Whether you’re juggling a full-time job, a family, pets or all of the above, the idea of actually saving money may be the last thing on your mind in the wake of keeping everyone around your content. Regardless, we can’t help but think of the future: a bigger house, a new car, college for the kids. What are we to do when we’re already strapped for cash but simply don’t know where to start with saving?
Perhaps it’s best to understand some important lessons learned from self-made millionaires as a solid starting point. From person to person, regardless of background or experience, the advice is similar and sound: take it slow, start small and maintain your discipline. Beyond having a positive attitude, it’s crucial to understand that accumulating wealth and savings often represents a snowball effect: that is, by eliminating spending in one aspect of your life, you can begin to eliminate waste elsewhere.
If you’re anything like the average family spending big on groceries and eating out, your food budget is probably the best place to start slashing. The question remains: how can you possibly keep everyone in your family fed without breaking the bank?
Beware of Brand Names
Big-box supermarkets and grocery stores alike sell generic, store brands of cereal, condiments and pretty much everything in between at a fraction of the cost of their brand-name counterparts. In many cases, you’ll find that generic options taste identical to the “real thing” and that in the past you’ve probably been paying for a name versus premium ingredients.
While you don’t need to buy everything that’s store-brand, at least experiment with a few generic products to taste the difference for yourself. Also, consider that premium stores such as Whole Foods and Fresh Market are much pricier versus Wal-Mart or warehouse clubs like Costco. While you may not want to give up your favorite store in pursuit of a smaller food budget, such sacrifices may be necessary.
for most households; however, we also waste approximately 25% of the food we purchase. In other words, you can literally throw money away if you’re not careful. So, how can you avoid waste at the store?
- Make a grocery list ahead of time-based on planned-out meals and stick to it
- When in doubt, buy less than you think that you need
- Invest in non-perishable and canned items with long shelf-lives versus exclusively using fresh ingredients
Don’t let your eyes be bigger than your stomach: after all, you can always go back to the store if you need something specific for a meal.
The Hidden Costs of Eating Out
Conventional wisdom tells us that eating out is more expensive than eating at home. However, critics argue that you can’t beat fast food value meals, especially when you’re trying to feed a family. Who’s in the right, then? Keep in mind that although you can get dirt-cheap fast-food, such meals are exponentially more expensive per serving versus cooking in bulk. On the flip side, rice and pasta dishes cost next-to-nothing to prepare can easily be cooked in large quantities and keep easily. For the $20 you spend at McDonald’s, you could prepare a few days’ worth of dinner: it’s all about spending smart and getting creative in the kitchen.
Saving money for the future doesn’t always have to be a headache. By starting small and taking on your food budget first, you may uncover additional places to save in your day-to-day life.