Every family’s cost of living includes varying expenses – from basic home utility costs, to food and other domestic expenses. Unfortunately, it’s easy to waste money in these categories, which is not a good thing if you are trying to stretch your budget to make ends meet! Because these are recurring expenses, wasted money on things like food and energy expenses can also cost you year after year if you are not careful.
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Food waste, energy waste, and other losses add-up. Spending in these areas alone can lead to major financial shortfalls for some families. If you’ve ever had that sinking feeling that there is just “too much month left at the end of the money,” then these tips are for you.
How to Trim Waste & Stretch Your Budget
There is nothing sophisticated about saving money trimming waste. In fact, getting back to basics is a great way to start cutting costs. Money saving blogs (like this one!) and other online resources furnish helpful tips and information to help you get the ball rolling.
In order to eliminate wasteful spending, however, you’ll need to take a close look at your daily household expenses. It might help to take a few days or weeks recording all daily expenditures in these areas, just to give you an idea of your baseline spending. Once you know where you stand, you can begin to closely scrutinize your spending in these areas.
How to Save Money by Trimming Food Waste
Tracking food purchases and following the flow of food through your household can be an illuminating experience. 🙂 Food waste often flies under the radar, because families on the go may not have time to account for food costs. Under a microscope, however, family food budgets offer one of the easiest areas for trimming waste and saving money.
Start at the Store
Although it may not seem like it at the time of purchase, a good deal of food waste occurs at the grocery store. Buying too much food and spending money on unneeded items results in waste, spoilage, and inefficient use of household resources.
To remedy this, focus grocery lists to the items most needed, and stick to buying what’s included on the list. Too often, impulse buys get in the way of reasonable food management. This can lead to cupboards full of expired cans and freezers packed with past-dated meat.
Plan Meals in Advance
As mentioned, a great way to help stay on track at the grocery store is shopping with a list. The best way that I’ve found to help with grocery list-making is planning meals in advance. By planning out your family’s meals at least a week in advance, you can organize yourself and your shopping. Not only does this mean one less thing to do when you get home from work (since you’ve planned ahead and already know what’s for dinner), but it saves you from making food decisions last minute and running the risk of finding yourself in a drive-thru somewhere. If your brain hurts just thinking about meal planning, look into something like $5 Meal Plan, and spend a few bucks a month to let someone do it for you.
The View from the Dinner Table
In addition to cash wasted at the store, food waste may occur at the dinner table. Preparing large meals, without accounting for leftovers, is one way food ends up in the trash, rather than feeding family members. On the other hand, large, economical meals can be cost-effective, provided leftover portions are ultimately eaten, rather than wasted.
(Editor’s note: This one is a biggie at our house. I swear Mr. CMF suffers from some sort of eye disease that makes leftovers appear invisible to him. 🙂 It takes a concerted effort to make sure leftovers get eaten, and I make sure to prepare only what I think we will be able to eat or freeze).
Save Money by Trimming Energy Waste
Modern living relies on a number of power sources to keep us mobile and connected. Household electronic devices have expanded in number, accounting for a significant electrical draw in most households. Each computer, tablet, smart phone, and entertainment system comes with a price in terms of energy required to charge and maintain it. As a result, personal electronics are a good place to start shaving wasted spending.
By changing behavior, you can actually trim costs without noticing. Simply unplugging devices from wall outlets, for example, limits the amount of power used – even what’s required for “standby” and “sleep” modes.
Smart Heating and Cooling
Household energy spending often includes major outlays for winter heating and summer cooling expenses. These costs cannot usually be eliminated, but changing your approach to household utilities can lead to big savings.
Simply using a programmable thermostat, for instance, enables you to fine-tune energy use by setting times of the day when you would like your home to be warmer or cooler. At our house, for example, in the winter we set the thermostat a little higher during the day when we are home and awake so it will be more comfortable. Then we set it to drop a few degrees at night when we are snuggled under the covers in bed and asleep. Making small adjustments like this can add up over time!
Check Your Gas Usage
Gasoline is another spending area where it is easy to waste money if you are not careful. True, gas prices are down now, but the ongoing nature of gas spending provides consistent opportunities for savings. Plotting better routes and grouping errands, for instance, makes personal travel more efficient, reducing the amount you spend on gas. Carpooling and ridesharing also help busy families get everyone where they need to go, without wasting gas driving in circles.
Identifying wasteful spending in your life and making smart choices can lead to immediate savings in these areas. Although the amounts might seem small at first glance, you might be surprised how much those little amounts can add up over time to help you stretch your budget.
And here’s the great news: Every little bit that you decrease your living expenses means two things. 1) Less money that you need to run your household going forward, and 2) More money that you can save for your future going forward! That’s a win in our book. 🙂
What are some ways that you’ve cut costs on food and energy? Are there other ways you’ve found to stretch your budget?
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Abigail @ipickuppennies says
We bit the bullet and got insulation for the main house two years ago and an HVAC for the in-laws in our guest house last year. Between the two, our energy costs have dropped $200 a month on our averaged plan.
I still need to get my husband to stop speeding so dang much. We have the car in Eco mode, which shows you when you’re using a bunch of fuel (blue) to when you’re getting more efficient (green). He insists on speeding around town, around cars that don’t meet his perceived needed speed rate, etc. Especially with traffic lights meaning stopping and starting, he’s in the blue most of the time. But I can’t say too much because he does most of the driving since I have chronic fatigue. And he gets pouty or defensive if I point out too much about his driving. Sigh.
I’ve also given up trying to change my husband’s driving. It’s not as bad as it could be I guess. 🙂
Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor says
I agree that the seemingly “small” savings accumulated by reducing waste in these areas can really add up. We frequently make fires in our fireplace (we have a heat exchanger that increases the efficiency) to reduce heating costs in the winter, and bundle up in wool sweaters and socks. We use daylighting a lot to decrease our electricity use. Along with LED lights and being diligent to turn off unused devices, we’ve seen our usage steadily decrease.
Small savings really do add up- I was astonished a couple years ago when we switched to a low water usage shower head. It didn’t seem to change much in the shower, but our water bill decreased right away.
Food waste is a big one for us. We are able to save so much money when we go out of our way to avoid food waste and eat what we already have. Most of the time, we do a really good job.
Brittney @ Britt & the Benjamins says
My boss actually saves $100-$200 a month on his gas bill in the winter by using electric space heaters instead of turning up the thermostat. You have to be careful since improper use can make them a fire hazard, but it’s definitely an option for those seeing significant hikes in their gas bill November – March. He says it works like a charm…
I’m also a big believer in unplugging electronics – every night, the TV gets unplugged and the smaller kitchen appliances (microwave, toaster, Nutri Ninja, etc.) are only plugged in when in use. Every little bit counts, right?
We use a space heater too, in our basement (where my office is). It’s so cold down there, but if we cranked up the thermostat it would have to go really high before it warmed up our basement! The space heater works great. I’d never thought of using it as the primary source of heat in the rest of the house though- I think I’d be worried about the fire hazard aspect of it, especially with a toddler running around and constantly putting things where they don’t need to be. But if you don’t have little kids and pets underfoot I can see how that could save a lot of money!
Bob Stafford says
One Simple Change at a time adds up over a period of time to a big change over a period of time.
I couldn’t agree more!
James Pollard says
Saving money on gasoline is a lifesaver. I recently switched from a vehicle that gets 18 mpg to one that gets over 40. What a difference! Plus, the price of gasoline is plummeting. It definitely helps.
Oh wow, I bet that has made a huge difference in how much you pay for gasoline. It probably feels ridiculously cheap for you to fill up these days!
Latoya @ Life and a Budget says
A few years ago I began making our laundry detergent. When we were using store bought, we used twice as much and it only lasted about a month at a time. I’m guessing we used more because it either didn’t work as well or we just liked the smell;) Since using self-made detergent, a batch costs less than $23 and lasts 6 months. We only have to use 1 tablespoon and our clothes are cleaner. It’s an amazing way to shave costs!
That’s awesome! I have made our own hand soap and furniture polish, but I have not yet delved into laundry detergent. The main reason I haven’t is because we have an HE machine and I’m not sure if that would work ok. What’s been your experience? Have you used homemade laundry detergent in an HE machine?
Switching from centralized heating to space heaters worked really well with me and I saw the drastic change with my electricity bill! Of course, I also changed my “mindset” that to be comfortable during winter, I have to be really warm indoors!
We use a space heater in our basement; much cheaper than raising the thermostat high enough to keep the basement warm!