Has this ever happened to you?
You set a huge goal, and work towards it daily. You make great strides. You just know you are going to accomplish it very soon. The sun is out, birds are singing. You are happy!
Then all of a sudden you hit a roadblock. A setback that could seriously take you off course from achieving your dream. A dark cloud appears. Then a downpour. And you left home without an umbrella.
Well, this just happened to me and my France Project!
As I was preparing my taxes last week, I found out that instead of getting a refund, I actually have to pay! And not just a couple hundred dollars, but thousands! UGH!
Well, I am determined NOT to let this hamper my dream of living in France. I just need to figure out how to save a lot more money over the next year, in order to cover this unexpected financial setback.
So I’m looking for money. Anywhere. And everywhere.
I’m scrutinizing my budget and searching for areas I can skim a little here and there to increase my savings account, all the while enjoying my life and not becoming a complete recluse. A girl still needs an occasional glass of wine with friends. A movie night. An ice cream cone. Happy hour.
I have thought seriously about cutting off my cable TV or at least cutting out premium channels, and just having basic cable. I will call Comcast and see how much this would save each month. If it’s large enough, I’ll do it. And it shouldn’t be too painful, I just need to find a friend who has Showtime and AMC so I can watch Nurse Jackie, Dexter, Breaking Bad and Mad Men.
Then I had an Aha! moment. As I analyzed my budget and spending habits, I found the sneakiest money suck in my life: Dining out. Almost daily.
As a single person, I eat many of my meals at restaurants with friends, order take out or have something delivered.
A typical day looks something like this:
Stop at Starbucks on my way to work and pick up a Grande soy latte and a bowl of oatmeal ~ $6.60
Pick up a burrito bowl and an iced tea at Chipotle ~ $9.27
Meet a friend for dinner at a neighborhood Bistro or get take out Chinese ~ $20.00
That’s $35.87 a day! Not to mention this also costs me a bazillion calories!
Even if I only eat out during the work week, and eat my weekend meals at home (doesn’t happen) this is still costing me $179 per week, and a whopping $9,326 a year! (Not to mention the groceries I still purchase.)
YIKES!! That’s an eye opener if I ever saw one!
Well, it’s time for a change. Enter my new dining plan.
Breakfast: Healthy and Yummy!
This tip came from my colleague Robin: Make a pot of steel-cut oatmeal at the beginning of the week, then spoon single serving portions into small plastic storage containers, and keep them in the refrigerator to eat during the remainder of the week. At breakfast time, just add a small amount of hot water, stir and add frozen blueberries (or other fruit) to make the cereal more interesting, and heat in the microwave.
Cost of Oatmeal per serving: 33¢
Cost of fruit per serving 20¢
Coffee from work – free!
That’s a savings of $6.07 per day for breakfast
If I want to switch out my breakfast with another cereal or eggs every other day, the cost is about the same and I get some variety.
Lunch : Welcome back little brown bag!
Turkey sandwich with tomato and lettuce ~ $1.48
Piece of fruit or veggie sticks ~ 25¢
Cookie or granola bar ~ 20¢-50¢
Make iced tea at work – free!
That’s a savings of $7.04 per day for lunch.
Dinner: Where’s my apron?
This one is a little tricky for us single folk, but with a little creativity, we can keep these costs down, while not eating the same thing every night or tossing the leftovers.
I decided I will shop for and cook four separate meals, each serving 4, at the beginning of the week. That’s where those handy-dandy plastic containers come in again. Portioning out into single servings, I can freeze half of the containers and keep the other half in the refrigerator, ready to eat. That’s two weeks of prepared meals, including two I can take to work for lunch, instead of a sandwich.
I’ve averaged out the cost of creating meals like:
* Chicken and rice with vegetables
* BBQ Steak and vegetables
* Spaghetti with meat sauce
* Tacos or Burritos
These meals average about $3-$5 per serving.
That’s a savings of over $15.00 per day on dinner.
For a grand total of $27.61 per day savings on these three meals.
An annual savings of $7,178.60 - over eating out five days a week.
When you look at it like that, it makes perfect “cents”!
What have you done to save money or curb your spending habits? I could use all the suggestions I can get!