Finding Extra Change
Hi everyone! Cait stopping by really quick. This is a guest blog post written by my (not)better half, Chuck. When I told him that I was going to be using "upgrade your life" as my March theme, he mentioned that I should talk about ways that we've saved money over the past three months. I'll be honest -- I don't handle the money at all. Charles is solely responsible for the vast majority of the bills. He tells me a dollar amount that I owe him every month, and I have a transfer automatically come out. So, I told him, he should write it! Here you go -- how we found extra change in the couch cushions. Okay, not really, but all those pennies add up!
At the beginning of the year, Caitlin and I had a conversation about finances. These are never fun conversations, but every good adult should sit down with the people they share their hard-earned dollars with and evaluate their incoming and outgoing money.
One of the first areas that we chose to assess was the grocery, beverage, and dining bill. The next should be entertainment and home expenses. The last area is what I like to call “putting your money to work”. This post I’ll be discussing saving money on food. The other topics will be saved for another post in the future (if Caitlin lets me! Please?). Stay tuned!
One of my priorities this year was to save more money. This has been difficult because being a nurse in Montana does not pay nearly as much as it did in Minneapolis. Stashing away a piece of my paycheck every two weeks was much easier when the sweet, sweet Midwest cash rolled in without much effort (other than the sacrifice of having to literally clean up shit, blood, and vomit at my job. It was a fair trade.) Many young people have not prioritized setting aside money for the future and I know there are many good reasons for this. Student loans are a sobering reality for many of us. The car must be paid for, as well as the lights and the phone and the food and the home. But, there is hope! Hope in the fact that saving money is easier than hustling to make more money. Caitlin and I have been able to find close to an extra two thousand dollars a year by adjusting spending ever so slightly. That's right. Two. Grand. And without resorting to really crazy cuts. Today I want to talk about some easy, realistic ways to cut bills.
Let’s start by talking about food. And cooking. And drinking. And that precious, precious black holy water we call coffee. A Starbucks grande latte costs more than four bucks in my city. Maybe you go to Amy's Morning Cup instead, but either way it's $4+. A regular cup of coffee is about two bucks. That’s $10-20 a week on coffee, and $40-80 a month. If the office or workplace has a coffee pot, take advantage of it. It’s free. If there is no communal coffee experience at work, make coffee at home. Sure, it won’t be a fat-free, sugar-free mocha with double whip, but it is much more cost effective and saving money is a sweet enough treat.
Monthly savings: $40-80
Yearly savings: $480-960
Let’s tackle the grocery bill next. If you have the skill, inclinations, and equipment, make your own bread. It is not difficult if you have a Kitchen-Aid or similar stand mixer. (If you don’t own a stand mixer this tip might not be worth your time, unless you really like an upper arm workout) Caitlin makes a loaf every one to two weeks. It takes twenty minutes of actual working time and two hours total time from start to finish. The bread she makes would also cost $5-7 a loaf at your local bakery and it costs a dollar to make with all the fancy bits like whole-wheat flour and various seeds and nuts.
Next, unless you are an orange juice connoisseur, there is no decent reason to buy the fancy-in-the-jug orange juice that costs close to ten dollars a gallon. Instead, buy the frozen concentrate. It’s not quite the same, but it is barely noticeable. And it’s less than two dollars for a can, for the higher quality brands, and it will make 64 ounces.
I love fresh fruits and vegetables, but don’t frown upon the frozen varieties. They are packed at the peak of freshness and they will not go bad as long as the power doesn’t go out. You can take some out of the bag and steam them on the stove or in the microwave without much effort. A three-pound bag costs around seven dollars at the local Wal-Mart and it will last us a week or two. The same goes for fruit. A three-pound bag of berries goes for ten dollars or so. Fresh berries do not last long and they often are at a premium price, especially out of season. It is quick and easy to thaw some berries to put on breakfast cereal or yogurt, or to make a topping for ice cream or cake.
Lastly, I’d like to discuss weekday lunch. If you are at the office or workplace during the week, work on packing your own lunch versus buying lunch or going out to lunch. It would cost me $30-40 to eat lunch at the hospital cafeteria for one week. It would be more if I went out to lunch. That is money that could be better spent elsewhere. Caitlin and I try to cook more than we need for dinner. The leftovers can be packed up for lunch for the next day. Multiply your dinner recipes by one and a half or two to ensure there is enough food for lunch the next one to two days.
Let’s talk about Wal-Mart for a quick second. I am not a fan of this place most days, but I will go there because they have the lowest prices in my town and probably your town, too.
Monthly Savings: ~$100
Yearly Savings: ~$1200
All of these savings together can save you a total of over $2,100! That's two whole months of rent in our area.
Now it's your turn -- what have you done this past year to save money?