So much for getting through the challenge before the new year! Oh well. I’m still plugging along and trying to save that $500 a month. I’ve decided to tackle two other categories this week. Entertainment and Groceries. The two seem somewhat linked in my mind because it always seems that I end up using both entertainment money and grocery money for eating out. Which basically means that we probably eat out too much. It would be so easy to tell myself that we will just never eat out again, but even I know delusional thinking when I type it out…
I can’t say that Eva and I do much for ‘entertainment’. Of course we did go see Celtic Woman when she was 13. And we sometimes go to the movie theatre, but that’s rare as it seems so much more fun to pay $1.20 at the Redbox to see the same movie at home instead of spending $20 to see it at theatre. Hmmm. I really can’t think of anything that we do regularly for entertainment unless you count the fact that we are now doing our own yard work. I’m certain that the neighbors are entertained. My budget is $45 in this category and I am realizing that it seems to get used mainly for going out to eat.
That really isn’t what I want to use ‘entertainment’ money for to be perfectly honest. I would much prefer to do something fun with my daughter that will create a memory. Brian O’Connor has some great suggestions that I am going to follow and want to share with you:
I signed up for groupon some time ago and it is a great way to get to do and try fun things at a huge discount. Lately, I haven’t been checking the emails so I have missed out on so many good deals. If you haven’t already, consider signing up on sites such as Groupon and Living Social. They will send you a daily email and let you know about the deals they have going in your area. In the past we have used a Groupon to do fun things like go paddleboarding, visit a museum, and I even took my son to a car show using one once! Brian suggests setting up your inbox so that these emails go to a special folder you can look at when you have the time so they don’t clog up your inbox.
Be sure to sign up for your favorite restaurants email updates. Many times they will send out special coupons and offers to those on their list. I signed up on the Chili’s list and get a coupon from them several times a week. We don’t go often – but when we do I always have a coupon now! Another idea to save on eating out is to go for lunch rather than dinner or share an entrée. Eva and I went to a local café for dinner earlier this week and we shared a dinner plate. We both had plenty, enjoyed the time out and the grand total was just $12!
The Change Jar
One thing that we do to splurge a little is to go and get a pedicure. This may not seem like it should fit in the entertainment category – but it does – at least for us! In fact, it doesn’t get much more entertaining that having someone rub your tired feet and make them look a little less gross. It’s also an expensive prospect. Many places run about $25 for a pedicure (although you might get a better deal if you have a Groupon). Eva and I have a change jar that we put all of our loose change in each week. Sometimes we even throw in a dollar bill or two. About three times a year we collect enough money to go and get pedicures. It’s so much fun to get to do something like this without putting a dent into the bank account!
Going over my grocery budget has made me realize a few things. First, we spend a portion of our grocery budget every month on eating out. Technically it’s the same thing (food for us) but I want to track it more precisely. Second, food is really expensive. In the past I have tried the couponing thing – I really have. Unfortunately what ended up happening is that we spent the money I saved going to the doctor because of the terrible over processed foods I was buying with all of those coupons. I just haven’t run across any coupons for broccoli or asparagus lately. I do have a couple of ideas though on how we can reduce our spending at the grocery store.
The stores in my area regularly issue coupons that are not for specific products. Rather they are ‘save $5 on a $30 purchase’ or something along those lines. One great thing is that most stores accept competitor coupons. This is an easy way to save a few dollars. Another thing to do is to take advantage of the BOGO sales. Eva and I eat a specific kind of microwave meal on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays because of her school schedule. Publix puts those meals on a BOGO sale about every 9 weeks. I buy enough to last us until the next sale so that I never pay full price for an item that we use every single week.
Shop More Often
Yes. You read that right. And I know that it sounds all wrong. But before you skip this section – hear me out! We have all been taught that you spend more money if you go to the store all the time, so people have suggested shopping only every two weeks or even just once a month. That just doesn’t work for us because we end up throwing out food because it goes bad. If I go every 2 or 3 days waste is completely eliminated. Often, the food I have purchased lasts longer than I expect and we eat up all of our leftovers. It does take a little bit more time – but my trips to the store are super quick because I’m only purchasing a few items.
One way to save on produce is to shop at a local farmer’s market. This may not be available to you but if one is close by be sure to check it out. The produce is usually much better quality and is less expensive. Another option to consider is a food co-op. I recently heard about a local company that delivers a variety of fresh produce to customers for a weekly fee. I’m going to check into it and will let you know what I find out.
My savings so far:
Miscellaneous Savings: $110 on yard maintenance
Transportation Savings: $0
Utilities Savings: $65 ($15 on internet and $50 on cell phone)
Groceries: $80 (I decided to see if I can get by with $20 less per week as I get back to shopping more often and waste less food.)
Total Savings: $255.00
Whoot! A little over halfway there! Have you been working on reducing expenses for 2014? How is it coming along?