Monday, February 5, 2018

Frugal February

(The Tabitha of Judgment says I need to save my pennies! 
Kitty wants a new scratching post.)

Okay, I'm not broke, but... It's been a spendy few months. There was Christmas, and then new tires for my car, and then a trip that I didn't strictly need to take, and then property taxes, and then the quarterly water/sewer bill here in my town where the water apparently is MADE OF GOLD. I budgeted for these things, but this month still feels like a good time to let the majority of my dollars have a little staycation in the bank.

If there's one thing I know about how to deal with money, it's that having a budget is the most helpful thing. Here's the basic way to make one. If you have a regular monthly income, you figure out how much you actually must spend each month, in your current situation: bills, housing payments, etc. You make note of the expenses that are quarterly, annually, or whatever, so that you can divide them up and set aside an appropriate percentage of those each month, to be prepared for them in advance. Then you figure out what to do with what's left over, if anything is left over. Ideally, some of that goes to savings. If nothing is ever left over, that's the time to start thinking about how to change your current situation, but that's a topic for another post.

For me (and most Americans who are not absolutely broke), the most flexible category of required spending is groceries. You have to eat, but there may be ways to do it more cheaply than usual. Many people buy more drinks and snacks than they have to, or don't comparison-shop as hard as they could. There's nothing wrong with that, if you have money for it and that's what you want to do. However, in times when you're struggling with money, or you want to save up for something, this is a good category to examine for those areas where you can cut things out. 

Not everyone can do this, but I have enough of a grocery budget that if I find something on sale - if it's a thing I always use and it won't get wasted - I'll buy extras of it to stock up. I have a small extra freezer that doesn't jack up my energy bill, so I can keep things like extra bread, butter, shredded cheese, and much, much more. When I cook, I often make two batches of the same thing at once and stick the extra in the freezer, which saves time later. I do this enough that, sometimes, I can do a thing called "shelf cooking" for a month, mostly using the stocked-up food, and spending $25 or less each week to get produce, milk, and anything else that's better to get when it's fresh. In the long run, it's less expensive to do things this way because I'm getting better prices on a lot of the ingredients; when I cook double batches that's only one time that I fire up the oven or stove, instead of two, which I think more than offsets whatever extra I'm spending on running the freezer. 

Anyway, that's what I'm doing this February! I have other frugality-boosting methods I may post about this month, too. What are some of your money-saving methods?

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