SAN ANTONIO, Texas — “Everything is expensive right now,” said Karen Owens, a frugal mom of four from Leon Springs.
Inflation is what drove her to make changes to her budget. It was already tight, but she was sure she could squeeze even more savings out of her money.
“As soon as the price of meat went up, we had to reassess what we’re doing,” she said.
That is when she created her frugal food meals like chicken noodle soup. The key ingredients are mostly canned items, including canned chicken and canned veggies, all of which are cheaper than fresh.
“This meal is about $6 and it’s going to feed the whole family,” she said.
Other ideas include a rice dish with sausage and several canned foods.
“You can add diced tomatoes, which makes it a beautiful red color,” she said. “Then I add a tri-bean can.”
Changing your mindset from spender to saver can be easy with simple changes. San Antonio savings educator Christina of Saving with Christina recommended couponing.
“It’s helped substantially because I’m not having to pay for a lot of the things that I used to have to pay for,” she said. “I’m consistently getting pretty much everything we need from a household perspective for pennies on the dollar or completely free, things like detergent and soap and toothpaste and body wash and hairspray and shampoo.”
She also said to find supportive friends.
“I think we tend to be similar to those we spend the most time with,” Christina said. “Obviously, you don’t need to get all new friends. You love your friends. You want to keep your friends around, but if you personally are trying to do something new that you’ve never done before, I find it’s going to be beneficial to have like-minded friends. So grab some new friends that you can add in to your friend group that shares that common goal because when things get hard, that’s someone that you can lean on and say ‘hey, I’m trying to save money. I really want to go grocery shopping and buy something or I want to go buy new clothes.’ That person, that saver friend, can help talk you out of the situation, whereas your spender friends might be like ‘hey, girl, I’m coming to pick you up. We’re going shopping for new clothes.’”
She said she found the most support in online communities.
Smart saving expert Andrea Woroch said to start saving by paying yourself first.
“This means treating your savings like every other bill you have and prioritizing it,” she said. “So whether it’s 20 percent of the top before you even pay your bills or whatever amount that is, you’re trying to save, put that into a separate online savings account so it’s out of sight, out of mind. Don’t link it to your checking account, otherwise, it’s easy to dip into it.”
Then make sure you are tracking all of your spending.
“If you’re not paying attention, it’s so easy to spend an extra $10 here, another $20 there and that really adds up at the end of the day,” Woroch said.
She uses the Mint app to keep track of her expenses.
“When you have it all in one place and you see that you’re spending all this money on a daily basis, it’s going to make you take a step back and reevaluate and be more mindful and make better buying decisions,” Woroch said.
Make retirement contributions easy by saving your raises and bonuses.
“Put that right into savings,” said Woroch. “You’re already used to living on how much you’re making so if you get a raise or bonus, you don’t need to spend it. Put it right towards your savings, put it right towards paying down debt. If it’s in your account, you’re going to be tempted to spend it.”
Also identify your spending triggers. Work to acknowledge them and eliminate them.
“Delete the store apps on your phone,” said Woroch. “Turn off push notifications that alert you to new sales. Unsubscribe from those store newsletters. Delete your payment information that’s stored in Amazon or any of those online accounts. The harder it is to buy something, the less likely you can do it on impulse without thought and the time it takes you to fetch your credit card or enter in those shipping details may be enough to deter you from making that purchase. I also find that if you can’t walk into a store without making some impulse purchases, then just don’t go in. There are so many options to order online.”
Or reduce little luxuries, but do not completely cut them, suggested smart shopping expert Trae Bodge.
“Things that you’re paying other people to do that you could do for yourself like your nails,” she said. “It’s always so nice to go to the salon and be treated to a manicure or a pedicure, but with a little practice, that’s something that you could do at home by yourself when you’re bingeing your latest Netflix series and you can save hundreds of dollars.”
Bodge also said to save by waiting until three-day holiday weekend sales to get deals on large purchases plus use browser extensions for online shopping that actively look for savings for you like CouponCabin or SlickDeals.
Owens saving strategies include changing the time she goes to the grocery store. Get there when it opens to get the best deal on meat.
“They’ll mark it down 50% at times so you can get 4 pounds of meat instead of $22, you’re going to get it for $12,” she said. “Then you can divide that up and put it in your freezer.”
She also shops secondhand. She found a designer dress and shoes for 70% off the retail price at Goodwill.
“Now originally this Liz Claiborne dress is $70 and so are the shoes,” Owens said. “That’s $140, but I got the whole outfit for $8.”
Even adjusting a few of your spending habits will add to your savings. Start with one new saving strategy and then add others.
Karen Owen's frugal food recipes:
Chicken Noodle Soup
Cost: About $7
Boil and drain on bag of noodles.
In a large pot add:
Diced garlic and a bit of butter.
Sautee for a few minutes.
One can of cream of chicken soup
One box of chicken stock
One can of carrots, drain and rinse
One can of peas, drain and rinse
One can of chicken, drain and rinse
Seasoning of your choice
Boil for a few minutes and serve.
Cost: About $7
Brown onions, garlic, and/or green peppers (vegetables of your choice).
Also brown your choice of meat.
Cook a large box of rice mix. Karen likes Zatarain because it has spices included.
One can beans, drain and rinse
One can of diced tomatoes
You also add more white rice to extend the recipe.
Cost: 6 for $6
You will need a greased muffin tin
Beat one egg per muffin.
Seasoning of your choice
Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes.