Are there seasons in your life where you're more likely to swing through the drive-thru because you're tired, stressed, or overwhelmed?
Fall is like that for me. My friends start talking boots and flannel. Pumpkin Spice Lattes start showing up in my Instagram feed. And the corn mazes and pumpkin farms open for business.
And me? While I love colorful leaves and impossibly blue autumn skies as much as the next person, I cringe when fall arrives.
Recently, I wrote about meal planning and delivery services. Most of the meal delivery services that I found were priced similarly per meal to most of the fast-casual restaurants in my area. To me, at least, that's rarely worth it, especially when you consider that with, many such services, you still have to do the cooking yourself.
One reason a service like that might be worth it for many people, however, is that they simply don't know what to make when left to their own devices. I've definitely been there, even though I have a bunch of cookbooks and practice the Pinterest strategy.
It takes practice to identify recipes that you will like, and there is always a learning curve when it comes to making something new. For that reason, I also keep some easy, tried-and-true recipes in a recipe box on my counter that are healthy and simple to make. Bonus points for any recipe that tastes fresh but can be made from items that I can store in the pantry so that they're there when I need them.
About four in 10 elementary school students bring lunch from home. But it's not likely to be a good one, according to a 2014 study from Tufts University.
Not one of the lunchboxes examined met all five National School Lunch Program standards, and only 27 percent of the meals met at least three NSLP recommendations (fruits, vegetables, low- or nonfat dairy, whole grains, and meat or meat alternatives).
Almost 25 percent of the brought-from-home meals lacked an entrée and, instead, were made up of packaged snack foods and desserts. Only 5 percent of the meals contained any vegetables.<
The three biggest items in most people's budgets are usually housing, transportation, and food. That's because they are needs; but like most needs, costs can range from the inexpensive, no-frills version to the outrageously expensively extravagances seen on some reality TV shows. For example, you could live in a studio apartment or a mansion, take shanks' mare or drive a luxury car, slap a PB & J together at home or eat out at a five-star restaurant.
What you choose depends on your means (what you can afford) and your priorities (what's important to you). Maybe you are willing to make all your meals at home so you can drive your dream car. Or maybe you're willing to bike or take the bus … to your favorite restaurants on a weekly basis. If you are debt-free, stashing some cash in a high-yield savings account, saving for retirement, and meeting all your other financial goals, more power to you.
I am willing to bet, though, that most people are seeking a happy medium in all categories. Nothing too expensive, but a home and car that are safe and comfortable, and food that's tasty and convenient. When it comes to food, even if you are eating at home, there are more options today than ever before: Having your groceries, or even fully-cooked meals, delivered are all possibilities to meal-plan and save some cash. But not every option is equally cost-effective. Here are a few options, with some pros and cons. Continue reading...
Summer may not have arrived according to the calendar, but it sure seems like it's arrived based on the weather.
The sunshine and balmy breezes may have you dreaming of backyard barbeques, luscious produce, and fresh salads. But your grill's charcoal might not be the only thing on fire this year. Some food prices are heating up too, so watch your food budget.
After planning your menu for your backyard barbeque, your guests might be tempted to ask, "Where's the beef?" Why? Almost every single cut of beef has a beefier price this year, compared to last year. (source).
Looking for a cheap date, some budget-friendly culture, or ways to make your next vacation more affordable? Four words: "Pay what you want," or PWYW.
Theaters, museums, comedy troupes and other organizations may offer PWYW days or nights, where you hand over only as much as you can afford. Think of it as happy hour for entertainment -- a way to get out of the house without your budget going off the rails.
How far does it go?
The lively arts aren't the only PWYW option out there.
We spend a lot of time talking about green here on Get Rich Slowly. But let's direct our attention for a couple minutes to another color: blue.
I first read about the Blue Zones in a magazine a few years ago. These blue zones were identified after researching some of the longest living people on the planet. Although nine characteristics were associated with these blue zones, several are lumped into the social category. Having a healthy social life can extend your life? Who knew?
Maybe you don't care about living until you are 100, but do you think that your social network could help improve your finances or decrease your stress level? I think it can. And so does the Blue Zones organization, but more on that later.
As someone who doesn't like to shop for groceries (or lug them all from my car to the house), the thought of finding a service that helps me avoid the check-out line altogether is very appealing. A service that would put my groceries away would be even more amazing, but I won't get carried away. Even without that added bonus, though, the advantages start to stack up.
Advantages of Online Grocery Shopping
1. Save on transportation costs. Back when I was working away from home, I simply scheduled my time to swing by the grocery store on the way home from work. I still had to carry everything into the house, but I wasn't making an extra trip. Since May last year, I have been a strictly work-from-home kind of gal, so any trip for food is, at minimum, 28 miles round-trip. I try not to make the trip unless I have to, or unless I have some other errands I can run too. If I am feeling particularly hermit-like, I can talk my husband into picking up groceries on his way to or from work, so at least that's an option.
2. Save time. A 28-mile round trip, plus whatever time it takes to shop can easily burn up an hour or more of my day. That's an entire hour I could spend working and earning money, or cleaning. I could always clean. While my lifestyle is not really busy, I can see how this would be a great benefit for those with busy households.
Because I couldn't meet my self-imposed cash budget of $500 in the month of October, I had to use other sources to meet our overage. But despite having lived under tight financial circumstances throughout some periods my life, I have always had enough to get by and things haven't been (well, usually they haven't been) too stressful for me. But I wanted to talk to people who had difficulty finding ways to pay when they went over their budget, so I reached out to my friends to get their perspectives and see what I could learn from them.
Frida (not her real name) was the first to respond and wanted to specifically mention that her family's problems were self-induced. She says, "We made a couple of financial mistakes about three or four years ago and we're still paying for those mistakes, literally and figuratively."
To compound their financial problems, Frida and her family are farmers; so their income comes in November, January, and March. She says, "The stretch from March to November is the worst. It's not only the longest stretch between major checks, it's the time of the year with the biggest expenses (real estate taxes and quarterly estimates on income taxes)."<
As I mentioned in my last article, I experimented with paying cash only for my October groceries. I had only one goal in mind: Spend less on groceries so I could save more money each month. Well, my little experiment opened a whole can of worms.
Basically, I always try to keep my grocery spending in check, but I usually don't limit quantity or variety of food based on the budget.
With that in mind, I think it is important how I picked my budget of $500. I didn't look at my past spending. I didn't do any research to see what a normal amount is for a family of five. Nope, $500 just sounded good. And it sounded easy enough to stay under budget. I wanted it to be a challenge, but I didn't want it to be too difficult either.