Going through a divorce can leave you with many challenges and changes to navigate. Keeping your budget intact is one of those, but it doesn’t have to leave you feeling like you’re living with less. Instead, use these simple tips to save money and make your budget work for you—without sacrificing a comfortable and happy life.
Plan the Food Menu Each Week
“If you’re trying to save money, the first thing financial experts will tell you to do is stop eating out and start cooking your own meals,” says Emmie Martin, contributing writer for CNBC. But that’s not all — instead of just eating in every night, plan your meals in advance. Start by scanning the circulars for coupons and then make a plan for the week, detailing each meal and the ingredients needed.
You can also shop by the seasons, which will allow you to buy produce at a cheaper cost. When food is in season, most grocery stores have a surplus and as such, sell them at a discount price, like two for one or half off. Use this seasonal food guide to figure out what’s in season for your region.
Raise Your Insurance Deductibles
Cut back on monthly insurance payments to keep your budget in check. One way to do that is to raise the deductibles on your homeowner and auto insurance policies. However, plan to pay more in the case of an emergency, suggests Trent Hamm, money expert for The Simple Dollar. “Saving money by raising a deductible assumes that you have the cash on hand to cover the deductible in such a situation,” he says. “If you raise your auto deductible from $200 to $1,000, you’ll see a big drop in your bill, but if something goes wrong with your car, you’re going to need that $1,000. If you don’t have that $1,000 in an easy-to-access place, then you’re in real trouble.”
If that feels too risky, reduce your car payments by refinancing your car loan, which can save significant money each month. Check with your current and new lenders; having a good relationship with your current lender may allow you to get a good rate, while new lenders may offer deals that your current one doesn’t.
Buy Versatile Foods
Another great food-saving tip is to buy foods that can be stretched out over many meals or used in a variety of recipes. Foods that are most versatile include turkey, chicken, beans, and pasta.
Turkey can be made into turkey burgers, sandwiches, stir fry, and combined with pasta, while pasta can be combined with any meat or form of protein or simply served with sauce for an inexpensive meal option.
The best part, all of these foods are some of the cheapest options at the grocery store: one pound of turkey, for example, is just $1.62 versus ground beef, at $3.66 and pork chops at $3.76, according to a 2016 pricing analysis.
Spend Time Instead of Money
Plan outings with your kids that involve spending time together as opposed to spending money, like watching a movie on one of the major cable networks or spending a night looking up at the stars in the backyard.
You can also look for local weekend events or head to your public library, where you’ll find a variety of activities geared toward kids and families. Public parks are perfect for a family outing as well, and you can pack a picnic lunch or dinner to keep your costs down. Many museums and art galleries will also offer free admission. Check out this list from Brad Tuttle of Time.com for some ideas.
Cut the Cable Cord
With the vast array of streaming services available, including Roku, Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, there’s no reason to pay the exorbitant costs of cable TV or satellite TV. In the case of both cable and satellite, you’re paying for hundreds of channels that you likely never watch.
Cut that cost by assessing your viewing habits. What do you watch on a regular basis? Hulu streaming services are less than $15 a month and stream some of the most popular cable television shows. If you’re concerned about losing your local news stations and network television, purchase a high definition (HD) antenna to continue accessing those channels.
Review Your Wireless Phone Plans
With all four major cell phone carriers now offering unlimited data plans, there’s never been a better time to evaluate your cell phone usage to find a plan that will save you money. The key step to determining the best plan for you is to look at your data usage over the past few months. Once you know how much data you typically use, you can compare the plans offered and determine which is the best for your usage and budget.
“If you don’t use a lot of data and have a cheap, possibly now discontinued plan, then there is a good reason not to mess with a good thing. Unlimited data sounds great, but unless you’re using a lot of data every month, one of the cheaper shared data plans would be better for you,” says Eli Blumenthal with USA Today.
Using any of these steps can go a long way towards saving you hundreds of dollars a month. Start making changes where you can so you can rest easy at night knowing your budget is in a good place.
About the Author: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years and is currently a full-time writer and content marketing consultant. She’s written for Reader’s Digest, AARP, Lifehack and more. Follow her on Twitter at @Jlsander07 for money-saving ideas, health tips, and more.