How to Reduce Your Budget in the Beginning

cut tomatoes

Whenever I counsel someone to help her reduce her budget and save money, I don’t start with how much money she spends on groceries.

This surprises people; I think they expect that I will tell them to use coupons and buy fewer snacks. Most people do spend a lot on groceries, but that doesn’t automatically mean they’re doing it wrong. Groceries cost more than they used to, and yes, some people could stand to spend less on groceries, but that’s not where I start.

The reason I don’t start with cutting people’s grocery budget is based on my personal experience. When I trimmed my grocery spending by about a third, it worked well, at first. After a couple of weeks my husband and I became discouraged about our food. We didn’t have good snacks in the pantry, and nothing looked good to eat for supper. So what did we do? We went out to eat. It completely defeated the purpose of spending less money on groceries.

Having good food to eat at home brings a feeling of contentment, and that makes it easier to avoid spending money in other ways. So I keep good coffee at home, which helps us avoid spending money at Starbucks. We have good drinks and snacks in our fridge so that it’s easy to invite friends over to our house instead of all of us going out to eat. If we’re satisfied about the food we eat, we’re less likely to look for something we could buy to make ourselves feel better.

Instead of starting with the groceries, I first concentrate on trimming other expenses. I review insurance policies. I recommend cutting out the random trips to Target, buying fewer clothes, and anything that won’t be missed. Then, after finding ways to save in other areas, if the budget needs to stretch even further we look at the grocery spending. We add more meals with beans or eggs, and try to cap the week’s spending at a certain level. Like dieting, we want a long-term plan we can sustain, and the grocery spending can be reduced gradually and thoughtfully over the long term instead of drastically at the beginning. (It takes time to find new recipes and adapt to new ways in the kitchen, especially if you’ve just recently stopped going out to eat as often.)

This month is No Spend Month when my family takes a break from buying stuff, and for the first week we spent $61.87 in one trip to the grocery store.

We were too busy to think about buying stuff this week. We worked, visited friends, had friends over at our house, hosted a play group, worked in the yard, and watched the Fourth of July parade and fireworks.

We’re still coasting on what we already had, and we’re trying not to let anything go to waste. It will get harder.

FAQ: Do I use coupons? I don’t use coupons because most foods that you can buy with coupons have ingredients that my family can’t eat. I never see coupons for the foods we buy like beans, eggs, carrots, or celery, but I do watch the sales fliers at the grocery stores (especially for good sales on meat).

The recipe for Egg and Pesto-Stuffed Roasted Tomatoes is from Paleo Diet Lifestyle. And later when you realize that you forgot to use parchment paper so the egg white is baked on to your baking sheet, pour some vinegar and water on your baking sheet and let it soak for a while so it will be easy to clean.

What part of your budget do you find easy to cut back in the beginning?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. Meagan S says:

    I really enjoyed the post. We are trying to stretch our money now that we have to pay for daycare for our 5 month old… and the groceries is one area that I am working on (we spend about $120/week PLUS $100/month dining out!). I’ve discovered the world of coupons and have subscribed to a few blogs but have decided not to compromise on some particular brands that I like. I’ve discovered beer rebates (FREE money for things like meat) although you can’t budget around them and finding them are difficult!

  2. I am struggling to budget period right now. I am in the process of looking for a job after being out of the banking world for 8 years. Found out that business attire then and now are completely different. :/ I don’t care for coupons because I don’t normally buy the stuff that they are on anyway. Juicing is one way I cut down on my grocery budget. :)
    Loved the post – Thanks for the ideas. :)
    Linda´s last post…The Blessings of Growing Through God

  3. Honestly, before I could begin to think about reducing, I had to get a handle on where it was all going. I used Mint.com (it’s free), which allowed me to categorize every purchase. And see just how much was going to Starbucks et al! Then I needed to think hard about what I value and don’t. After those two things, I was ready to strategize where/how to cut.

    Really agree with you about food–it’s hard to institute changes that will stick when it comes to eating. Random shopping is the thing I now avoid.
    Rita@thissortaoldlife.com´s last post…Holey hell!Simple bathroom vanity removal–hah!

  4. My issue isn’t so much WHAT I spend on, but that I go to stores at all. I get bored sitting at home, so I head out to find something to do! My library is closed for renos, and right now it’s too hot to take the dog to the park, or be outside gardening, or even swinging in the hammock. So, I sit in the house. I sew for a while, surf the net, clean something, plan dinner, play with the kitten, fold laundry…and crap! It’s only 2 pm. Now what? Bored, tired of sitting around doing sedentary things….so off I go. I hit the thrift store, or the bookstore, or the coffee shop, or whatever. And spend. Not much…but $3.00 here and $5.00 there over the course of a month, and BOOM! I’ve blown $100 or more on stuff I didn’t need. On boredom. So, I have to have a project, all the time. Something that keeps my hands busy, takes a chunk of time, and keeps me moving…it’s the sitting that bores me, not the activity so much. Too hyperactive, I think!

    • Jilly Moulton says:

      Could you find some voluntary work to keep you busy, but not spending?!

    • When I get stir-crazy at home and need to get out for a bit I have a variety of free places I go. #1) The Mall…this may sounds weird, but I love to go ‘window shopping’. Just do a lap and not buy a thing. If that seems like a stretch-leave your wallet in the car so you cant. #2) I live in an area with a reasonably modest downtown-again I just walk and window-shop. Rarely do I go in. #3) I like to explore areas of my town or other towns that I may not know, nature preserves, their downtown areas, even a scenic drive can be nice #4) my end-all be-all is to cook. It gets me on my feet and challenges me for a period of time I get to dictate. Supercook is my new favorite website (http://www.supercook.com/) because it uses the things you already have and shows you what you can make with them! Helps to prevent the running out to the store for the one missing ingredient and buying more than I need!

      Hope that helps!
      Carmen´s last post…Now what?

  5. We have been trying to get rid of debt and build savings for two years now. We keep good ingredients, lots of fresh produce and a couple of treats (ice cream, good coffee, a chocolate bar) around. We used to eat 5 to 7 meals a week out, now we eat less than that in a month and feel so much better than we did before. We feel healthier and aren’t so worried about money.
    We are a two adult working full-time outside the home family with kids and we didn’t think we could do this, but we did.

  6. I, too, loved this post! I 100% agree with everything you said about having quality food/coffee at home, and how it helps you feel more content and less eager to go out. Aaaaand, your recommendation to start with fewer trips to Target? I was SO thinking about that just this morning. I think I’ll make that a goal for the next month, see how I get by with only a few trips (I have a 10month old, so we go every 2 or 3 days right now!).

    Last, but not least, that recipe you posted looks delicious! I can’t wait to try it. I’ve been haunting your blog (and Alpha Mom) for a while, but rarely have both hands free to comment. Thanks for all you do, and good luck with no-spend month!

    :) (fellow Austinite) Kayla
    Kayla´s last post…Writing! Whee!

    • I remember those days of reading with the baby and not being able to comment. I’m actually in North Texas, but I do love Austin.

  7. We’re 11 days into our No Spend Month (since we started early). We’d only spent $77, but then I had to fill up the van today, so that was another $48 right there.

    I did cut back on groceries – I didn’t shop at all this week. But that’s because in mid-June I went to Costco, so we still had lots of good stuff. Pantry is starting to get a bit bare, so shopping will be in order this week.

    For me, Target is the main problem. It’s so hot, and I get tired of going down to the pool every day, so I had been taking Eleanor shopping about once a week, just to get out of the house/heat. But inevitably I buy too many things, and then we stop at the Starbucks for a snack, and… So my goal is to avoid Target all month!
    Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm´s last post…A Lazy Week (with lots of books!)

    • I agree.
      Yesterday was a Power Save day from 2-6pm. If our energy use was less than average, we will get a savings on our electric bill. So the kids and I unplugged almost everything and went to the movies. $40 dollars (just for me and the 2 kids!) later, that had only kept us out of the house 2 hours. Well, Target is in the same shopping center, and I really needed new sponges for the kitchen. What should have only been a one-item trip, turned into a $63.67 trip! I bought containers for organized storage, I bought some household items, and milk. Oh… and total impulse buy of 3 cans of silly string for the 3 of us to have fun with when we got home.

      Yes, I might have saved on my energy bill, but I definitely spent any savings at Target.

      Target and I have a love/hate relationship. I love to go and Target loves to take my money. I hate the buyer’s remorse I feel after I’ve returned and entered my receipt into our money tracking software.
      Amanda

  8. Wow. I’m amazed that there are places that are so hot that shopping becomes something to do just to cool off! But I write this from the very heavenly, temperate climate of coastal Maine…..

    This is such a good post. I especially like Rachel’s wisdom about not going whole hog cutting the food budget right away.

    The main way I save money on groceries is by having a big vegetable garden and root cellar. Inspired by my 83-yr-old neighbor, i no longer buy flowers or perennials, but instead get cuttings from friends or start everything from seeds. We fill our freezer with meat we buy directly from local farmers, allowing us to save a third to a half of what we’d pay at Whole Foods or the local co-op.

  9. This is such important advice! It would always happen to us, we’d stock the pantry with simple, inexpensive ingredients, then we’d go through the week being so good about cooking from scratch and eating the leftovers, etc, but by Thursday I’d be so sick of all our boring food that I’d inevitably say, “Oh let’s just go out to eat, just this once!” And just like that, all that saving we had done at the start of the week would be erased by one impulsive trip to the Thai food place.

    You are so right to encourage keeping quick, appetizing treats in the house alongside the boring old staples. It’s still so much cheaper that going out, and it provides a much needed morale boost!
    Annie´s last post…How to Entertain Two Teenagers in Los Angeles Without Going Crazy or Going Broke

    • Annie, I totally understand this too! Lately, I have been really challenging myself on why Im going out to eat. Is it because Im feeling lazy or is it because I cant get it anywhere else? My spouse and I are suckers for hot wings and pizza (who isnt?) and when we shop we’ve been starting to get the frozen varieties of our guilty pleasures as an added way to be lazy. If we have wings in the freezer, why would we take the time to find the destination, get ready, go there, deal with the ordering process, etc…when we can just pop it in the oven and have it in 20 minutes?

      I also have been challenging myself on learning to make my favorites. You said Thai food and I said ‘Me too!’ Another huge guilty pleasure for me! So I perused Tastespotting (www.tastespotting.com) and found a few really good recipes that scratch that itch when I need it. Keep your favorites stocked, and then you get to save your pennies for the fancy date-night dinners!
      Carmen´s last post…Now what?

  10. Before retiring, carrying my first cup (of three purchased at a nearby shop each day) from home dropped my weekly coffee budget by a third right off the bat. In my town, that meant I saved $50 a month, and was a pretty easy first step.

    As for food, I agree with you totally that changes there require small steps and learning to think about food differently. In our house, supper is often the easiest meal of the day. We keep it simple with two- or three-item meals we can prepare in 15-30 minutes. Example: Homemade hummus I’ve prepared on the weekend, warmed whole grain pitas and a green salad I toss together in minutes.

    Sometimes, supper is as simple as two or three cheeses, organic crackers or homemade bread, and fruit we each slice ourselves as we catch up on the day. That takes less than 10 minutes to prepare, including setting out the tray and washing the fruit.
    Kathryn Grace´s last post…Faery freedom, garbage dump plaza and bringing home baby

  11. I’m relieved, because I am a defender of my grocery budget. :) I just love quality food too much!
    Erica {let why lead}´s last post…Introducing Stories that Make Life Shine

  12. Great post. After 34 yrs of marriage and raising 2 kids, this idea still intrigues me. I still work hard to keep my spending habits under control. My husband, not so much. He was born a non-spender. One of the things that always frustrated me as a young wife and mother (and still does), was magazine headlines that screamed “Save hundreds every month!” I’d buy the stupid mag, only to discover that we were already doing everything in the article or that it wasn’t even an issue at our house. No-spend month is a great idea. Especially after coming home from a day of spending. Sigh.

  13. There was a time in my life when I spent out of boredom. And loneliness. And got way into debt. And found a spiritual way out – and found friends and my husband and work I like and projects I enjoy that don’t cost too much money. I became an expert on “free fun,” which can always include a trip to the library instead of the stores. What helped me cut spending was writing down every-single-thing I spent money on – from a $1.29 (or more, now!) on soft drinks to the big things like rent, at the time. Because I didn’t want to write it all down – I stopped spending so much. And the other key, for me, was No Plastic. Just green “real money” currency and coins. When that was gone – the money was gone. These days – I cannot imagine shopping out of boredom – life is too full and too short! LOVE the concept of keeping good food to eatin the house, to keep from going out.

  14. This is totally on point. I LOVE it. I’d rather spend money on good food than anywhere else. I recently made the decision to stay home with my children. I had to go through the budget process and trim our expenses. I refused to trim our food budget so low that we’d have to eat out of boxes! So, I trimmed in other areas.
    Mel@TheDizzyMom´s last post…4th of July Treat

  15. Melanie says:

    I agree with you on the coupons. I rarely use coupons because I don’t want to spend extra time in the grocery store. I will try to find coupons online for the more expensive items I buy ,for example, a new Swfter Sweeper.
    I am in a position now where I am not working and enjoy making food from scratch. My freezer is empty except for the portioned meat. My husband and I usually eat out two meals a week and one iiis at Costco.

  16. I love your perspective! Others will judge when you have “nice” foods around but I know it keeps us at home more. Ive been bugging my husband to try a no spend month and I think it’ll help to show him this post! :)

  17. I totally agree about the coupon thing! I used to religiously cut coupons, and then we changed the way we eat. I realized all the things I was buying with coupons we didn’t purchase anymore. It was so easy to quit doing it too.
    Sarah´s last post…Triple Star Rustic Quilted Wall Hanging by CurlysQuilts

    • I’m convinced that the whole idea that you can’t use coupons on “healthy” food is one of the biggest coupon misconceptions ever. I buy VERY little processed food but use coupons all the time and save a bundle. If you buy cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, ketchup, canned beans, almonds, produce (organic at that!), or canned pineapple then you could be saving with coupons. Those are all things that I frequently buy using coupons and get them for LESS than I can get the same item buying store brand. And honestly, it doesn’t me much time each week at all. (Feel free to email me for a few tips to keep it short and sweet.)

      And what about non-food items like Kleenex, toilet paper, and toothbrushes? I get those free or very inexpensively all the time thanks to coupons.

      I think that we eat very healthful. I almost always cook from scratch and our snacks consist of things like nuts, raisins, apples etc. You really can save on “good” food too!

  18. These are great tips – I would also add that for some, the question of where to trim your budget becomes harder as you’ve been doing it for awhile and can’t go any lower in any category. My husband is in law school now and we regularly look over the budget to see where we could cut, but we really can’t w/three small kids. We’ve already switched to one car, cloth diapers, etc.
    Jenni/Life from the Roof´s last post…Easy Spice Mixes

    • Monique says:

      Thank you for that acknowledgement, Jenni. Some people seem to think that if you would just do it their way, you wouldn’t have financial difficulties. Buy that us lot always the case. That being said, Rachel and everyone else, thanks for the tips on saving money. It’s always good to step back and see if that $ really needs to be spent.

      • Denise C. says:

        “It’s always good to step back and see if that $ really needs to be spent.”. I love this statement do much, I wrote it down and have it stashed in my wallet. Thank you. :)

  19. Thank you so much for this post! My husband just recently got a new job which gives us a bit of wiggle room. Our priorities are paying down school debt and saving, so we didn’t want our extra money each month to get wasted. But! We did decide to up the grocery budget a big because it was just too tight. We also changed our diets recently to gluten free/dairy free and you’re right about coupons! Many products we are now eating are not offered in coupons!

    Reading this post helped me feel like maybe we are doing the right things, and it’s good to hear that there are other people out there who are tempted to eat out when the pickings at home are slim! =) Thanks for the post!

  20. Theresa says:

    I’m glad to read that you keep good food in the house as well. My husband and I are working on our budget and neither of us wants to change what we eat because we’ve finally got to a point of eating healthy at home. I do use coupons but for none food items mostly.

  21. Great post – and great point – making staying home attractive will immediately reduce other costs . . . yet it’s the first thing folks talk about – what good is saving fifty cents with a coupon on jun kfood if you spend $5 on a latte?

  22. Hello from downunder! We don’t have as many coupons and things in Australia (or at least I don’t seem to get them). So recently when we had to trim our budget we started with things like insurance too. My husband is not keen on losing our second car so we are now having to stick to a strict grocery budget. We eat well mostly but the biggest change will be meat. We are going to have find ways of being creative without it, or ways to use the cheaper cuts. It’s certainly going to be interesting….
    mumspk´s last post…Smart Reads – School holiday ideas

  23. Shannon K says:

    I have found this blog amazing, I’m 25 and currently expecting my first child I’m 5 months pregnant now and am on a mission to cut my spending. My husband and myself both work full time and still at the end of the month I find that our funds are low and ive narrowed it down to boredom spending. With trying to get ready for our baby we need a change I’m look forward to trying the no spend month this month and am hoping for the best… Ive tried everything including coupons but I find that most coupons are for foods I don’t eat and mostly unhealthy foods anyways so I stoped that I try to keep a strict grocery budget but those random trips to target are what get me everytime( boredom spending) so target will be cut out thanks for all the great advice :) wish for the best

  24. I completely agree with you about the grocery budget if it is at all possible to keep a few luxuries. We have had times when it was not, and we certainly survived, but I think it often causes a boomerang effect when one trims it too severely too fast.

    If one DOES need to subsist on a very limited food budget and if it is possible to grow a few herbs in a little strip of ground or a few pots, I found that helped more than anything to keep our meals interesting. Beans with rosemary one night, beans with sage another… Also, spice mixtures can sometimes be gotten very cheaply at dollar stores, and they aren’t bad at all.
    Lori @ In My Kitchen, In My Life´s last post…Cerebral Homemaking, Part 2: “Please Lie Down on the Couch and We’ll Begin the Analysis”

  25. First of all, thank you for this site. It’s given me hope that I can succeed in my quest to live well for less. I’ve wondered if I could at times. I’m re-inspired, so thank you! My family is also dairy and gluten-free and like you I find it difficult to find coupons that apply to the foods we eat. However, I have found the Thrifty Mama to be very helpful. She sends coupons for “healthier” options that I would not have found on my own. Thought you might find it helpful too. Please keep posting food entries, I love them!!!! Blessings, Sarah

  26. I just wanted to thank you for your post. We are on the Dave Ramsey road to debt-free living and we have fallen off the wagon in recent months. This post was written with such honesty and non-judgement. I love your small steps approach. It makes this overwhelming task doable. Bless you!!!

  27. Great advice. I have the exact same experience with the grocery budget. We need to eat well (like your family, due to allergies and health reasons) and I find that if I skimp too much on groceries we end up paying for it later–by wanting to go out to eat more, or treating ourselves in other ways, or not feeling well. Starting in places OTHER than groceries is a wonderful idea.
    LisaZ´s last post…A Reminder To Myself: About Iced Tea in the Summer

  28. I was laid off last June, and have not had a paying job for over a year now. I have no money coming in, so not spending is easy. My husband works very hard as a salaried store manager (read long hours), and he has to pay the rent, utilities, food, fuel, car payment, everything. I keep our home, and sew, trying to sell things I make on Etsy. It is a fail so far, but I will keep trying. Meanwhile not buying anything is really not that hard, when you don’t have any money! Just keep busy, and it is not missed.

  29. I call what I have done ‘the fat down’ or cutting the fat from everything we do. We are empty nesters but when the last one left home didn’t even think of cutting down on ‘buying’, just kept on keeping on until we sold the old house and downsized and that is when my husbands job was downsized. Horrible.
    I cried, looked around at the still unpacked boxes and wondered ‘do I have too much?’ and the answer was yes. I unpacked and had a huge garage sale of pictures, furniture, glassware (I don’t drink wine, why so many wine glasses?, clothes, shoes and even out door stuff. Wow, what an honor to have an empty room with nothing in there—no bed, dresser, night stand or clothes on the floor. And we found out love what you buy and buy what you love—-we put the one year rule on everything in the house. If you haven’t used it in a year, it goes.
    The last thing to go was food. My husband found another job and it pays well but we still have a house note, house insurance (saved $400 by bundling house and cars), credit cards are paid off and gone, gone and gone, only one left. So food is the last one to look at and boy was I taken back by what we buy because—–because we don’t eat that, use that or want that. I don’t use many coupons but one I found form HEB when they put canning jars on with a $2 off a case in store coupon. I make jams and jellies (no preservatives), can green beans with green beans, carrots and onions, freeze okra with tomatoes (not everyhting from the garden is lush and beautiful), onions, basil and dehydrate other veggies for later use. Try dehydrating cucumber slices for use as chips instead of potato or corn chips. I also purchased a Food Saver for meat and veggies a few years ago and those coupons came on. But you are right, there are no coupons for veggies and I have to watch soy products and flour. I also sew. Did I mention I do not work? So like Trish, I have become very frugal. Thanks for the nice recipe. Have to try that one on the grill.

  30. Wow! I’ve really been working to cut our budget recently and guess where I started? I never thought of it this way, but you’re right! I love this new perspective.

    By the way, I’ve been reading your book and I absolutely love it. I’ve learned so much about blogging and writing, but also about time management.

    And…as dorky as it sounds, I feel like you’re a new friend. When I finish your book, I plan to send you a quick thank-you email. : )
    Tracy Selle´s last post…American Ninja Warrior Show: Kyle Cochran

  31. Hi, I’m a Minimalist blogger and I really enjoy your site. I’ve nominated your blog for the One Lovely Blog Award!

    Here are the Rules of Acceptance:
    • Thank the person/people who nominated you and link back to them in your post.
    • Share seven possibly unknown things about yourself.
    • Nominate 15 or so bloggers you admire.
    • Contact the chosen bloggers to let them know you have nominated them and link back to them.
    Sheri´s last post…One Lovely Blog

  32. Thanks again for no spending month. I don’t include food because we need to be healthy and happy. I agree good food at home stops the extra food money. I am enjoying the feeling that there is nothing I need this month.
    Beth´s last post…A Crochet Rescue

  33. I really love reading your blog for its great ideas! in 2009, my husband lost his job after 18 years. We learned rather quickly the areas to cut out spending. The only clothing I bought for two years was socks and underwear! You sure can’t stop eating! I discovered internet recipes, instead of buying cookbooks. So many ways to cut back on things!

  34. Fantastic post and comments as always! Unfortunately, groceries have really gone up in the last few years and I do spend more on food maybe than some but it’s really important to us due to health reasons and we eat very well. I would rather cut back on other areas, I haven’t done Starbucks in months, we rarely eat out so it truly is a treat, we never go see a movie (I mean, let’s be real, most of them are “renters” anyway and it’s just so expensive).

    As embarrassing as this is, I’ve quit going to Target for my recreation. That is my weak spot. I live 5 minutes from one and at least twice a week I’d think, I need to get out of the house, I’ll go to my “happy place”. I was spending a lot of money on things we don’t need and on clearance items. Those end caps are the best. What I do now is keep a list on my fridge of things we NEED that I buy there, (mostly toiletries) and I go on my way to the doctor or dentist office where I have maybe 10 minutes to get in and out and get only what’s on the list. And that has done wonders for our budget and spending. It sounds silly but it has really worked.

    • Denise C. says:

      I am in the same boat you are. There is a Super Target 4 minutes from my house. I am there ALL THE TIME. It’s great on one hand because if I am out of bread, milk or whatnot, I can run up there and get it. Bad side is that I come out with much more and nothing really to show for it. :( One of my goals is to cut back…..WAY BACK on going there. I’m thinking 3 times a month? The only exception would be if someone needed a prescription filled. I like your method of a timeframe, going in with 10 min only.

  35. GREAT point! I’ve seen graphs that show percentage of income that people used to spend on food in the 30′s and 40′s versus today, and though we spend more due to inflation we spent quite a bit less percentage-wise.

    I agree I’d rather have good stuff in the fridge…and pay a bit more for healthy, yummy snacks than trying to save a buck by buying Cheetos or something not so good for you.

    My recent “splurges” are frozen bags of organic fruit for $2.50 each that I then make into a smoothie…definitely better than a Jamba Juice run!
    Kait Palmer´s last post…Oh the Adventures

  36. Stephanie says:

    You can get coupons for beans and eggs, if you sign up for your local stores coupons you will get eggs and milk coupons or discounts and a decent discount of veg as well! I use coupons to stock up on no perishable things I eat on a regular basis and I find a lot of Gluten Free things as well then i buy perishable stuff on a weekly basis.

  37. I found your blog thanks to pinterest and your no spend month! I am in LOVE with your blog and I rarely read blogs for anything other than the one thing I found I liked from pinterest. Please keep up the great work! Even my hubs is interested in the challenge. You’re very inspiring! And I love your take on the grocery list. I never thought of it that way before; buy better food, eat out less. DUH! Sometimes we just need a swift smack over the head. Thanks for mine!

  38. Catherine says:

    Dear Rachel,
    I am a fan of your website. Thank you and well done on many well-thought-out and well-written posts which always give me pause for thought. I am not doing no-spend month as I’m buying a house (the opposite, as you say!), but I do take your advice into account. Making use of what we have in the fridge/pantry is a great start for the 1st 10 days.
    Have a great summer,
    Catherine

  39. Oh my goodness!You are so right about the groceries! while it does make me feel good to not spend so much at the grocery store, if I don’t have good snacks and lunch stuff around my husband has to eat lunch out and get snacks from the gas station :( And when I keep good ingredients around I’m much more motivated to pack his lunch and cook nice suppers :) As far as Target goes….well when you live 2 hrs. away from one it’s easy to not go too often ;)

  40. Oh, thank you so much for not counseling me to slash my grocery bill! You’re the first not to suggest this in the beginning and I am appreciative! The place I find the easiest to cut back is not stopping at the local fast food joint. I try to plan my errands around lunch so we’re not tempted to grab a bite out. It’s an easy savings of at least $20.
    Carrie´s last post…Plans Changed For The Better

  41. AWESOME post! I’m in the process of reducing my debt AND saving for a downpayment on a house. I’ve always been bad with money and even worse with credit cards. Now I’ve got to compile my first ever budget and after reading the article I’m not nearly as scared to as I was before. Thank you!

    As for the Target thing?! I work at a Target, which is sort of a double edge sword for me.

    I’m thinking about doing a no-spend month for August. I can hardly wait to read more of your progress:)

    Added your blog to my blog list too. Off to check out more of your blog :)
    Jamie´s last post…Hi! Greetings….

  42. I agree! I would say cutting back on visits to Target saves my family $. I alwasy seem to find myself picking up unnecessary items just becuase they are cute or in season. We just looked into reducing our car and home-owners insurance and we are saving approximately $1,000 per year! I’ve also looked into reducing our cable bill, since we don’t even watch half the channels we have. I hate coupons! They seem to bring me more of a headache than good for me. I applaud people who can use them and save tons.
    Paige´s last post…Father’s Day 2012

  43. I love this. Am I the only one who reads article after article about ways to save money on groceries and is amused by the same old advice that seems like basic common sense?

    We recently did an overhaul of our budget so I could quit part of my job and the two biggest areas we found to cut were clothing and Target (which is pretty much our catch all term for non-grocery household expenses).

    I also think it really depends how you’re spending grocery and/or food money. If you’re eating out multiple times a week or not doing obvious things like menu planning and shopping around what’s on sale the food budget might be a good place to start. But for most of us looking to save money I think you’re approach is probably much more practical.

  44. I agree with you wholeheartedly!! I don’t skimp on my groceries either (although, I do spend wisely, buy things in season and watch for sales). When I need to cut spending I pull out my bike and park the car. We are trying to do a year without buying things (there have been some slips, but not many) unless they are 100% necessary and we always try to buy second hand things first. A couple easy places to overspend without paying attention are cell phone plans and cable/internet bundles.
    Diane @ The Stripper Project´s last post…Is anybody out there?

  45. We’re starting our No Spend 30-day period tomorrow (or, as we’re calling it in my house, “Essentials Only Month”). I am pumped!! It’s going to feel so good to save money and cut out the non-essential spending. We’re already pretty good about our grocery budget, and we do use coupons for some things (we’re not crazy couponers by any means – really just use them on items we would purchase anyway, like PB, bread, coffee creamer, etc). My biggest pitfall is recreational shopping, aka Retail Therapy. I don’t spend much at once but it definitely adds up (TJ Maxx and Target are the main culprits). Thanks for the inspiration (from all of you!) – can’t wait to see how everyone’s month goes.
    Kristin´s last post…One year as Mr. & Mrs.

  46. I agree that quality food should NOT be the first thing to go when budgeting. There are so many other money-suckers that we don’t even realize. Mine are bookstores and eating out, so during this No Spend Month, I’m all about reading books I already have (or listening to my Harry Potter audiobooks) and making food at home.

    You’re absolutely right that you are more likely to eat at home when you have good food that you like, rather a lot of cheap stuff you don’t.
    Jennie´s last post…Simply Life: Seattle!

  47. Loved this post. My family has just started doing what we are calling “spending fasts” for 5 or 6 days last week. We have a lot to learn, but feel good about eating out a lot less and really watching our mindless spending. Those two things alone have a made a huge difference so we are continuing with it this week and hoping to do even better. I do use coupons,however, I have found that I save more with coupons on paper products and health and beauty products. I don’t buy a lot of junk foods so I am very careful as to what coupons I use at the store and focus more on store sales.

    http://buncobelle.blogspot.com/2012/07/a-spending-fast.html
    Shannon´s last post…A Spending Fast

  48. At the beginning it’s easiest for me to cut back on shopping period. Not going to the mall, not going to my favorite thrift stores. Even if you begin by shopping second hand it becomes a habit. I don’t go to the farmer’s market every Saturday, especially when I have plenty at home. I don’t go to Target when it’s “right next to” Costco.

    As far as keeping myself busy I make a list. What are the projects I want to accomplish in the next month? I’m only allowed to spend on those projects and then only for necessities. Use up paint, organize, find fabric I already own and keep my focus on completing the projects that I have already invested in.
    Kelly´s last post…Another Round of Pinterest Inspiration

  49. how refreshing to hear someone to suggest not looking at the grocery budget first! Even some convenience foods that some might find pricy is still cheaper than eating out.

    I need to relook over the budget and find some other ways of bringing it down. I’m still going to try to reduce the grocery budget. I have been a little too lax in that area and it has exploded, time to reign it back in to a more acceptable (to me) level. Time to be more disciplined with a menu and planning our meals and using up what we have.

  50. What great advice! When we look to make cuts, the last place I look at is our grocery budget. If anything, I’ve increased it dramatically over the last few years (some due to increasing costs, some food allergies and some just buying better quality stuff). We never bought much in the way of prepackaged items, preferring fresh, whole foods for the taste and the price.

    I agree that having good quality foods at home prevents us from eating out. When the kids clamor for special sweets out, I just remind them that we have a great blender and house full of fresh ingredients to make anything they (usually) want.

    • Sarah – amen to you! What a great approach! I wish more people were like that! I know people who get too lazy to buy/cook good foods, they end up eating in McDonald’s to save money! That makes me so angry! And – involving kids into cooking is always the winner:)
      Katia´s last post…How Does Protein Help You Burn Fat

  51. I really-really like your tips here! And agree 100% that cutting your food budget is not that smart. Yes, by no means – cut on bad snacks, but still go and buy good/organic/healthy foods! Foods need to be exciting, otherwise you will end up, as you say – at the restaurant, where they are less likely to cook with organic foods and it will be more expensive! Your post is very-very inspiring! thank you!
    Katia´s last post…How Does Protein Help You Burn Fat

  52. I would so love to increase our food budget a little. We have an absolute bare-bones budget but our preschool boys have started flying through the fresh fruit & veggies even faster, and its hard to keep them on hand with the amount we have budgeted. So for our no-spend month I’ve decided to use up as much of the canned goods I can (I was going way overboard on stockpiling when things were on sale) to clear out space and use up things that have been hanging around for a year. We’re blessed to be receiving some fruit & veggies from friends & family for free this month. At the end of the month we will start an evaluation period for our food budget and concentrate it on produce.

    My other biggest weakness is online shopping. We are very good about a cash envelope system – I almost never use my debit card at a store. But we don’t have a good way to include online purchases in the cash budget, so we act as if they “don’t count.” After a month of $50, $10, $20 purchases, they add up REALLY FAST. I’ve sworn off of Amazon, daily deal sites and craft supply sites for the month to help reign it in.

  53. Joyfulmomof6 says:

    Bravo for this post! We have 6 children, I am a stay at home mom and homeschooler and so we are home all the time. It is so true that it is depressing when there is nothing good in the house to eat.

    You really have a way with words and just plain old common sense that seems to be missing amongst the “money saving” blogs….that’s why I stopped reading all the other ones. Your blog is like a breath of fresh air.

    We eat very healthy and cook everything from scratch, so coupons are a waste of time for us (except for a very few non food items, but it’s usually cheaper to buy generic on those anyway.

    Thanks for lifting a burden off my shoulders that I didn’t realize I was carrying…the huge weight of thinking “I should” be able to trim back our food bill more because of those ridiculous blogs that say they spent $1.98 for $600 worth of groceries. We wouldn’t be able to eat those things they purchase with the coupons anyway, as we don’t buy junk food.

    Blessings,
    Nanci

  54. I understand what you’re saying – however, if you already have the smallest bills you can figure out, what’s left but groceries??? I feel like we’re just bringing in enough to get by, and not enough to put anything away or get any ahead. :( It stinks. But keep the tips coming – I’ll keep reading! :)

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  55. Your blog is full of great ideas. Thank you.

    We know a family that downsized from a high end house to a cabin-sized house and made it efficient yet without too many conveniences. To save money, they chose to eliminate paper towels and opt for dishcloths, washcloths, hand towels. Except for the occasional greasy pan for which I like the paper towel, I am using cloth to clean. A package of paper towels lasts a looong time. If you don’t have old ones, inexpensive dishcloths and washcloths now come in bundles,too. Some of my hand towels are “old” because my color preference changed or they came from a dollar store (I don’t like to lose my good ones on a trip or camping).

  56. Abbington says:

    I thought this was a great post. I am often a bit depressed when all my friends talk about being frugal and equate that with cutting corners on the food they eat. Or buying clothes at charity shops (yet they still spend the same amount – they just get more bang for their buck at the charity shop, and go through clothes a lot more quickly!) Yet noone ever seems to be willing to reduce their spending on their phone & internet, or cable TV etc etc. I would rather eat great, healthy food and have no TV, and an inexpensive old fashioned mobile phone, than eat sausages and beans every night but have the latest iPhone so I can check my social media while my kids are playing in the park! I love your general philosophy about having less stuff!