Budget and Plan for Gift-Buying Opportunities
Most households experience soaring expenditures on gifts for the Holidays during the last two months of each year. Ease the blow of yearly gift expenses by spreading the purchases (or the homemade creations, if preferred) over a twelve-month budget. The items can be tucked away in a closet or trunk and even prewrapped to avoid any unwanted discoveries by intended recipients. Three easy approaches can be used in combination to maximize the value and appreciation of gift purchases.
- One easy strategy is to use a calendar of birthdays as a guide for buying or making each person's gifts. If a list of birthdays is kept within convenient reach - in a pocketbook or on a digital organizer - it is easy to refer to when a shopping opportunity presents itself. When it is time to buy one individual's birthday gift, think ahead and make a Holiday gift purchase for that person too. This strategy often makes for a more thoughtful gift selection, as the buyer can be considering complementary-themed gifts, if desired.
- Another strategy is to buy future Holiday or birthday gifts while visiting an interesting location, such as a particular vacation spot or other inspiring shopping venue, whenever the occasion may present itself. If the list mentioned above is conveniently available, it is simple to check and see which recipients' gifts have been purchased ahead and which ones still need to be found.
- Keeping these purchases in mind in advance can also allow for a third strategy, the one that may save the most money: shop for each gift - Holiday, birthday, anniversary, etc. - when enticing discounts and sale prices are offered throughout the year.
How to Budget Routine Household Purchases
Each shopper is well aware of items used in the household on a regular basis. These are the products used daily or weekly and needed most promptly if quantities run short. Why should anyone pay standard prices on an as-needed basis for these necessities? A better alternative is thinking ahead for substantial savings and convenience.
Pantry or closet space can be set aside for storage, and the items bought ahead in bulk when quantity packaging, promotional sales, and discounts make them most affordable. Such items may be as varied as toilet paper, laundry detergent, toothpaste, vitamins, canned goods, bottled water, condiments, baking ingredients, etc. Whichever items are the ones that will definitely be used in the future can be bought ahead at a maximum value opportunity. If one lives alone and consumes less than the average family, it is easy to find a willing friend with whom to split smart purchases.
Shoppers who are coupon-savvy also know how to use this benefit to its greatest value. Advertisers promote their products with money saving offers and attract shoppers to try new items with their savings pitch. Buyers beware! Such tactics often lead to unwise purchases, to unnecessary expenses, and in the end result in money spent on things that would not otherwise be bought. Instead, the wisest coupon shoppers look for savings on the products they routinely use and want to buy, with or without the coupon sales pitch. This money saved is a true budgetary benefit. If one is willing to do the research, coupons can often be found online to print and use at your neighborhood grocery.
Budgeting on Dates and Outings
With a little forethought, your dating dollars can go much further, allowing you to enjoy the extra savings for even more activities. This strategy applies to family outings just as well as it does to the singles scene. Matinee movies and Early Bird dinner specials are two money-saving approaches that can add dollar value to your dates.
Budget Planning for Cooking and Eating
One doesn't have to be an accomplished chef to learn smart strategies for meal planning and execution. These few suggestions go a long way to stretch the kitchen budget.
- Have smart snacks ready and available. When hunger strikes, the easiest things to grab are generally the first to be chosen for snacks. Choosing items that are healthy, ready, or quick to prepare can also save you money. Designate a snack box in the pantry cupboard that contains products that are good for your family. Unsalted nuts, raisins, granola bars, and healthy snack mixes can all be bought in bulk and available when a snack is desired. Likewise, having a fruit bowl with fresh bananas, apples, citrus, or pears - all bought at the lowest prices available - make these items easy to grab. In the refrigerator, snack-sized slices of vegetables or washed fruits, such as strawberries and grapes, satisfy quick cravings as well. Buy individual yogurt containers when they are on sale; they store well for several weeks and are a super choice for healthy snacking. Designating a snack-to-grab area in the refrigerator is another way to highlight these quick choices.
- Make planned-overs for future meals. Whenever you are taking the time to prepare a meal, think ahead to maximize its potential. Making extra portions of meat or poultry can have you economically and strategically prepared for a second or third meal later on. Whether storing planned-overs for a short period in the refrigerator, or a longer one in the freezer, using this strategy is smart timewise too. If making a stir-fry, think of using planned-over portions atop greens for salads, inside whole-grain tortillas for delicious wraps, or stuffed into a pita for a convenient lunch. Planned-over sauteed vegetables can be recycled into an omelet, combined with vegetable juice or broth for a great soup, or tossed with pasta for a primavera blend. A little forethough can go a long way to make homemade meals easier and more economical.
- Homemade soup is an affordable and healthy staple. Whether used as an appetizer for dinner, or the main course at lunch, hearty soups are an excellent habit to incorporate into daily menu plans. Homemade soup made with only healthy ingredients makes a smart contribution to the family's diet with each portion consumed. Soups store well in the refrigerator or freezer and can easily be reheated in the microwave or on the stovetop. One economical strategy is to make a quantity, serve some, and freeze some to be rotated back into the meal plan at a later date. That way the value and variety are maximized while time spent in preparation is minimized.
Once a habit of time- and money-saving strategies is begun with a few suggestions such as these, it is easy to think of others and become one's own "value guru".