Whether you’re a military service member or a civilian, not having enough money at the end of the month puts extra stress on your family. If you feel like you’re having to stretch every dollar, you aren’t alone. Almost 80 percent of workers in the U.S. live paycheck to paycheck. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy ways to save money when times are tight.
Dine-in Like a Pro
Although a few dollars here and there for a latte or a sandwich may seem like small beans, that money adds up quickly. It turns out that American workers fork over an average of $3,000 each year on lunch and coffee. Keep spending down by packing lunch and coffee every morning. A brown bag doesn’t have to be boring or depressing. From Mason jar salads to homemade bento boxes, there are plenty of creative ideas for keeping a made-at-home lunch refreshing.
The same goes for dinner too. Treat meals out as a special occasion rather than a default option when you’re busy or bored. If you’re concerned this could put a damper on your social life, don’t worry. You can still have your cake and eat it too. Make yourself a budget-friendly dinner at home, and then join friends or colleagues for dessert.
You don’t have to become an extreme couponer to save money at the grocery store. Start by making a weekly list and do some meal planning, which can help you stay on track while shopping. A budget app can be a lifesaver for this as well.
Once you’re at the store, swap out high-dollar items for generic brands, and pay attention to which days of the week certain items are discounted. When you can, buy in bulk and look for recipes that work well for freezing leftovers, such as casseroles and soups.
Despite what Mom and Dad used to say, leaving the lights on probably isn’t making much of a difference in your electric bill, but other electronics like computers, TVs, and game systems certainly can. Utilize power strips for these items, and turn them off when leaving the house or overnight. It’s also a good idea to monitor your cable and smartphone plans and downgrade your service if possible.