My fellow Spokester, Aly from Young & Free Indiana has the best How-To blogs. She inspires me to challenge myself all the time. So here is a new challenge for you all to try. Live on just $50 a week.
We all know that the cost of living can vary greatly from day to day. One week might leave you $200 shorter, while the next may leave you with $500 less in your account. But what if I told you it is possible to live on just $50 a week?
Of course, I'm not talking about that week that includes rent, utilities, loan payments, shopping sprees, the biggest birthday party of the century or unexpected trips to the doctor. But in terms of groceries, necessary toiletries, and entertainment, it's doable. Maybe not as fun or as extravagant as you'd like, but it's all about the savings, right?
So. Here are a few tips for getting by week to week on a budget of about $50. Whether you need to do it for a couple of weeks to save up for an out of town trip next month or just this week simply to see if you can, I challenge you to try!
Plan in Advance
Take inventory. What do you use on a daily, or almost daily basis in the kitchen and bathroom (milk, bread, toilet paper, handsoap?) Do you have enough to last the seven days? If not, write down what you absolutely need to grab while you're running errands for the upcoming week.
CREATE A WEEKLY MENU:
Plan out your meals for the week. All of them. I know it can sound kind of tedious, but consider that you might be making three meals out of one recipe, or eating from the same box of cereal for breakfast for the entire week. If you absolutely, positively must grab one fast food meal on Wednesday night, schedule that in there, too.
HAVE A CASH BUDGET:
Before you go shopping, leave your credit and debit cards at home (after you've withdrawn your $50 allowance in cash, of course.) You should be buying the majority of what you need for the week during this initial trip, but try to leave $20-30 at home with your cards for any unplanned expenses that come up throughout the rest of the week. Having a set amount on you will keep you from tossing that extra nonsense into your cart. Keep track of your spending as you go on your mobile phone's calculator or bring an actual calculator with you!
MAP OUT WHERE TO GO:
Have a membership card at the grocery or a rewards card at a pharmacy? Compare what it'll cost to get your items there as opposed to the discount grocery store, the dollar store, or the local market. You might have to go from one store to another as certain items will be way cheaper elsewhere, but also consider proximity if you'll be driving, so you don't waste those "savings" on gas.
It's well worth the extra hour or two one night a week to search for coupons before you do your shopping. Your local Sunday paper won't wipe out your budget and might just pay for itself in coupons (be sure to have a look through it before purchasing a copy - some weeks are better than others!) All*You magazine is full to the brim of coupons, discounts, and rebates for all sorts of items - from cake mix to face wash. Sites like Coupons.com, CouponMom, and The Krazy Coupon Lady always have tons of coupons to print off. And don't forget to download apps like Retail Me Not and The Coupons App on your smartphones!
Keep in mind: many stores are now price matching, so if you see an ad for a grocery item at one store but shop at another, you might be able to show that ad at your preferred stop and get the item for the same discounted price. If you want to spend thrifty and make a difference for a bigger cause at the same time, check out Save1.com, a family owned website that provides coupons and deals from over 5,000 of the most popular online retailers. What's awesome about this is, once you use a coupon from Save1, the store from where you've made your purchase will give a small portion of the proceeds to the organization and that money then goes towards providing meals for children in need! Therefore, you're actually stretching those dollars even further, for a great cause.
Take Advantage of Free Stuff
Free snacks in the break room? Free pizza on campus or tastings at the grocery? Stumble across some samples at a health fair or some kind of expo? Awesome. $0 spent. More left in your budget! Follow your schools' main pages as well as their groups and organizations, in addition to local community groups and organizations, on social media and be aware of flyers and local publications around town that might mention events where there will be free goodies - and prepare to dine well for free.
Be Okay with Staying In
This one can be tough, especially once the weekend hits. But if you're really wanting to stick to a $50 a week budget, you'll have to learn to say "no" to going out. Instead of splurging on a movie and dinner date, utilize your DVD player or Netflix account and use a little bit of that money you set aside earlier in the week to make a special meal. If your friends ask you to go out and you just can't refuse, limit yourself to a set amount to spend while out (again, leave the cards at home and take cash), and be okay with heading home early, even if the party continues on late into the night.
Don't Let Anything Go to Waste
One of the biggest and most avoidable reasons we overspend in any given week (especially in terms of food) is because we waste so much of it! Being too lazy to wrap up leftovers, forgetting about the overpriced strawberries two days too long, tossing out the shampoo when there are still easily two washes left in the bottle... it's like watching your dollars go to the dump.
Avoid this by keeping things visible and squeezing every little bit out. If you never look in the drawers at the bottom of your refrigerator, then don't put items that go bad quickly into them. If you make a recipe that yields 8 servings but hate eating the same thing two days in a row, freeze the rest for later. Turn shampoo and lotion bottles upside down to get every last drop. Don't waste anything!
Living on $50 might be really rough at first... you might not be able to indulge in your favorite foods as often or continue the same kind of social life you've had in the past. There might be unexpected, expensive emergencies that come up mid-week that totally ruin the work you've done. But keep in mind, shooting for $50 a week is a huge deal. And it is within reason. Even if you can manage it every now and then, your savings account will thank you. So, whether you simply need to save up for a new pair of shoes or are just a few hundred dollars away from finally getting that car, challenge yourself to living on a lower budget to get there... and prepare to be a little bit richer!
Hope this helps,