Just shy of a year ago, I left my day job to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams full time. This meant our income was literally slashed in half. We had to cut our expenses. Fast. That’s when we really focused on creating a budget for our new circumstances.
Surprisingly, the transition went pretty smoothly. There were a few bumps along the way, but it was much easier than I thought to “trim the fat” from our budget and start saving. Here are my top six tips from our first year on a budget.
Use Cash for Weekly Expenses
I’m sure you’ve heard about the “envelope method” by now, but for those who haven’t, here’s an article explaining it. We pay our bills online, but for our groceries, fuel, and eating out, we use cash. I get a specific amount from the bank each week and once it’s gone, it’s gone. This method quickly helped me prioritize my purchases.
Before our budget, our grocery expenses were out of control. To make matters worse, we would end up eating out several days a week, so all that food I spent so much money on went to waste. At the height of my spending, I think I was somewhere near $200 to $300 a week for just my husband and I. Obviously, that had to change.
To make my new (much smaller) budget stretch farther, I found meal planning to be indispensable. By plotting out my meals for the week, I can come up with several dishes that utilize the same ingredients. I make a grocery list and buy only what I need. This method means I buy less than half of what I used to, and nothing goes to waste. Now, I’m able to feed my husband and I on just $50 a week. I’m saving anywhere from $150 to $250 off what I used to spend!
When I was working full time, sometimes I would pack our lunches, sometimes I wouldn’t. Which means in addition to all of the dinners we ate out, we also ate out at lunch time. This would cost anywhere from $50 to $75 a week. In addition to meal planning for our dinners, I also buy all the lunch necessities for my husband’s lunch within my $50 a week grocery budget.
My biggest tip for this is to invest in some quality containers for packing your lunch. I bought a variety of sizes to pack sandwiches, soup, veggies, fruit, nuts, etc. It makes packing a breeze!
Skip the Latte
Go for the small cup of coffee instead! Unlike most budget-savvy folks, I won’t tell you to give up coffee altogether. I enjoy meeting with my girlfriends for coffee too much for that… So, I would be a total hypocrite to ask anyone else to do so. However, I’ve switched from that high-dollar latte to a humble cup of coffee with cream. And you know what? I enjoy it just as much! On average, I save about $20 a week this way. I still get girl’s night, but at less than half the price.
Try finding a less-expensive drink option you enjoy. Your budget will thank you.
Group Your Errands
Once my fuel budget was slashed, I realized how many unnecessary trips I would make to town. By planning and grouping my errands, I can get everything done in a more efficient manner in terms of both time and fuel. This has saved me about $20 a week.
Bear with me on this one. My husband is the most social person I know. To ask him not to eat out with our friends is like asking him not to breathe. The problem? All that eating out was costing us $150 or more a week.
We found a compromise. I can hostess a party for our friends once a month for about $100. By making food from scratch, I can save a lot of money compared to eating out. Our friends have special dishes they bring; I provide the rest. It works out beautifully. My husband gets to socialize, and we get to save money.