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Budgeting

9 Ways to Lower Cell Phone Bill

When you look at your budget, you might find that your cell phone bill is a major part of your monthly expenses. Yes, we all need one and most people need a reliable one with good service for various reasons. So, I won’t tell you to get rid of yours but here are some ways to cut back.

woman holding iPhone during daytime
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  1. Lower data usage. This is one of the easiest ways to cut back on your cell phone expense. Maybe you don’t need the unlimited plan. You can use Wi-Fi often. You can also go into your settings for each app and turn off background refresh when not using. This is a setting that is easy to click on when you add the app to your phone. But, it means that the app is constantly running and using some data. Even just your e-mail could be using a lot of data by refreshing constantly.
  2. Sign up for a family plan. A family plan paid by different individuals is generally much cheaper than an individual plan. Make sure you trust the person to pay the bill. Pay your part of the bill on time and be willing to help out when the plan goes over on data usage. This is also a great way to have enough people on there to justify the unlimited account.
  3. Sign up for paperless billing or automatic pay. With most carriers, signing up on automatic payment will save you a little money each month. My account is currently shared with my parents and my mom’s card is on the automatic payment. But, I go in before the due date every month and pay my portion of the bill. Then, she only gets charged for her portion. We save $5 a month by using autopay.
  4. Look for extra charges. Don’t pay for insurance on your phone. Invest in a good case and treat it like it’s $500 (it kind of is). If you are worried about something happening to your phone, pay yourself $20/month to have money set aside to buy a new phone. If nothing happens, then you can pay cash for your next phone.
  5. Don’t buy the newest phone. Really examine if you need a new phone. My mom recently got the new iPhone X. Her previous phone was not going to be supported anymore with Verizon. She had had an iPhone 5 for a few years but had had a flip phone before that. It makes sense for her to buy the best phone because she will keep it forever. But, if you want to upgrade just to upgrade all the time, maybe you don’t need the best phone.
  6. Pay cash. Most carriers don’t really charge a different rate if you pay installments or up front for the cell phone. But, if yours does, make sure to pay cash for your phone. Saving up before buying the phone, can lower your monthly expenses.
  7. Don’t pay late. I really hate late fees and avoid them at all costs. Get ahead of your expenses and have the money set aside at least one paycheck before the due date.
  8. No-contract phones. When my teens started, I put them on this great plan called Ting. They use T-Mobile and Sprint towers for service so the service was decent. But, we only paid for the number of calls, text and data used. We could cancel it at any time. But, they learned how to be careful with their usage. If they went over a certain amount, I had them pay the bill. We used it as a great way to teach them about money and paying their own bills.
  9. Change carriers. This one is hard. But, if your cell phone carrier if your cell phone bill is making it hard for you to reach your other goals, you might look into switching carriers. It’s not that painful, I promise. Look at reviews and ask around. My specific area doesn’t always have the best reception, so I have to be careful which carriers I use. Otherwise, I could have very spotty data coverage at my house.

Add up all the long-term costs before you buy. If you’re shopping carriers, you should add up the cost of the phone plus the cost of the service for the year. That puts the total amount in your face instead of just the month-to-month payments.

Remember, your budget is all about the numbers! If you can lower your cell phone bill and make it a smaller part of your budget, you’ll have more money on hand to hit your goals each month—whether that’s throwing more at your debt or saving for your future.Cutting back on your cell phone bill is just one of the many things you can do to free up some extra cash in your budget.” Dave Ramsey

Comment below if you have other ideas to save your cell phone bill. If you need help getting started with your budget, just start somewhere. E-mail me at erin@e3accountingsolutions.com if you have questions.

Budgeting

5 Tips for lowering auto repair expenses.

A friend recently called and needed my husband to tow his car to the car repair shop. He’s had his car for about a month when his mom handed it down to him. It had been a good car for her. But, the engine belt fell off because it should have been replaced some time ago. The car overheated and the engine was blown. It was a very expensive repair. Car repair and even car maintenance can hit your budget hard. Here are five ways to avoid causing expensive auto repairs.

  1. Follow maintenance schedule. Nobody wants to spend money on a car that is working fine. But, the maintenance schedule is very important. It can help you avoid costly emergency repairs.
  2. Warning lights and other problems you notice. When the warning lights turn on, look at your owner’s manual for a list of what it means. Some of these lights should be investigated immediately. If you have warning lights or are having problems, have it looked at immediately.
  3. Upgrade motor oil. I try to be frugal but I always use upgraded motor oil. It helps my car run better and helps the engine to last longer.
  4. Keep tires inflated and rotated. Uneven wear on tires usually means that something else is wrong. Tires are expensive and getting them rotated regularly will help them last longer.
  5. Look for a reputable company. Always get three estimates. Don’t always go with the lowest price. Sometimes, the lowest price will just go up once they start working on the car. And, avoid predatory financing companies. These companies will offer to let you pay over a period of time but you should shop around before signing for a loan. You don’t want the loan to outlast the car repair.

In December, we were going on a trip and taking both of our cars. We needed to buy new tires for both cars and brakes for my car before we went. We couldn’t afford to have something happen while we were gone. But, it was very expensive.

You should have an emergency or sinking fund for car repairs. The older your cars, the more you should have in this fund. If you don’t use it when you’re ready to buy a car, you could use it for a down payment. Just start this month. If car repairs keep happening now is a great time to start putting away money for that.

Set a budget. If you need help with how much you should or could be putting into this fund, please contact me.

Budgeting

Saving Money at the Warehouse Store.

I really like going to the warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club to buy some things. I mostly buy freezer stuff and paper goods. There are many ways to save money at these stores but you have to be careful or you are actually spending money.

  1. Don’t overspend. Only buy what you can use. Freeze some. Share with a friend. You spend all this money and then you also need to have room to store the purchases. I always have a very set budget when I go to these stores. I think of it as the $10 store. I round the price of each item to the nearest $10 and then add it in my head. You can also take a calculator and calculate the actual price. Then, I put things back if I don’t have that much money in my budget.
  2. Don’t waste food. It can be so tempting to buy the big bulk items but you should always carefully consider the needs of your family. My family drinks two different kinds of milk. So, at Costco where you are required to buy two gallons at a time, we don’t even always drink the two gallons before it goes bad.
  3. Check price per unit. On the internet, there are lists of prices per unit at other grocery stores. Make sure that you are buying at a lower price per unit. Just because it’s bulk doesn’t mean it’s cheaper. This is why I only buy a few things regularly. I know the price at the grocery store. Usually, there needs to be a good sale to beat this price. But, I watch the prices and make sure I’m getting a good price.
  4. Shop sales. Buy things when they are on sale or a coupon is offered a few times a year. If you shop the sales at the regular grocery store and stock up, you could save significant money over paying for the membership and purchasing in bulk.. Confession: I’ve never been a great coupon/sale shopper. I just try to buy things when they are on sale as much as possible. In regards to shopping at Costco, I just prefer to get a good price all the time. I do stock up when they have their coupon events, also.
  5. Evaluate your membership every year. Both places offer cash-back if you upgrade from the basic membership. But, you should be making sure that this option is saving you money. When I purchased diapers and gas, the upgraded membership almost paid for itself. The basic membership would have cost more at the time. Now, I don’t live that close to Costco or go very often. So, I don’t see as much savings and it’s just better to pay for the basic membership. You can also shop at Costco with a gift card and no membership. They will charge you an extra 5% on many items. But, if you have a friend that you could give money to give you a gift card, that could be an excellent option. Maybe they’d take you with them when they go, and you could just pay cash.
  6. Danger of impulse buys. These stores really love their samples, demo tables and special events. Watch out for these items. When I take my kids, for instance, I often leave with a bunch of these sampled items and then realize that I overspent on those things. They don’t generally sample items unless their margin is high. This means their profit on this item is a high percentage of the purchase price. I don’t even like to talk to the special event people because they pressure you to purchase when it’s really not that great of a deal. I usually come home and look it up online or even on Amazon if it’s something I am actually interested in.

Be very careful about your spending at the warehouse stores. At the regular grocery store, the profit margin is cents on most items. But, the warehouse stores can get away with several dollars because the items are in bulk. Don’t get sucked into paying for a yearly membership just so you can save a few cents here or there.

Budgeting

5 Tips for Shopping with Kids

I like to shop at the store in the daytime when I need things. The stores are less crowded, quieter and I can get more done in a shorter time. But, it wasn’t always that way. Sometimes, it was very hard to shop with my small children. One of my daughters didn’t doesn’t like shopping and got upset almost every time we went. Online grocery shopping wasn’t available at the time so one of us shopped at night or early on Saturday mornings so we could beat the crowds. But, here’s some tips on shopping with kids.

  1. Don’t. Whenever possible, try to shop without your kids or with less of your kids. I tried to plan trips to the store around my kids being in school. Taking one child to the store was much more manageable than taking four. I also found the trips were quicker if I just waited until they were in bed and my husband was home.
  2. Plan ahead. I found that shopping with my kids was even harder without a list or a plan. Wandering around the aisles of Target trying to remember my list was pretty hard when I had my kids with me. The longer I was at the store, the more likely to have somebody get upset.
  3. Schedule. This is a big one. Plan around your child’s schedule. If you know your child feels tired after school, let them have a break before dragging them to the store. Also, don’t go to the store during naptime or mealtime. Neither of those will help you get in and out quicker or for less money.
  4. Talk. Find a way to get the child involved. Giving them a way to help with the list, really helps get it done quicker. They get the satisfaction of helping, too. If you can’t involve them, let them talk to you. Connect at the store by listening to their stories or playing a silly game.
  5. Don’t get frustrated. It is so easy to get frustrated or even embarrassed. If you are getting very frustrated or upset, you can leave. You don’t need to leave, but you could. Sometimes, I wish I could help you poor mamas because I know it is so hard. I just want to buy you a candy bar. “What other people think of you is none of your business.” (Jody Moore) Don’t worry about what other people think about you, your parenting, or your child. Just stay focused on helping your child and getting your shopping done.

You can do this. Even when the shopping trips don’t go as planned, you’ve still got this and you’re doing a great job. Keep on trying and I promise this will eventually pass.

Budgeting

Meal Preparation

three person holding mason jars

Google “meal prep” and you will get five ads for services that offer this service. They are doing a great service but they charge a premium to deliver prepared foods to your door. Your food and grocery budget is an easy way to stop overspending. If you are always looking at the easiest option, you will always be paying the highest price.

Meal preparation can help you not to overspend or go out at the last minute. Preparing meals yourself provides you with health and savings benefits. It is always preferable to know exactly what ingredients are going into your food. Here are some meal preparation tips.

  1. Plastic tubs, Ziploc bags, and dry-erase markers. If you have plenty of plastic containers with matching lids, you can prepare many different foods beforehand. On the plastic tubs, I write with dry-erase markers and then it comes off in the dishwasher. I write the date and what’s in the container before I put it in the freezer or fridge.
  2. Double-batch. Whenever you are cooking or preparing, make a double batch and freeze the rest. My family really doesn’t like leftovers but if I put half of it in the fridge and pull it out while they are gone during the day, they don’t always know it’s a leftover.
  3. Prepare meats and vegetables for the week. Don’t buy already prepared vegetables because the cost is higher. Wash, cut and package your own vegetables. Look at your menu and cook all the meat for the week ahead of time. Meat can take 30+ minutes just to cook. Last night, I used two pans. I used one for the meat and one for the rest of the meal so we could eat at our normal time. If I had just cooked the chicken ahead of time, I would have saved myself a pan to clean. Meat can also be cooked before it is frozen.
  4. Rice. I use my rice cooker or instant pot for all of my rice. I can start rice and walk away or run a carpool. But if you find you don’t have time to cook rice, then cook rice the weekend before and keep some in the freezer.
  5. Slow Cooker and Instant Pot. We all know we can save a lot of time by cooking our food in the slow cooker or instant pot. I love both because I can start it in the morning and then come home right at dinner and there is something to eat. Both are perfect for the busy days that plague our efforts of eating at home. You can prepare and even freeze several meals that you just throw into the slow cooker before work and they are ready to go at dinnertime. Search “Freezer Slow-Cooker Meals” for some great ideas.

Meal preparation is another great way to help manage your food and grocery budget. A little preparation goes a long way in helping you manage your families’ budget.

Budgeting

Grocery Shopping on a Budget

The USDA has a chart to calculate how much the average family spends on groceries each week. According to the chart, the thrifty plan for my family of five would spend $191.50 each week. For my family, I spend $110 per week at the grocery store. Even when there was six of us (with two teenage boys), I only spent $120 per week.

I have a lot of tips and most of them start with planning ahead. I don’t go to the store without a list planned from my menu plan. I also don’t go more then once a week. Every time, I do that I spend too much money. Just yesterday, my store didn’t have something that my husband really wanted. So, he went to a different store and spent $15. We have extra cash each week and he used that because we really try to stay within our budget limits.

Here are some other tips:

-Don’t buy prepackaged treats. Prepackage your own treats. The big bag is much less expensive then buying prepackaged foods. Also, I’ve heard the tip that the kids can’t eat the packaged stuff at home. So, they need to get out a bowl and eat from the big package.

-Buy less convenience foods. I always balance my need to save time with my need to be on a budget. I do buy shredded cheese instead of the block. I will generally have some frozen meals in the freezer. But, I think about how much it would cost me compared to eating out before I purchase it. I don’t buy really expensive and super convenient foods. Learn how to cook. Usually, you can find easy recipes online for similar items and make it yourself for a lot cheaper.

-Stock up on sales. When there is a sale on items we use a lot, I will stock up. There’s a case of canned tomato sauce in the basement right now. I only buy some things when they are on sale and then we use it up before buying more.

-Organize your food. Go through your fridge, freezer and pantry occasionally. Make sure that you are using the items before they expire or go bad. You aren’t saving money if you’re throwing things away all the time.

-Store brands. Don’t overlook the store or generic brands. Some of these items are made by the same manufacturers just packaged in more generic containers. Medicine is a big one. Usually for a fourth of the price, I can purchase OTC medications that aren’t name-brand.

-Do the math. Generally, we think that the bigger box is going to be the better deal. Make sure you are doing the math and spending the least per ounce. Ranch dressing is often a good example of this. The biggest container is only the best deal when it’s on sale. We use a lot of Ranch so I’m conscious of the price.

Grocery budgets are an easy way to make or break your budget. Plan ahead and look for ways to save money. You will find that it gets easier and you aren’t spending as much time once you have tried making a list and menu plan each week.

Budgeting

5 Ways Meal Planning Will Save You Time.

Meal planning can save you lots of money. It is also good for your health. But, I’m a busy mom with four kids and want help you see all the benefits. So, today I’ll share my top time-saving tips for meal planning. These take more time upfront. But, once you get a system in place meal planning and grocery shopping will be quick and easy.

Simplify. Look at the nights you know you need some quick and easy. Plan ahead and do batch cooking on the weekend. Having meat pre-cooked saves a lot of time on those busy nights during the week. It takes a lot less time to precook your meat in a big batch and only wash the dishes once.

Know your habits. Meal planning helps you see your habits and know your go-to meals. Your dinner habits are different then mine. You will start to see what days you will cook and what days you could plan leftovers or simple meals. Know your go-to meals. If you have ingredients for a few simple meals available, you won’t be looking in the kitchen trying to decide something to cook. You can think about the meal before you get home, pull out the ingredients, and get cooking.

Reuse menus. I reuse menus almost every month. My family likes about thirty meals. So, I just copy and paste my previous month’s menu. I always adjust and add things here and there.

Shop less and organize shopping trips. You shop less when you have a menu planned. You don’t need to stop at the store every day to buy ingredients for whatever you decided to cook at the last minute.

Menu planning really does save time, money, and blesses your health. What are your favorite ways to save time when you meal plan?

Click on my contact page to get a free budget consultation. Meal planning is an easy way to start budgeting your money.#budget

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#mealplanning #budgetcoaching #grocery #shopping

Photo by Artem Riasniansky

Budgeting

Meal Planning: Health & Money Benefits

My grandma always knew what she was making every night for dinner. It was generally the same meat and potatoes but she knew. She only went to the store once a week and bought all the items she needed. This is meal planning at it’s easiest. She knew what she was having, made a list and went to the store.

I don’t enjoy having the same meal every day of the week but I only like to shop once a week. Every time I go to the store, especially without a list, I overspend a little. The stores know this and plan out ways to get you to spend more every time you step in the store. Meal planning is a great way to avoid extra trips to the store. Meal planning can also have these health benefits.

  • Control. Meal planning gives you advance control of what you eat and what goes into every meal.
  • Balance. Meal planning helps you see if you are eating the balance of foods you want. If I don’t meal plan, it’s a lot easier to say we’ll just have the processed food in the freezer AGAIN.
  • Impulse Control. When you have a grocery list and know what you need to buy, you walk around the store empowered to just buy the things you need. If you buy one or two items not on the list, you have still done a lot better then going to the store without a list at all.

Don’t make meal planning complicated or expensive. Look in your pantry and plan around the things you already have. If you like to try new recipes, try to find other meals that include the same ingredients. Good luck with your meal plan in March.

If you click on this post, you can print out my free March menu plan calendar.

Budgeting

Meal Planning DIY Style

I have a written a meal plan every month for years. It works so well for us. I keep mine flexible. If I don’t want to make something or we are too busy, I just look at the week and figure out what works for that night. So easy. But, I already have the ingredients on hand for each dinner.

Here are three of the reasons I like to make my own.

  1. My family is TOO picky. Let’s be honest, I’m picky, too. So, I look at those meal plans and while they look good most of the time, my family wouldn’t eat half of the meals. So, I’d be constantly looking for things to add in, anyway.
  2. My family mostly rotates through the same meals. The meals plans need to come up with new and exciting recipes all the time or what are you paying for. All I do is copy the same menu from last year this month. So, I copy over the current month from a year ago. I look it over and make sure that it still matches with things we like to eat. I add in any new recipes we have found that we like. I also add in a few tryout recipes to see if my family will eat them.
  3. I would rather spend the money on actual food. A quick search through my pinterest page can find great pictures of food my family will enjoy. I would rather have the money I would spend on a meal plan to purchase the food I want and know we will eat.

Making a meal plan is an essential part of budgeting. It keeps you from last-minute grocery store purchases and eating out all the time. My family rarely eats out because it can be very expensive to take out a family of six including two teenage boys. When we do it is very intentional and already figured in the budget.

I have a free printable meal planner for March. Look at your calendar and start filling it in. Once you’ve filled it in with your regular dinner items, you can look on pinterest to add in a few new things.