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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Prudent Prepping: Budget Your Budget

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping.

I've mentioned that I have a new-to-me car and with that comes the increased expenses of a newer vehicle. Since I can't easily increase my income, I have to decrease my "outgo". Several of my expenses are fixed (or almost), but there are ways I can reduce even those. What I'm looking at is the answer to the eternal question, "What Can I Quickly Change?"

Rent, utilities and insurance are fixed expenses and at the top of my list. They can be changed, just not in the short term and I need to save money immediately. The easiest place for me to start is with food.

This is a topic that can be very touchy to some people, especially if they have a family history of food shortages/rationing or malnutrition/starvation,or if they prep with other people who share the same food supply. I am fortunate in that I have never been that hungry, but there have been times I could easily see the back of my pantry. I've been pretty good at budgeting, but I think there is still room for improvement.

As it turns out, there is a lot of room for improvement, starting with how I shop.

I Will Stop:
  • Buying microwave dinnersThese seem like an easy way to have a hot meal in a short time, but are generally as expensive per-pound as steak, along with a serious overload of salt and additives.
  • Using vending machines. I have been guilty of needing (okay, wanting) a soda and paying $1.50 for a drink that, if purchased at the supermarket, costs $4 for a six-pack. This is also a poor way to have a candy bar or other snack items.
  • Eating fast food lunches. There are Snack Shacks at or near most of the places I call upon. While the food is prepared with fresher ingredients than at most fast-food places, it is still   expensive; fFor example, a bagel with cream cheese and a large coffee is most of $5 and a Super Burrito or BLT is $7.50. 
  • Eating dinners out. I'm not eliminating every dinner out. I just plan to eat out much, much less and to take advantage of bargains when I do. 
  • Shopping 'trendy'. I've never been a Whole Foods nut, but I have shopped there in the past. No longer! Grocery Outlet and the various dollar stores are my first stops now, with the big chains only for those items not found elsewhere.
  • Drinking fancy coffees. I am as guilty as most for running out to $tarbuck$ for overpriced coffee or other drinks in the morning with coworkers. If I do go with friends, I will buy plain coffee to reduce sticker shock.
  • Deli case shopping. This isn't quite as bad as frozen or microwave meals, but it's close, both in price and in non-essential additives.

I Will Start:
  • Planning meals for several days at a time. This involves shopping for those ingredients weekly and not stopping every day to buy what's needed.
  • Taking water to work, and I will buy it by the case at the warehouse store. If I do buy soda, it will also be purchased by the case; the per-can price is much cheaper than the machine.
  • Making my own lunch. The ingredients are cheaper.
  • Using coupons or a discount service like Groupon when I go out for dinner. Several of the local sports bars have good, relatively cheap food with the expectation that they will make up the difference in booze. Since I don't drink much, I end up saving money. 
  • Buying in bulk. This includes the things that make sense to have in big packs, like paper towels and toilet paper. Food items are a bit harder for me to buy in bulk, because I'm buying only for myself, and bags of oranges and potatoes from the grocery store sometimes don't get used before going bad. However, meat in bigger packs gets divided into bags and dropped into the freezer.
  • Looking in the marked-down section of the meat counter. This is a great place to hunt up ingredients for my next dinner; I've found roasts that turned into stew, chili and burrito filling there, along with steaks. Later in the evening can be a good time to find rotisserie chickens being marked down. 
  • Using my rice or pasta as a base for more of my meals instead of donating extra to the food bank. Chicken, beef and different spices, or sauces over rice or macaroni, make for good, nutritious and filling meals.             

Other Ways to Save:
  • Look at your car insurance for a way to save some money. Shop for a cheaper policy and check into raising your deductible. The difference between a $500 and $1000 deductible can be huge! 
  • Get a cheaper cell phone plan or turn off some of the extra features that have a per-month charge. Do you really need to have unlimited texts, or is a fixed number better? What about your data use - can you get by with a cheaper plan? Most cell providers are offering unlimited data (with restrictions, naturally!), so that can be another way to save some serious money too.

The Takeaway
  • There are ways to trim a budget if you know where to look. I haven't looked at mine as closely as I should have until now. Wish me luck! 
  • If you have a novel way to save money, leave a comment! I need all the help I can get in paying for my new car.

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NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

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