Grocery Shopping

Grocery Shopping on a Budget

I hate to admit it, but I have a dirty little secret. I secretly love watching Extreme Couponers on TLC. The fact that people can load up entire grocery carts full of food and toiletries and pay next to nothing is crazy to me. How is this even legal? As I’m typing this it sounds as if those people are robbing the grocery stores. And while I get an adrenalin rush while watching the show, I know that I, myself, will never be an extreme couponer. I just don’t have the time or the cajones to dig through dumpsters. So where does that leave me? I could throw in the towel and just spend whatever on groceries. Or, I could use a few tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the years to save as much money as possible grocery shopping.

Step 1: Create a Grocery Budget

If you’re like me, you’re probably a single millennial working to live on a budget. Your grocery budget is going to look different from mine. I don’t have any dietary restrictions (other than the fact that I don’t like seafood). I’m not vegan, Gluten Free, or Paleo. Which means, everything in the grocery store is up for grabs. My grocery budget is $125-$150 per month which breaks down to about $31.25-$37.50 per week.

If you’re used to spending $50-$100 per week on groceries, trimming your budget is going to be a bit of a shock. But stick with me.

Step 2: Check the Ads

Now that you have your budget in place, you need to check the ads. So stop throwing away your junk mail! That weekly packet of flyers you get on Wednesdays is going to be key to saving you tons of money. If you go to the grocery store without a plan it is way too easy to overspend. By knowing what is on sale you can begin to search for recipes with those ingredients.

When you’re looking at the ad, stick with the front page. The front page is going to have the best deals of the week. Grocery stores try and lure you in with those front page deals. But if you’re a frugal millennial, you’ll know that if you try and stick to just those front page deals, you’re going to score major savings.

Step 3: Create a Weekly Meal Plan

Now that you know what ingredients are on sale, it’s time to create a weekly meal plan. I try and eat 80% of my meals at home, it saves a lot of money, and quite frankly, it’s better for my waistline. With that in mind, create a spreadsheet (or download and print the one I use here) and write down your meal plan. Weekly Meal Plan

If you have no idea where to begin when it comes to meal planning, worry not! A few years ago when I was just starting meal planning I was completely overwhelmed. I didn’t know how to cook or grocery shop, but over the years I’ve practiced every week and have become pretty good. My favorite recipe website is called Budget Bytes. It has really great recipes that are easy to follow and they use ingredients that I (almost) always have on hand. If I see that chicken, spinach, and red bell peppers are on sale this week, I head over to Budget Bytes to see what recipes have those ingredients.

Channel Your Inner Julia Child

I highly recommend you avoid processed food as much as possible. Not only will your waistline thank you, but your wallet will too. I’m not going to lie, I love to splurge on an occasional prepackaged meal and treat, but I don’t focus my weekly meal plan around process foods. Processed foods are really marked up and you are paying for the convenience. Unless chips, cookies, or frozen pizza is on sale, I don’t buy it. When it is on sale, I allow myself to pick up a package or two and spread it out throughout the week.

If you want to see what I’m eating and how I grocery shop, check out my weekly meal plans.

Step 4: Create a Grocery Shopping List

Now that you know what you’re going to eat for the week, it’s time to go get those ingredients! First, take note of what you already have on hand. Americans waste more food than any other nation. So, let’s save the earth and your pocketbook and check to see what you already have hiding in your refrigerator. After seeing what you already have on hand, add the ingredients that you need to buy to your grocery shopping list.

I crate my shopping list on the notes app on my iPhone. That way, I’m always carrying it with me and never have to worry about forgetting it at home. I mean think about it, when was the last time you went anywhere without your phone? As I walk through the store I delete items off of my grocery shopping list as I put them in my cart.

Step 5: Go Grocery Shopping

It’s go time! I played sports growing up, in fact, I was involved in everything from soccer to basketball to volleyball to track and field. Sometimes my inner athlete comes out and it’s easier for me to think in terms of sports analogies. I like to think of everything before hitting the store as practice. Checking the ads, creating a weekly meal plan, and grocery list are all prepared for the big game, hitting the grocery store. Now that you are fully prepared, let’s head the field.

Resist Temptations

As with any game you play, you’re going to have to overcome obstacles in order to get the outcome you want. When you’re at the grocery store, you’re going to be tempted to purchase things other than what’s on your shopping list. Try to resist. The more items you put in your cart that aren’t on your list, the more likely you are to overspend.

While overspending a few dollars won’t totally kill your budget, it will add up. The way I look at it, the more I spend on groceries, the less I can spend on other things. You see, if I go over my grocery budget, I have to take it out of my miscellaneous budget. That means fewer girls nights out, brunches, and shopping sprees. When I put it in perspective, it’s not worth it to me to add extra goodies to my shopping cart.

Grocery Shopping in a Nutshell

If you’re new to budgeting and trimming your grocery budget, this can be a lot to take in. To be honest, I don’t do everything on this list in one day. I spread out the task over 2-3 days. That helps me feel less overwhelmed.

On Wednesdays, my favorite grocery store, Sprouts, publishes its weekly ad. I head over to the website to check out the deals. After sifting through the online ad, I start to develop my weekly meal plan.

On Saturdays, I head over to Sprouts with my grocery shopping list on my iPhone. I scoop up all of my groceries and put them in the refrigerator.

On Sundays, I meal prep and make most of my lunches and dinners for the week. If my meals are prepped throughout the week I’m less likely to fall into temptation after a long workday. I’m less likely to go out to lunch with coworkers. I’m also not tempted to stop by Chipotle after work because I’m too lazy to cook. If all I have to do is pop my Tupperware in the microwave, I have no reason to eat out.

Breaking up my meal prepping and grocery shopping tasks throughout the week keeps me on track and prevents me from feeling overwhelmed. Try it out, and see what works best for you. The more you practice, the better you will be–I promise!

Frugal Happy Hour

Happy Hour on a Budget

Grab your girlfriends–do I have a great idea for you! If you love happy hour as much as I do, you need to keep reading! I love getting together with my girlfriends after work, splitting a bottle of wine and chatting over appetizers. What I don’t love is when the check comes at the end of the night and I realize how much I’ve spent on small plates and drinks.

Happy Hour at Home

Last night my boyfriend and I wanted to celebrate some good news but since it’s the end of the month, our budgets are pretty tight. Instead of spending $30 each on drinks and snacks, we decided to stay in and make our own happy hour. I knew we had some cheese and snack foods that we needed to use up before they went bad, so all I had to do was run to the store, grab a bottle of wine, and a few more snacks and we would be good to go!

Frugal Happy Hour

Keeping Happy Hour Frugal

I knew we already had a few ingredients on hand. So, before I even set foot in the store, I knew I had to take inventory of what we already had in the house before spending unnecessary money.

Food on Hand

Frozen Meatballs – I typically make a big batch and freeze leftovers

Colby Jack and Pepperjack Cheese

Dried Fruit and Nuts

Frozen French Baguette (for cheesy garlic bread)

Groceries to Buy

Crackers – $1.99

More Cheese (Can you ever have enough?!) – $2.99

Wine – $5.99

Putting It Together

After spending a total of $11.52 (with tax) I drove home and put it all together. I had fun trying to see how creative I could get with the ingredients we already hand. Plus, it was a fun game to see how little we could spend. Below you’ll see the quick cheese board I threw together for under $12! It’s not the greatest picture, but I had to snap it quick–we were hungry and ready to eat.

Frugal Happy Hour Cheese Board

Our Happy Hour in a Nutshell

We had a lot of fun spending time together, catching up, and of course, laughing. Not only did we save over $40 but we had a delicious, homemade happy hour. While it is fun getting dressed up and going out to a restaurant. It’s also fun to mix it up and do it yourself. Just because you’re working within a budget, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Get creative, DIY, and you can have an awesome happy hour experience at home.

Looking for other creative date night ideas? Check out my post on MoviePass, the Nextlix of movie theaters.

Spend less on razors

How to Spend Less on Razors

Have you ever stopped to think about how much money you’re spending on razor blades? I just read a statistic that Americans spend around $100 per year on razors. That may not seem like a lot of money but pair that with shaving gel, aftershave (for the gentlemen out there) and lotion, and you’re spending way more than you need to. Did you know that there are a few simple things you can do to lower the cost of shaving?

Why Do Razor Blades Go Dull?

Razor blades don’t dull because you’re using them too much. They dull because they begin to rust. The more they rust, the more they dull. When wet metal is exposed to air it begins to oxidize. That’s a fancy way of saying wet razors rust easily. Every time you wet your razor to shave, the blades begin to rust which weakens them and ultimately causes them to flake. Flakey, rusted razor blades lead to a rougher (uncomfortable) shave.

How to Prevent Razors From Rusting

The easy answer is to keep your razor blades dry. First, don’t keep your razor in the shower. Keeping your razor in the shower is throwing your hard earned money out the window. Keeping your razor in a warm, moist, humid environment is one of the worst things you can do. It severely shortens the lifespan of your razor. Instead, keep it out of the shower, in a dry location to prevent rusting.

Second, dry your razor after each use. After you get out of the shower dry your razor with a hair dryer or fan. Or, dip your razor in rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol blasts away water molecules and dries blades quickly.

Drying your razor after each use will significantly prolong its use. You can use the same razor for months if you keep it dry. Not only will it last longer, it will also be more sanitary because there won’t be built up bacteria and rust from it sitting in moisture.

Where to Buy Cheap Razors

If you’re looking for a cheap place to buy razors, look online. Discount razor clubs are popping up all over the internet and can save you some serious cash! Dollar Shave Club is one of the most well-known discount razor clubs. Dollar Shave Club is a monthly (or bi-monthly) subscription to have razors sent directly to your door. No longer do you have to go out and buy razors every few weeks. For as little as $1 your first month, you can have a razor delivered directly to your door. Plus, you can sign up one month and cancel the next for any reason.

Another discount razor club is Dorco USA. Dorco is similar to Dollar Shave Club but some people find it cheaper in the long run. Dorco has an extensive line of men’s and women’s razors and if you want to try them out, click here to get 15% off your first order.

P.S. If you’re going to buy razors online, make sure to download the Honey Google Chrome Extension so that you can automatically get the best coupon codes applied to your order. I use Honey every time I purchase anything online. Not only do I save money with the best coupon code, but I also earn cashback on every order.





What’s the Heck is a Raincheck?

How many times has this scenario happened to you? You’re all ready to go shopping, see a great deal on a store’s website or were mailed a great promotional offer. You get in your car, head to the store to purchase the item that is on a great sale, only to find it’s sold out. As a bargain hunter, that happens to me more often than you would expect. It’s annoying, it’s frustrating, and a pain in the hiney! The next time you walk into a store and an item on sale is completely sold out, ask for a raincheck.

What is a Raincheck?

A raincheck is a store’s version of an I Owe You (IOU). If an item is advertised at a discounted price and sold out, you don’t have to leave the store empty-handed. You can find a store employee or store manager and ask for a raincheck. The raincheck will allow you to purchase the item at the discounted price once the item comes back into stock.

How Do I Get a Raincheck?

This happened to me earlier this week. I was shopping at my local Sprouts Farmers Market and saw that almond milk was on sale for $1.99. A great deal! When I went back to the milk section to the store only to find they were completely sold out. Bummer! After asking an employee if they had any more in the back, I was disappointed to find they were completely sold out. As I was checking out I asked the cashier for a raincheck. Without hesitation, he wrote one up for me. The next time I’m at Sprouts I’ll be able to snag my discounted almond milk.

Do Stores Have to Give Me a Raincheck?

The short answer is, it depends. Some states require retailers to provide rainchecks for sold out items. Those states require stores to “make good” on advertised offers. Other states do not have the same consumer protection. A store can also say in the ad that there are limited quantities or that rainchecks are not allowed. During the holiday season, when items are severely discounted, stores will often not allow rainchecks. So if you’re trying to score a great deal on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, you’ll want to shop early before supplies run out.

Raincheck Alternatives

Depending on a store’s policy you may be able to purchase a comparable item at the sale price. This happened to me a few months ago. For those of you that have Safeway grocery stores nearby, you’re probably aware of Safeway’s Monopoly promotion. Every spring Safeway allows customers to earn Monopoly tickets for purchasing groceries.

Many of the Monopoly tickets have coupons for free items. This spring I received coupons for free salt, donuts, french baguettes, grocery bags, facial tissue, etc. All of the coupons expire on the same day. I can say from personal experience that the day the coupons expire is pure chaos. I’ve never seen more people at Safeway on the day the Monopoly coupons expire. Needless to say, because many people receive the same coupons and they expire on the same day the store looks like it’s been ransacked. The shelves are completely empty of the coupon items.

Instead of asking for a raincheck, I simply asked if I could get redeem my coupons for items of similar quality. Instead of getting a french baguette (which was completely sold out) I grabbed a sourdough loaf. Instead of regular grocery bags, I snagged bathroom sized grocery bags. Instead of a donut, I got a bagel.

Getting a Raincheck Alternative

The easiest way to score a raincheck or raincheck alternative is to ask. Just ask. Ask a store employee or manager and oftentimes (if you’re nice) they’ll grant your wish. Don’t be a jerk, don’t be rude, and don’t act entitled. If you’re polite and apologetic, more times than not your raincheck or raincheck alternative will be given to you.

P.S. If you’re looking for other ways to save money online, check out my abandoned shopping cart trick.


Never pay full price at gap

Never Pay Full Price at Gap

Being the Frugal Millennial, I don’t really enjoy shopping. In fact, I’m convinced that I’m actually allergic to shopping for clothes. I get really hot, stressed, overwhelmed, and itchy when I need to shop for clothes. My attention span for shopping never lasts more than an hour. Although I often have an adverse reaction to trying and spending money on clothes, I don’t live in a nudist colony and do have to do it occasionally.

A Former Gap Employee

One thing you may not know about me is that I’m actually really good at shopping. I’m a bargain hunter and know when and where to find the best deals. Before I was the Frugal Millennial, I was just a broke college student. During my time attending the University of Wisconsin (Go Badgers!) I worked for Gap, which is also associated with Old Navy and Banana Republic. My year and a half with Gap Inc. taught me an important life lesson: NEVER PAY FULL PRICE FOR CLOTHES.

So often would I see people come into the store, drop a few hundred dollars on clothes and walk out having paid full price. The next week, I would be in the back marking the $50 dress they purchased down to $30. It blew my mind how many people would walk in, pick clothes off the rack and pay full price. I always thought to myself, “don’t these people know if they just wait a few weeks all of these clothes will be marked down?”

Gap Discount 50% Off

The Gap Discount Cycle

Every few weeks Gap goes through a discount cycle. Discounts range anywhere from 10% all the way up to 70% off. Knowing when to shop is key to finding the best deal.

National Sales

Every major (and often minor) holiday is a reason for Gap to have a sale. Labor Day, 4th of July, Columbus Day, Founder’s Day; you name it, Gap has probably already planned a discount around it. The best sale is of the year is during Thanksgiving season. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are going to be the best deals you will find. These deals often offer EVERYTHING in the store 50-60% off. This is a great time to stock up on jeans and outerwear, which are often the most expensive items in the store.

Every 3-4 months Gap has a sale offering 40% off the entire store. This is the second-best time of the year to stock up on merchandise. If you see a sign, for 25% off, know that if you’re patient and willing to wait, in a few weeks that discount will increase to 40%.

Local Sales

Each store manager has the opportunity to call the shots and offer local sales. Local sales aren’t as flashy as the national sales and may be harder to plan for. If a store has a lot of items on its sale rack that aren’t moving, the store manager can offer up to an additional 50% off sale items. Think about that for a second, you can get an extra 50% off already marked down items. I loved shopping the sale racks during the local sale. In fact, all of my everyday t-shirts are from Gap and I never paid more than $5 for them. I have to say, I’m going on 8 years with them and they’re still holding up well. These t-shirts typically retail for $20 full price, but by strategically shopping the sale rack, I saved a bundle!

Always Save on Jeans

Whenever you shop at Gap, save your receipt. If you go online and fill out the survey you will receive a coupon code for 20% off one full priced item. Because jeans are sometimes excluded from sales, this is how you can always get a discount on jeans. Jeans are expensive, in fact they’re one of Gap’s most expensive items, saving 20% is going to go a long way.

Gap Survey Discount

Gap Discounts in a Nutshell

The average American family spends $1,700 per year on clothes. By shopping strategically and waiting for the best sales, you can easily spend less than $1,000 per year on clothes. Knowing when to stock up and when to wait is going to save you a lot of money over the course of the year. Don’t be fooled, Gap can afford to discount their clothes by 50% because they are marked up at least that much. GAP’s markup is probably about 70% which means if you’re paying full price, you’re getting ripped off. Be patient and wait for a sale. I know I would love an extra $700 per year back in my pocket.

P.S. If you prefer shopping online, check out my Abandoned Shopping Cart trick to always score a deal.

Top 5 Millionaire Habits

Top 5 Millionaire Habits

When you think of the word “Millionaire” what comes to mind? Oceanfront mansions, Lamborghinis, personal jets, and a life of luxury? If those things scream Millionaire to you, you’re not alone. In fact, often times when I think of Millionaires I think of celebrities vacationing on private islands and shopping on Rodeo Drive. Recently, my eyes have been opened to the fact that anyone can become a millionaire. You don’t need a six or seven figure salary to join the Millionaire’s club. You can take steps today to prepare your bank account for a nice pile of cash.

The Millionaire Next Door

If you haven’t read Thomas J. Stanley’s, Millionaire Next Door, you have to check it out. I highly recommend renting a copy for free from your Public Library. But if you prefer your own copy, you can grab it from Amazon, too. A few decades ago Stanley and his colleague, William D. Danko, studied the habits of hundreds of millionaires (people with a net worth of at least 1 million dollars). Their findings will likely shock you. Almost everything they found is counterintuitive to what you and I think when we hear the word Millionaire. If you want to become a Millionaire, keep reading.

Top 5 Millionaire Habits

During their multi-year study, Stanley and Danko discovered several millionaire habits. Surprisingly, a large number of Millionaires have a modest salary. Having a high salary isn’t an indicator that you will become a Millionaire, having self-control and developing good habits are bigger indicators of whether or not you will become a Millionaire.

Millionaire Habit #1: Spend Less than You Earn

This first Millionaire Habit is obvious. Of course, you have to spend less than you earn if you want to build wealth! But the fact of the matter is, 60% of Americans consistently spend more than they earn. Don’t believe me? Take a look at one of the richest men in America, Warren Buffett. Known for his love of McDonald’s, Buffett splurges, only when the stock market is doing well. What’s a typical splurge for Buffett? Spending $3.17 on breakfast at McDonald’s on a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit sandwich.

Millionaire Habit 1 : Spend Less Than You Earn

The first step to living off less than you make is to create a budget. A budget is a great way to guide your spending. Creating a budget doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, once you create your budget you can easily replicate it month after month. To start your budget preparation, begin tracking your monthly expenses, this will give you a baseline for how much you are spending on food, entertainment, and miscellaneous.

Check out my Foolproof 8 Category Budget for more budgeting essentials.

Millionaire Habit #2: Buy Used

One of my guilty pleasures is watching Reality TV. There I said it. I am a recovering Reality TV addict. One of my favorite TV shows used to be 19 Kids and Counting. You may have heard of the Duggar Family, they’re known for their Conservative Christian values and brood of 19 children. While I don’t agree with everything they believe in, they do have a great saying “buy used and save the difference”. Buying something used saves you money in the short and long term

Millionaire Habit 2: Buy a Used Car

If you are morally against buying used clothes or furniture, I get it. But one area of your life that you should ALWAYS buy used is you car. Cars depreciate 20% the second you drive it off the lot. So that $20,000 new Toyota you just bought is only worth $16,000 the second you drive it off the lot. Ouch! Depreciating $4,000 hurts. The average new car payment in America is just under $500 per month. To throw away money at an item that depreciates in value is insane! Most Millionaires see right past the shiny exteriors and updated navigation systems of new BMWs and opt for a more economically sound used Toyota or Honda.

Check out: How to Drive Free cars for LIFE!

Millionaire Habit #3: Choose a Modest Home

Three times more Millionaires live in homes valued at less than $300,000 than more than $1 million. Why do Millionaires live in modest homes? Housing or rent is going to be the biggest expense in your budget, accounting for 25-30% of the money you spend every month. So, the more expensive your home, the more money you will spend every month to pay for that home. Big houses come with big mortgages, big utility bills, and even more property taxes. The more money you spend every month on your home, the less money you can save and invest every month.

Millionaire Habit 3: Buy a Modest House

Most Millionaires live in modest homes that they’ve owned for decades. Take the richest man in Mexico, Carlos Slim Helú, he’s lived in the same 6 bedroom house that he’s owned for the past 30 years.

Millionaire Habit #4: Stop Keeping Up with the Joneses

You know the Joneses, they’re the people who always seem to have the newest car, newest iPhone, coolest vacation. Stop trying to one-up them. One thing you’ll never know about the Joneses is how they paid for their luxury items. For all you know, the Joneses are in debt up to their eyeballs and have no savings or investment accounts. When you try to keep up with the Joneses you overspend. The comparison trap is real. It’s easy to get sucked into having the latest and greatest and showing it off. But remember, the more you spend on things the less you spend on long-term investments.

Millionaire Habit #4: Stop Keeping Up with the Joneses

The Everyday Millionaire knows how destructive keeping up with the Joneses can be. That’s why they mind their own business. Millionaires create a monthly budget and stick to it. They don’t care what others think about them and they aren’t in the business of showing off. The Everyday Millionaire knows that having a full bank account is going to give him more happiness and fulfillment than the latest and greatest iPhone.

Millionaire Habit #5: Pay Yourself First

I’ve saved the best for last. The #1 Millionaire Habit is to pay yourself first. What do I mean by that? Most people say they don’t save enough money for retirement, invest enough, or have a big enough emergency fund, because they don’t have the money to save more. That’s why most Millionaires pay into those accounts FIRST. They treat saving like a bill.

Millionaire Habit #5: Pay Yourself First

When you pay yourself first you prevent your future self from buying a round of drinks for your coworkers at the next Happy Hour event. If you’re worried that you won’t have enough money to pay the rest of your bills, worry not! Research shows that when people pay themselves first they are more likely to find ways to meet the rest of their expenses. You’ll be more motivated to find a side hustle, sell unused items, or trim the fat off your budget.

Millionaire Habits Summarized

The Millionaire Next Door is a great weekend read. I highly recommend picking up a copy to read in more detail about the habits of the average Millionaire. As counterintuitive as it is, many Millionaires don’t spend on lavish vacations, buy luxury items, or drive the newest sports car. The Average Millionaire understands the importance of Compound Interest. When you create a budget, live within your means, and save at least 20% of your income, you can become the next Millionaire Next Door.