Save money by menu planning!


When people ask me how they can cut their grocery budget, my top answer is by menu planning!  When we menu plan, we save more money because we’re actually eating what we buy and we’re not resorting to eating out, which is always more expensive!

Save money by menu planning


1.  Make a list of your family’s favorite meals – Sit down with your family and give everyone a turn to share their favorite meals.  Write them all down.  This should give you a good list of meals to start with (having a list of ideas always makes menu planning easier!)

2.  Don’t be afraid to try new recipes – I usually try to add at least one new recipe a week to our menu.  I find them by browsing recipe sites and Pinterest is a great resource, too!

Looking for menu ideas?

3.  Plan a variety of meals ~ Plan a variety of meals each week rotating beef, chicken, pork, and pasta.  Sometimes, we also have “theme” nights such as taco bar, potato bar, or breakfast for dinner.  Planning a variety, keeps meal planning fun and helps you to avoid burn-out.

4.  When planning for the week, consider what you have on hand and browse your weekly grocery store ads to see what is on sale ~ I meal plan one week at a time using this method, which helps to cut down my grocery expenses.  I usually sit down and plan for the upcoming week on Friday nights or Saturday mornings before I go grocery shopping so that my shopping list is based on the meals we are having during the upcoming week.  Using this method helps me to rotate my stockpile and since I’m using items from my stockpile, I’m also spending less at the grocery store.

Here are some printable worksheets to help you with your menu planning: (all are free!)

5.  Be flexible and figure out what works for your family ~ Your menu plan is just a guide.  It doesn’t have to be an absolute.  Sometimes what you have planned for Thursday sounds better on Tuesday and that’s OK.  Some people don’t even menu plan for specific days.  They just come up with options for the whole week.  Some people plan for an entire month, which is impressive, but doesn’t work as well for my family (especially since I plan my meals partially based on what is on sale during the week).

I usually do all of my meal prep work before I go to work (putting everything in the slow cooker if I’m using it that day or cutting up meat, veggies, etc. so I just have to cook it all when I get home), so things go quickly once I get home.  Even during the summer, I like to do my prep work early in the morning, so I’m not as stressed trying to put dinner together in the evenings since that’s the time of day when my kids seem to go crazy!

What works for you with menu planning?  What are some of your favorite meals?

This is the 7th post in my 30 Days to a Better Budget series!  You can see all the posts here–> 30 Days to a Better Budget

Six Ways to Cut Expenses FAST


A few times a year, my husband and I decide to re-evaluate our budget to see where we can cut expenses.  We just did this and we were surprised at how much we were able to save!  In about an hour’s time, we managed to cut $270 from our monthly expenses, which is $3,240 per year!!

Six ways to cut expenses FAST

1.  Shop around for car insurance – It doesn’t cost anything to get quotes and you may find that you can cut expenses considerably by shopping around.  My husband and I ended up sticking with our original insurance provider after they matched a rate from another provider.  We saved $108 per month by doing this!  That’s almost $1300 per year!

2.  Get new quotes for homeowner’s insurance – You can also get free quotes for homeowner’s insurance.  Sometimes you can get discounts when you bundle your car insurance and homeowner’s insurance together.  By shopping around, we were able to get BETTER coverage and we’re saving $33 per month!

3.  Cut cable expenses – Contact your cable provider and see what other plans are available.  Consider dropping to a basic cable plan or dropping cable altogether.  You can get Netflix for $9 per month or Redbox streaming for $9 per month!  Both offer free 30 day trials so you can see if it’s “right” for you!  The Redbox plan also includes 4 free Kiosk rentals per month!  We contacted our cable provider and we were able to save $60 per month by switching to a different cable package!

4.  Get rid of your landline – We were paying $30 per month for a “basic” (no frills like caller ID or anything else) landline!  We are rarely home and the only calls we really received on our landline were from telemarketers.  We decided to use our cell phones only and cut the landline.  If you’re not ready to get rid of your landline altogether, get a Magic Jack and you’ll pay just $29.95 for a full year of service!

5.  Check out your cell phone plan – When is the last time you checked out your cell phone plan?  New options may have been added and you may be able to find a more affordable plan.  Also consider all the “extras” you have on your account.  Are you getting the most bang for your buck?  My husband and I are both on the go a lot and use the internet a lot, so unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot we could do to cut expenses in this area, but we did bundle our phones into a family plan and that helped us to save some money.

6.  Cut meat one meal a week – By cutting meat out of one meal per week, you can save $10-$15 per week, which equates to $40-$60 per month or $500-$700 per year!  Instead of meat, find a favorite pasta dish, have a baked potato and salad bar, or maybe even have breakfast for dinner instead!  I have been surprised to find that my family actually enjoys this simple meals more than some of the more expensive things I make!

What are some other ways that you have cut expenses in your family’s budget?

This is the 6th post in my 30 Days to a Better Budget series!  You can see all the posts here–> 30 Days to a Better Budget

Save Money with a No Spend Challenge!


This month, I’m focusing on helping you (and me) get your finances in order! Last week, I talked about the 52 week savings plan, which is a way that you can save almost $1,400 in a year by adding small amounts each week and also about starting a change jar. Another way to save money is a no spend challenge.

What is a No Spend Challenge?

A no spend challenge is just that – you set a goal to not spend money for a set time period!   Sometimes people do this to compensate for an unexpected expense where they need to cut expenses quickly.  Other times, people simply save the money that they would have spent.  This is a great way to jump start an emergency fund if you don’t have one yet!

How to start a No Spend Challenge


1.  Define what “no spend” will mean for your challenge:  Does that mean you don’t spend money on anything at all?  Maybe you just won’t spend money on a specific budget category like eating out or entertainment.  If your no spend challenge involves groceries, too, you may want to make allowances for non-perishable items like milk, eggs, fruits, and vegetables.  If you’re married, make sure your spouse is on board with the plan, too!

2.  Decide how long your challenge is going to last:  One week?  Two weeks?  One month?  Choose a realistic timeline, especially if this is your first time!

3.  Decide what you will do with the money you would have spent during the no spend challenge:  Can you put it toward a vacation fund?  Maybe it can be used to buy season passes to a local amusement park for the family!  Maybe you need extra money for back to school shopping or for Christmas.

4.  Figure out how you’re going to “save” the money:  For me personally, if I have “access” to the extra money, I will be tempted to spend it.  If the goal of your no spend challenge is to save money, make sure you have a place to save it.  Pull out the money that you would have spent during the allocated time period and put it in a savings account, a savings jar, or somewhere else safe!

Have you ever done a no spend challenge?  How did it work for you?

This is the 5th post in my 30 Days to a Better Budget series!  You can see all the posts here–> 30 Days to a Better Budget

Grow your Savings with a Change Jar!


A few years ago, my husband and I took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and switched to a cash budgeting system. For awhile, I would keep the change we got back from purchases in a Ziploc bag to apply toward future purchases. One day, we decided to start a change jar. The first time we filled the jar and went to cash it out, we were shocked! In a matter of months, by throwing all of our spare change in the jar, $100 had accumulated! We usually “save” $200-$300 each year by doing this.

If you decide to start a change jar, here are a few things you can do with your spare change:

Apply it to your emergency fund

Use it for a vacation (we usually use some money from our change jar as spending money/fun money when we go on vacation)

Use it for back to school shopping

Add it to your children’s savings accounts

Buy family passes for the zoo, a Children’s Museum, or an amusement park

Add it to your Christmas savings (at the end of the year, we always cash ours out for Amazon codes to use for Christmas shopping)

Plan a special family activity

Here are a few tips:

  • If you cash out for a gift card at a Coinstar location, there are no fees!  You can get gift cards for Amazon, Southwest Airlines, Toys ‘R Us, JC Penney, Old Navy, and even iTunes!
  • Check with your local bank or credit union to see if they have a change counting machine and find out if there is a fee.

Do you have a change jar?  What do you do with your extra change?

This is the 4th post in my 30 Days to a Better Budget series.  You can see all of the posts in this series here–> 30 Days to a Better Budget

Five Ways to Build Your Emergency Fund FAST!


If you don’t have an emergency fund yet, it’s a must have.  You need an emergency fund so that you don’t bust your budget or have to go into debt when those unexpected events come along

Last year, within a six month period, we had the following unexpected expenses come up:

  • Broken dryer – we got a replacement at a scratch and dent facility for $300 cash
  • Air conditioner went out – $750 to replace (we saved 50% by paying cash)
  • Battery on my car died – $125 to replace
  • Tire on my husband’s truck blew and we had to replace all 4 since they were worn anyway – $900
  • Dog got bitten by a snake – $600 vet bill

None of those expenses were expected or budgeted for (we knew that the tires were going to need to be replaced and were saving for them, but we thought we had a little more time).  Without our emergency fund, we would not have had the money to cover any of those events.  Three of them (the tire, battery, and dog) all happened on the same day!

A good starting place is $1,000, and you can come up with that pretty quickly using some of the ideas below.  Also check out my 52 Week Savings Plan.  We used this last year to save for Christmas, but you could also use it for emergency savings or to plan for an upcoming vacation–> 52 Week Savings Plan


Five Ways to Build your Emergency Fund FAST


Here are some of the strategies we have used to build and re-build our emergency fund quickly!  I realize all of these ideas may not work for every person, but it gives you some ideas for getting started!

Sell, Sell, Sell!


The easiest and quickest way to get some extra cash for your emergency fund is to sell some things.  If you’ve got kids, you’ve probably got books, toys, clothing, and even baby gear that your kids have outgrown.  Go through your children’s bedrooms and make a stack of items that you could sell quickly.  Even if you don’t have kids, this is a perfect opportunity to declutter and clean out closets!  Plan a yard sale or check out Craigslist.  I have also had great success selling items on local Beg, Barter, and Sell groups on Facebook.  Just search “online yard sale” or “Beg, Barter, and Sell” for your area.

If you’re planning a yard sale, check out this post with tips–> Eight Tips for a Successful Yard Sale

Have a No Spend Challenge


Have a no spend challenge and take the money that you would have used and add it to your emergency fund.  How you do your no spend challenge is up to you.  Some people give up going out to eat for a certain time period.  Some people give up going out to eat and grocery shopping (except for perishables and essentials).  If you have a stockpile that you’ve built, this is easier than you think!  It may be as easy as taking your lunch to work instead of buying for a week or two or giving up your morning Starbucks for a month.

Get a Part Time Job


Get a part time job and put all of the money you make from your part time job into your emergency fund.  Do you have a skill where you could do extra work on the side in the evenings or on the weekends?  Could you deliver pizzas or newspapers for a short time?

Donate Blood or Plasma


This takes me back to my college days!  I had several friends who would donate blood or plasma when they were short on cash.  If you are able to donate (there are some restrictions), it’s a quick and easy way to make some extra cash and you’re helping to improve or save lives in the process.

Find out more about plasma donation and find a location in your area here–> Donate Blood or Plasma

NOTE:  Compensation varies by location.

Open a Capital One 360 Checking Account

I’ve had my Capital One 360 checking account for a few years now. We actually keep our Christmas savings in a Capital One savings account and then we transfer it to our check card when it’s time for holiday shopping!  Right now, when you sign up for a Capital One 360 Checking account, they are offering a $50 bonus!  Every little bit helps and this would be a great way to save for Christmas or to even stash your emergency fund!

This is the second post in my 30 Days to a Better Budget series.  See them all here–> 30 Days to a Better Budget

NOTE:  This post may contain affiliate links.  Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information.