Friday, September 30, 2016

I Had No Idea We Were Spending Almost $500 A Month On Takeout

Back in June I published a post about why and how we cut our monthly expenses. Between then and now, I've received quite a few messages asking for details. At first I thought, "Didn't my blog post cover all of that?" I replied to messages as they came in. Eventually I read the original blog post over several times and realized I could have done better.

Much, much better. 

The original blog post is vague. I've replied with more details to Facebook posts requesting advice to curb monthly expenses than I did with the original blog post.

There are a few details mentioned about how much we've saved, however, the rest of the blog post merely gives suggestions. It's like reading those annoying magazine articles about how to lose weight during the holiday season. There's a list of suggestions, but...

After the feedback, including the requests for details, questions, and everything between, I decided to do a more in-depth post.

1. Netflix instead of Cable. We didn't watch TV enough to justify spending $135 on cable. At the time, we had an older TV that didn't support Netflix, Hulu, etc. Yes, our TV was ancient. For Lisa's birthday, the kids and I bought her a new one. It was time. The old one was making crackling noises. A week after purchasing the new TV, I signed up for Netflix. For only $9.99 a month, we have more than enough TV shows and movies to watch.

2. Resist the takeout. I know this is a hard one for some people and, at first, it was difficult for me as well. However, I have made meal prep a part of my daily schedule and it has paid off. In the past, Lisa and I used to order takeout 2-3 times a week. The total per order would range from $25 to $40. If we ordered takeout 3 times a week, that totaled $75 to $120 per week. Bottom line, we were blowing $300 to $480 a month on takeout. We honestly had no idea until we sat down and figured it out. We were a bit shocked. Now, we indulge on our favorite takeout once a month.

3. Coffee and breakfast count as takeout too. Lisa used to stop at a nearby coffee place on the way to work for a large coffee and pastry or breakfast sandwich. Her total was right around $6. I know, that doesn't sound like much, but when you do the math, it adds up to about $120 a month. In the here and now, Lisa wakes up to a hot breakfast that includes coffee for here and to go. Her breakfast fare includes a variety of homemade breakfast sandwiches, quick breads, pancakes, etc. I'm up on the overnight so this was an easy fix for us.

4. Our weekly menu is based on grocery store sales and coupons. The days of going to one store with a list and spending $175 a week are over. We're lucky enough to have several grocery stores available relatively close to us. All are on the way home from Lisa's work. Each week, on Tuesday, I go through the sale ads to see what's on sale. If boneless chicken breasts are on sale, we stock up. That week, I'll make homemade chicken pot pie, chicken noodle soup, or a stir fry. After viewing what's on sale, and the coupons, I make a weekly menu. This week, we saved 50% on our grocery total. Our weekly grocery tab has gone from about $175 a week to right around $75. That's $400 a month in savings.

5. We love Kohl's. Most of our apparel and home goods are purchased at Kohl's. Between their sales, clearance, Kohl's Cash, and coupons, the savings are phenomenal. For example, back in March, Lisa needed new work clothes and shorts. I purchased 3 pairs of dress pants, 4 collared polo shirts, and 2 pairs of shorts for $110. I saved $200. And, just recently, we purchased 2 sheet sets and 4 plush, twin blankets. The total price was over $300. However, that's not what we paid. All items were on sale, we used Kohl's Cash, and we had a coupon. Our total price was...drum roll...$54. I 'bout near did cartwheels out of the store.

6. Take a few minutes to sign up for emails from your favorite retailers. Like with Kohl's, there are other retailers who offer printable coupons and perks. You can also opt to have coupons sent to your phone for the cashier to scan. I've done this for a few retailers we shop at often. Michael's is one of them. I always have a 40% or 50% off coupon to use on a single, regular priced item. I top that off with shopping sale items and I save quite a bit. You can also search online deal and coupon sites like Retail Me Not and Brad's Deals for up to date online coupons. This is a goldmine for those who like to shop online.

7. Parties. Bake Sales. Fundraisers. Oh My.  Lisa and I used to entertain quite a bit at our home. In addition, I also did a lot of baking for special occasions, holidays, and parties. Over the past few years, I've put a stop to most of it. It was getting too expensive. As of now, there's a tiny handful of people we have over for dinner once or twice a month. I've also cut down on the amount of baking I do for special occasions, holidays, bake sales, and fundraisers. At first, people took notice and would say, "Why aren't you baking for this or that?" It bothered me a bit. As the saying goes, "People don't notice what you do until you stop doing it." Eventually, the comments stopped. Now, when we have people over for dinner, or bake for a special occasion, it's enjoyable. We're also not forking out several hundred dollars a month on food and baking supplies.

8. Reevaluate your cell phone plans. There are so many plans out there. Over the past year, I've read a lot of blog and Facebook posts about people changing plans and why. At one time, Lisa and I were paying a ridiculous amount of money per month. After doing a little research, I found a plan that offered unlimited calls and text and a chunk of data for $45 a month each. Instead of paying over $200 a month, we now pay under $100. We've been on this plan for over a year and it's worked for us. We've never exceeded the amount of data used. In fact, most months, we only use about half.

Yes, slashing your monthly expenses takes time and effort. It's not going to happen overnight or within the first month.

Baby steps.

And, it all has to start with sitting down and figuring out what you spend on what. This includes everything from insurance payments to the $4 cup of coffee you get once a day at your favorite coffee place.

Everything adds up.

Like with Lisa and I, you may experience a little shock and awe at what you spend on gourmet coffee and takeout every month.

Once that is done, you can make changes. And, at the end of the day, and month, those changes equal savings.

Who doesn't want extra money at the end of the month, right?

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