My financial situation is always something that sits in the back of my head. I’m really fortunate, though, to always be “fine.” I never have $0.00 staring at me on my bank statements, I don’t get nervous about making my rent, I can have fun with friends, and have even started to pile up a small little savings account. Nice job, Jackie!
I accredit a lot of this to actually paying attention to my spending, something I honestly haven’t done since about a year ago. I had a rough estimate in my head of my financial situation, but just floated along, ignoring the fact that my accounts were dwindling. I went to the grocery store and picked up random items, “I may want to try this,” or, “this looks interesting, let’s give it a shot.” Things would spoil, and my money would be thrown in the garbage with it.
So, after I screwed my head on straight, I started to pay attention. Not just to my spending, but really what I was spending on. Some things, I couldn’t help. Gas, for example. My rent, cable, and utilities. All things I couldn’t really lock down or lower. So then I looked to my grocery list.
Before I started trying out the 21 Day Fix, I never planned my meals in any capacity. I would just grab what looked good in the store, half guessing what nights I would cook something, forgetting that I was going away for the weekend. I would chronically over-buy food, try to make it last, but then play a little “food poisoning roulette” when I was trying to stretch the food in my fridge throughout the week.
Because of the 21 Day Fix, I was forced into planning my meals. At first it was awkward and frustrating. I had no idea what to make, I ended up eating the same thing every day…it was a learning process to say the least. I started to get better at getting some variety in my meals, and trying new things. Most of all, I was finally eating balanced meals. I thought this was the only benefit, really, of planning. Each day I knew I was eating the right amount of food, and life was good. But I found out some other great things that planning my meals did for me.
First, it forced me to try new recipes. Seeing my week spread out, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even snacks, made me think “wow, I don’t know how to cook too much, huh?” I forced myself onto Pinterest, and tried out some new recipes each week, and still am. I’ve learned how to make a green pepper a bowl, and some delicious desserts out of oatmeal. Winner!
Planning these meals have saved me a ton of time, too. First, in the grocery store. I don’t wander the isles. I get in, get my things, and go. I also can wake up in the morning and know what I’m having for breakfast, and follow my plan to pack my lunch. It’s so quick to just follow along something already written out, rather than stand at the fridge thinking, “what do I want for lunch today?”
More importantly, though, I have been saving a TON of money. I used to spend at least $80/week on groceries, and on average, around $100. I was over-buying and under-eating. A disastrous combination. Planning my meals, I now spend as little as $40/week, an average of about $60. As a single, living-alone, twentysomething, what could be better? I look at my plan and can know exactly how many apples I need. How many chicken breasts, bell peppers, onions, or spices. It’s an amazing thing.
I’ve also found other ways to save money, right on my phone. My favorite app, Ibotta, is something I now rely on each time I head to the store. It gives you rebates on groceries (and other types of products including retail), just for doing simple things like watching a 30 second video or answering a trivia question (right or wrong!). Then, you have to verify your purchases with a photo of your receipt, and you’re done. That’s it. Your rebates pile up in your account, and you can cash them in right on PayPal or to gift cards whenever you want. It’s seriously the coolest thing, and if you don’t do it already, use Ibotta every time you go to the store.
My other new app is specific to WalMart (even though Ibotta also works at WalMart), called the Savings Catcher. If you shop at WalMart frequently, I would recommend it. The Savings Catcher looks at your purchases, and then scours the depths of the internet to figure out if there was a better deal somewhere for that item that you just bought. If there was, they’ll pay you back the difference! The catch here is that you get your money back as a WalMart gift card, but money is money, right? And, of course, you can use this in conjunction with Ibotta – double the savings!
Are there any other awesome money saving apps out there? I want to know! A dollar is a dollar!