Archives For November 2012

Lowering Your Food Budget

Corey —  November 26, 2012

Food always seems to be our biggest budget buster. Between going to restaurants, going out with friends, buying too many snacks and everything else, we can never manage to stay within our food budget.

Our main reason for being so bad with our food budget is almost entirely due to laziness. And the fact that the Mexican restaurant up the street has the best food ever. Not kidding… We really want to work on our food budget so that we can save money for other things in our life, and also to pay down my student loans.

However, until we get this under control, it will make everything else in our lives just a little more difficult to achieve. Every loan and savings goal that we have will take just a little longer than necessary.

Below are some things that we are doing to cut down on our food budget:

1. We are limiting our going out to eat at restaurants.

We are really working on going out to eat less. Food at home can taste just as good, as long as we put some effort into it. Also, now that we have similar schedules, it makes it easier for us to eat at home together. When you go out to eat, you need to factor in the actual meal, taxes, tip, and the gas to get there. It all adds up very quickly.

Eating at home more often is also nice because you can spend more quality time together, which a price cannot be placed on.

2. We have a menu plan.

Having a menu plan has been a lifesaver for us. It works wonders in so many ways. Planning what we will eat is actually fun, and I can mix up what we usually eat. It is also great because if I menu plan and write out exactly what we need at the grocery store, then I am cutting down on any food waste.

Households waste a lot of money on food waste. Have you ever thought about how much leftover food you have thrown away recently? What about anything that you had past expiration and had to throw away? Menu planning allows you to buy only exactly what you need, since you know what you will be cooking!

3. Don’t go shopping hungry.

This is something that probably everyone knows, yet a lot of people still do it! I still do this a lot and this is something that I am working on. Try to at least get a snack in before you leave to go grocery shopping.

If you don’t eat before hand, then everyone knows what will happen: EVERYTHING will look delicious and you will be thinking about all kinds of recipes in your head that you “should try and make” but in reality probably never will.

4. Use a basket instead of a cart.

If you know that you don’t need or want to buy a lot of things when you are at the grocery store, then just get a basket instead. You will be forced to buy only what you truly need because there are only so many items that you can carry before your arms will hurt like crazy. I do this a lot and it has really worked for me.

Whenever I think about getting something, I wonder how much weight it would add to the basket and whether the item is worth it or not for me to carry. Most of the time, the item is not worth it.

5. Use coupons.

This is also something that we are currently working on. I haven’t couponed in a while, but in the past it did work. The main thing to remember is to use coupons on things that you actually NEED and not to just use coupons because you have one. Buying things that you will never use it wasted money, no matter how much money you actually saved.

What are you doing to lower your food budget?

Tips To Save Money Over The Holidays

Corey —  November 19, 2012

Holidays can be very expensive. Whatever holiday it is that is celebrated, there are most likely numerous dinners, presents, parties and so on that are going on between your family, friends and work. Last month I talked about how to save money on travel over the holidays, but what about all of the other expenses that feel like they are “required” over the holiday season?

We tend to spend a lot over the holiday season (luckily almost none of it on travel because almost everyone is right here in the same area), but the costs of attending dinners, parties and giving gifts can really add up quickly.

For example, this year we have Thanksgiving to go to which is at the same place as always (his grandmother’s home). The WHOLE family goes which is over 100 people. Each person just brings one item that will be enough for everyone. Our job this year is to supply hot chocolate. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but the hot chocolate maker that we need is $75, and the hot chocolate, water jugs, cups and marsh mellows will probably be at least another $30 to $40. And this is JUST hot chocolate!

Of course I do realize that this is not a lot of money (and I really do not mind spending money on holidays at all, because I love them so much), and that the holidays are not all about money, but it just adds up very quickly!

With the hot chocolate idea above, I could do things to make it cheaper (such as just using a very large pot), but with many young kids, it would just be too difficult and probably not safe for a pot to be running for half a day. Thinking of other ways to save money is never a bad idea and this is what we plan on doing.

Ways that you can save money over the holidays:

1. Stick to your budget.

Try and find the best deals for the food and presents that you need. Don’t try and justify one purchase, because you will most likely do this across the board and before you know it, you will have spent twice what you wanted to.

If you think that you cannot control your holiday spending, maybe hide your credit card from yourself for the month. “Saying” that you will pay it off when the bills come but not being realistic about it is not a good idea.

2. Gift exchanges.

If you are a part of a big family which will require a lot of gift giving, try and see if anyone would want to have a “secret santa” type of gift exchange. Not having to give so many gifts can greatly cut down on the costs.

Most likely, there will be other people who would want to do this as well. It also cuts down on the time needed to find gifts. Instead you can find one really good gift instead of 10 “average” gifts.

3. Use coupons.

Many stores and restaurants have lots of coupons available over the holiday season. Matching up coupons to the items that you have already planned to buy can help you save a lot of money as well.

Using coupons on your purchases will only really work well if you have everything planned out well. Buying things just because you have a coupon is most likely not a good idea either because you might change your mind and decide that the present is not good enough.

4. Holiday cards.

Holiday cards are always nice to send and receive, but if you can, try taking the pictures yourself and printing them off a website yourself. They will most likely still look great and the personal touch will definitely be liked.

Also, instead of taking the holiday pictures yourself or having them professionally done, you can always glance over pictures of you and your family from earlier in the year. I am sure there is something great out there, and you never know, something might work out! I know of many families who do this instead of spending $300 on professional holiday pictures.

5. Make gifts.

Not all handmade gifts are cheap, which is a big misperception that many have. However, if you already have the materials on hand, then why not use them? There are so many gifts out there that are possible for you to make. Maybe you could bake cookies, knit mittens or something else. I’ve always loved receiving handmade gifts much more than anything else.

How do you find ways to save over the holidays?

It has been nearly two years since my wife and I were struggling to make ends meet. Luckily we had a large emergency fund, but that is about all we had going for ourselves. We both were working jobs that paid us little money and we were living in one of the most expensive regions in the country. Luckily, we both had a four year degree and some work experience. Many other young people face far worse in many respects, but that doesn’t mean what we went through wasn’t difficult.

It very much was. As a way to get through the financially difficult times, we had to cut back. This often meant passing up on opportunities to go out with friends, simply because we couldn’t afford it. It also meant sacrificing in many other areas. But, what we came to learn through this challenging time, was that it didn’t mean giving up on life altogether. It is easy to understand why many people think this – because this is often what it becomes, but there are creative ways to enjoy life to the fullest without breaking the bank.


The first thing we had to do was prioritize our expenses. This meant taking a close look at our entertainment budget. Going to a movie and spending $30 did not mean as much to us as buying tickets to see michael mcintyre┬áin concert. While everyone may not share the same passion for concerts, it’s all about setting your priorities. This also means that you have to cut some things out. It’s not a matter of saying which are most important, but also how far can your limited number of dollars reach.


After you have prioritized your spending, you can start to think of ways to make the most of your money. This means looking that those priorities and trying to make your dollars reach the farthest. This may mean cutting back on some more areas, but it may also mean that you spend more money in certain areas. For example, my wife and I learned that we enjoyed going to the movies (the few times that we went) when we got a giant diet coke. Yes, it was expensive, but it made the experience for us. It doesn’t mean you can’t be creative and bring snacks with you, but find out what is most important to you and optimize your experiences.

Create Memories with Others

The last and perhaps most important tip that I have learned is that creating memories with close friends is most important. While it may be cheaper to spend time at home alone, it is much more enjoyable if you do it with friends. The best part is that you can find creative ways to hang out with friends without spending money. This could mean board games, sports games, etc. There are many cheap and/or free things to do with a group of people.

While you may not have a lot of money, enjoying yourself is still possible. Be creative and see what you can come up with to save yourself some money while also enjoying life. The last thing you want to do is to live with regret.

Marriage is a big step in most people’s lives. Before you get married, buy a house together, etc., it is good to ask various questions in order for you to understand your other future half better. No matter how much you think you know someone, there are always new things to discover and figure out.

Figuring out things that may lead to future money problems is always a good idea. Talking too much with your significant other is not a real thing, talk about as much as you can!

Of course marriage is not all about money, but it is a good idea to talk about money. A lot of our lives involve money, whether we like it or not. Being prepared for anything that might happen is always a good thing.

1. How will money be divided?

This is a big topic that needs to be talked about before you make any big decisions with your significant other. Will all of your money going into one pot and you both share it? Or will bills be divided in half or by percentage according to how much each of you make?

If this is not talked about until after you get married or until after you buy a house, things might not turn out so well because there is the possibility that someone will be very surprised if its not something that they wanted.

2. How much debt do you each have?

Money may not be everything to you, but how much debt is too much? What if the person who you have been with for a couple of years secretly had been hiding debt from you? It’s best to talk about something like this before you get married or make any other big decision together.

If you found out that your spouse had $100,000 in credit card debt, would this change how you felt about this person?

3. Will there be a prenuptial agreement?

Many people think negative things out prenuptial agreements, such as how they are not “romantic” or completely defeat the purpose of getting married. However, in many instances, it can be extremely beneficial.

4. What are your goals?

Talking about retirement is important as well. Even though retirement is most likely far, far away for the both of you, you can never truly talk about it enough. How will the two of you save for retirement? If something does end up happening in the end where the two of you are no longer together, how retirement will be divided among the two of you or what will happen should be planned out.

Talking about when retirement will happen is important as well. If one of you wants to stay home when there are children, this should be talked about if you know for sure. Something big such as staying home can drastically change your family’s retirement goals.

5. Who will manage the money?

Managing money in the household is important. Usually one person does this in order to eliminate anything repetitive and to limit the amount of time doing household financial things.

However, both you and your partner should know how the money and financial events are ran in the household. This is so that if something happens to either of you which would limit your financial life and bills being paid, then at least the other person knows how to do so. Disruptions can be expensive!

What did you make sure to talk about before you got married?

What Will You Do In Retirement?

Corey —  November 6, 2012

Have you figured out how much you need in order to retire? Have you adjusted this for how you actually want to retire? Retiring young would require you to start saving more upfront. Maybe you want to work part-time because you could never see yourself with empty hands. Or maybe retirement to you means finally doing things that you love, whether you make money from it or not.

Retirement may be awhile away for you (it sure is a long time away for me), but I’m sure all of us have thought about how we would spend retirement.

Yes, at first all you might want to do is lay on the beach for hours and hours, but what about after that? I’m sure most of you want to keep busy at least some-what, I know I do. So have you ever thought about how you would fill your time?

Ways that you can possibly spend your retirement:

1. Volunteer.

Volunteering might be on your mind right now, but maybe you’ve been putting it off since you don’t have enough free time. But what about when you retire? You will have a lot of time available, and you can finally spend your time dedicated to organizations that you believe in.

There are so many organizations that need your help, so open up your phone book or your laptop and start calling places when you have time. This is something that I definitely want to do when I retire, but something that I should be doing now. Giving back to your community has so many positives, so why would you not volunteer when you have so much free time?

2. Travel.

Love traveling? Travel the whole time in your retirement! Some countries can be insanely cheap to travel in, and thus you can stretch your retirement dollars in these areas. Of course some areas and countries are more expensive, so you should save and budget accordingly.

Since you won’t have a job tying you down, exploring new countries when you are retired is a great time to do so. You can do adventurous things such as go on safaris, skydive, try exotic foods and so on. Being able to travel without something or someone to tell you to come home would be my dream.

This is something that I definitely want to do, but not full-time. Maybe for a couple of months (maybe even a year, depending on my health and how old I am) since I know that it would be exciting. Having a stable place to call home in my actual home town is something that I love.

3. Have a part-time job.

You’ve been working your WHOLE life most likely, and some of you might not see yourself being 100% jobless. You can find a nice part-time job that is stress free and still allows you to interact with others. The extra income is another positive! Some part-time jobs even offer full benefits such as health insurance.

Part-time jobs could include dog walker, store greeter, customer service, nanny, instructor, tour guide, translator, blog owner, etc. The list is really endless, so of course don’t think those are the only jobs included.

4. Start new hobbies.

Do you have a long list of things you want to try, such as knitting, painting, teaching, collecting, DIYing, etc.? Well now you finally have more time! Maybe create some kind of list and cross things off as you complete them. Is having too many hobbies a bad thing? I don’t think so :)

5. Start a new business.

Have you always wanted to start your own business? I’m sure a lot of us have dreamed of what our personal businesses would be. If you aren’t as reliant on income, then this can be a fun and stress-free way to begin your dream. And you never know, without the extra stress, you might become extremely successful!

How do you want to spend your retirement?