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Fri Feb 15, 2013, 07:51 PM

How do you trim expenses?

I am in trouble financially. My paycheck went down by $60 because of the rise in the payroll tax. I am, to put it mildly, screwed. Thankfully, my rent, though higher than I would like, did not go up. But I cannot keep my head above water. I do pay myself every month,, saving $100 that I put in an investment account, which so far is doing better than any savings account would.

Still, I find myself spending more than I make. I did realize I spend way too much on dining out. $70 last month. So that has to go. I decided I will make the drive to Virginia Beach so I can shop at Trader Joe's instead of the more expensive grocery stores in town here. What else can I do? I could give up my gym membership, which is $60 a month, but it's the only decent gym in town. I tried the other one for a while and it just scared me. But maybe I will have to go back. It's around $35 a month. I don't like to exercise outside. There are no sidewalks for one thing and my apartment complex does not have a fitness center.

I've said before that this town sucks in so many ways and I'm sorry I ever moved here. I took a pay cut to do so. I am clearly an idiot. But having said that, I have to deal with reality and make the best of it until I can get the hell out.

So the areas that I have identified as possible savings are in the grocery area. I spend over $300 a month (and get basically nothing for it). I end up going every other day or so because I don't really plan meals. I can't cook really. So I buy stuff like prepackaged pasta, which lasts me for two days, but still is pricier than the boxed pasta.

Cooking for one sucks. All the more reason to be pissed at my ex-boyfriend.

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Arrow 92 replies Author Time Post
Reply How do you trim expenses? (Original post)
alarimer Feb 2013 OP
riderinthestorm Feb 2013 #1
alarimer Feb 2013 #3
riderinthestorm Feb 2013 #10
In_The_Wind Feb 2013 #2
alarimer Feb 2013 #4
Sanity Claws Feb 2013 #6
alarimer Feb 2013 #9
Sekhmets Daughter Feb 2013 #18
ZRT2209 Feb 2013 #58
alarimer Feb 2013 #69
ZRT2209 Feb 2013 #79
alarimer Feb 2013 #81
ZRT2209 Feb 2013 #86
ZRT2209 Feb 2013 #59
In_The_Wind Feb 2013 #7
alarimer Feb 2013 #11
In_The_Wind Feb 2013 #14
Sekhmets Daughter Feb 2013 #19
kalli007 Feb 2013 #17
avebury Feb 2013 #36
kalli007 Feb 2013 #48
avebury Feb 2013 #49
kalli007 Feb 2013 #50
VenusRising Feb 2013 #46
ConcernedCanuk Feb 2013 #40
In_The_Wind Feb 2013 #42
Sanity Claws Feb 2013 #5
alarimer Feb 2013 #8
avebury Feb 2013 #16
alarimer Feb 2013 #20
RILib Feb 2013 #64
kath Feb 2013 #84
LoveMyCali Feb 2013 #43
Honeycombe8 Feb 2013 #52
alarimer Feb 2013 #70
Honeycombe8 Feb 2013 #77
otherone Feb 2013 #65
RILib Feb 2013 #63
Angry Dragon Feb 2013 #12
alarimer Feb 2013 #13
avebury Feb 2013 #15
alarimer Feb 2013 #21
tavernier Feb 2013 #22
alarimer Feb 2013 #23
kudzu22 Feb 2013 #24
politicat Feb 2013 #25
alarimer Feb 2013 #26
otherone Feb 2013 #66
alarimer Feb 2013 #71
pokerfan Feb 2013 #27
alarimer Feb 2013 #30
pokerfan Feb 2013 #35
Honeycombe8 Feb 2013 #53
tabbycat31 Feb 2013 #89
ZRT2209 Feb 2013 #60
ZRT2209 Feb 2013 #61
Coyotl Feb 2013 #28
agracie Feb 2013 #29
avebury Feb 2013 #34
agracie Feb 2013 #45
Gorp Feb 2013 #31
avebury Feb 2013 #32
Gorp Feb 2013 #33
alarimer Feb 2013 #38
Gorp Feb 2013 #41
alarimer Feb 2013 #37
Gorp Feb 2013 #39
Honeycombe8 Feb 2013 #54
alarimer Feb 2013 #72
otherone Feb 2013 #67
alarimer Feb 2013 #73
4_TN_TITANS Feb 2013 #44
ZRT2209 Feb 2013 #57
Grantuspeace Feb 2013 #47
Honeycombe8 Feb 2013 #51
otherone Feb 2013 #68
ZRT2209 Feb 2013 #55
ZRT2209 Feb 2013 #56
RILib Feb 2013 #62
alarimer Feb 2013 #74
Honeycombe8 Feb 2013 #76
RILib Feb 2013 #80
alarimer Feb 2013 #82
avebury Feb 2013 #85
patricia92243 Feb 2013 #75
alarimer Feb 2013 #83
noamnety Feb 2013 #92
Burma Jones Feb 2013 #78
triguy46 Feb 2013 #87
alarimer Feb 2013 #88
TexasBushwhacker Feb 2013 #90
harmonicon Feb 2013 #91

Response to alarimer (Original post)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 08:05 PM

1. Well my first bit of advice is usually to tell folks to learn to cook, its MUCH cheaper

than dining out or buying pre-packaged food. And healthier.

But if you don't want to do that, I think cutting back on eating out is a good idea. Also if you can get disciplined and actually plan meals ahead, you will cut some costs - even if you ONLY plan breakfast and lunch. You can then stock up on bulk yogurts, lunchmeat, cheese, bread etc and save $$ there. Think about the savings you can implement with the food itself. Do you always eat a bagel or english muffin for breakfast? Two pieces of toast have the same carbs but are much cheaper.

People report really great prices on canned goods and other pre-packaged foods at dollar stores (I've never been). Maybe explore those?

I shop at thrift stores exclusively for clothing. Same with household goods like coffee cups, tea kettles etc. I pretty much only buy underwear and socks new.

Go over things like your cell phone plans or credit card interest rates - sometimes you can haggle deals/rates that are cheaper. Its always worth asking. Those monthly costs can add up.

I think its great you pay yourself first. Its a smart strategy for the long run.

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Response to riderinthestorm (Reply #1)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 08:09 PM

3. I don't buy clothes much at all.

I've been buying those sandwich flats, but I realize now at 6-8 for 3.99, it's cheaper to buy bread. I only bought them to save calories, because I'm also trying to lose weight.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #3)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 08:32 PM

10. There are low cal/low carb breads. MUCH cheaper than what you are paying!

Good luck.



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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 08:07 PM

2. crock pot

Your food bill will drop quickly.

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Response to In_The_Wind (Reply #2)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 08:09 PM

4. I don't know how to use one.

I have one that my sister gave me, but I have no idea what to do with it.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #4)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 08:14 PM

6. Crock pot recipes

Here's a link to start you off, http://allrecipes.com/recipes/main-dish/slow-cooker/

You're a smart woman. If it's something you don't know now, you just have to set some time aside to learn.

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Response to Sanity Claws (Reply #6)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 08:27 PM

9. Thanks.

I guess I'm just haven't bothered to learn. I do make chili, which lasts me several days.

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Response to Sanity Claws (Reply #6)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 10:11 PM

18. Love All Recipes...

I have found so many really great recipes on that site!

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Response to Sanity Claws (Reply #6)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 02:39 AM

58. crock pot chili - so easy:

1 pound ground beef
1 can kidney beans
1 can pinto or black beans
1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes (with garlic and onions)
1/4 chopped onion
1 package chili seasoning mix (I use McCormick's)

Put in crock pot.
Mix it around.

Put lid on.
Cook for 5 hours.

Eat.

Put leftovers in fridge.

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Response to ZRT2209 (Reply #58)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 09:56 AM

69. I would add a can of Rotel tomatoes

You know, the one with chili peppers in them. Seems to add just the right kic.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #69)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 11:25 AM

79. yes so many ways to change it up to your tastes

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Response to ZRT2209 (Reply #79)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 06:58 PM

81. In fact I made it tonight

My recipe doesn't strictly require a Crock Pot, but I used it anyway.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #81)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 07:54 PM

86. yum!

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Response to Sanity Claws (Reply #6)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 02:46 AM

59. crock pot pot roast - so easy (and yummy):

1 pound of any cuts of beef that your grocery store has on sale
(trim the fat off)
(if it is a large single cut I'll cut into 3-4 pieces so it cooks faster and absorbs more flavor)

peel and chop (big pieces) about 4 potatoes
carrots if you like them
1 cup frozen peas if you like them
1/4 chopped onion if you like

put it all in the crock pot
Add McCormicks pot roast seasoning - comes in a packet - about $1.79

turn on crock pot
let cook for 5 or 6 hours

eat with bread
the meat will be very tender, falling apart. even cheap cuts of meat. such is the magic of the crock pot.

put leftovers in fridge

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Response to alarimer (Reply #4)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 08:19 PM

7. It's really very easy. 1st, tell me what basic spices and meats you like.

When making pasta, I use something with bulk like penne or farfalle. I make the entire pound box, mix it with a little butter when it's done (you could use olive oil if you like that better) and zip lock bag the leftover.

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Response to In_The_Wind (Reply #7)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 08:46 PM

11. I like a lot of things.

I'm a much less picky eater than I used to be. I've just fallen into the habit of buying prepared meals. Like the ones in the frozen section, PF Changs. I get two days out of those meals. It didn't really seem that expensive, but it comes down to $4 a serving or something like that.

It's why I like Trader Joe's. Stuff is pretty cheap there.

I eat a lot of fish, which is not something to slow cook, but I can buy a bag of frozen tilapia for about $7 for maybe a dozen fillets. And I have a few tricks for fish and shrimp, a lot of which is cheap around here, seasonally.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #11)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 09:10 PM

14. Even fish can be done in a slow cooker, bouillabaisse for example.

Any meat can become a spaghetti sauce. When cooking in a crock pot for a single person, don't think small, think freezer bags. If you cook on the weekends (or your days off) you'll stay busy, and supper will be quick and healthier when you arrive home.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #11)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 10:13 PM

19. Way too many chemicals in all those prepared foods....

In The Wind is giving you some great advice.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #4)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 10:05 PM

17. The good thing is- you don't have to do much!

I use mine every Sunday, make a delicious tortilla soup for about $15 total- literally feeds me lunch and dinner for a week!

Going to try slow cooker lasagna tomorrow.

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Response to kalli007 (Reply #17)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 11:54 AM

36. Slow cooker lasagna sounds good.

Do you mind passing along the recipe you use?

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Response to avebury (Reply #36)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 03:54 PM

48. It's the slow cooker lasagna recipe at

Bettycrocker.com

When I googled slow cooker lasagna it was the first one, so I went with it!

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Response to kalli007 (Reply #48)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 04:11 PM

49. Thanks! That looks good.

Have you tried the recipe with the crock pot liners? If so, did it come out as well?

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Response to avebury (Reply #49)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 04:20 PM

50. No I just put it in bare!

Of course I may regret it later!

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Response to alarimer (Reply #4)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 02:58 PM

46. This woman used her crockpot every day for one year.

She put all her recipes on this website. I have used quite a few of them.

I know what you are going through. I wish you the best of luck and hope things turn around for you soon.

http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2009/01/2008-flashback-entire-year-in-order.html

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Response to In_The_Wind (Reply #2)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 11:59 AM

40. yuppers - right on there . . .

 



I'm a single guy, without services for the last few years,

but when I did have hydro and all that, I had a crock pot/slow cooker going for 5 days a week,

what I didn't finish for dinner, went right back into the cooker

bought roasts and carved them up into steaks or chops, put them in the freezer then throwing the bones/leftovers into the pot with veggies and taters etc.

got some awesome tasting meals out of that .

and ALWAYS a meal ready when the hunger thing hit

and

no stinky food in the garbage

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Response to ConcernedCanuk (Reply #40)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 12:43 PM

42. There was a time when I was working OTR

I was stuck in Sweetwater Tennessee for Christmas (due to problems with the truck load we were moving) 3 adults lived very well from a crockpot that was never empty.

Sounds like you really have things figured out pretty good, ConcernedCanuk


wise words, indeed

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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 08:11 PM

5. groceries and eating out

Do you eat lunch out or get coffee in the morning? If you pack your own lunch and make your own coffee at home, you can save some money.

You can learn to cook some basic things. Eggs, tuna salad, salmon salad.

Make a lot of pasta and eat the leftovers for lunch or the next day.

Can you eat less meat and more bean and rice dishes? Meat is probably the most expensive item. Cut back on it.

I live alone and know what you mean about cooking for one. I cook up a couple of servings at the same time and freeze the leftovers. You can bring the leftovers to work as your lunch.

We can talk about specific recipes if you want.

I don't know where you live but can you find things that are inexpensive to do as entertainment? Can you rent movies from the library instead of going out to the movies? Can you borrow books at the library instead of buying books?

As for utilities, can you be frugal about energy usage?

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Response to Sanity Claws (Reply #5)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 08:25 PM

8. I don't have cable because I knew I was losing money moving here

I don't really have a lot of extra expenses.
I don't buy books generally. I only have Time Warner for internet and that's about $40 a month. The cheaper options just don't work for streaming Netflix. Entertainment wise, I really don't go anywhere or do anything. No movies, or concerts. Maybe a couple of beers at a bar once a month or so. Bowling occasionally.

I think I'm about as frugal as I can get at this point, with the exception of food. I keep the temperature at 68-70, which is as low as I can stand it, although I guess I can learn to be colder than that. Summers I let it get hotter. All of my utilities together amount to about $150 a month, which varies $20-30 or so, but not much more than that. That is the only thing that's cheaper than Texas. I guess because of the a/c in summer.

I don't go to the doctor because I don't want to pay the copayments, although I do have one of those flex-pay accounts in which money is taken out of my check before taxes so I have enough this year for basic exams now.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #8)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 10:00 PM

16. What is your local library like?

I take advantage of traditional books, audiobooks and e-books at my local library. I know that they also have movies available for checkout.

They have also got the Red boxes all over the place here where you can rent movies for a pretty low price. 7-11 also has inexpensive video rentals.

You might be able to download an application from amazon.com that allows you to put ebooks on your computer. I am always looking to see what free books are available. You won't find free books that are on the NY Times best sellers list but you might find some decent books here and there.

Are there any places around that offer free wi-fi that might have a faster download speed then what you have at home? If there is, it might be worth you while to make pit stops there to take advantage of their wifi. If you download Itunes onto your computer you would be surprised what you can download as podcasts. I love Real Time with Bill Maher and by waiting a few days after each show, I can download the audio podcasts of his show. Rachel Maddow's show is available the morning after the previous night. Capital Steps is a group that performs political shows on NPR a few times a year and their shows are available as a podcast. Sometimes the first episode of a new show may be offered for free.

It is hard to balance living frugally with still being able to maintain quality of life. I try to treat it like a game to see how I can continue to do things that I really enjoy with the least financial outlay as possible. I enjoy going to live theater but that can be really expensive. I discovered a local group that puts on a few shows a year and they are pretty good, it is a small venue, and you can get a ticket for $10. That beats the $55-$80 that you would pay for a lot of the other live theaters around here.

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Response to avebury (Reply #16)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 10:21 PM

20. The local library is okay

I have an e-reader. I have enough books to last me a while. I do use the library but their book selection is not great. And their movie selection is even worse. Most of the books I bought for my Nook I got with gift cards.

I do listen to podcasts at work.

I just don't do a lot of extra stuff.

Netflix and Hulu together are about $25, maybe a third of what cable would cost at a minimum. I find I don't miss cable at all. I find I can wait until the shows appear on one of those. I have a digital antennae so I can get CBS, which generally doesn't allow any streaming of their shows and I get PBS without even using the digital antenna.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #20)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 05:19 AM

64. my library loans ebooks thru

 

a consortium that covers my entire state, so there are quite a few books. Some publisher are not part of that system.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #20)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 07:20 PM

84. If the book and movie selection at your local library isn't great, remember that you can get pretty

much anything you can imagine through interlibrary loan (and if your library is part of a county-wide or metro system, it's *very* easy to request books/movies from other branches in the system).

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Response to alarimer (Reply #8)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 12:56 PM

43. You pretty much sound like me

trying to figure out what to cut when it isn't like you live in the lap of luxury to begin with sucks.

The crock pot advice is good though, I do cook but from time to time just get too lazy and I spend way more money on food. If you even just make a couple of different things and portion things out and freeze them you have cheaper, healthier options and you don't have to eat the same thing everyday until it's gone. I also have gotten a couple of cookbooks that give good ideas for turning leftovers into a different meal.

I have one of those flexible spending accounts too and I really need to make a point of going for a check up, it's been years. I'm also in the same boat with the gym membership. I've thought about giving it up but I really don't exercise on my own and hopefully keeping myself in better shape now will stave off medical expenses later.

I wish you luck!

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Response to alarimer (Reply #8)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 02:10 AM

52. There's that $60 gym bill. Can you get a second, part-time job for a while? A roommate?

Just like the government, it might take cutting spending AND increasing revenue. So far, in your posts, it looks like you've identified less than $1,000 a month in expenses. Are you saying you get paid less than $12,000 a year?

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Response to Honeycombe8 (Reply #52)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 10:06 AM

70. Not at all.

My rent plus car payment are over $1000 together. Basically, I spend my whole paycheck every month, with the exception of the amount I put into savings.

Before I moved here, I was doing all right, but I took a substantial pay cut to take this job (in taxes mostly- Texas has no income tax while NC does) and everything seems to be more expensive. I pay property tax on my car, which I'd never heard of before, for instance.

I do know I am terrible at grocery shopping. I never make lists and I go three or four times a week with no idea of what I am going to get. I never plan meals. So this is an area where I can make substantial savings I think.

No roommates, never. I'd eat dog food first before living with a person I wasn't romantically involved with. So no roommates and no relatives, either.

The gym thing is an issue. The only other gym here creeps me out and the equipment is very old. And there are muscle-headed jerks who work out there and it just intimidates me. So my only other options is the YMCA, which at least is clean and relatively new and has a pool.

I can't work out outside; the neighborhood are sketchy and there are no sidewalks. The other option is buying a machine of some sort, which would be cheaper than annual gym membership.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #70)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 10:52 AM

77. We pay a car tax here in TX, too. In addn to the registration.

The YMCA here is pricey. I looked at that, and then nixed it. I just couldn't justify $50/mo. for ONE location.

The exercise thing....you have it in your head that you need fancy equipment or a gym to stay healthy & in shape. Get that out of your head. It is FREE to stay healthy and in shape. You just don't seem to want to sacrifice in that area, it seems. Which is fine. But you asked for ways to be frugal, and that's a big one. Someone in financial trouble simply can't afford $60 a month for a gym, IMO. That's a huge sum for a luxury item.

I would NEVER pay $60/mo for a gym membership...and I get paid well. That's outrageous. Exercise is FREE. No machines are needed, either. Those are "wants" of yours, not "needs." But if you want to cont. to pay for that, then you have to pay the price, so to speak. It's just such an easy fix...dropping the $60 bill. Lot easier to do that than to save $60 in groceries.

Ahhhhh, a car note. At least that's not a permanent expense. It will be paid off one day, and if you bought an economical car that gets great gas mileage, you'll be in great financial shape when it's paid off? One of the best things I did was keep my last car for 14 years. Other people had bought two other vehicles during the time I had my original one. That's an expense of maybe $50,000 that I didn't pay that some others did. Looking at big ticket items is where you REALLY save money in the long run. Making do with what you have, fixing things yourself, not buying new furniture and electronics. All those things save thousands of dollars in time.

But at least you're saving $100 a month! That's terrific! I wouldn't change that. You will be glad years from now that you did. And you will have an emergency fund.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #8)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 07:49 AM

65. medical flex spending accounts are also pre tax

The only way I can budget for my medical expenses is by setting aside money in my flex account.

:kick:ing this thread to hear some cost cutting ideas..

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Response to Sanity Claws (Reply #5)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 05:16 AM

63. cfls

 

Compact florescent light bulbs save a bundle over incandescent.

It is often not necessary to turn on a light in a room in the daytime, esp. if you aren't going to be in there long.

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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 08:59 PM

12. Question .......... How often do you get paid and where do you live??

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Response to Angry Dragon (Reply #12)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 09:01 PM

13. I get paid once a month

I'm in North Carolina.

I'm used to that pay schedule. It's the last day of the month, rather than the first for some reason.

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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 09:43 PM

15. I love my crockpot.

I use my crock pot a lot. If you start to use it you will find that you wonder how you ever got along without it. Examples of what I have cooked in my crock pot are:

Roast Beef
Beef Tenderloin
Turkey (I got a good recipe from my boss)
Cowboy Stew
Tamale Soup

I have a co-worker who keeps a small crock pot at work. One of the way she uses it at work is to cook a sweet potato. She puts the sweet potato in it when she get to work and puts it on high. By lunch time it is ready to eat. You could also use it with a regular potato.

I live by myself and I find it easier to get in the habit of taking my lunch to work if I cook on the weekend. I prepare types of food that I like and divide it up into individual servings and I just grab a container before I leave home.

You will learn what you can freeze so you can make a big batch of something and freeze individual servings.

I made a list of all the things that I like to eat so that I can vary up my cooking and am not eating the same thing week after week. You can also cook some chicken on the weekend (I love to marinate it in Caribbean marinade or a Teriyaki marinade) and take a piece to work with some vegetables that you can microwave.

Sometimes I just start bringing up some recipe websites and just start searching around for some ideas.

Sometimes I will buy a pre-cooked chicken and you can do various things with it such as 1) cut off your favorite pieces to have with veggies for 2 or 3 meals, 2) cut up some of it to make chicken salad (adding a diced apple, cut of grapes and chopped nuts can really zip it up), and 3) use the carcus with remaining chicken to create a base for chicken noodle soup (in your crock pot).

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Response to avebury (Reply #15)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 10:22 PM

21. I looked at those recipes and they look easy

Even I can do probably, so I'm excited to try some.

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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 10:44 PM

22. Do you have an Aldi's near by?

I save about 50% over my old grocery bills.

I buy a lot of stuff at the dollar store.

I enjoy eating out once or twice a week, but I always go for lunch. Much cheaper.

That's about it. I'm not real good at scrimping. Oh, and I do yoga and zumba at home from dvd's and I walk or run the neighborhoods and parks. I won't pay for a gym. There are a million ways to work out for free. Up hill, up stairs, swimming, dancing, riding a bike.

Good luck!

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Response to tavernier (Reply #22)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 10:55 PM

23. I don't think so.

I'd have to check. There might be one in Virginia.

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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 11:10 PM

24. Love the crock pot

I'm making carnitas tomorrow. 8 bucks for 3 lb. of meat and some spices. Some tortillas & salsa and you have meals for several days. It freezes well, too.

Learn how to bake bread. It's far cheaper than store-bought, tastes better and is better for you. Plus it makes your house smell amazing.

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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 11:14 PM

25. Can you eat the same thing several times a week?

Because some people just can't. And that's fair.

Make a list of 20 or so minimally processed foods you like. Mine is apples, red grapes, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, celery, mushrooms, bell peppers, whole wheat or sourdough bread, cheddar and mozzarella, nut butter, jam, strawberries, eggs, milk, yogurt, butter. I used to keep that list on a deck of index cards in my bag, and when I ran out of one, I'd shuffle its card to the front. Made getting groceries easier. (Now I use a list app on my external brain.) When I'm low on spare brain cycles, I can pick up nothing but what's on the list and eat a healthy, if not creative diet for about $50 a week. I'm vegetarian, so meat no longer figures in. If you've got weight watchers in the area, their points system has this sort of tool, and some have cooking classes.

Check your store's loss leader ads each week and try to buy from those first. Also, try to shop in season -- it's cheaper and tastes better. Now, that means root and storage vegetables (potatoes, winter squash, onions, cabbage, carrots), citrus and beef. Spring is for greens, asparagus, eggs, lamb, some fish and cheese. Summer is for chicken, summer squash, tomatoes, berries, stone fruit and melons. Autumn is for most poultry, pork, tree fruit, frost vegetables. Milk is most expensive in late spring and early summer (but cheese, which requires some aging time, lags behind) eggs are cheapest when there is more than 10 hours of daylight each day. If you have a farmer's market, go there for produce. Vegetables generally taste good, and they sub well for each other on the principle of similarities, so if the market has really cheap kale and spinach and expensive lettuce, make spinach salads instead. (I think this is yours. http://www.ncfarmfresh.com/FarmMarketDisplay.asp?FarmID=1515 )

If you like soup, start there with your crockpot. It's really hard to mess up a basic vegetable soup and success builds confidence. If there's a restaurant soup you like, search the soup name plus copycat at allrecipes.com, then follow the highest rating with the most reviews. (I.e. use a 4.5 star with 500 reviews before a 5 star with 2 reviews.)

Find a food blogger whose writing style and skill level you can handle and look at the archives for this month. I am fond of http://smittenkitchen.com for clear instructions and excellent photos without pretension or high cost.

Laundry and/or dry-cleaning -- are you paying for the latter or using a laundromat? Dropping or minimizing dry-cleaning and hanger drying clothes can cut those expenses. Hand washing undergarments can cut a load, too.

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Response to politicat (Reply #25)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 11:36 PM

26. One of the problems is that I'm not a big vegetable person.

I mean, I like carrots and peas but the only green thing I eat on a regular basis is salad, usually some kind of mixed greens.

Around here they grow a lot of collard greens (yuck) and sweet potatoes (yum). I know of a couple of vegetable stands around.

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Response to politicat (Reply #25)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 08:10 AM

66. Can you have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day?

I go through cost saving cycles every so often and one of the things I do is eat a daily PB&J.
Having a PB&J sandwich and carrots for lunch every day is boring, but cost efficient.
I get into these kicks where I want to save money.
I bring my lunch to work and eat a big breakfast at home.
This saves me about $50.

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Response to otherone (Reply #66)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 10:08 AM

71. Yes I could.

I do eat the same thing every day for lunch. Usually a turkey sandwich, but this thread made me think about PB&J so I bought some yesterday.

Plus peanut butter on toast is awesome in the morning.

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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 11:39 PM

27. Rice cooker!

Good call on forgoing dining out. It's incredibly expensive. Roger Ebert turned me onto the rice cooker several years ago: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2008/11/the_pot_and_how_to_use_it.html

I use it mostly for making rice or pasta dishes (with meats and veggies) and oatmeal. I pick up brown rice in bulk for fifty cents per pound. Put rice in the rice cooker with water and push cook. Add some chicken or lentils. I like to alternate. Later in the cooking cycle (so they don't get over cooked) toss in your veggies (carrots, celery, onion, whatever you want). Oatmeal is pretty much the same way. I like the texture of the steel cut variety (also about 50 cents per pound). Mix in some fruit (banana, dates, etc.) or nuts and you've got yourself breakfast. Play around with seasonings (which I also buy in bulk). Don't be afraid to experiment. The Roger Ebert article should inspire you. It inspired me. A recent trip to the grocery store for me:

Item................lb.. $/lb..$price
cayenne pepper......0.16 $2.84 $0.45
cinnamon, ground....0.25 $2.22 $0.56
cajun spice........ 0.19 $3.64 $0.69
garlic pepper...... 0.25 $3.71 $0.93
oats, steel cut.... 1.83 $0.60 $1.10
onions, sweet...... 1.79 $0.68 $1.22
peanuts, blanched.. 0.73 $1.68 $1.23
peppercorns........ 0.18 $7.46 $1.34
bananas............ 3.22 $0.46 $1.48
rice, brown........ 2.74 $0.56 $1.53
carrots............ 5.00 $0.44 $2.18
lentils, red........1.88 $1.22 $2.29
dates, chopped......1.37 $1.98 $2.71
apples, fuji........3.26 $0.98 $3.19
mushrooms, white....1.22 $2.98 $3.64
romaine hearts......1.25 $3.00 $3.75
brussels sprouts....1.75 $2.48 $4.34
chicken, b/s thighs 2.88 $2.98 $8.58
coffee, sumatra.... 1.30 $6.98 $9.07
Total:....................... $50.29


If you haven't already give some thought to ditching the cable or satellite. You can still get the networks over the air and there's also radio. We'll assume you're keeping the Internet so there's plenty of entertainment there.

Worst comes to worse you might think again about dropping the gym. You can always do calisthenics at home, even step training. Jump rope?

BTW, you can buy this basic rice cooker for about $15:


Aroma - ARC-743-1NGR - 6 Cup Rice Cooker

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Response to pokerfan (Reply #27)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 09:16 AM

30. I never thought of a rice cooker.

I always thought that it was one of those single-use appliance that just take up space. But I never thought about using it for other things.

I ditched cable a year ago and haven't really missed it, with Netflix and Hulu.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #30)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 11:48 AM

35. Exactly

Most people think the rice cooker is a unitasker and, to be honest, mine was sitting in the cupboard until Roger Ebert opened my eyes.

Mine's a little bit fancier than the one I posted. It has a display, which is handy for timing when to add the veggies so they don't get overcooked. It also has a smart steam mode. Say that I've figured out through trial and error that I prefer an ear of corn steamed for 13 minutes. No more; no less. I can put some water in the cooker and the corn in the steaming tray, press smart steam and set it to 13. The timer won't start until the water begins boiling. 13 minutes later the chime goes off signaling that my corn is ready. It is truly set it and forget it cooking. It also has a slow cook mode so it can double as a slow cooker.


$25 at Costco.

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Response to pokerfan (Reply #35)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 02:17 AM

53. I think I still have mine. I didn't know it could be used for other things. But a regular pot will

a regular pot will do. If he doesn't have crockpots & rice cookers, no problem. I make my soups and whatnots in plain ol' pots & pans. Although I have a crockpot, too. Somewhere.

I have a wok & have used that a lot. You can throw frozen veggies in there with slices of chicken or whatever, and voila...stir fry. Add a little soy sauce for moisture.

I use my microwave the most, though. It's cheap to use (not much electricity), and fast.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #30)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 09:31 PM

89. One hint about rice

If you are going to buy it, consider looking in the ethnic foods section of your supermarket. In the rice section of the supermarket I shop at, 2 lbs of Jasmine Rice (the kind I like) are $8. In the ethnic foods section, you can get 5 lbs for $5.

The difference is the reusable container it comes in. However, having made the mistake once, I just refill the $8 container with the $5 rice.

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Response to pokerfan (Reply #27)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 02:50 AM

60. also, Minute Rice in the big red box is pretty fool proof

I put 1 cup rice and 1 cup water in pot on the stove
put the lid on
cook medium low/medium for about 6-8 minutes

a nice filling addition to almost any meal

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Response to ZRT2209 (Reply #60)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 02:53 AM

61. avoid individually packaged "treats" that come in boxes

the more packaging, the more expensive and probably the less healthy

grocery shop by shopping the outer perimeter of the store first - where the fresh stuff is
venture into the rows for frozen and as little else as possible

if you must get potato chips, pringles are much cheaper than a bag of lays

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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Fri Feb 15, 2013, 11:40 PM

28. Good to read you have employment.

You are quite fortunate and have tons of discretionary spending. Use your discretion and quit spending it. Start saving it instead, for when you join the ranks of retired or fired.

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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 02:07 AM

29. Each month, set aside ten or twenty dollars to buy non-perishables at the grocery. Buy only....

what you use, and check the store coupons as well as Sunday paper coupons. Ask friends/family to save coupons for you.

The idea is to never pay full price for items you use frequently. For example if margarine is on sale, plus you have a coupon, buy several because next week it will be full price.

CVS Pharmacy often has excellent deals on paper products - paper towels, toilet paper etc...

Good luck !!!

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Response to agracie (Reply #29)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 11:41 AM

34. I try to focus on no more then one

non-perishable item a month and focus on making a smart purchase. I found that the Scott 1000 sheet/roll 20 count toilet paper will last for months when you live by yourself. I work full time so I am not home a lot during the week.

I also got a Target debit card to take advantage of the additional 5% off all my purchases. Combined with good sales it has become cheaper a lot of times to shop at Target then Walmart. I am surprised at how much more shopping I do at Target then Walmart. I pull up the new Target ad online every Sunday and check to see what it online. I also look to see what coupons I can find online.

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Response to avebury (Reply #34)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 02:44 PM

45. Sounds like you are on the right track. I raised three kids on a teacher's salary, and ...

I learned how to pinch pennies. (You have to squeeze nickels 'til the buffalo goes poo-poo.)

And although fresh vegetables can be expensive, it's a good idea to include a few each day - good for your health, ya know. And if you cannot afford fresh, then frozen vegsetables are just as nutritous and are often on sale, and you can use part of a pkg. and freeze the rest - handy since you live alone.

Fresh fruit ? Most any fresh fruit is an excellent source of vitamins, fiber etc. - frozen fruit just doesn't do it for me.

And once in awhile, treat yourself - even if it's just a candy bar or a latte. You have to be nice to yourself, cut yourself a break. Nobody else will.

Keep an eye out for rebates. For me, anything over a dollar is worth my time and a stamp.

Oh, and anytime you buy something online, google to see if there is a coupon code for free delivery or a discount.

Also, I kid you not, I have gotten significant discounts for HughesNet, Direct TV, newspaper delivery. and trash pick-up simply by asking if there is a "good customer" deal available.

Consider switching to a prepaid phone plan. I have TracFone and it is cheap. If you have a landline, do you really need it ?

Google "cheapskate tips" for some really good hints and a few good laughs.



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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 11:18 AM

31. I don't know what equipment you like at the gym, however, $60/mo will buy a LOT of machine.

 

You can get a step machine for as little as $100, elipticals for about $160 (although better ones are about $200) and multi-purpose machines for as little as $300 - five months of gym payments. Most are pretty compact. I got lucky and pulled a fully functional eliptical out of someone's curb trash. Well, the computer part was torn off but that doesn't bother me. The mechanics work.

The other thing to consider is cooking lentils to make a thick "soup" called dahl. You basically just bring them to a boil, turn the heat down to low and cook uncovered until they're soft enough for your taste. Check in every once in a while and stir, add nuked water if needed, and then ignore for a while. Pretty much the same thing you do with split peas. Initially you might want to run it through a blender when it is done to get that canned soup smoothness, but before long you won't want to be bothered with that and will like them just as they are. Season to taste.

A hint for the crock pot - you can get crock pot liners at any grocery store. They not only make cleanup easy, but when the meal has cooled sufficiently you can just use a twistie to tie off the bag, plop the whole bag in a metal bowl, and put it in the fridge. Almost no mess at all. Chili is a good way to start - chop onions, mushrooms, carrots, or whatever you want and fill the crock pot about 2/3 full with those, canned crushed tomatoes and canned kidney beans. Set it for low and let it go all day. Again, spice to taste. Potato soup is another easy one.

Good luck!

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Response to Gorp (Reply #31)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 11:30 AM

32. Totally agree on the crock pot liners!

I tried them as soon as someone told me them and I love them.

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Response to avebury (Reply #32)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 11:35 AM

33. They're particularly helpful if the crock section isn't removeable.

 

It's a real pain to wash a fixed crock without getting the electrical parts wet. And yes, it did come with a warning sticker on the cord that says "unplug before washing".

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Response to Gorp (Reply #33)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 11:58 AM

38. Mine is removable.

The stoneware section comes out, which definitely would make it easier to clean.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #38)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 12:00 PM

41. We have one of those too, but it's lost in a box from our last move.

 

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Response to Gorp (Reply #31)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 11:57 AM

37. I live in an upstairs apartment. I think machines might make too much noise.

Especially the cheap ellipticals or treadmills that I could afford. I do have a spare bedroom to put it in.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #37)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 11:59 AM

39. The one I've got is really quiet and the wheel is a fan!!!

 

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Response to alarimer (Reply #37)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 02:21 AM

54. You don't need any machines to exercise. While you get out of financial trouble...

you might have to wing it and sacrifice.

The Air Force used to have a set of resistance exercises to do. Aerobics...dance to music (yes, even if you're a guy...those guy dancers are in pretty good shape!), exercise dvds (those buff guys you see on tv). If you want some metal...you can pick up some free weights at Wal Mart. Not a whole set. Just the weights you need, unless you really do need a whole set.

If you MUST have even more metal, a bench for the weights will do. Again, check out walmart or Target.

But you can keep healthy and buffed for free. At least for a while.

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Response to Honeycombe8 (Reply #54)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 10:10 AM

72. Maybe.

I've been thinking about the free weights thing anyway.

I guess there's always exercise DVDs or YouTube videos maybe.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #37)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 08:22 AM

67. how awful would it be to have a roommate?

That spare room could make you some hard earned cash.
Living with someone isn't easy, but it saves you some cash.

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Response to otherone (Reply #67)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 10:10 AM

73. I couldn't tolerate it.

Been there, done that. No thanks. I like my privacy.

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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 01:42 PM

44. One word - Taters.

I can get a fifty lb. bag here for $8 to $10 and the meals are limitless. Roasted, baked, fried, soup & stew, twice baked, etc. Hands-down the best grocery bang for my buck.
We are in great financial shape at the moment, but the first seven years of marriage was tuff for us. Between my wife's gardening and canning, and my grocery shopping talent, I swear I could feed a family of four royally on $40 a week. Lots of cooking involved tho.
At least you've identified a major expense that you have more contol over than you realize. Drop the gym for a couple of months for cooking classes. Then focus on good deals on raw foods that you can prepare yourself.

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Response to 4_TN_TITANS (Reply #44)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 02:35 AM

57. good suggestion

5 pound bag for about $2.50. And very easy to prepare. You can't beat that.

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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Sat Feb 16, 2013, 03:08 PM

47. On Mondays where I shop they scour the shelves looking for food that is about to "expire".

They put these items in a separte case. And I often find bargains on something to eat that night or maybe put in the freezer.

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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 01:59 AM

51. I'm frugal to a fault. I used to be dirt poor.

\I'm no longer poor, but can't shake the guilt over spending money, and still live frugally. I've saved a lot of money for my age, compared to others my age, I think. Here's what I have done and/or do now.

1. I concentrate on bigger ticket items first. What's taking the chunk of money from you? Cable? Satellite? Features on your landline? Get those numbers down. (I've cut my satellite service down to the lowest; I don't miss the channels I cancelled...much.)

2. $60 gym membership? No way, if I were in financial trouble. Exercise is free. There is no way I'd pay a dime right now for something I can do for free. If I don't like to exercise outside, I'd try to tolerate it for a while, and of course, I can exercise indoors for free. I have a set of weights, exercise dvds/old tapes, and I can dance to music, as well as do yoga and resistance floor work.

3. Before I spent any money at all, no matter how small, on anything, I'd think twice. The goal being not to spend any money at all on anything. Do I really need it? Or do I want it? How badly do I want it?

4. Coupons can help, but they never saved me much money. They're usu. for things I don't use or eat. Still, I've saved a dollar here and there through coupons.

5. Eating is cheap. Even a non-discount grocery store provides meals that are cheaper than eating out (unless you're talking about cheapo, unhealthy fast food, like McDonald's...but I'm assuming you don't want to get fat and have a heart attack this year). What to buy: There's a lot of info out there, by posters here and elsewhere, but generally the cheapest and healthiest are these things: BEANS OF ANY KIND (dry or in a can or frozen - protein and vitamins); BROWN RICE (dirt cheap, full o'fiber, & delicious and filling); PASTA (whole grain is best...a pot o'pasta costs a couple of dollars & you can eat on it for a number of meals). You have to get fruits & veggies, but frozen or canned (on sale is best) is just as healthy as fresh. And won't spoil. DAIRY is not a bargain, but I must have it. I look for sales and generic brands for nonfat cottage cheese (mix that with canned pineapple!), plain yogurt (you can put canned fruit in this too!), nonfat milk by the gallon. I hate to cook...but cooking with these basic things is easy. Mix those beans with the nutty brown rice, and you have a complete meal and a complete protein with vitamins. (Note: I like frozen dinners; you can get a bargain if you find them on sale and esp if you have coupons.)

6. Are you getting the best deal in your internet service? I looked at that last year & determined I was, for the time being. But I'm looking at that again this year.

7. Trips in the car - I try to do all my errands in one trip from home. It saves gas. I go from house to place A, then place B, then back home. Not two separate trips.

8. I pay about $80 a month in tollway fees to go to work. If I had to, I have an alternate route that takes 10 more minutes, which I would take, to save that $80.

9. I make do with what I have. Dig out the old shoes I don't wear and give them a second look. Dig out some old clothes and give them a second look & see if they still fit.

10. When I've been broke, it's been mainly a mental thing, that I try not to spend any money at all. On anything. That's not possible, but it cuts down on spending, that's for sure, when that's my goal.

11. I grocery shop at Sam's & buy bags of apples, instead of individual apples. Big chunks of cheese, the package of two heads of lettuce, etc. It costs more up front, but saves in the long run.

12. I once knew someone who'd learned some tips on shopping efficiently & saving money, from a home ec class. SHE SHOPPED FOR GROCERIES ONCE A MONTH. And she went to more than one store, to take advantage of the sales. It takes a lot of time, and it's a hassle, and it costs more up front. But you save money, since you've planned ahead & bought everything, & caught sales. And you save on gas on having to return to the store.

13. I stay away from shopping places, unless necessary. And when I have to go there, I buy only what is necessary (or I just MUST have and am willing to sacrifice for.....like a bag of apples).

Remember the goal is: DON'T SPEND MONEY....DON'T SPEND MONEY....DON'T SPEND MONEY.

There are three kinds of things to buy:
1. Things we need
2. Things we want, but are of a practical nature that we can use, or can be investments in the future (a class).
3. Things we want, but are not of a necessary nature or investments (a new shirt, even on a great sale, when we have at least the minimum shirts we need).

When in financial trouble, I spend $ on #1, of course. #2 is a rarity for me to spend $ on. I would NEVER spend $ on #3 items.

Finally...there is a point at which cutting spending won't be enough, if you have big bills. Just like with the govt, we have to also increase revenue sometimes. I would consider getting a temporary, part-time job. If I could find one, and if it wouldn't interfere with my permanent job. Even if it were only for a few mos, the money would come in handy.

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Response to Honeycombe8 (Reply #51)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 08:30 AM

68. thanks for posting

:kick:

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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 02:28 AM

55. I found a cool app that has really helped me get a handle on expenses

it's called MoneyTron

very easy to use
keeps track of all of your expenses and summarizes them by category

I'm sure there are a number of apps like that that could work for you.

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Response to ZRT2209 (Reply #55)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 02:32 AM

56. ditch the gym for now

again, I have two apps that I use. One is a running app, one is a yoga app. But with a little research you can find apps that will guide you through indoor at-home workouts for $5 or less.

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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 05:13 AM

62. lucky

 

You're lucky because there are several apparent ways you can save money.

People have already said, learn to cook. It's not rocket science. Start small. Make egg dishes, learn how to cook pasta and vegetables, shop at farmer's markets.

Get rid of the eating out.

Why a gym at all? Why not get some weights and work out at home, walk or run for cardio.

Frequent visits to the grocery store are a money sink. Use it up, make it do. No impulse buying, no having left over stuff rotting in the refrigerator. Go no more than once a week, and plan ahead. You don't have to do menus, just have enough stuff on hand and start building up staples so you have some flexibility.

Every time you think about buying something, ask yourself, do I really need that at all. Or if I need it, do I have something that can substitute for it.

The payroll tax (aka the Social Security) tax did not rise. The cut to it, motivated by Republicans who would like to see Social Security become insolvent, as they've nearly done with the postal service through unethical financial means, expired.

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Response to RILib (Reply #62)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 10:17 AM

74. I get what you're saying about the payroll tax, but it real terms it was an pay cut.

And very real for people who have counted on that money for the last two years. Honestly they should have cut the FICA or something to make up for what people are losing.

For me it was $60 and I knew it was coming.

If I wasn't working for the state of North Carolina and making shitty wages, I doubt I would really have noticed. But we state workers are screwed in many ways.

I will not walk or run outside. I've said repeatedly there are no sidewalks and the neighborhoods are sketchy at best. This is a shitty town; it is unsafe to be outside (I've heard gunshots repeatedly) and I'm in one of the nicer areas.

Fortunately, with my job skills, I can ditch the State of North Carolina and it's crappy pay scale for something better, just as soon as I've put in a little more time and I will ditch this hellhole for someplace I like better.

I swear I never thought I'd miss Texas, but it's paradise compared to here.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #74)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 10:35 AM

76. I don't like TX much, either. But I moved here yrs ago because it does have a good economy.

I hope you can move back, or to somewhere where the economy is good.

I'm in Dallas. I don't know what you do for a living, but there are jobs to be had here. And the cost of living is hard to beat (there are those cost of living comparisons online).

I tried to find an area with a better COL, for when I semi-retire. There are very few U S areas with a better COL than Dallas. There are a few, but they all come with negatives, of course. Your issue is that you need a lower than avg COL AND job opportunities/thriving diverse economy.

But I miss the culture where I'm from. I'm cajun/France French almost 100%. French names in my ancestry as far back as you can trace. I miss my cajun southern roots...the French names, the food, the forested areas, the numerous waterways, the rain, the lush green almost year 'round, being part of a defined culture. I've felt like a fish out of water the whole time I've been here. I do not think of myself as a Texan, altho I appreciate the state. But I had to move where I could find good employment.

I dream of moving back to an area closer to where I'm from. I hope I can do that. One day.

Pics of NC are beautiful. I'm surprised there's a crime issue or a bad economy there. There are a couple of areas that actually have a good cost of living and went onto my list as possible semi-retirement areas.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #74)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 06:11 PM

80. fica is social security and medicare

 

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Response to RILib (Reply #80)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 07:01 PM

82. I thought it was OASDI

Old Age, something, something, something else.
But in any case, there was almost no discussion of the impact this would have on people or the economy. None at all. Less take-home pay, less spending.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #74)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 07:49 PM

85. My boss and her husband bought a WII and she has lost a

lot of weight using some of the sports/game applications. There are a lot of decent exercise DVDs - yoga, pilates, Leslie Sansone walking DVDs (which I love), and so on. What is the area like around where you work? When the weather is not too hot I have walked around the block 2 or 3 times at lunch time. Several people walk the second floor in our office building for exercise, either on break or at lunch time. Mall walking is common in a lot of places.

There are a lot of options out there it is just a matter of finding something that will work for you.

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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 10:22 AM

75. What city do you live in? I'm in the south where prices are cheaper, so I find $300 per month

a staggeringly high amount for one person. I guess in NY or somewhere like that it might not be so much.

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Response to patricia92243 (Reply #75)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 07:05 PM

83. It probably is, actually, because I don't plan meals or shopping.

I'm terrible at it and I've lived as if I hadn't taken a pay cut to move here.

This is a small town and everything seems more expensive, even though there are several grocery stores as well as a Wal-Mart.

I paid $5.49 for a pound of beef today to put in the chili, which seems high to me. I rarely buy meat, so I don't know. I avoid Wal-Mart as much as I can, but it is probably cheaper there for many things.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #83)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 01:34 AM

92. I try not to go above $2/lb for meat

$1/lb average is my goal. I've mainly stopped buying beef because the price is so high lately, but chicken legs are still well under $1, and whole turkeys are under $1/lb at kroger.

An easy meal with no prep work is one or two chicken legs with salt and pepper (I use steak seasoning, but salt and pepper is cheaper), bake til brown, eat. Add a vegetable, I don't just eat the chicken leg, but you get the idea.

With a turkey, even though you are one person, you can roast it on a weekend, carve the whole thing, pull out what you can reasonably eat and put in the fridge for sandwiches, then boil the bones to make broth and add the rest of the meat chopped up in there, and freeze it in soup portions. Pull it out of your freezer in small batches and add rice or pasta, carrots, onions, whatever. A 12 lb turkey should run you about 10 bucks and you'll get a lot more bang for the buck than the beef you are buying. You could even use the diced turkey in chili.

I would drop the gym membership and figure out what you really need to stay in shape. A chin up bar and a kettle bell are probably more versatile than you realize, if you need the cardio an exercise bike can do that for you. In two months of gym membership money you'd have what you need. Or get the bike free off craigslist if you can.

I can't imagine going to trader joe's to save grocery money. I know it's cheaper than whole foods, but it's still what I consider an upper end chain. If you're driving out to virginia beach to go to trader joes to save money, why not instead drive there and go to aldi's? Last time I was there they had spiral hams for $5 off the total price, I think the entire ham was something like 6 dollars and requires no cooking or prep work. Not that I'd eat ham every day because of the salt, but it's as healthy I'm sure as frozen dinners and way cheaper. That 6 bucks was enough protein for 2 people for a week.

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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 11:17 AM

78. Shoplifting........

I kid......

A very good inexpensive meal is beans and brown rice.

Cabbage is about the best bang for the buck vegetable there is.

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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 08:15 PM

87. You've identified a key response

Your grocery bill is way out of whack. Quit complaining about not planning meals and plan some meals. I bet you also eat out for lunch. Take your lunch in a paper bag. There is no shame in that. I'm the head of a dept with 42 employees and I take my lunch every day. Don't give up the gym. Beware of Trader Joes it will lure you into buying things that are not on your menu. See the second sentence.

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Response to triguy46 (Reply #87)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 08:26 PM

88. I almost never eat out for lunch

Except when I am out of the office, at a meeting or whatever. I usually go home; I only live a couple of miles from work and I need to get away for a while during the day. I think it's better than eating at my desk, which never feels like much of a break.

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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 11:39 PM

90. Are you getting an income tax refund?

If so, maybe you should adjust your exemptions on your W-4 so you have less money withheld. There's no point in giving the feds an interest free loan. Don't withhold too little so you owe next year, but don't withhold too much.

That gym membership sounds pretty pricey. Are you just paying month to month or do you have a contract? If you aren't already committed to a contract, find out if they would cut your rate if you committed to a 12 month contract. I've found everything is negotiable when it comes to gym memberships.

As for cooking for one, you can still cook in bulk and freeze portions for later. That way you have the convenience of prepackaged food but at less cost. Then you just pop your prepared chicken breast (or whatever) in the microwave and make yourself a salad. Check the sales at your local grocery stores. Just about everyone has a website. The new ads usually come out on Wednesdays each week. Grocery stores usually have one or two really good specials on meat to get you in the door, so stock up. One week it might be chicken breasts for $1.50 a pound. Another week it might be sirloin steaks for $3.99 a pound. If there's a particular bread you like, buy 2 or 3 loaves when it's on sale and put them in the freezer.

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Response to alarimer (Original post)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 12:33 AM

91. If you're spending more than you make, I see $160 that you can save each month right there.

There's no point in saving if you're gathering debt on the other end. I can understand that you don't like to exercise outside, but if you can't afford food and rent, you'll eventually be doing everything outside... like sleeping and panhandling.

Your dining out expense to me seems tiny. Granted, I've gone months without eating out, but I've also easily spent $70 on food across a day or two without having anything extravagant.

As others have said, I really don't get how you can be spending $300 a month on groceries though, especially if you aren't having every meal at home. Granted, cooking for one sucks and is more expensive, but not like that... at least in my experience. When I need to eat on the cheap, I go with lots of pasta; what's a bag/box of pasta cost? 1$? Sauce - $3? That's more than one meal. There's good ol' rice and beans, and the gourmand's choice, ramen noodles (I add frozen vegetables, because I'm fancy like that). Truthfully though, more regular when I've been tired after work is to just have a frozen pizza... so that's like $5, max, but probably $3 if you get some on sale.

Of course the real way to save money for me is to cut down on drinking. You didn't mention that. I'm pretty sure I was spending more money on drinking than I was a rent for a good few months, if not years of my life. There was a time I bought a bottle or two of wine every day; it was just a habit, so I cut it out to save money. However, there have also been times when I've probably averaged $50/day going to the bar.

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