There is something cathartic about cleaning out your refrigerator and seeing how much money you have wasted on things you thought you were going to eat and yet could never finish.
Yesterday I did a thorough cleaning of my refrigerator in preparation for a party – to make room for things I am making.
I found food that I wasted money on or that should have been thrown away a while ago. When there is less than one serving of anything in a bottle or jar it is time to rise it out and put it with the recyclables.
Generally when most people go shopping they don‘t think about how much they will waste or have left over. They are fulfilling a need. If the larger item is on sale and costs less than the smaller package then sometimes you might try to save money (yes while wasting food) in order to save.
Then there are times when you have tried an item and thought that you might like to and you didn’t – don’t hold on to these extra items, toss them right away. The full refrigerator will make you think that you have lots of food, until you discover that there are containers of things that won’t make a balanced meal.
The refrigerator isn’t the only place in the home where we harbor extra junk. You know the t-shirt that you say you will wear or has some slight sentimental attachments – the one with the holes in it? Get rid of it! These extra items also take up space in your closet making it difficult to find an outfit or store other needed items.
After you’ve cleaned and thrown out the unnecessary items, you will discover more space for items that you already have and there will be no need to buy what you didn’t know you had or buy in excess.
Outdoor activities are starting to become more appealing. Free festivals, concerts and baseball games are re-emerging as part of the social scene. What to do about food?
Good question. If you are going somewhere and you don’t want to have to be bogged down by a lot of containers then you might want to purchase food and a beverage. But if you do a couple of free things a week, then you will definitely hurt your budget.
Planning to bring portable food is a really simple way of keeping your finances in check. Even when you go to the baseball game, if you bring your own bottle of water purchased at a convenience store it will be half the price of buying it in the park. A little known fact is that some ball parks will let you bring in your own food if it is in a clear container/wrapping. To me, that defeats the purpose of going to a baseball game – but I will bring my own water since a 20 ounce bottle of water is $4.
Depending on the venue or event, there may be several food offerings or just one. Make your own food to take. Since outdoor concerts are special – even if you go once or twice a month – make your food special. Buy a favorite type of deli meat and a special roll add your favorite condiments and wrap in waxed paper. Like fruit – many berries are available inexpensively and easy to eat without utensils – blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Put some chips or raw crunchy veggies in a bag and you have an instant side.
Container? You might want to take a picnic basket which can double as a tabletop if you are sitting on the ground. Or you may just want to use an insulated bag. If you want to keep hot things hot, put them in an insulated bag. Freeze a bottle of water to keep the cool things cool. Any old bag will do, really. For messier foods, or anything that might spill, you may do better using a picnic basket or picnic backpack.
Depending on how long your food will be out, you might want to avoid bringing things that need to be refrigerated unless you have a cool pack in your bag. Bottled water or your own container if there are no restrictions at the venue you are going to makes it easy to take your own beverage. Some places discourage wine or other alcohol in public parks, so for easy to clean mess, bottled water works well.
Let’s say you are going with friends and each of you wants to have something to share – make an extra sandwich, cut up a melon mix with other fruit and put it in a container. Very easy way have something sweet. Need ideas? A picnic doesn’t necessarily mean you have to take the whole house with you, this can be something easy to carry, and easy to clean up. Stuck for ideas? Try these suggestions by Mark Bittman or the Picnic Site.
Sometimes you don’t feel like sticking to a budget or worrying about what something costs. When that happens, if it happens to frequently you could have a budget buster which throws off your spending for the rest or the money or more.
Being “good” and not splurging at all can give feeling of depravation. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy (or Jill a dull girl). Figuring a little leeway into your budget is important especially for fluctuating utility prices or gas prices. Though considering the non-essentials can make you happy as well. This will give you some spice or entertainment in your life.
The balance between practical and nonessential should not make you go into debt. Doing something you normally wouldn’t with just a few dollars that is not going toward saving or bills is healthy. A stringent financial diet is like a crash diet and bound to fail.
Create a fun fund. Decide what amount you want to set aside in a container and use money out of the container for fun things you like to do. If you add only singles or fives or quarters, you are limited to what you add to the fund but this is separate from your regular budget.
Planning to splurge like setting aside small amounts of money for something big will also give you a goal. If you don’t want something as formal as that, then just save money for small splurges. I recently went to a birthday party and I didn’t have to buy a gift. I chose to give the recipient cash. This was not breaking my budget because I take dollar bills out of my wallet and put them in a tin. I use the money for movies, coffee and miscellaneous items. I also found that I had enough cash to give my friend a box of singles in a small box I already had at home. No sweat off my back this wasn’t difficult or challenging to do, anytime I get singles from a purchase I put them in the tin. When I want to get a pizza or takeout I could pay in singles (it’s better than a sack of pennies). Some places welcome small bills.
The amount I took out for the gift did not empty the tin and I’ve added a few more singles this week as well. Giving someone a gift or buying Thai food may seem like a splurge if you are trying to save more money and cut costs. In some cases, this could even break your budget. If you have some money on the side, you can use it for gifts, entertainment and not consider it as part of an emergency fund. It’s a fun fund.
Home brewing is becoming more popular… Check out this video from Time.
I enjoy wine but I haven’t gotten to the point that I want to make my own for consumption. The wine I buy for daily consumption is relatively inexpensive. I do not see myself as a craftsman of fine wine and taking the time to make something I want to do. There are kits to make wine and you have to keep the wine in a temperature controlled area, in the dark, agitate the container. With the money that I could spend buying the kit, I could have gone to a wine ship, or even a grocery store and found a nice inexpensive bottle of wine to have.
Granted people like making their own things. There are things I make that others would never even consider. There is a cult status of making wine and beer. Depending on the ingredients you may not really save that much money, but it is something that you can say you did yourself and gives you a pastime.
Hold off on tossing out catalogs and containers before Christmas. Both may prove useful for the holiday season.
Before you throw away those catalogs, start looking through them for some gift ideas. This is especially helpful for items that you know the cost of the individual parts that make up a basket or themed gift.
A tea company catalog arrived in my email box the other day, rather than just deleting the catalog, I looked through it. Hmmm. Maybe because I keep up with these things, I quickly figured out that a variety pack of 120 tea bags in a container should not cost $30. For a tea drinker in your life, you could buy the same tea and put it into a container for a lot less and even include a dollar store mug.
As I was sorting through some containers and before I put them in the container to donate I stopped myself and thought that I could use them for gifts. Especially for those unusually shaped gifts or to make a gift of tea for someone myself. It may not seem like a big deal but if you gave someone a bag of coffee or a box of tea alone this does not look like an exciting gift. Wrap the gift or add something to it to make it seem fancy and you have elevated your gift’s status from ok to out of the ordinary.
Before tossing out those containers and boxes from gifts past, look at them in a new light and think about the opportunity that you will have to use them. After Christmas, if you haven’t used them, then donate them.