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Save Money by Making Smarter Meal Choices

7/20/2017 in Money Management Tips

Cutting down on your food expenses is one of the easiest ways to save extra money each month.

In this blog post we’ll use some eating habits that we believe are about normal for a single adult living and working in the US. Then, we’ll show how you can save nearly $100 each week by simply doing a better job of buying and cooking your own food. Everyone is different and your daily habits might not fall in line with the example but we hope you can take some of these ideas and apply it to your situation.

Breakfast:


Expensive
Fast food breakfast on the way to work: egg muffin w/ coffee or juice = $5
Frugal
Similar breakfast at home: 2x eggs ($0.28), piece of toast ($0.20) and coffee ($0.22) = $0.70

This is a savings of $4.30 per day. If you don’t want to purchase a coffee maker, there are good and inexpensive alternatives for making a single cup such as the Aeropress or a french press. The cheapest solution would be to use instant coffee.

Lunch:


Expensive
Fast food combo meal = $8
Frugal
Pack your own lunch. There are a huge choice of options here but we’ll stick with an easy to prepare lunch. Sandwich w/ apple and chips. Water to drink = $3.35 ($0.40 for bread, $1.50 for meat, $0.20 for tomato, $0.10 for onion, $0.20 for lettuce, $0.70 for apple, $0.25 for chips)

This is a savings of $4.65 per day. While microwavable meals may seem cheap and easy, we don’t recommend them because they usually aren’t that filling and are generally not that healthy. Another great way to cut your lunch costs even more is to eat leftovers.

Snacks:


Expensive
Crackers or candy bar from vending machine = $1.00
Frugal
Buy snacks in bulk from the store instead of buying individually when hungry. For example, buy nuts in bulk for $4/lb = $0.50 per snack

This is a savings of $0.50 per day. Another alternative is to eat your lunch gradually throughout the afternoon so you don’t have to purchase additional food for snacking.

Dinner:


Expensive
Grabbing fast food or eating at a restaurant = $8-15
Frugal
Making a dinner that will last several days (see assumptions at bottom of post). Chicken, veggie mix and rice = $4.70

This is a savings of around $10 per day. The added benefit is you now have 2-3 extra meals for lunches or dinners later in the week. If you already eat dinner at home try to plan and cook meals that will last several days instead of buying a frozen dinner that will only last you one meal.

Adding all of this up will save you $19.45 per day. Over the course of a 5 day work week this will save you just shy of $100 per week. You can increase the amount saved by spending a couple hours once per week making a lot of food that you can refrigerate or freeze and then eat throughout the week. Investing in a slow cooker and making a hearty stew or slow cooking some meat and then pairing that with some rice and veggies makes for a filling and extremely cheap meal.

If you need to eat out at a restaurant, you can always save a couple of dollars by ordering water instead of a soda.

We recommend setting up your Spending Categories to really drill down into where your food spending is going. If you’re already categorizing all of your expenses then the next step is to set a budget for both your eating out and your groceries and work on spending less money eating out and shift that over to groceries where every dollar you spend goes much farther.

If you’ve changed your eating habits and have noticed the changes in your budgets, we’d love for you to share your experience in the comments!

Assumptions:
  • Breakfast:
    • 18 pack of eggs costs $2.50
    • 18 slice loaf of good bread costs $4
    • 1 lb of ground coffee costs $8 (36 servings per pound)
    • Assumes you already have butter / jam for toast
  • Lunch:
    • Costs for sandwich ingredients depend on how much you use per sandwich.
    • Drink water to save even more money
  • Dinner (enough for 3-4 meals):
    • 3 lbs chicken thighs @ 2.50/lb = $7.50
    • 1 onion = $1
    • 1 bell pepper = $1
    • 1 broccoli crown = $2
    • Box of seasoned rice = $2.50

This is part of our weekly Money Management Tips series that aims to help you take more control of your finances. This series gives tips on everything from tracking your spending to improving your credit score.

Save More by Setting Up Weekly or Monthly Goals

7/11/2017 in Money Management Tips

Challenge yourself to save a few extra dollars each month by creating some easy-to-complete goals.

Now that you’ve already started meticulously tracking your expenses, why not take the next step and work on reducing your spending even more on one or more of your spending categories?

These goals don’t need to be difficult. They can be something as simple as buying one less coffee per week or seeing one less movie per month and watching that money stay in your bank account. The real reason you want to set some short term goals is to test yourself and see if you’re able to cut certain things out of your lifestyle or reduce spending in certain areas. If you find that making those changes is easy then you can incorporate the change permanently and have even more money available to you later on.

You can either make a mental note to spend less this week or you can adjust your budget by a few dollars and work on keeping under budget for this week or month. To edit your budgeted amount for your spending category, open up your budgets and click on the budget you want to change. This will expand the budget and you’ll see an option to Edit the budget.

When the Edit Budget form appears, simply reduce the Budget Amount by the amount you want to save and then update the budget.

Edit a Budget on ClearCheckbook

We hope that by challenging yourself to spend a little less every now and then you’ll learn that it’s actually easy to keep those changes in full effect for the future. Once you start cutting back on your spending some more you can take that extra cash and apply it toward reducing your debt or putting it away into your rainy day / emergency fund.

Let us know in the comments below what you’ve decided to cut back on and if it’s helped you put a little more towards your savings or toward reducing your debt.

This is part of our weekly Money Management Tips series that aims to help you take more control of your finances. This series gives tips on everything from tracking your spending to improving your credit score.

Check Your Bank Statements for Any Forgotten Subscriptions

7/5/2017 in Money Management Tips

Don’t throw away money by letting unused memberships continually withdrawal from your account.

With so many different companies and services charging a recurring fee for upgrades or service (yes, including ClearCheckbook), there are bound to be some that you’ve forgotten about and don’t use. Cancelling these unused services can potentially save you a lot of money.

Some of these recurring fees will be from companies you recognize, like a monthly Netflix or Hulu charge. Others might be for services you no longer use, like if you have an Xbox live or Playstation Network account that you don’t use. You might have simply forgotten about some like a gym membership that you signed up for at the beginning of the year and haven’t used in a while. The hardest to catch are ones that you didn’t even know you signed up for or were tricked into when entering your billing information online. Keep an eye out for fees from companies that you don’t recognize.

How can you find these recurring membership fees? The easiest way is to stay on top of entering your transactions into ClearCheckbook and Jiving them against your bank statement. If you follow the instructions in our Jiving walkthrough then you’ve probably already found some.

If you’re just getting started with ClearCheckbook or you import your transactions via our Import Transactions tool, looking for these transactions is as easy as going through the last few months of your bank statements looking for fees from companies you don’t recognize or for services you no longer use. Remember that some services renew annually while others can renew monthly. Regularly keeping an eye on your transactions will ensure you catch any of these quickly.

What should you do when you find one of these charges? Don’t immediately file a chargeback with your credit card company against the recurring fees you don’t want. Doing so actually violates how chargebacks should be handled and can result in the chargeback being reversed and the billings continue. Instead, make sure you attempt to contact the company either via email or phone first. If you can retain proof of this attempted contact or the company responses and they still refuse to cancel your membership then you’re well within your rights to file a chargeback.

Have you found any tricky hidden recurring fees on your statements? If so, let us know in the comments below so others can be aware of them!

This is part of our weekly Money Management Tips series that aims to help you take more control of your finances. This series gives tips on everything from tracking your spending to improving your credit score.

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