We know that people look at the New Year as a time to make a new start. We’re putting together our five days of New Year’s resolutions, with strategies to keep them. This is for anyone who wants to spend less on groceries, get fit, eat healthier food, get organized and have more fun in the new year — all without spending much money.
How to spend less money on groceries
For those of you who have resolved to spend less on groceries this year, we offer these tips:
Follow these 12 hacks to cut your grocery bill in half. And why you shouldn’t use the hand basket.
Live on a $4-per-day (per person) food budget. This plan was developed for people on food stamps, but it works for everybody!
Don’t forget the secret to getting a cheap, healthy meal on the table every night. No, it isn’t hire a cook, though we’d like to.
Freezer Cooking 101: how to get started. For many families, setting aside one day a week (or a month) to do all the cooking works really well.
And, our top tip: Use coupons in a smart way, so you can save time while saving money. We’re so passionate about smart coupon use that we wrote the book, “The Ultimate Guide to Coupons.”
To help you keep your New Year’s resolutions, we’re going to offer the downloadable version of our book for just $6 for a limited time, with a special promo code. That’s 40% off the regular $10 price. But don’t wait, because this deal is only available to a limited number of subscribers, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. Get the “Ultimate Guide to Coupons” download version for $6 here with promo code NY2019.
You can also get the print edition, now $12.95 Get the print version here.
Get fit and eat healthier
Eating a healthier diet and exercising more is part of many people’s plan for the New Year. I know it’s one of my resolutions. But I’m also smart enough to know that a pricey gym membership is often not the best option for fitness.
Looking for cheap ways to get fit?
Work out on your own. With some really inexpensive equipment, like a jump rope and a yoga mat, you can create lots of workouts to do at home.
Look for free fitness classes. Lots of gyms, community centers and other organizations offer occasional free classes. Here’s how to find them.
Take up running. All you need to buy are the shoes.
Use free fitness apps. In today’s world, there is an app for everything, and that includes getting fit.
But, working out is only part of the strategy for living a healthier life. Diet is important, too.
Make your own 100-calorie snacks. Save money by creating your own 100-calorie snack packs, which you can take to work or send to school with your kids.
Looking for some ideas for healthy lunches kids will actually eat? Does your kid eat the chips and bring the apple home uneaten? Here are some ideas for lunches she might prefer.
Try out some easy, healthy soup recipes. With all this cold weather, soup is an ideal solution for lunch or dinner. It also can be a healthy, low-calorie meal.
Look at out free guide for cheap, healthy meals. The Environmental Working Group published a free, downloadable booklet, “Good Food on a Tight Budget,” listing 100 best foods that are good for you, easy to fix and economical to buy — plus good for the planet.
Gluten-free eating on a budget. Avoiding gluten can be expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. Our gluten-sensitive writer shares her secrets.
Make your own microwave popcorn. This was my favorite tip of the year. All you need is popcorn, a glass bowl, a glass plate (or a brown paper bag) and a microwave. I like to add real butter and salt, too. Once you taste this popcorn, you’ll never buy popcorn in bags again.
Create a budget for the rest of the year
There is no better time than now to create a budget – or streamline the old one. It is the first step in curbing your spending. An online budget plan could make it less of a battle, but choose your weapon wisely to fit your individual needs. Here are three suggestions:
Mint.com. An oldie but goodie, this award-winning free service has kept up with technology and offers mobile apps so users can track their money on the go. Mint.com connects to your financial institutions, including investment companies and credit card companies, to give you up-to-date information. The company claims bank-level encryption and is a read-only system. Connection to your accounts allows downloading of statements and transactions, but no actual movement of funds. It’s easy to navigate and understand – and even the mobile phone apps are free.
BudgetSimple.com. I have used this free planner in the past. It is an easy, straightforward system: You name your categories, plug the numbers into the appropriate places and pay attention to the totals that are automatically calculated. You have the option of upgrading from the free plan to BudgetSimplePlus (which includes the iPhone app) for about $5 per month. The paid plan allows you to link bank accounts and download an app to make budgeting easier.
BudgetPulse.com. The site offers a tutorial that you can view before signing up for the free service to determine whether the plan is right for you. The plan allows you to change currency type, add accounts, set target budgets, track spending and analyze data in chart form. BudgetPulse.com, like Mint.com, is a read-only service that allows you to track and organize your finances. You cannot move money to and from accounts – and neither can anyone else.
Get organized (and stay organized)
How many times have you vowed to get organized once and for all? I’ve even done it a few times, only to see my organization plan fall apart a few months later. Undaunted, I go back, and get organized “once and for all” again and again. In truth, staying organized is a lifelong process.
But it does work better when you have a plan and you use the right tools. Something as simple as having a place for everything and putting it back when you’re through using it can make an enormous difference. Keeping your space organized definitely helps keep your life organized. I started making my bed years ago, way before Marie Kondo captured the world with her bestselling book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”
We updated our post about 8 Tools to Organize Your Life in the New Year with a whole lot more tools. And we hope you’ll share your favorite tools with us, too.
Some more top tips on organization for different facets of your life:
Organize your home using containers you already own. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish with a few easily available tools.
Clear out your clutter to build wealth. Too much junk keeps you from seeing what’s right there in front of you and accomplishing your best work.
We hope you’ll never need these tips, but you should document your possessions before a disaster strikes and make plans for what happens to your digital assets when you die.
Here are some books to help you start your organizational journey:
“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” by Marie Kondo. Kondo advocates organizing by category rather than by room. And, she says, by organizing your space, you also create a more serene, less frenetic life.
Organizing From the Inside Out, by Julie Morgenstern. This book, first published more than 20 years ago, has been updated for the modern age with some tips on technology (she also has a book called “Never Check E-Mail in the Morning” — ordering now). This practical book will not only help you get organized, but help you stay organized long-term. We will not mention which On the Cheap publisher wants to buy this for her housemates.
“The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter,” by Margareta Magnusson. This new book is focused on decluttering toward the end of life, but the techniques can (and should) be used at any age. The book, far from being macabre, is both humorous and joyful and helps families embrace necessary conversations, as well as a more minimalist approach to “stuff.”
Have more fun for less money
Here are some ways to have more fun for less money all year:
Cut the cable. I canceled my cable service to pay for voice lessons, and I have no regrets. I ended up with a much cheaper streaming service from Comcast since I had to keep Internet and land line phone for my business. Others use a combination of antennas and streaming services and devices. Here’s our complete guide to cutting the cable and not missing it.
Get half-price tickets. Concerts, plays, sporting events and festivals are more fun if you pay only half price. Here’s where to start your search for half-price tickets for entertainment.
Use coupons. You think of coupons as being for groceries, but you can buy an entire volume of coupons (with an accompanying mobile app) that will get you two-for-one try or other discounts to attractions and amusement venues in your town. You’ll find restaurant and travel deals, too. Learn more.
Look for a discount on dining and experiences. It’s hard to keep track of all the deals offered by the daily deal services. But you can easily search for a deal while you’re out and about, or just before you leave the house. Look for Groupon deals here, find Travelzoo deals here and Living Social deals here. And don’t forget about Restaurant.com, which offers discounted dining deals every day.
Follow your local On the Cheap site. Living on the Cheap has sites in more than 20 cities, sharing information about deal, discounts and free events. Find your city here.
And don’t forget to read Living on the Cheap for updates on free and cheap things to do and ways to save on fun.
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