Many of us who are in debt and on tight budgets likely made a basic resolution for the coming year: we resolved to save money and reduce the size of our budgets. This is naturally easier said than done. Certainly, we can go shopping less frequently, eat out less often, and avoid taking any lavish vacations. All of these more frivolous expenses add up quickly and can be easy, with some self-resolve, to minimize and avoid.
But what about those more routine costs? Specifically, how can we reduce our core expenses in the coming year? Doing so can be more difficult and less rewarding on a per-item level, but lowering our core costs – such as food, utilities, rent, and transportation – can translate into substantial savings in the long run.
When looking to lower core expenses, your food budget is a great place to start. The easy first step is to reduce the frequency with which you purchase food at a restaurant or fast food location. Eliminating restaurant meals altogether can translate into considerable savings, but most people are unable to stick to a sacrifice that absolute. Instead, give yourself a monthly restaurant budget or limit your meals out to one night a week (ie, you only eat at a restaurant on Sunday night, if at all).
Once restaurant costs have been minimized, it’s now time to turn your attention to the money you spend at the grocery store. Many people spend frivolously at the supermarket, buying items that they do not need or perhaps won’t even use. To insure that your purchases equal your needs, the best approach is to plan out all your meals for a one or two week period beforehand. While doing so can seem onerous, especially at first, having a set list of meals with allow you to buy at the store exactly what you need – and nothing more.
The content of your meals can also make a difference. If you eat a lot of meat products, for example, your grocery costs will likely be higher than someone who gets their protein from beans and nuts. Other foods with lower costs and high nutritional values are rice, grains, eggs, and pasta. Focusing your meals on these products can save you a good deal of money in the long run.
Finally, you can also save money by buying nonperishable items in bulk. Instead of buying smaller containers of products such as olive oil or sugar, you buy larger containers at lower per-unit rates. These containers can then be stored in a pantry or basement for future use. Certain high-use items in your household are certainly worth buying in large sizes and then storing. As with all these other tips, doing so may not translate into immediate and substantial savings, but it will certainly reduce your food costs in the long run.