Showing posts with label Budgeting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Budgeting. Show all posts

Save Money - Buy in Bulk

Monday, March 18, 2013

I discussed ways to save on groceries in my post last week. I usually buy items in bulk when they are on sale and separate them into smaller portions. Especially when I find meat on sale. This week, there was chicken breast on sale in a larger pack. I tend to purchase meat when it is on sale, freeze it, and then defrost it when I need it. This way, I save money on meat when I want to make a meat dish and it saves me from having to go out shopping when I need meat. Which is why I wanted to share with you all on how I save money by purchasing in bulk.

I bought two packs of bone-in chicken breast that was on sale at my local supermarket.

I tend to separate the meat into freezer bags and not freeze the entire pack. This way, if I need one or two chicken breasts for a dish, I take out only one or two bags instead of defrosting the entire pack and re-freezing what is remaining.

Because this pack had bones, I separated the bones from the meat. I use the bones for other things like stews or soups - where I only need the flavour of the meat.

On freezer bags, I write down what the item is inside as well as the date of when I froze it. This helps me keep track of when the meat was bought and I can use older meat first. All about food rotation to keep freshness!

I place two chicken breasts in each bag, since I tend to use two chicken breasts per dish I make.

I also do the same procedure with other types of meat or ground meat. While fresh meat is always better, they are not always on sale. I always use up the meat within a couple months anyways, so it never sits in my freezer for a long period of time.

You can always buy in bulk and store the rest in your pantry or freezer with other items that come on sale as well. This is a great way to save on groceries while saving some time from having to run to the store each time you need an item..

Budgeting Your Grocery Shopping

Monday, March 11, 2013

We all do it - we all grocery shop. Whether you are feeding a family of six or just yourself, you always need to be cautious on how much you spend on food. If you don't keep track, you will find yourself overspending on unnecessary items. When I first got married, I never thought twice about spending money on food - I thought of it as a need and thus would buy what we "needed". At the time my mindset was to purchase whatever we wanted - we made enough so we can spend some extra moolah. However, after I started keeping track of my spending I have found on average we spent well over $500 a month on groceries! This works out to over $6,000 per year, for a family of TWO! When I saw that we were spending so much, I decided to dedicate myself to budget our expenses and cut that number down. While it took us a while to get used to a budget and get where we are today, we are now spending on average $200 a month.

When people hear the word "budget" they often associate the word with living paycheck to paycheck, living on government assistance, or living deeply in debt. This is not always the case. It doesn’t matter what your income level is, you should always budget so you don't end up eating most of your income away and you can save for that family vacation or new car that you've been planning.

Starting Off
Set a Budget - Budgeting can be an easy task, if you put your mind to it. If you want to start keeping track of your spending, you need to establish a realistic budget. This is always hard for people to do as they throw out a low number and within a month realize that they just cannot achieve this goal and thus completely abolish budgeting. Set a realistic budget that works for YOU and YOUR family.

Learn from the Past - In order to set a realistic goal, you need to be aware of what you are spending each week. Keep track of your spending for the next 4 weeks. It would help by saving all of your receipts in an envelope. Go through each receipt and write the totals down on a spreadsheet. If you want, you can categorize it by type (food, beverage, household, etc.). This way, you see how many times a week you are shopping and how much you are spending in a month.

Needs versus Wants - You  need to know what you want to include in this budget in terms of needs and wants. For me, I include food, beverage, toiletries (such as shampoo, deodorant, etc.) and household items (such as cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc.). You might only include food and beverage. Others might include pet food, dining out, and clothing. You also need to separate the needs and wants for each category. For example, do you need that specific brand of shampoo or can you try a cheaper brand, or can you minimize snack foods and replace with fruits and veggies? By minimizing unneeded costs you can save a lot on your grocery bill.

Keeping Up
Create Planned Amounts - Do you feel better when you estimate your grocery trip to be $200 but the actual bill adds up to $125? It is always better to overestimate than to underestimate. Giving yourself some wiggle room will allow for any unexpected surprises in your bill - such as an overcharge on an item that you didn't catch or if an item is not on sale one week.

Make a List and Stick to It -  Before you go shopping, make sure to check through your pantry, fridge, freezer or stockpile and see what items need to be replenished. Write those down on a list. Then, look through your local flyers and see what items are on sale. Write down the sale price next to the item along with the store it is on sale at. You can organize your list by category and store. This way, you can either price match items at one store (if they allow price matching) or shop at different stores. The tough part of the shopping will be to stick to your list. If you spot an item that is not on your list, ask yourself "is this a need or a want". That way you come out of the store satisfied with your savings and happy you stuck to your plan!

Bring Cash - If you find yourself not being able to stick to your budget, try bringing cash when you go shopping. This way, you know you don't have a "back up" plan to just charge your visa. By creating a shopping list around your planned amount, you will know approximately how much to bring with you when you do go shopping, and thus you will be less likely to splurge or purchase "wants" on the side if you did not bring enough. If you don't have enough when the total bill comes up, don't be afraid to put some items back.

How To Build a Stockpile

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

As a couponer, I have built myself a stockpile of the items we use frequently in our home. Many people who use coupons regularly have their own stockpile as well. Having a stockpile is such a great benefit to your personal finances as you will always have items on hand, never run out of items you use (unless you don't stock up for long enough), and always have a safety net in times of need. You can call it a stockpile or you can call it stocking up. But whatever you call it, building a grocery stockpile is a great way to save money. And it is easy too!
Getting Organized
Building a stockpile is not something you should rush. It takes months, and sometimes years, to build up a good (and workable) stockpile for your family. You need to first determine the what, where and how of stockpiling: what types of items are you going to stockpile, where are you going to keep your stockpile, and how long do you need your stockpile to last. Figuring out the answers to these questions is a great first step towards building a great stockpile.

What - Make a list of items that your family uses regularly. It is very important to know what your family uses on a regular basis and how long the product lasts for in your house. Make sure to stock up on what you use. Your family might go through lots of cereal, toilet paper, shampoo, diapers, etc. Keeping track of items used daily is a great way to figure this out.

Where - Before you grow and expand your stockpile, you need to figure out where all this stuff will be stored. Organization is key! There is nothing worse than finding a few tubes of toothpaste under your bed with an expiry date from 4 years ago. Make sure you have designated spot or spots. You can store it on shelving units in a spare room, the garage or the basement, in storage containers under your bed, or in designated areas where they will be used (shampoo in the bathroom and food in the kitchen). I keep my stockpile on sturdy plastic shelves in the basement. I keep all of my items together by category: food is stored together on a separate shelving unit; cleaning supplies have a designated shelf, and toiletries have their own section. Whenever I purchase new products I always make sure to stock them behind the existing older products to use the older products first before the expiration date.

How - One of the hardest things that I learned when I first began couponing and building a stockpile was how much stuff to purchase versus how much stuff was used or needed. I found myself buying too much of a product or buying items that we rarely used just because I had a coupon for it. Sadly, most of these items ended up in the garbage. To avoid this from happening, make sure you know how much of an item your family uses regularly and how long you would like to stock up on. One way to figure this out is to keep track of this on a spreadsheet. Write down what date the items were opened and what date they were finished. For example, if a box of cereal gets opened on March 4th and it's all gone by March 18th, and you want a three month supply of cereal, you would need to buy 6 boxes.

Be Money Wise
While buying products to build your stockpile might be cheap per unit, it might get a bit pricey if you need to stock up on a number of month's supply of products. Which is why you need to set a budget aside for stocking up and figure out how much you would like to spend per week or per month. Sometimes even $20 is enough to buy a few products for the stockpile. And also keep in mind how much and what you need - does a family of four really need 20 tubes of toothpaste? Remember, it takes time to build the "perfect" stockpile for your family's needs. The last thing you want is to overspend or buy items you will never use - because that defeats the whole purpose of saving money!

Another thing to keep in mind is purchasing items when they are on sale. A stockpile becomes a money saver only when the items have been bought on sale or with a coupon. It is also beneficial to know of monthly and yearly sale cycles. Many stores follow these sale cycles, and knowing what items go on sale at what time of the year will help you save. For example, you will see ground meat, hot dogs, condiments and BBQ sauces on sale during the summer months while flour, pie filling, sugar, and butter will be on sale during the winter months. Knowing when items go on sale will help you save and help you purchase items at the lowest prices possible.

Do you have a stockpile in your home? What are your tips to a successful stockpile?

Coupon Organization

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I am a couponer, if you don't know already. I shared with you my stockpile pictures last month, which is filled with products that I bought for "free", close to free, or for a great deal using sales and coupons. I have been using coupons for about two years. Couponing helped so many times on our budget when me and my husband were first starting out. It is such a great way to save money. Many people associate coupons with financial hardship, but that is not always the case - it doesn't matter whether you earn minimum wage or are well off. Both me and my husband work in the professional field - I have my master's and work at a reputable organization while my husband has his own business and tends to work from home. We have no kids, so there are no extra costs; we tend to spoil ourselves on occasion (for me it's the clothing!); and we can go on vacations whenever we want (and have the time). We can comfortably spend the money we earn on necessities if we choose to, but why not save a few bucks here and there with coupons? Thus I would love to share with you how I organize my coupons.

To organize my coupons, I use page dividers to help separate coupon categories. I also use trading card protector sheets to help keep my coupons neatly visible as I flip through before I go shopping.

Each category is labelled clearly on the divider. I have 10 in total:  breakfast, baking, dairy, snacks, beauty, laundry/cleaning, toilet paper/kleenex, oral health, medicine/vitamins and miscellaneous.

I keep all of my coupons organized in a 3-inch binder. When I first started using coupons, I was using a 1-inch binder. But that soon started bulging out with the coupons I was finding and collecting. So I finally bought a 3-inch one which has done me well for a long time now.

If you read the paper, you might oftentimes find coupon inserts. These are little booklets filled with coupons. In addition to these coupon inserts, there are also mail-in, printable, and in-store coupons.

Once I cut all of these coupons, I organize them in the plastic pockets in the proper category. They fit perfectly in there, and are easy to see. I then flip through the binder once a week before I do my shopping trips.

Meal Planning - How I Stay Organized

Friday, January 18, 2013

The more I learn to cook and bake, the more I see the need to be organized with my meals. When I first started living with my husband (then, fiance), I noticed how easily it was for both of us to say "let's go out tonight!" Sure, a date night, but every night? And slowly I noticed how little I was paying attention to finances and what I was consuming. Pastas, burgers, and ethic cuisines were becoming our staple foods. Yes I did cook, once in a while, but after coming home from work I really did not feel the need to make anything on some nights.

However, that all started to change about a year ago, when I committed myself to organizing, planning and executing a weekly menu. I read many great articles on menu planning online that really helped to motivate me. I stuck to this and noticed how much I was saving on my groceries and take-out. It helped with our finances, helped me be more in control of what I am eating, and helped me gain my cooking and baking skills. Yes we still eat out, but this has cut down from 2-3 times a week to 2-3 times a month. With what I have learned I wanted to share this knowledge with you all.

1. Do a Kitchen Check
First you need to see what you have already on hand so you don't end up spending more money than you need to. If you have a pack of bell peppers, maybe you can make stuffed peppers one night, or fry some sliced peppers and top your chicken fajitas another night. If you have some chicken breasts in the freezer, incorporate some chicken recipes instead of buying pork chops and steak to eat this week. You should always start with what you have.

2. Scan for Recipes
After seeing what ingredients you have, scan either your recipe books or the internet for some ideas. You might even come across some recipes that you are interested in trying in the near future. Print them out! I always make sure to print off any recipes I come across. I stick them in a folder that I have that is dedicated to only meal planning. This way I have all the recipes I plan to make in the near future. When I am done with the recipe, I stick it with my other cookbooks until next time.

3. Make a List
Make sure you make a list of items you need to buy from the store. This way, when you do your grocery shopping you stick to your list and don't end up buying items just because you might cook with it. I did this at the beginning - buying things I thought of making but by the time I came to actually making it the product was expired in my pantry. A waste of money and time!

4. Make your Plan
Using the free downloadable meal planner I made, you can easily fill in what meals you plan to make. If I find a recipe online, I write down the name of the recipe and in brackets the website or cookbook it came from.

5. Search the Flyers
Once you have your list of things you need to buy, make sure to check and see if they are on sale. Why buy at regular price when you can save and buy on sale? That is what I always do. Yes there are items that never come on sale, so I buy them when I need to. But if you know broccoli comes on sale every three weeks at the stores then hold off on your recipe and wait for it to go on sale.

6. Go Shopping
Make sure you bring your list and you stick to it! Buy the ingredients you will need for the entire week, to avoid having to go out every day to buy them. Make sure to always have a back-up recipe in case you don't find all the ingredients you were looking for.

Hope these steps help you in your menu planning!

A Peek Inside My Coupon Stockpile

Monday, January 7, 2013

Hello everyone! Hope you all had a good weekend. I was cleaning out my stockpile this weekend and decided I would make a post and let you in on my addiction - couponing! I began couponing in 2011. I was so happy when I bought my very first thing with coupons! Actually, I bought six....six sticks of deodorant for less than $3 after taxes.

Over time and after many coupon deals, I was able to build a stockpile. I am not as crazy about couponing as I used to be. Simply because I now realize how much I need or how much I use up in a year. Everything has expiration dates, and to me if I don't end up using the products I bought then that defeats the whole purpose of a stockpile! If I do end up buying more than I use, I always make sure to share with family and friends.

I love having a shopping store in my home since it saves me time and money. I purchase everything on sale, with or without a coupon. I make sure to especially stock up on items that don't have expiration dates, such as toilet paper or laundry detergent. I think of it this way:
you end up flushing it down the drain so why should you flush your money down the drain as well? 

This is my beauty shelf. I always make sure to stock the newer items behind the older items. This way it circulates my stockpile and I never have "old" or expired products.

I also make sure to have enough cleaning supplies. When they are on sale and I have a coupon for it, I make sure to buy it. This way I can clean my home knowing I bought it for cheap.

Again, items I use quite often but don't have expiry dates (well...except the lysol no touch hand soap. But I LOVE this product!)

And my detergent and softener bottles. I can honestly say that I have not bought a single bottle of laundry detergent in over a year!

We have now made it a ritual to donate whatever possible to the local women's shelter in my area. Last year through my workplace, I was able to donate a boxful of items for a family we adopted during the holiday season. I love giving back. I am not one of those couponers who clears the shelves and leaves none for others. I am also not one who keeps everything to myself and not sharing with family and friends. I love to coupon to see how much I can save!

And there you have it folks! A little peek inside my personal grocery store :)

9 Ways to Save On Christmas Gifts

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Yes you guessed it, there are only 42 days left until that jolly ol' man flies down your chimney, leaves you that new blender you were asking for, and the realization that you are hosting this year's New Years party hits you. Before you go into panic mode, I have compiled a list of 9 ways to save on Christmas this year that will help you save time and your money...and help you enjoy this holiday season.

1. Make a List
In order to save money and have a stress-free holiday, make yourself a list of the names of every person you are planning to give a gift for and the gift ideas. If you usually give a coffee shop gift card to your mailman, don't forget to put him down on your list as well! And don't forget to check your list twice!

2. Buy Gifts After Christmas
This might sound strange, and might not help your situation this year (unless you have a time machine out back) but it might be a great way to save on gifts for next year. Stores are always getting rid of the old to make way for the new or the next holiday. So you can for sure find sales around this time. It's always best to think ahead, and with ideas fresh in your mind it might be best to buy some gifts right after Christmas.

3. Start Your Shopping Early
The worst thing about the holiday season is the last-minute shopping. Malls and stores flooded with people scrambling left and right looking for their gifts to purchase. This tends to put a negative image on the holidays and puts a strain on your wallet. Thus to avoid all that stress (and save more of your money), shop early! That way you can enjoy your nice peppermint latte with peace of mind that you are well ahead of the game!

4. Set A Budget
This is an important aspect to saving money. By setting a budget, you know how much you can spend. Yes your family deserves the best, and you might feel that you need to give them the best. But if you can't afford to give expensive gifts then you shouldn't. Make sure you know how much you can spend this year and don't go beyond that.

5. Shop During Sales
This is probably a no-brainer for your grocery shopping, so why don't you think like this for Christmas gifts, too? My main rule to shopping for gifts: I never buy at full price. No one will ever know (unless you tell them) and you are happy to give a gift that is expensive without paying the full-price.

6. Make Homemade Gifts
While this might not work as well on children, it does work best on your adult friends and family. Giving homemade gifts is a neat way to give a one-of-a-kind unique gift that you are sure they won't receive again. Think of baking cookies for your elderly neighbour, or creating a scrapbook or photo album for your grandparents.

7. Keep In Mind What Christmas Is About
Whether this is the day of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ or coming together and spending time with loved ones, keep in mind what Christmas means to you. It isn't always about giving the biggest gift or spending the most money. It should be about what you value and what is important to you.

8. Do a Secret Santa Exchange
This one is a great way to save on gifts. I remember doing this when I was in high school with my friends. Have your family draw names of only one person. This way, everyone receives a gift and comes together to celebrate Christmas.

9. Be Practical With Your Gifts
Why give someone something that they already have? By giving practical, you know you are giving a gift that they will most likely use. You don't have to only give practical gifts. But try to incorporate them with your other gift. If you are giving a pajama set to your sister,  add a new bath towel that she told you she needed.
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