We all gotta eat, so that means we must shop for groceries. Unless, of course, you've been fortunate enough to acquire the means to hire a personal chef or all your meals consist of take-out Chinese, pre-packaged convenience store "food," and trips through the local fast food drive-thru.
While some people love the process of strolling the aisles, gathering up the weeks' edibles, others dread the trip and wish the food would magically appear in their pantries and fridge. Perhaps it's the crowds of shoppers fighting for that last ripe avocado, the bright lights and slippery floors, or maybe it's the amount of dough they're spending on their dough (and other stuff) each time they hit up the local grocer.
Of the gripes one may have, the one they can control is how much money is spent each time it's time to go grocery shopping. Here are 5 money-saving tips anyone can use and still come home with bags full of fresh (or packaged) foods and beverages. Is your mouth watering yet?
Stick to Your List
Before heading out to the market, take inventory of what you're out of and what you plan to cook or eat during the week. After you've perused and planned, write out a simple list, organized by category (dairy, snacks, produce, etc.) or placement in the grocery store. This is your list and that's that. If you see something tempting at the store, if it's not on your list, you're not buying it. Simple as that. Allow your self-control to hold more weight than a seasonal display of pumpkin spice truffles.
As per PopSugar, "If you follow the list, you won't be buying more than you need or buying unnecessary items. There are even free printable grocery lists online that let you check off which groceries you need. A good one to check out is the very detailed Ultimatest grocery list."
Shop Mid-Week (and preferably, just once a week)
Annette Economides, the co-author of Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America's Cheapest Family tells Time Money, "The less you shop, the more you save." Sounds obvious, but when each trip is a new experience, it may not register how much you're spending overall for the week when it's spaced out. A $20 trip to the market may seem reasonable, but times that by 3 or 4 and the spend adds up quickly.
Additionally, certain days of the week may yield more savings. Andrea Woroch, consumer and money-saving expert tells Bankrate, "Wednesdays are a great time to get your hands on those manager markdowns. Food that is nearing its 'sell by' date is typically reduced midweek. Grocery stores also release new circulars on Wednesdays, so you get a double bonus since stores usually honor last week's deals, too." Looks like "hump day" is the best day to fill up your "paper or plastic!"
Clipping coupons and perusing weekly circulars won't take long but the money you save will go a long way. Compare and contrast brands and see if your favorite brand is really worth the money.
Store specials pop up every week and they are worth considering. If you normally buy a name brand pasta but the store brand is half-off, your family will never know the difference when they are asking for seconds of your famous penne primavera.
And couponing isn't what it used to be. Like nearly everything else, you can access coupons online. As per PopSugar, "Be sure to check out online coupon sites like Coupons.com, RedPlum.com, SmartSource.com, and CouponNetwork.com, which are apparently the best sites to print from. Further, 'like' your favorite brands on Facebook to get access to some of the coupons they give out over the social media network."
Huffington Post reminds us that savings from coupons can be stretched even further. "Double your savings by combining coupons with what's on sale at your local store. The store's circular is the best way to know what's being promoted." Plus, some stores offer a "double coupon day" where the savings can be multiplied, so try to shop on that day for even more money left in your pocket!
Snack Before You Shop
Going to the supermarket on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster – both financially and for your waistline. Instead of sticking to your shopping list and buying the best foods for you and your family, you'll be tempted into anything and everything that looks delicious – many times high-priced and not-so-good-for-you items.
Time Money notes, "A study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that consumers are likely to spend more if their appetites have been stimulated beforehand. That's probably why baked goods and rotisserie chickens are placed by the entrance of the store. Combat those tempting odors by eating a mint—which satiates hunger and can help overwhelm other scents—or by making sure your belly is full."
You don't have to have a 3-course meal if that's not convenient or it's not the right time. Simply grab a piece of fruit or a protein bar. It will give you enough power to combat all those temptations. And don't bring along someone who's "hangry" either… they'll sabotage your willpower!
Try a Meal Delivery Service Instead
If all this grocery shopping how-to info's got ya down, a meal delivery service may be just what you need. Starting at just $8.74 per serving, Blue Apron will deliver farm-fresh, seasonal produce, no-hormone added meats and poultry, sustainably-sourced seafood, and all the other recipe needs you'll require in order to make healthy and quick meals for your family. Get started with a plan that's perfect for you.
Time to save and crave! Get shopping!
As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.