I propose a challenge. Whereas a lot of my articles offer general guidelines for saving and investing, I’m going to use this post to set forth a specific, three-pronged challenge that can help you save a decent amount of money. Excited? Me too.
For one month, you’re going to cut back in three categories: groceries, gas and utilities. Before you start, you need to go through a few months of spending to get a realistic idea of how much you spend on average in these areas. Once you’ve done that, follow these instructions for a month and see what you save. If you stick with it, I’m confident you’ll be happy with the results.
I’ll provide tips for how you can save, but don’t hesitate to doctor these instructions to match your lifestyle. The main goal is to set some guidelines you can realistically follow. Let’s dive in!
Step 1: Dust off the Crockpot
I’ve learned that saving money at the grocery store is as much about how you cook as it is about what you buy. With that in mind, step one of the Great Saving Competition (patent pending) is to figure out some soups, stews, roasts and hashes that you can make in a big ol’ pot,and that will provide enough food to last for most of the week.
If you’re picturing a giant bowl of slop, you have much to learn about slow cookers and the brilliant recipes you can concoct with this appliance. From soup to chili to pulled pork, you can make all sorts of meals that feed a bunch of people and don’t cost much to make. Play your cards right, and you can make one crockpot dish last for an entire week.
If you need more direction for what exactly you should be making, just search “slow cooker recipes.” You’ll get millions of results and should be able to find some appetizing options in no time.
Step 2: Cut Your Driving in Half
I’m as guilty as the next guy of taking advantage of the convenience that is my car. It’s hard to convince yourself to walk or bike when you’ve got AC, a comfy seat and a radio waiting inside your vehicle. However, if you’re looking to save a buck or two, cutting back on gas usage is a great place to start.
When you’re in the habit of using your car,it’s hard to think of ways you can drive less. As long as you’re honest with yourself, you should be able to identify some driving that isn’t necessary. If you can’t walk or bike to work, maybe you can take the bus or the train, even if it’s just one day a week. What if you walked your kids to and from school instead of driving every time? Challenge yourself to walk more and combine your errands so you reduce the total miles you drive. Once you start putting in the effort, spending less time in the car becomes pretty feasible.
Step 3: Don’t Buy Beverages
This should be the easiest thing to do, and yet for many people, it’s nearly impossible. I’m not going to ask you to cut milk, juice and coffee off your grocery list, but I will encourage you to stop spending at coffee shops and to skip the sodas and cocktails when you go out to eat. If you limit your libations to home-brewed coffee in the morning and water throughout the day, you’ll cut back on an expense that adds up very quickly.
I offer this advice as a financial advisor and a health coach. If you’re drinking soda more than once a day, you’re spending money on something that’s not particularly great for you. How great will it feel to cut back on unnecessary calorie intake while also saving a few bucks each month?
That’s the challenge. Start at a month, see what you save and go from there. You may decide driving is an absolute necessity, or that crockpot meals don’t float your boat. However, you might learn to cook something new that you love, get a little more exercise and finally get properly hydrated.
Remember, this challenge only works if you fully commit to it. I don’t want to hear about people not seeing any savings after only making one meal in the crockpot. Make an honest effort, and let me know if you see some good results!