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How to Save $1,000 Emergency Money

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Emergency Money

Are You Prepare For a Financial Emergency?

Do you feel like you have enough set aside for an emergency? If your car breaks down or you have unexpected medical expenses, what will you do? If you don’t have savings, you will have to use your credit cards.

Everyone should have an emergency savings account. The first step down the road to financial freedom is living within a budget. The 2nd step is to prepare for financial emergencies. 

So Easy to Start

It is so easy to start a savings account. Usually, all you need to open one is $5. Capital One offers completely free online checking and savings accounts. I have a bank account with Capital One, and I love how it lets me deposit checks just by taking a picture of the check.

Don’t keep your emergency money at the same bank as your other accounts. This makes it harder to dip into your emergency stash to pay regular bills. You want to make it difficult for you to access the money so that you have to think twice before breaking the piggy bank.

How Much Should I Save?

Set a goal to save $1,000. If you can tuck away a little each month until you have $1,000, then you will have the peace of mind you need. Once you have this much, you should focus your money toward paying down your debt. Once your consumer debt is paid down all the way (not your mortgage), then you should start adding to your savings account again.

How Long Does It Take?

You could save $1,000 in 10 months if you put $100 aside every month. But if possible, you should try to do it sooner by saving more per month. What if your money is tight and you can’t spare $100 per month? Then it’s time to get started on a budget so you can find ways to cut back your expenses. For 87 ideas on how to reduce costs, click here.

Ways to Save

There are lots of strategies to make it easier to save.

  1. You can have the money transferred directly from one account to the other on a monthly basis.
  2. Many employers have the option to deposit part of your paycheck directly into your savings account.
  3. Us a savings app like Acorn that takes a little out of your account here and there and invests it in the stock market to earn interest. If you sign up for Acorns using this link, you can get $5 free to start your account.
  4. Do a Cash Savings Challenge. Learn more below.

Cash Savings Challenge

Another method to save is to do a cash saving challenge. There is a cash savings worksheet in The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting, and it is completely FREE! The Cash Savings Challenge is where you put aside a little cash each day until you reach your goal of $1,000. You could keep the cash in a safe place at home and then when you reach your goal, you might want to deposit it into your emergency account.

Whatever method you choose, it’s important to get that emergency fund started ASAP. It will provide you with peace of mind and the freedom to pay for an emergency if it happens.

Get your FREE copy of The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting. The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting! 28 Page Workbook with 87 ideas to reduce expenses, 14 beautiful worksheets, 7 bonus lessons, and easy-to-follow instructions. Download below!

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Is Your House TOO EXPENSIVE For You?

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Is Your House Too Expensive For You?

Here’s a crazy fact: I once worked for Washington Mutual Bank as a mortgage underwriter. Washington Mutual was the country’s largest savings and loan bank, until 2008 when it completely went out of business in just one day. (Just like in the Great Depression.)

But one thing I learned about mortgages while I worked there was that most borrowers were buying too much house for their budget. They were buying impressive houses, but they really couldn’t afford them.

Back then, lenders had lax requirements on income qualification and debt-to-income ratios. In fact, most of the mortgage files I saw had buyers that shouldn’t be buying a house. As a result, when the financial crisis hit, many people lost their homes.

Now, banks are more strict, but people are still buying houses out of their price range.  Financial experts agree that your total housing cost should only be about 25%-35% of your income. This includes your mortgage, property taxes, home insurance, mortgage insurance, and any association dues.

Why It Matters

If you are paying too much for housing, then the rest of your budget will suffer. You won’t have enough for the remaining categories.

Your budgeted income should be spread like this:

  • Charity 10%
  • Savings 10%
  • Housing 25%
  • Utilities 5%
  • Food 10 %
  • Transportation 5%
  • Clothing 5%
  • Medical Costs 10%
  • Insurance 10%
  • Recreation 5%
  • Personal 5%
  • Total 100% (of Take-Home Pay)

Notice that there is no room for consumer debt payments in this formula. That is because no one should have consumer debt. If you are dying to get out of debt, see this post to learn how to get out of debt quickly. Click here to set up a budget for free.

What to Do About Your Expensive Mortgage

There are a few options you can try to reduce your housing costs. If you rent, you could shop around for a new place once your lease is up. If you own your house, try one of these options:

  1. Refinance. If the mortgage rates are currently lower than your mortgage interest rate, you might benefit from refinancing. Lowering your interest rate can reduce your payment and make it easier to afford your house. 
  2. Downsize. If you are open to the idea of downsizing, now might be a good time. The price of houses are rising and you might be able to make a nice profit on the sale of your home. You could use this money to put a down payment on another home that is more affordable. 
  3. Rent Out a Portion. If you have a spare room, rent to a relative or friend. This would reduce the burden of your housing cost.
  4. Use Airbnb. If you are planning to take a trip, rent out your home while you are gone. You can earn quite a bit per night through online home rental sites like Airbnb and Home Away. This can help bring in more income to pay for your mortgage.
  5. Get a Modification. This option is very difficult. You have to contact your mortgage company and ask for an application to get a modification. They will require lots of paperwork to be submitted to apply. Then they still might decline your application. Some homeowners have been able to get approved, but it is an uphill battle. It’s worth it if it helps you reduce your costs. It doesn’t negatively affect your credit.
  6. Earn More Income. Getting a second job or doing things from home to help earn money will really help get your financial situation under control. Starting a side business is often very rewarding. 
  7. Get Rid of Your PMI. Some mortgages have what is called Mortgage Insurance. This is required by the lender. Only some borrowers have to get this insurance. But usually, you can get rid of it after a certain amount of time. If you have this, contact your mortgage company to see if you can get rid of it soon. It will save you a nice chunk of cash.

If you can’t do any of the above strategies to reduce your housing cost, another option is to just reduce your other living expenses. For 87 ideas on how to reduce your expenses, click here.

Check back soon for more money saving tips.

How to Get Rid of Your Debt Forever

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How to Get Rid of Your Debt Forever (Using the Snowball Method)

Let’s face it. Debt sucks! If you carry high balances on credit cards, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Paying out all that money every month to high payments that are mostly covering interest just makes you feel like you will never get out of debt. But you CAN get out of debt! I once used the snowball method to pay off over $60,000 in debt. You can too!

The Snowball Method

The Snowball Method helps you get out of debt much faster than if you just paid the minimum each month. The way it works is you accelerate your payments by putting extra money toward your debt with the smallest balance first. Once you pay off that debt, you start working on the next smallest debt.

The kind of debt this works for is credit card debt, car loans, consumer loans, etc. But for paying off your mortgage early, you would use a different method which I will cover in a later post on MommaMoneySense.com. For now, let’s try to get your credit cards and loans paid off quickly.

There are 4 easy steps to the Snowball Method

  1. List out all your debts on the Debt Snapshot Worksheet. List all your debts from smallest to largest balance.
  2. Determine how much extra you can put towards your debt. If you have a lot of debt, like $20,000 or more, then you should try to pay an extra $500 per month if possible. But if this isn’t in your budget, then do what you can. (If you are living paycheck to paycheck then you will need to make some changes before you can pay down your debt. Start with the basics of making a budget and cutting back expenses before tackling your debt.)
  3. Fill out the Debt Snowball Worksheet. Put your extra payment amount in and calculate how soon you will pay off your first debt. Then continue with each one after that.
  4. Start making payments for quick progress. Pay just the minimum payment on all the debts except the smallest. Pay the extra amount on the smallest debt. When that one is paid off, you take all the money you were paying on it and put it towards the next smallest debt. Once you pay off the first debt, you will be so excited about your progress that you will easily continue to stick with the Snowball Method.

You Could Be Debt Free

The average household in America owes over $16,000 in credit card debt. This can be paralyzing. Debt keeps you from having the flexibility to do the things you want and to enjoy your life. If you have a debt problem and you lose a job or have unexpected medical bills, things could quickly spiral out of control. If you have credit card debt, I challenge you to use the Snowball Method and get your financial freedom back. Download the Snowball Method sheets below.

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This Easy Investment Can Give You Returns Up to 200% Per Year

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Does an investment that returns up to 200% per year seems too good to be true? Well, it is true, but it’s not what you expect. It’s not some mutual fund or high-risk scheme. It’s an investment in a couple upgrades in your home that can more than double your money in energy savings.

You can literally make low-cost improvements that will reduce your utilities by hundreds of dollars each year. I bet this is a better return on your money spent than any other investment you might have. Plus, you don’t have to pay taxes on your the profit since it’s in the form of cost savings.

Top 5 Money Saving Improvements

1. Improvement: Install Programmable Thermostat
This helps you by automatically changing the temperature during certain hours to be more efficient and save you money on your electricity.
Time Involved: 30 minutes
Cost Range: $30 to $60
Difficulty Level: Medium
Savings: Up to $180 per year Consumer Reports
Return on Investment: Up to 300% return the first year

2. Improvement: Insulate Your Water Heater
Time Involved: 1 Hour
Cost Range: $28 at Home Depot
Difficulty Level: Super Easy
Savings: saves $20 to $45 annually
Return on Investment: 67% to 225% the first year

3. Improvement: Replace all light bulbs with LED bulb.
Don’t switch to CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) because they are less efficient and are hazardous to people if they break. So stick with LEDs. They are safer and they last for about 10 years.
Time Involved: How long does it take a person to change a light bulb?
Cost Range: You can usually get 1 box free (15 bulbs) from your electric company. For the rest of the bulbs you need, they only cost $2 per bulb at the Home Depot.
Difficulty Level: Super Easy
Savings: About $1.30 electricity savings per bulb per year. 25 bulbs in your house could save you $32.50 per year.
Return on Investment: If you get 15 free and purchase 10, ROA is 160% the first year.

4. Improvement: Insulate Your Attic. Upgrading your attic insulation is easy enough to do on your own for half the cost of a professional. You can get information at your local home store on how to do this, or go to YouTube for video instruction.
Time Involved: 1 day
Cost Range: About $750
Difficulty Level: Medium
Savings: Up to $600 per year
Return on Investment:  80% return in the first year. The remaining 20% during the 2nd year.

5. Improvement: Seal the Leaks Go around your house and check door frames, windows, and points of entry for pipes and cables. Then seal the holes with caulking and peel-and-paste insulating strips.
Time Involved: a few hours
Cost Range:  Between $100 to $150 for the average home depending on how many leaks you have.
Difficulty Level: Medium
Savings: Energy Star claims it will reduce energy cost by 12% to 20% per year or $240 to $480 per year.
Return on Investment: Up to 320% return the first year.

The years following all these fixes will continue to yield cost savings without any spending. You can’t get returns like this in the stock market!

All the above numbers are based on a scenario where you do all the home improvements yourself. It will usually cost at least double the amount if you hire someone else to do it. You might not know how to do all these improvements yourself, but there are free videos on YouTube that can teach you how.

How You Use Your Energy

The average energy consumer spends over $2000 per year on their electricity bill, using between 700 to 1000 kWh of energy per month. So cutting back costs are essential to managing your money properly. Knowing where you are spending the money can help you identify where to cut back. In a typical home, these are the things that use the energy you are paying for:

  • Heating and Cooling 58%
  • Water Heating 19%
  • Refrigeration 12%
  • Appliances and Lights 11%

For other ideas to reduce your living expenses, see this post. Or download The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting. You can download it below. The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting: 28 Page Workbook with 87 ideas to reduce expenses, 14 beautiful worksheets, 7 bonus lessons, and full, easy-to-follow instructions. 

 

This Magical New Budgeting App Will Change Your Life Forever!

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 What if there was a budgeting app that forced you to follow your budget? Sticking to your budget is one of the most difficult parts of budgeting. That’s why some investors got together and created a special app that forces you to stick to your budget. How’s that possible? I’ll explain.

ProActiveBudget.com

The way it works is you set up a bank account with ProActive Budget and they issue you a debit card. ProActive Budget uses a real bank and is FDIC insured.

Then you use their app to set up categories for Budget Envelopes, like groceries, entertainment, etc. Once you set the envelopes up, you set a spending limit for each category. When you go shopping, you select an envelope to use. Once the money is gone from that envelope, the card won’t allow you to spend any more of your money. It’s a simple, yet powerful tool to limit your ability to overspend. It basically forces you to stick to your budget.

I was so excited to share this great idea with you that I reached out to ProActive Budget and asked for a discount for my readers. If you decide to sign up for this budgeting app, click here and use the code MOMMA$ and they will give you $5 off your membership.

A Total Solution

I’m recommending this app because it has so many great features. It really works as a full budgeting solution. It allows you to share your budget across devices with a spouse or partner. Every dollar has a job in the budgeting app and it’s safe and secure just like a regular bank account. The card works online or in any store and even in ATMs, but declines purchases that go beyond the limits you set for yourself.

Of course, the app has a monthly fee, but it’s worth it. It can really help people get their spending under control. It costs $5.75 a month for one user and an additional $2.42 per month for a 2nd user. But you can get $5 off with the code MOMMA$.

Testimonials

ProActive Budget has quite a few testimonials on their website showing how couples made amazing financial changes once they used the app. Here’s one user’s experience from the site:

Letisha: “We’d usually get down to $15 for a week before payday. After a month with ProActive we had $300. My husband and I both have our envelopes at any time.”

ProActive Budget is basically an electronic version of the Cash Envelope System. It works great if you don’t want to use the cash version with the paper envelopes. It definitely forces you to stay on track financially. If you decide to sign up for this budgeting app, click here and use the code MOMMA$ and they will give you $5 off your membership.

If you need help setting up a budget, click here. Learn about the Cash Envelope System here. Get your FREE copy below of The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting! 28 Page Workbook with 87 ideas to reduce expenses, 14 beautiful worksheets, 7 bonus lessons, and full, easy-to-follow instructions.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small referral credit at no cost to you while still providing you the best offer I’m aware of.  Please read my disclosure page for more information.

Use This 1 Trick to Never Overspend Again!

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Let’s face it, sticking to your budget can be hard. You have all these plans to be careful and not overspend, but then real life happens and you accidentally go over your limit again. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to make yourself stick to your budget? There is!

The Envelope Budgeting System

The Envelope System prevents you from overspending. It is a really easy system to implement. The way it works is you get cash out of the bank the next time you get paid. You place the cash in a couple different envelopes in amounts you plan to spend per budget category. Then, when you go to the store, you only pay with cash. You bring the preloaded cash envelope in your purse and only spend what is in it.

3 Easy Steps to the Envelope System with Free Printable

  1. Decide How Much You Will Spend in Each Category. For this step, you decide in advance how much you will allow yourself to spend each week. You can use my free printable cash envelopes and fill in the weekly limit at the top of the envelope. Also, add the budget category to the FREE printable envelopes. Common categories are groceries, clothes, supplies, and entertainment.
  2. Withdraw Cash When You Get Paid. When you get your next paycheck, simply withdraw the amount of cash from the bank that you need for the envelopes. Leave the cash for your mortgage and utilities and similar items in the bank. Only take cash out for things like shopping. Then place the correct amount for the week in each envelope.
  3. When You Go Shopping Only Bring Your Cash Envelope. Don’t bring your credit cards. Don’t bring your debit card. Just tuck your cash envelope in your purse and off you go. When you buy groceries, clothes, or other items that you have cash envelopes for, you will only be able to spend what is in the envelope. Thus, you will not be able to overspend.

The Envelope Method requires to you to use a little bit of discipline. You can only spend the grocery money on groceries, etc. You can’t take money out of one envelope and put it in a different envelope. You also can’t go to the bank and get more money to put in the envelope. Using cash envelopes will help you stick your budget and force you to stop overspending in certain categories.

Variations on the Envelope Method

There are 2 other ways that the Envelope Method can be implemented.

  1. Cashless Envelope System. In this method, you have to have a little more discipline because instead of cash, you use your debit card or checkbook. You only spend what is listed on the Cashless Envelope Card (also included in the printable). There is one for each category, but it is a card instead of an envelope. You bring the card to the store and use it as a guide to limit and track your spending. It helps to bring a calculator to the store so you don’t have to guess whether or not you went over.
  2. Electronic Envelope System. This system is pretty new. I just recently found out about it, but it sounds amazing. You set up an account with the Bank on this website. Then you download their app called ProActive Budget and set up your envelope categories. Then you transfer the money into the bank account and they provide you with a special debit card. The card is programmed to only allow you to spend what is in your envelope category. In order to change the limit, you have to go into the app and authorize it. The service comes with a small monthly fee, but their website offers plenty of testimonials from people who have tried it. It’s a great idea and you can get $5 off your subscription by entering the code MOMMA$ when you first sign up.

Other Uses For the Cash Envelopes

You can also set up an envelope for saving. If you want to set aside a few dollars every now and then, the envelope system can help. Just use one of the envelopes to put your savings in as you go. Or you can set up an envelope to save up for vacation or some other event like Christmas.

Take the Challenge

I challenge you to try out the envelope method and see if it helps you to stick to your budget. If you don’t have a budget, click here to set one up.

Below is a FREE set of envelope templates that will get you started. Typical categories are Groceries, Eating Out, Clothes – Adults, Clothes – Kids, Babysitter, Entertainment, Birthdays, Holidays, Car Repairs & Maintenance, Toiletries, Cosmetics & Haircare. There are also some Cashless Envelope Cards in case you want to try that version.

  If you need help setting up a budget first, go here.

 

 

1 Easy Trick to Never Get Late Fees Again!

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1 Easy Trick to Organize Your Bills and Never Miss a Payment Again

What is the worst possible fee that you could ever pay? Late fees! It’s a ridiculous amount for nothing. You don’t get a product or service in return. There is no benefit from paying it. Plus, late fees can add up fast. They are bound to make anyone angry. But there is an easy way to avoid them.

Be in Charge of Your Finances

When I worked as an accountant, many clients would come in with statements showing tons of late fees. We’re talking as much as hundreds in extra expenses per year, sometimes thousands. The biggest reason for this was that they had so many bills and were so disorganized that they just forgot to pay. If this is also your problem, I have a solution.

Easy Way to Organize Your Bills

The easy way to avoid late fees is to set up a Bill Organizer Kit. This will help you by keeping you organized, and it will make paying bills the easiest it has ever been. All the worksheets you need for this are free to download at the end of this post.

Make Your Own Bill Organizer Kit in 5 Easy Steps

1. Get a folder with pockets. Any kind of folder will work as long as it has pockets for your papers. I recommend shopping at the cheapest place around, like the Dollar Store or Walmart.

2. List all your bills on the Bill Info Tracker.  Use the Bill Info Tracker Worksheet in the FREE booklet below and list out all your bills, due dates, amounts, whether it is paid online or by check. It even has a spot to write down your passwords for online payments, so everything is in one place.

3. Use the Money Calendar or Bill Scheduler to Plan. Set up a plan for when to pay your bills based on your paycheck schedule.

Write your expected paychecks on the calendar and then list out all the bill amounts and due dates on the calendar too. Then place the calendar somewhere prominent like on your fridge. That way you can see what bills are coming up and make sure you pay them on time.

 

4. Put your bills, checkbook, envelopes, and stamps in the folder. When a bill comes in the mail, immediately stick in this folder. Then once a week, get the folder out and pay any bills that are coming up and check to make sure you are on track. Keep your checkbook, envelopes, and stamps in the folder too. You want to make it as easy as possible to pay your bills on time.

5. Use the Bill Tracker to mark paid bills. Once you have paid a bill, either online or put it in the mailbox, then check it off for each month. That way if you ever wonder if you actually paid it, you can reference back and see what happened.

Isn’t that easy? Keeping all of those items together in one place will make a huge difference, and scheduling your bills on a calendar will keep you on track. Try to make a habit of going through the folder once a week!

This folder is also a great place to keep your budget worksheets if you already have a budget set up. If you don’t have a budget planned out, get one right away! Budgeting is absolutely necessary for financial freedom. Click here for help to set up a budget.

Never Get Late Fees Again!

The Bill Organizer Kit is now included in my free workbook called The Modern Mom’s Epic Guide to Easy Budgeting. Click below to download for free. If you downloaded the booklet already, you might want to download again to get the Bill Organizer Kit that is now included. The workbook has been updated with several new lessons and worksheets to help your finances.

The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting! 28 Page Workbook with 87 ideas to reduce expenses, 14 beautiful worksheets, 7 bonus lessons, and full, easy-to-follow instructions.

 

 

Don’t Fall For These 5 Phone Scams!

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Tax Phone Scam

Have you ever given your phone number out online only to get telemarketing calls later? Scam artists love it when they get your phone number, but don’t fall for their tricks. One common phone scam is to call and tell you that the IRS is after you.

For example, here is part of a machine generated voicemail I received on my cell phone just the other day:

“Tax filings from the headquarters which will get expired in the next 24 working hours. And once it get expired after that you will be taken under custody by the local cops as there are four serious allegations pressed on your name at this moment. We would request you to get back to us so that we can discuss about this case before taking any legal action against you.”

Then the message listed a phone number to call. No matter what, don’t call back!

As a tax accountant, I can tell you that there are a few obvious problems with that message.

1. The IRS wouldn’t make a call like this. They always contact you by mail first. The first step the IRS would take is to send a letter asking for a document to support a claim on your tax return. By mail, not a phone call.

2. You can’t be arrested for tax problems until much further along in the process. You would be allowed to get a tax attorney to represent you before anything like that happened.

3. There are massive amounts of grammar issues in the recording which means that English is probably not the native language of the scam artist. This might indicate that the person is located in a foreign country just waiting to steal your money when you call them back.

Don’t call back!

Other Financial Scams to Watch Out For

There are plenty of people who do fall for phone scams and lose thousands of dollars. This happens to millions every year. $9.5 billion dollars was lost to phone scammers in the past year. Don’t let it happen to you.

Here are four other phone scams to watch out for:

  1. *72 Scam. A caller claims someone in your family died recently. Then the person tells you to call another number but to first dial *72. Don’t do this. Pushing *72 will transfer control of your phone calls to the other number. This way, the scammer can give your number out to friends all over the world to call him on your bill. *73 will remove the setting.
  2. Juror Scam. Some are getting calls claiming that they didn’t show up for jury duty. Then they ask for personal details to cancel the bench warrant. Others are just informing the person they have jury duty and asking for personal details. Never give out any people details over the phone, especially your social security number. You can always call the court to verify the validity of such a claim.
  3. Hitman Threat Scam. This one is a scary one. A person calls, claiming you will be the target of a contract killing unless you pay the hitman some huge amount of money. The guy claims to be watching you, and you aren’t allowed to call the police. Don’t fall for this one.
  4. Kidnap Scam. The caller claims to have kidnapped one of your family members and threatens to kill them if you pay the ransom. There is an easy way to prove that this isn’t true. Just call your family member and ask if they are OK. Then call the police and report the scam.

If you receive a phone call like these, you can get help from the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP or visit ftc.gov/complaint. The FTC website also has a link to join the Do Not Call Registry.

Protecting Your Identity

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Save Over a $1,000 a Year By Making Your Own Cleaning Products

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How Much Do Cleaning Products Set You Back?

How much do you think you spend per year on cleaning products? The answer might surprise you. Depending on the size of your family, you could easily spend as much as $1,500 per year on cleaning supplies. That’s pretty expensive, right?

In 5 years, that would equal $7,500. Imagine what you could do with that money if you still had it. You could buy a used car with that! Luckily, there is an easy way to reduce these expenses.

Now, I’m not telling you to just not clean. Obviously, that would save a ton, but seriously? Gross. So instead, try making your own cleaning products. Not only will this save you money, but you will also be able to decide what chemicals are used in your home. Some of the store-bought cleaners have scary ingredients that are bad for your kids.

It’s Easier Than You Think

You don’t have to be a chemist to make your own cleaners. Not only is it super easy, but many of the natural ingredients are safer for your family. It’s literally as easy as buying a couple ingredients, mixing together per the recipes below, then putting it in a spray bottle. Voila! Now you have cheaper, safer cleaning products and all the ladies on the block are going to want to know how you did it!

Ingredients:

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Ultimate Money Saving Guide for Eating Out

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Ultimate Guide to Eating Out for Less

Do you ever feel a little guilty when you eat out because of the extra cost? Not anymore. I’m going to teach you how to make eating out work with your budget.

There are so many tricks out there to save money at restaurants that it has become more affordable than ever. But it’s hard to find all the tips, one at a time, by searching the Internet for advice. So I assembled all of the best advice from all across the web. Now it’s all in one place for you to choose the best strategy for your budget.

23 Ways to Save When Eating Out

  1. Get discounted gift certificates. Before heading to the restaurant, check the site called restaurants.com for half priced gift certificates for local restaurants.
  2. Buy discounted gift card. Many sites sell discounted gift cards to a variety of restaurants. Use the site Cardpool, or Raise. See this post for more info.
  3. Use a coupon. Go to Valpak.com or Coupons.com to find coupons for additional money off restaurants. Entertainment books usually have restaurant coupons.
  4. Get a rebate. Use Ebates, MrRebates, or Ibotta for cash rebates after eating out.
  5. Order water. Ordering water instead of other drinks can save a bundle of cash. Water is always free. If you eat out once per week, you could save $300 per year per person by ordering water instead.
  6. Split a meal. At most restaurants, it’s ok to order one meal and split it between two plates. This will cut your restaurant bill in half when there are two of you. Besides, the amount of food served per person is usually way too much for one person to eat anyway.
  7. Eat an appetizer or side. You can often fill up on the cheaper appetizer or side and skip the main meal. This works especially well if you are eating out for the social aspect, rather than filling up.
  8. Be selective on where you eat out. Casual dining, where you don’t have a server, often can be 1/3 more expensive plus you end up leaving a bigger tip. Or you can order your meal to go and avoid a tip altogether.
  9. Pick a better time to eat. If you go during lunch instead of dinner, you can save anywhere from $10 to $30 a person.
  10. Use your reward credit cards. Use your rewards credit card to pay for the meal, but only if you plan on paying it off right away. Some cards give you up to 3% back on restaurants. Just be sure to pay it before the next billing cycle so you don’t pay interest on it.
  11. Use a loyalty card. Many restaurants will give you free meals after so many visits. All you have to do is sign up for their loyalty card and have them scan it before you pay. Some will email you special offers.
  12. Use a restaurant club. There are several programs that give you rewards for eating at any restaurant on their list. You can register your credit card (or your cash back credit card) at iDine and get rewards if you write a review of the restaurant later. Others restaurant clubs include American Airlines AAdvantage Dining and Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining.
  13. Make an online reservation. If you reserve your table through Reservation Genie or Open Table, you can get rewards in the form of gift certificates.
  14. Find local deals. You can often get amazing offers at Groupon, Amazon Local, Scoutmob, or Living Social for local restaurants in your area.
  15. Go to a buffet. For a small price, you can eat all you want at a buffet. This might save you money depending on how much you normally eat.
  16. Order the daily special. Some restaurants offer better prices on their daily special and it is usually one of their better tasting meals.
  17. Order kid size. If you are not a big eater, try ordering off the kids’ menu for savings.
  18. Go on Monday or Tuesday. Many restaurants offer specials on Mondays and Tuesdays because these are typically their slowest days. Avoid holidays though. They often up their prices on holidays.
  19. Make use of kids eat for free offers. Hundreds of restaurants have days of the week when kids can eat free with a paying adult. Go here to look up specific restaurants.
  20. Get freebies on your birthday. Many places have special they will email out to you on your birthday, but some are just available when you request it. Here’s a current list of what’s out there.
  21. Find report card freebies. When your kids do well in school, it’s fun to take them out for a free treat. Try these favorites.
  22. Check the restaurant’s Facebook page. Many restaurants use social media to offer specials deals and coupons that you can’t get anywhere else.
  23. Use a status discount. Tons of restaurants offer senior discounts, AAA discounts, student discounts, teacher discounts, military discounts.

Strategy

The best way to save is to combine multiple strategies into one. I’ll show you with some recent examples when I went out to eat.

Example 1:  e want to go to a local restaurant. We went to restaurants.com and found a $25 gift certificate to a local restaurant for $10. They were running a special where you would also get 2 free movie tickets with the purchase. Then I went to a coupon site and found a promo code for 50% off of the purchase. So I bought the gift cert for $5. I bought it through my Ebates portal and got 10% back. I used my cash back rewards credit card and got 3% back. So the gift certificate for $25 only cost $4.35.

Then we went to the restaurant and the deal required that we had to spend $50 to use the gift certificate. This was no problem for 4 people. Our bill came to slightly over $61.20 after tax and tip. We used our $25 gift certificate to pay for part. Then we paid the remainder with our 3% back credit card, bringing the total down to $30.27. Total spent = $30.27 + $4.35= $34.62 for $61.20 value. Total savings = $26.58 or 43.4% off (plus 2 free movie tickets).

Example 2: We wanted to eat at Applebee’s. So first we checked Raise for a discount gift card. We found a $50 gift card to Applebee’s for $43.99 or 13.2% off. We used our Ebates account to click over and buy it and got a rebate of 1%.  Then, we used our cash back rewards credit card for 3% back. Then we went to Coupons.com and got a deal for 1 free appetizer and 2 entrees at Applebee’s for $20. There were 4 of us, so we used 2 of the deals. Then we got a free dessert for an anniversary coupon that Applebee’s emailed us for being on their list.

At the restaurant, our meal cost $40 plus tax and tip for 4 people including 4 meals, 2 appetizers, and a dessert. We paid for this with our $50 gift card. Total cost $42.23 for $50 value or 15.5% off.

Wasn’t that cheap? You can do it too! Add some fun by making it a challenge to see how much you can save!

Final Word

Now that you have all kinds of strategies available to make your restaurant experience cheaper, let me just throw in a little word to the wise. When I worked as an accountant, many of my clients that struggled the most with money were the ones that ate out the most.

Going out to restaurants is always going to be more expensive than making your own food at home. So if you are living paycheck to paycheck, you might want to avoid eating out at all until you are able to change your financial situation.

For help on creating a budget and sticking to it, see this post. Also get your free copy of The Modern Mom’s EPIC Guide to Easy Budgeting .

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