movie theater, buying popcorn and expensive tickets in prime time, take in an earlier (and cheaper) matinee. Or, better yet, wait and see the same movie on pay-per-view if you have cable. For those without cable, rent it at Blockbuster later. Maybe the movie won’t be "new" when you see it, but you will save a bunch of money.
Call the museum or zoo and see if there’s any price discounts for certain days of the week
In my hometown, the zoo had free admission every Monday. If taking a family of five is out of the budget during the weekend, wait until the free day and really enjoy yourself. Avoid the gift shop, because those always attractive items that draw you in and drain your wallet. The art or natural history museums are good places to go, too. Just call first, to see what kind of price cuts you can find.
Cut clothing costs
If you need to buy clothes, avoid any that need to be dry cleaned only. During tough times, shy away from outfits that have special care needs. Go for anything that can be thrown in the washer and dryer. Dry cleaning adds up quickly. If you own items that require it, wear them later when the budget improves, or only on special occaisions.
Use the car less
This is obvious but worth mentioning. Combine trips, so you aren’t wasting gas. Avoid long road trips, especially if you have a gas guzzler. If your car don’t require high-octane gas, forget about it. Regular works fine. If you live in the city, don’t have far to go and taxis are plentiful, use them instead of your car. Where I live, it’s cheaper to hire a taxi to drive me around locally, than to use my own car. To save even more money, use public transporation.
These ideas will get you started in thinking of alternatives to your regular money-spending ways. Even if you are saving only a few cents here or there, it all adds up at the end of the month. Every little bit helps. I know it isn’t easy, but the goal is to get through a hard financial time. It doesn’t have to be this way forever, just momentarily. We’re all in this financial crunch together. The lucky ones aren’t affected, but the rest of us are. Do your part to help yourself and your family. Hang in there, with patience and a little saving, money problems will hopefully pass quickly.