How we SAVE $100s if not $1000s every Month

Where do we save the most money every month? Without a question, FOOD!

When beginning our financial makeover, we drastically cut back on eating out. Before, our average week consisted of eating out 2-4 meals. We now, eat out 2-3 meals per month. Not only are we eating healthier but we are saving over $300 per month! How much could you save if you took your lunches to work or cooked more dinners at home?

Coupons

Not only have we cut back on eating out. But when we do eat out we use coupons and gift cards. Where do I find these coupons? Websites such as Groupon, Living Social, and Voucher Cloud, these are all available both in the United States and United Kingdom.

All of the sites listed above have their own app. This helps in finding a coupon on the go (if you have a smart phone). Often restaurant coupons come in the mail as flyers or in the “junk mail”. If it’s a possibility you may eat at the restaurant before the coupon expires, clip it and stash it.

If you have favorite places to eat, join their page on Facebook or other social media sources and sign up for their email newsletters. They often advertise specials or available coupons through these sources. My personal favorite is Dairy Queen’s BOGO (buy one get one) Blizzard coupon, which comes in their email newsletter, nearly every month. Have every family member join “Birthday Clubs” for your favorite restaurants. You typically get a free dessert or a BOGO offer during your birthday month.

In the past I have had envelopes in my purse and car with restaurant coupons. To be prepared for those inevitable, “I’ve been shopping all day and am starving” situations. This way, you are always prepared and have a few restaurant options where you do not have to pay full price.

The Entertainment Book that is available in most larger cities is full of restaurant coupons. As well as entertainment and traveling discounts. You can typically pay around $15 for this book when it is discounted. Or pay around $30 and support a local money raising event. Personally, I don’t like to pay for my coupons because then I don’t ever feel like I “wasted money” by not using it. But you can easily “earn” your money back with this option by only using 3-5 coupons out of the 100s that are in this book.

Options without Coupons

Not a fan of coupons? *gasp* Just kidding! There are plenty of ways to save money at restaurants without using coupons. Often lunch menus are significantly less expensive than dinner menus and more times than not, the menus are extremely similar.

Appetizers

Appetizers are almost always cheaper than entrees and often are plenty to fill up on. Better yet, have your meal during happy hour, where most restaurants offer discounted appetizers. Some as low as 50% off! Many restaurants do require you to order a beverage, but it does not need to be alcoholic. Save $6+ on your appetizer and pay for that $2 soda.

Our favorite way to save money without a coupon is to order one appetizer and one entrée and share both. This way we get to try both an appetizer and entrée but we only have to pay for one entrée, which typically means our bill is $8-15 less than if we had ordered two entrees. We haven’t come across a restaurant that frowns upon this, but we rarely never eat at $50+/plate restaurants.

Alcohol

We also rarely order alcohol. Why pay $5-10 for a glass of wine or beer, when you can go across the street and buy a whole bottle/6 pack for the same price? We typically order water. Tip: make sure you are getting tap water and not $5 distilled water. Water may be “boring” but our rational: it is healthier, saves $5-20, and eliminates 100s of empty calories. If you are in a foreign country and worried about the quality of tap water, typically a soda, tea, or lemonade will be less expensive than the bottled water.

Military Discounts

There are several restaurants that offer a military discount. Typically its 10%, but every little bit helps. In the United States, I know most Applebee’s, Denny’s, Famous Dave’s BBQ, and Golden Corral offer a military discount. We are relatively new in the United Kingdom, but I know Nando’s (delicious food) offers a 10% discount. It never hurts to ask, all they can tell you is “no”.

Children

Do you have picky eaters who often don’t eat their restaurant meal? Try not ordering them a meal. Share your meal instead. America’s portion sizes are ridiculously huge anyway. Also, try bringing your own snacks from home for your child to eat instead of ordering something they won’t eat. If your child is 5 years old or younger I doubt any restaurant will question it. Do you have children, who are not picky eaters? Have them share an adult meal. An adult meal is typically cheaper than 2-3 meals off the children’s menu.

United Kingdom

Simply put, we save the most money by not going out to eat. Especially now that we are in the UK and the conversion rate is poor for us. We’ve been known to pay £6-7 for a sandwich.  With the conversion rate, that is nearly $25 to eat sandwiches we could have made at home for $1. It doesn’t seem worth it to us! We have eaten at several really good restaurants in the United Kingdom. But when just randomly picking a restaurant, I would say 50% of the time we don’t care for the food. This makes it easier for us to say “no” to eating at a restaurant and a secondary benefit is that our waistlines are thanking us. LOL.

If WE can go from eating out at restaurants from 2-4 time/week, and cut it down to our current once for the entire month in a matter of 2 years. ANYONE, can cut down their restaurant budget fund! Baby steps are the key. Start with just cutting out one or two meals a month. That $40-$100 can be used for something better!

How do you save money at restaurants? What military restaurant discounts do you use?

Stay tuned in to read the rest of my 6 part Food Series, “How we Save $100s if not $1000s every Month”.

Here is Part 2: How We Save $100’s if not $1000’s every Month: Food Series

Government Shut-Down

I felt the need to write on the topic of the government “shut-down”. Were you one who held your breath or couldn’t sleep at night with the inevitable shut-down? Did it terrify you because you weren’t sure how you would pay for your mortgage, keep the lights on or feed your children without your next paycheck? You are not alone. Nearly half of Americans live each month just scraping by until their next paycheck arrives.

This is the reason why I write this blog. It breaks my heart to see fellow Americans, especially fellow Americans who serve our country struggle financially. We are one of the wealthiest countries, yet half of our people don’t know if they will be able to pay their bills next month.

When I first heard about the possibility of the shut-down, my first response was irritation. I was irritated that our leaders can’t do their job. I was frustrated that one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations can’t pull it together and make the difficult decisions to keep our country running.

I was angry that these “rich” politicians who don’t have a clue about the struggles of an American family, are the ones who can’t agree and are throwing fits when not getting their way. I’m angry because their poor decisions or lack of decisions are not impacting them. They are impacting the American family, the backbone of our country. I’m angry that because of these overpaid politicians there are many fellow American families who are filled with fear because they won’t have the paycheck to keep a roof over their head or put food on the table.

The one emotion I did not have, was fear. Although, my husband’s government paycheck is our only paycheck. I never felt fear. This is the power of being financial secure. I knew we had enough of an emergency savings to last us 6 months. If need be, I could wait tables, deliver pizzas, clean houses  for next to nothing to make our savings last longer. We would penny pinch like no other to be okay for any length of “shut-down”. I write this blog because I want to inspire and encourage others to have this same sense of financial security. It is an amazing and indescribable feeling.

Late last week, I did find out that a bill was passed to exempt the military members’ paychecks from the shut-down. I was relieved for my fellow military families. But this isn’t the first time and won’t be the last time our paychecks and benefits have been threatened. If you haven’t already, it is time to take the first steps to free yourself from these worries. Please join me on a journey to financial peace. I will guarantee you, it won’t be easy. But nothing worth-while is easy.

Make sure to read The Dreaded “B” Word and Our Financial Story to get you started.

Please feel free to comment, share your story, and ask for thoughts and prayers during difficulty times. I know many American citizens may be angry with our leaders but please remember to keep comments clean and if you have a message of hope I think your fellow Americans could use it.

What is there to Love about a Budget?

After reading the title of my blog, Budget Loving Military Wife what was your response? Thank you for not running for the hills. Although, I’m quite certain a few have ran as fast as they could. The kindest people probably thought “who is this crazy lady”. Yes, that would be an appropriate response. There are many people who avoid this subject like the plague or only speak of it as if it’s a 4-letter word.
So, let’s take a deep breath and take a step back because having a budget and sticking to one is the major key to financial peace. Plus, I am about to tell you why I love budgeting and why my husband and I look forward to creating a budget each month.

Please remember, we were not always this enthusiastic about budgets. The first few months of budget meetings were torture. Occasionally these meetings were characterized by feelings of guilt and/or being deprived. Looking at your mistakes straight in the eye and dealing with them is not easy, but I promise IT IS WORTH IT.

After the initial hurdles, we began seeing positive differences in our communication and in our finances. It was reassuring to know my husband and I were on the same page and all our expenses were covered for the month. We began looking forward to budget meetings because we couldn’t wait to see how much we would be able to knock off our debt that month.

Today, after doing all the hard work of paying off our debt, we finally have “fun” categories in our budget. I love budgeting today because each month I get to see how much closer we are to a vacation or remodeling our kitchen. I am also reassured each month that we have an emergency fund and we are investing for our future. Our financial future looks bright and the peace that comes with financial security is an unbelievable feeling. This is why I am a “Budget Loving Military Wife”.

Do you have a monthly budget? If so, what keeps you motivated to keep with it each month?