Did you know that the average family of two spends about $7,259.60 on groceries each year? If you think that’s bad, try the average family of four: $10,467.20 per year! That doesn’t even include any dining out expenses.
Now, let’s take a look at household expenses. The average household forks over $4,800 per year on energy costs. Cable TV costs about $900 per year. Even paper towels – one of the most mundane items you can find in your house – will set you back about $100 per year! Add energy, cable TV, and paper towels to all the other household expenses you may have, and you’re looking at thousands and thousands of dollars down the drain each year.
Before you freak out, we have some good news: you can easily save hundreds – or maybe even thousands – of dollars on food and household expenses simply by trading convenience for extra money. There are many different ways to do that. To help you get started, I’ll show you 14 super easy shortcuts and habits you can adopt to start saving money right away.
Make meals from scratch.
Not only are meals made from scratch healthier for you, but they’re also easier on your wallet. Packaged foods cost so much more than they should. For example, why pay $8 for a bag of Bertolli frozen pasta when you can make twice as much pasta from scratch for half the price?
Make condiments from scratch.
Making ketchup, mayo, mustard, and salad dressing yourself is much easier than you think. You actually probably already have all the ingredients you need laying around the house. For instance, you only need eggs, lemon juice, water, mustard, salt, and olive oil to make a nice jar of fresh mayo! You can find some wonderful homemade condiment recipes here, and AllRecipes.com has an extensive collection of delicious homemade salad dressing recipes.
Plan your meals around what you already have.
The other day, my fiance and I dropped $23 at the grocery store for enough ingredients to make 7 different hearty meals. All we did was look at the ingredients we already had in the house – pasta, eggs, tomato paste, black beans, cream cheese, flour, etc. – and figure out how to use them all up. We then made a list of the things we needed – a lemon, ricotta cheese, potatoes, etc. – to complete all the meals and picked them up at the grocery store. For $23, we were able to eat for a whole week! The bottom line: use up all your ingredients before going on a shopping spree for meals that require ingredients you don’t have.
Grow a vegetable garden.
While you’ll have to invest in some supplies to start a vegetable garden, you’ll save a lot of money in the long run by growing and eating your own food. If you don’t have much money right now, don’t worry: you can easily grow a vegetable garden on a shoestring budget!
Shop in bulk.
Costco, Sam’s Club, and natural food stores are your best friends. You can pick up a huge load of nonperishable goods at Costco or Sam’s Club and pick up the spices at a natural food store. At a regular grocery store, spices and herbs come in those tiny bottles at $5 a pop. At a natural food store, you can score a big bag of spices for the same price.
Buy from local farmers.
The produce (and sometimes dairy and meat) at farmer’s markets is usually cheaper than the food found at regular grocery store. It’s because it’s grown locally, the shipping costs are lower, and you’re buying directly from the farmer (less markup).
Never pay full price while dining out.
You’ll be surprised at the number of restaurant deals floating around the Internet and even in your local newspaper. Look for BOGO (buy one, get one free) coupons offered by the restaurants near you. If you go on Groupon, you can find some sweet Now! Deals (limited-time deals). It’s not uncommon to find a deal where you can pay only $1 for $15 worth of food. If you have kids, visit mykidseatfree.com to find out which restaurants near you offer free meals to kids.
Um, duh. Couponing is the most obvious way to save money. In fact, it’s so obvious that you’re probably a little insulted that I even put it on this list. Well, I know you’re super smart, and I know that you probably already have a stack of coupons stashed away somewhere in your home. I only decided to include couponing in this list just so I can show you a super helpful post at Bargain Blessings. This post lists 173 different manufacturers you can contact for high-value coupons. Seriously. If you email them, they’ll send you high-value or sometimes free coupons. If that post’s not the holy grail for couponers, then I don’t know what is!
Make soap from scratch.
A bar of mediocre-quality soap usually costs at least $1.50. With natural bar made by local soap makers, you’re looking at more than $3.50 a pop. Know how much each bar would cost if you made your own at home? About 30 cents! Soap making is a lot easier than you think. It’s also much cheaper to make your own laundry soap or even dish soap.
Do it yourself!
Why drop $30 on a picture frame when you can make one yourself? Skip the furniture store and buy a dresser from a thrift shop and fix it up. Get some wood and build anything you can imagine! You can find pretty much any do-it-yourself project online. Not only will you save money by making things yourself, you’ll also end up with a house full of handmade things you’re proud of!
Skip the paper towels.
The average American family uses two rolls of paper towels per week. As mentioned before, that adds up to about $100 per year, $500 every 5 years, $1,000 every 10 years, and $2,000 every 20 years! All that money goes to paper towels alone. There’s a super easy way to save all that money, and it is to use old T-shirts and rags instead of paper towels.
Dry your clothes with a ball of aluminum foil.
Why pay $8 for a box of dryer sheets when you can just take some aluminum foil, ball it up, and throw it into the dryer with your wet laundry? I can personally vouch that it works wonders! Aluminum removes static cling and softens your clothes without the help of chemicals. Know what’s the best part? You can use the same ball of aluminum foil over and over again! I’ve been using the same one for 4 months, and it still works like a charm.
Lower your water heater temperature.
The temperature of your water heater makes a huge difference. For every degree you raise on your water heater, your heating bill goes up by three percent. Here’s what you need to know: your water heater does not need to be a degree higher than 120. It’s hot enough to wash clothes, clean your dishes, and keep you comfortably warm during a shower. Anything over that is just a waste of money. So set your water heater to 120 degrees, or maybe a little lower if you’re on a really tight budget.
Cut the cable cord.
I always say that cable TV is a waste of money because you’re basically paying to watch commercials half of the time. Plenty of TV shows can be viewed for free online (at your convenience, no less!), and you can rent DVDs for free at the local library. Redbox also offers codes for free movie rentals to those who join their Mobile Text Club. Let’s not forget about Netflix! With all the fantastic free options available out there, who needs cable TV anymore?
Well, here are 14 fantastic ways to save money! Do you have any money-saving tricks or habits up your sleeve that you’d like to share?