Meal planning to help your budget
One of the biggest cost centres (i.e. areas in which you can cut back with creative spending) of course is your groceries. You can stand to save a lot of money right out of the box, simply by planning your meals.
What does meal planning entail exactly and how do you do to it most effectively to help your budget? Here are some tips.
Plan your meals, plan your time
First of all, planning your meals helps you save time, which means you’ll be more organized. That also means that you’ll be less likely to have to hit the drive thru or order take-out in a meal time panic. See- you’ve saved money already!
Stock up on staples
Make sure that your pantry is stocked at all times with some inexpensive staples which should be the base of a lot of your meals. You should always have legumes, canned tuna, peanut butter, rice, pasta and cereal.
As far as meat and poultry go, you can probably get more meals out of things like ground beef and chicken parts which are very commonly used in recipes. Both are often on sale and freeze well. Additionally, they both lend themselves well to improvisation (i.e. what do I have in the fridge/pantry?). It’s a cost saving measure to always have these items on hand.
Scan the flyers
Spend a hour or two checking out what is on sale and make your list based on the flyers. Wherever possible, stock up when you find a deal.
Once you’ve nailed down a few key ingredients for the week, start selecting recipes. You can google based on a few ingredients, or if you’ve got a fixed dish in mind, go for it. You are always better off if you can try to find recipes that let you make extras, either for leftovers or for use in another dish.
Are these sneaky expenses blowing a hole in your budget?
If you aren’t meeting your financial goals, do you know why? There are a number of expenses that people tend not to track that can funnel your money away discretely. Do any of these sneaky expenses apply to you?
Supporting charity is great, but make sure that you plan out your donations and track them as well. Preferably make donations that are tax deductible, so it’s a win-win. Avoid “topping” with a donation at the cash register or putting cash in a collection jar unless you budget for it.
Bank fees and the ATM
One of the biggest money wasters around are bank and ATM withdrawal fees. Plan to take cash out at your own bank branch to avoid those extra ATM fees. Speak with your banker about getting the best deals with your bank accounts to avoid fees.
If your barista knows you by name, you may be spending a great deal on coffee. Consider brewing it at home and bringing it out with you. You’ll save a lot of money.
Not reading the fine print
Did you sign up for a credit card or other service because of a promotional sale or interest rate special? Has it expired? Not reading the fine print may mean that you are paying full price for something that you think is discounted. Always read the fine print.
Monthly subscriptions/memberships for things you don’t use
Do you have online music or movie subscriptions? How about a gym membership? Do you use it? Make a deal with yourself. Only pay for things that you are going to use and budget for them in detail.
You probably budget for holiday gifts, but what about for the rest of the year? If you’ve got school-aged kids, buying gifts is a major expense because of multiple class birthday parties. Stock up on good, age-appropriate gifts when they are on sale.
What are the major causes of debt?
Do you ever wonder how people end up with sizeable debt loads? Do you worry that this will happen to you? There are common reasons why people end up with debt. It can help to know what these factors are so that you can work towards avoiding these problems to protect yourself.
Not having a budget
The biggest reason that people end up with debt is that they routinely spend beyond their means because they don’t have a budget. When you consistently spend more than you make, it doesn’t take long for that debt pile to grow.
Insurance premiums can seem like a pain to pay, especially when money is tight. Rest assured, being properly insured will not only give you peace of mind, it can save you from taking out crippling debt if you suffer property damage, are injured or sick or lose a loved one. Make sure you’ve got adequate homeowner/tenant, auto, life and health insurance.
Heavy student debt
With the rising cost of education, more and more students are graduating with substantial debt. It can be hard to move forward when you are already saddled with debt. Try to keep student debt to a minimum.
Having a gambling problem is an addiction, which can wreak havoc in all areas of your life, especially your finances. If you or someone you love is a problem gambler, get help right away.
Loss of income
When you lose your job, it can be even harder to make ends meet. People end up taking out debt just to cover costs. To reduce this particular risk, keep your debt load low and your savings substantial, so you are looked after should your income be interrupted.
Not only is divorce emotionally painful, it can lead to debt problems. Sign a pre-nuptial agreement to avoid costly financial conflict. Try and split things amicable and still offer financial support if possible, to avoid taking out lots of debt.
How to improve your financial health
If you make staying in good health a top priority, good for you! Keep those good habits going to improve your financial health. Much like taking care of your physical health, staying financially healthy means being mindful and adopting some positive behaviour on a regular basis.
Set a budget
If you don’t have one already, make sure that you set up a household budget. This is the best way that you’ve got to make sure that you are spending within your means. It’s also a great way to track your spending and identify areas for improvement in your financial management.
Be smart about savings
Identify savings goals and have short, medium and longer term goals. Make sure you include retirement planning and emergency savings as part of your savings plan.
Learn about investments
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you need a lot of money to invest. You can start small and watch your savings grow over time. Become financially literate about different types of investments and asset classes. Understanding what’s involved in basic investing can help to minimize your risk and maximize your growth.
Check your insurance
One of the leading causes of accumulating debt is being underinsured in the event of a disaster. Check your auto, home/tenant and life insurance policies. Find out what kind of disability and medical coverage you’ve got through your employer and make sure that you are adequately covered.
The best way to stay out of debt is to avoid accumulating it in the first place. Live on cash only and only use credit cards if it is within your budget and you are able to pay it off every month.
Become a deal hunter
Commit to yourself to never pay full price or a premium for anything. That means knowing how to source sales, discounts and using clever shopping strategies, like using coupons, price matching and buying in bulk.
In bargain shopping, timing is everything. Scoring a great deal isn’t always just about luck though. Did you know that most of retail sales actually centre on a sales cycle? If you can time that cycle, you can generally get some good deals.
As a general rule, if you can buy something off season you’ll save big bucks (think winter clothes as spring approaches, bikes in the fall, holiday décor the week after Christmas, etc.). But there are some items that benefit from even more shopping strategy
Here are some tips on when the best time is to make certain purchases in Canada.
Did you know that the day of the month and even the day of the week can factor into how much money you’ll save buying a car? If you wait until the end of the month, you may fare better, as car salespeople may be trying to reach quotas and more likely to make a deal. Similarly, if you shop for a car during the week, as opposed to on the weekend, you’ll likely pay less too.
If you are on the hunt for a new treadmill or other piece of fitness equipment, you’ll probably get the best price in January. Fitness retailers try to cash in on the vast number of New Year’s Resolutions that involve getting fit and/or losing weight.
This isn’t necessarily the case if you are looking for a gym membership. They tend to be cheaper in the summer months, as people begin to work out more outside.
Depending on what you are shopping for, Black Friday is almost always the time to get serious discounts on electronics and similar big ticket items.
The best time to book a flight is usually from 30 to 60 days before you fly. Flights tend to be cheaper when you book them midweek.