If you’re getting ready for vacation, the holidays, or want to splurge without breaking your budget, the perfect go-to is to cash in those coins you’ve been saving. Which means you’re wondering, where can I change my coins for cash – and do it for free?
There are plenty of options to try to get your coins turned into cash without paying a ridiculous fee. These are the best places to take your spare change and walk out with dollar dollar bills, y’all.
What Banks have Free Coin Counting Machines?
Each bank varies so much that you need to call ahead to make sure you’re not wasting your time. Even between branches of the same bank, you can find differences in their policies.
When you call ahead, here’s what you should ask about coin cashing:
Do they have a coin counting machine?
Is it free?
Do you need to be a member of the bank to use it?
If your local bank doesn’t have a free coin counting machine, you can ask if they’ll accept rolled coins. Again, if this is the case, ask:
Is there a fee?
Do you need to be a member to bring in rolled change?
Usually, banks without a coin counting machine will accept rolled change. However, don’t bank on it (see what I did there?).
A lot of the bigger banks have gotten rid of their coin counting machines altogether, including Bank of America, BB&T, Capital One, Citibank, Chase, PNC Bank, TD Bank, and more. You’ll mostly still find coin counting machines at community banks and credit unions.
If you choose to roll your coins, you can try cashing in small amounts at various banks. Again, the policies will vary so always call ahead before you lug your mountain of change in and risk hurting your back for nothing!
Consider Opening an Account
Depending upon how much change you have and how often you need to exchange it, it could be worth it to open an account with a bank that accepts loose change.
If it saves your time and energy and you get to avoid fighting with coin wrappers, go for it. Just be sure that they don’t charge any monthly fees and don’t need a minimum amount in the account to keep it open. Those items could negate any advantages of opening and using the account.
Where can I change my coins for cash for free?
Need to be a Customer
Accepts Coins or Rolls
Coins, not rolls
Bank of America
Depends on state
Charges fee at different locations; call for more info
Varies; call ahead
Varies; call ahead
Varies; call ahead
Varies; call ahead
Where to Get Coin Wrappers
If you’ve found a local bank or credit union that will take your rolled coins, ask them for coin wrappers. Most banks will give free coin wrappers to just anyone, whether they’re a member or not.
If you can’t find a bank that gives coin wrappers out for free by some weird twist of fate, you can always hit up a Dollar Tree or Dollar Store for them. While it’s an additional cost, it shouldn’t be much.
Dollar Stores sell them in packs of 36 for a dollar. Plus, they’re the nicer ones that have that are round and not flattened, so they’re much less difficult to fill.
Other Free Coin Counting Options
Get your Kids in on the Action
When I was in high school, my parents owned a vending machine business. Before they bought a coin counter for use at home, my siblings and I would count and roll the change.
I didn’t mind it, but it was time-consuming. And, my parents didn’t pay us, so I guess you could say that that’s another free option. Make it into a game and have your kids roll your coins. Or, offer them a percentage of the take for their help.
Try Visiting the Casino
Some casinos will take coins at the cage, no questions asked. You might have to dump your change into one of their coin cups, but they’re usually lying around everywhere anyway. Just make sure you don’t end up turning around and spending it on the slot machines!
What to do if You Can’t Find a Bank that will Accept Change
With fewer and fewer banks accepting change these days, you might want to find an alternative. The one that’s most commonly known as Coinstar.
Coinstar’s coin-counting machines are in the lobbies of various groceries, retail stores, drug stores, and even some banks.
Currently, Coinstar charges a painfully whopping 11.9% fee if you want to cash out your coins for paper money. Ouch.
However – don’t despair. Coinstar also offers gift card options that allow you to avoid that fee. The gift cards are for popular places, so you don’t have to worry about getting stuck with a card you’ll never use.
To use Coinstar, throw your change into the Coinstar machine. Then, once your coins are processed, you’ll be given the following options:
Cash-out and get paper money (which will include Coinstar fee)
Choose an egift card that will print out on paper (no fee)
Apply your amount to your Amazon Balance (you can use this instead of a debit or credit card at Amazon)
Donate your change to a charity (Coinstar has several different charities you can directly donate to)
If you choose the second or third option, you will be able to change your coins for cash for free. The following gift card options should be available at any Coinstar locations:
Chili’s Grill & Bar
Gap (can be redeemed at Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta stores)
The Home Depot
Some of the stores where you can find Coinstar include:
Food 4 Less
Shop ‘N Save
The Food Emporium
While this is in no way an extensive list of all of the CoinStar locations, you can quickly find the nearest Coinstar by using the locator on their website here.
Strangely, it’s nearly impossible to find any Coinstart competitors, possibly due to consumers moving away from using cash.
The only Coinstar alteratives I could find were banks, and they seem to be handling coins to cash less often.
Other Ideas for Your Spare Change
Spend it. Make sure to keep change with you and use it at self-checkout kiosks. There are still a lot of places where you can use quarters to make a purchase, like air machines for tires, candy machines, vending machines, and the like.
There are always many opportunities where you can drop some change for charity. Think Salvation Army at Christmas or the change jars at checkout counters. Coinstar also has an option to donate your change to charities when you cash it in.
Coinstar’s available charities will vary by the machine’s locations, but they can include:
American Red Cross
Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
The Humane Society
World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
Make some art or gift your coins to someone else. When I was in high school, my grandma went through a phase where every present she gave us was a piece of art made out of change.
She did all sorts of crazy designs by arranging and gluing down change to cardboard and using bills folded into various shapes. (I’m pretty sure it took me longer to pick the coins off and soak the glue off than it did for her to come up with a design and create it though!)
While you don’t have to be crazy creative to gift your change, it’s one way to get rid of it and give a gift at the same time. Two birds with one stone, right?
Birthdays only come once a year – so why not take advantage of some freebies while you’re celebrating? There’s so much free stuff on your birthday that you can grab that it’d be crazy not to jump on these offers.
Many companies offer birthday rewards if you sign up for their email list or rewards club. I did find some that don’t require an email sign up to cash in, but most do.
For example, for my birthday this year, I snagged this fantastic gift Kat Von Dee beauty gift from Sephora. It included 3 shades of lipstick, a setting powder, and tattoo eyeliner (my fav anyway!). All for being a rewards member and just showing up during my birthday month. Sweet!
There are a lot of opportunities to grab free birthday makeup, but there’s also a lot of free food as well. Some of the restaurants I found give an entirely free birthday meal.
Seriously, an entire meal!
If you’re looking for free stuff on your birthday, you won’t be disappointed – though you might want to prioritize which ones you really want to get since it’d be impossible to get them all!
Free and Discounted Birthday Meals
From free appetizers with purchase to an entire free meal, restaurants love to give stuff away to help you celebrate your birthday.
90% of them will ask that you sign up for their email list or rewards club. If you’re worried about too much spam, set up a separate free email address that you can use just for email sign up offers. Then you can check it whenver you need a coupon for places that you shop.
Again, most retail stores will want you to sign up for their rewards club or email list to in order to get your free coupon. Many offer great coupons that make it worthwhile though.
I like to save up any new clothes shopping for right around my birthday. There’s usually a ton of summer sales going on, plus the coupons boost my savings. I can’t resist a good coupon stack with a sale!
Learning how to make money on eBay was a personal goal that I decided to try at the beginning of the year. With so much stuff lying around that needed to get Marie Kondo’d, I decided to give eBay a shot.
And thankfully, it did not disappoint! I am still looking for stuff around the house to get listed and am challenging myself to double my sales in the next month.
I love a good side hustle, and even better, one that doesn’t involve a huge hurdle to get started. It’s easy to learn how to make money on eBay. There’s a low start-up cost, small learning curve, and it’s only as time-consuming as you want it to be. That’s what makes it a fun side hustle for just about anyone!
Everyone knows that you can buy anything off of eBay, but most people don’t know how to make money on eBay. This ultimate step-by-step guide covers all the ins and out of selling on eBay. Learn how to find items to sell as well as how to price, list, and ship them to make some easy money!
Types of Sellers on eBay
While anyone can learn how to sell stuff on eBay, people tend to fall into a couple of different categories with their sales.
First, there’s the person who is decluttering and wants to get stuff out of their house. They tend to list small, one-off items like clothes, home decor, and electronics to get rid of them. It’s a great way to make a little extra cash to help pump up debt repayment or save up for a vacation.
Next, there are the side hustlers who make selling on eBay a part-time gig. These folks are proactively out looking for items to sell at garage sales, Goodwill, or combing their family’s attics for goodies. Chances are if you start as a declutter, you’ll move up to a side hustler. Selling on eBay is addictive!
Last, there are the big dogs – these are the dropshippers and people who open an eBay store. They purchase things in bulk on clearance or wholesale. Or they sell items that require freight shipping (like flipped furniture). Dropshipping takes a lot of study and work, but they’ve mastered how to make money dropshipping on eBay and have the sales to prove it!
You don’t have to decide right away, which you want to do, but be aware of the levels of commitment. Maybe you already know that you’re beyond decluttering and wish to take it more seriously. Or, perhaps the idea of dropshipping is too much fo a commitment.
Whatever you decide, let’s get started on the tactics it takes to be a successful seller on eBay.
What to Sell on eBay
Everyone immediately wants to know what the best selling items on eBay (not that I blame them!). We all want the quickest and biggest bang for our buck.
If you’re looking to make quick sales on eBay, these are some highly recommended categories of items to start with:
Clothes (like jeans) / Designer clothes
Electronics (watches, smartphones, video games)
Shoes (who knew?)
These are all items you can find around the house, at the thrift store, or a garage sale. Easy to find, easy to sell!
Also, don’t forget to ask yourself if there’s a market for this item. If you’re not sure, do some research on eBay. Besides just searching the active listings, you can also do some more digging to see if anyone’s buying these items.
In the advanced search features, you can check the “Sold Listings” to see how many sales there have been for that type of product recently.
You can also try checking the “Completed Listings” option. In the results, if the listing price is green, it’s sold. If it’s not, then that’s an item that didn’t sell.
This research can give you an idea if the eBay market is saturated, or if that type of item is selling quickly and at a decent price. It can also be helpful when actively looking for things to sell at garage sales or thrift stores.
Where to Find Items to Sell
Clearance at stores
Your basement, attic, closets, etc.
Freebie sections on Craigslist
Local Facebook groups
Shop at the curb/dumpster dive (if you’re brave enough!)
Make items to sell (if you’re crafty)
Wholesale companies (this applies specifically to dropshippers)
How to Price Items to Sell on eBay
Now that we know what to sell and where to find it let’s get into how to make money on eBay.
Next, you’ll want to do some research on how to price these items to sell. You want the pricing to be competitive, but you don’t want to get stiffed after fees and shipping. It’s a bit tricky, but with some practice, pricing gets easier.
There are a couple of different recommended places to do some pricing research.
Google Shoppingis a great way to quickly price items between multiple vendors to see what the average cost is. Usually, this is pricing for brand new items, so make sure to adjust if the item is used or has wear and tear.
Use eBay Advanced Search to see what prices others have sold the same (or similar) things. Used those advanced search features to how others have priced their items.
Costs and fees for selling on eBay
When pricing items to sell, don’t forget the additional fees tacked on by eBay. These include:
Insertion or listing fee: This fee is charged just for creating a listing. Depending upon how much the opening bid or reserve price is, these are anywhere from free to $2.00. eBay then tacks on additional costs if you opt into subtitles, bolding, extra photos (more than 6), multiple categories, and so on.
A final value fee: Once your item sells, a fee is charged, which is a percentage of the final sale. It’s anywhere from 8% to 15% and is tiered depending upon how much the buyer paid. Also, each category has a different percentage as well. Rates also vary based on if the item sold as an auction item versus a fixed-price item.
Shipping: You can choose to pay for the shipping yourself, or pass the cost on to the buyer. If you decide to foot the shipping bill, don’t forget to factor that into your price.
Once you have a price figured out, it’s time to learn the ins and outs of listing them.
Tips to make your eBay listings stand out
There are millions of active listings eBay right now with sales happening every second, which means that you have to figure out how to get consumers to buy your shoes versus someone else’s.
There are several key pieces to your listing that will help you stand out and make the sale:
Take amazing photos. For the love of Pete, take good pictures. Make or buy a lightbox if you need to. Make sure the lighting is excellent, the item is staged, and everything looks fantastic. No one is going to click on something they can barely see, much less tell how worn it is.
Make your listing title is descriptive. If your product is a brand name, put it in the title. Make the title descriptive and use the allotted title length to create a descriptive title. Point out anything that makes the product unique. Do a Google shopping search and read the descriptions of the product. Use those details to paint a thorough and enticing story.
Offer free shipping. Be honest – are you more likely to buy something that’s $9.99 + $3 shipping, or $12.99 with free shipping? I’m a sucker for free shipping and will deter from buying something if I know I have to pay for shipping. Just make sure to factor in that cost as well.
Make sure you have an excellent seller rating. Ask for positive feedback from your buyers. People are more likely to purchase from someone with a higher grade than someone with a poor rating, especially if they’re teeter-tottering between two similar items.
Try grouping items. If you’re selling kids clothes, for example, group certain brands together to sell them as a group. You’re more likely to make a sale than if you were to sell them by the piece.
Now that you have items to sell, have the listing built, you’re ready to post it. There are a couple of different options as to how you want to sell.
How to Make Money on eBay with your First Sale
If you know the value of your item, and it’s not a collectible or unique, it’s recommended to go with a fixed-price sale, often called the Buy It Now option. It’s more likely to sell, and it saves you the hassle of waiting through an auction. You’re more likely to know what you’ll get for the item and won’t be disappointed.
If you have an item that’s a collectible, is rare or unique, it’s recommended to sell it as an auction instead. Chances are you’ll get more for it since no one knows what it’s worth, and there can be competing bidders to drive up the cost.
Make sure to start the bid low to drum up some responses. Don’t worry. You can set a hidden minimum reserve price so that if the price doesn’t go above that amount by auction’s end, you don’t have to sell it.
Next, you will choose how long to list the item. Again, there are two trains of thought on listing time.
You can either create a sense of urgency by only listing the item for 3 – 5 days. I know I get panicky when I see a sale’s going to be over soon and I’m afraid of missing out. This tactic counts on the fact that a lot of people often feel that way.
The other option is to list the product for ten days, which is the maximum time available. If you do this, it’s recommended to list the item on a Thursday or Friday. That way, the product will be available throughout two weekends, when eBay shoppers are more active. Sunday nights are often the highest traffic time and can lead to a lot more eyeballs on your items.
Once you decide how long to run the listing, now it’s time to sit back and rack in cash!
How to Handle Product Shipping
Now that your product has sold on eBay, it’s essential to ship it correctly.
For shipping, you can find free shipping supplies on sites like Craigslist. Or, you can get the 13 oz first class padded envelopes for free from the post office. The only catch is that you have to order them a couple of weeks before needing them since they can take a bit to show up (yes, I do see the irony there…!).
When you process an order on eBay, it allows you to purchase shipping online. Do it! You’ll save about 20% on the shipping costs by buying it online and printing your labels.
You don’t need any special label paper, print it on regular paper and tape that to the box or envelope. You can even schedule a pick up by the USPS if you want to streamline the process even more.
Take the time to review the different shipping methods and pricing so that you aren’t surprised. Luckily, it has a pretty nifty interactive shipping page where you can play with the settings before purchasing to make sure you get what you want.
Don’t forget to get proof of postage. It’s essential so that if there are any issues with the buyer not receiving the package, you have documentation that shows you mailed it. Then, pack it up and ship it out!
Customer Service Tips for eBay
Now that you know how to make money on eBay, make sure to offer excellent customer service so that buyers will come back.
Be prompt. Whether you’re answering a question about a listing or shipping out products, do so quickly.
Use Paypal. Use PayPal to receive payments. It can offer additional protection in case of issues.
Set up your account’s return rules. You can set return rules for your seller account, which creates clear cut rules to protect both you and the buyer.
Disclose any issues. If you are selling an item with a defection or imperfection, disclose it upfront. It’s not worth the knock to your rating when they discover the problem after receiving the product.
Add in a note. When you ship out a package, add a personal note, freebie, or a business card to help the buyer to remember you and leave a positive impression.
Have an inventory system. If you’re juggling a lot of products, have a spreadsheet or other inventory system so that you can keep track of when listings expire, what has already sold, and what hasn’t.
Have your supplies ready. Be prepared with shipping materials before you even create your first listing. It’s a lot less work and stress when you already have all of the supplies you need.
When you have happy customers, it’s more comfortable to ask for feedback to build up that positive rating. It reflects better on you, your standing, and your sales when you are organized and have provided excellent customer service.
Go Pro: How to Dropship on eBay or sell Freight Items
Once you’ve gotten a taste of eBay sales and you’re ready to go pro, it’s time to step up to dropshipping. eBay dropshipping is a popular way to make money, and many people have turned it into a side hustle.
It’s mostly the same method, but on a grander scale. For items to sell, you’re going to want to find a wholesaler that can provide products to you.
You create the listings, then when the item sells, the wholesaler ships it for you to the buyer. The product never touches your hands, and you don’t have to worry about having a warehouse to store your stock.
With dropshipping, there are some additional aspects to keep an eye on. You need to make sure that the product is in stock before selling it. Also, you’ll need to provide tracking for the shipment as well.
eBay has recently changed it’s policy on dropshipping and seems to be tightening the reins on what they’ll allow. Before you decide to go this route, you will want to do a lot of research to make sure you’re not doing anything to jeopardize your seller’s account with eBay.
Whether you’re selling stuff from your closet or setting up a dropshipping business, it’s easy to learn how to make money on eBay. The key is to be consistent with these tasks and your customer service, and you can’t go wrong.
Now that you know how to make money on eBay start searching those closets, garage sales, and apps to see what you can find!
Having a handy list of cheap places to eat might not sound like a frugal hack at first. But being prepared for those days when you can’t stand to cook can be a great way to avoid blowing your food budget for the month.
Meal planning is a great way to save money, but sometimes, schedules can get thrown off track. Surprise guests, bad days, or late work nights are all culprits to pushing the best-laid plans aside.
There are tons of great cheap places to eat – so how to pick? I’ve asked some fellow bloggers to send me their favorites.
While some offered up local eateries, and other chain restaurants, all of them had terrific tips on where to find a great cheap meal. Many even threw in tips for additional savings!
Here are the best cheapest places to eat out when you’re too tired to cook.
Cheap Places to Eat with Friends
Try the local supermarket. Back when I was in high school, my friends and I used to sometimes go to the local supermarket on our lunch break and gather ingredients for some ‘mega subs.’ A few baguettes, some deli meat, cheese, and lettuce split between 5 of us came out to something like $4-$5 a person…and that left you with an awesome sub that was more than a foot long. Not exactly a chain or typical restaurant experience, but it was a fun way to make a tasty lunch! – Tom Blake from This Online World
Share a drink. My wife and I enjoy eating at McDonald’s for breakfast because the coffee only costs $1 for any size. Depending on the day, we might split their largest coffee and then each of us have a breakfast item off the value menu. We usually get fed and caffeinated for under $5! – Riley Adams from The Young and Invested
Make sure to bring your coupons. We love eating at the Outback steakhouse. You can get some really great steaks for bargain prices there and they even have coupons to get the steaks for an ever lower cost! – Russell Barbour from Unconventional Prosperity
Use loyalty programs at your favorite restuarants. Red Robin’s royalty program is bottomless source of free food. Most notably, every 10th food item (burger, salad, sandwich, entree) is free. You will also get exclusive deals sent to your email, as well as one free burger on your birthday. And don’t forget to take advantage of their bottomless fries that come *free* with your burger! Evan Sutherland from Budgeting Couple
Try out local fast food. I’m from California, and every time friends come to visit they are shocked by how expensive the restaurants are…until they go to In-N-Out! California food, at a great price! I recommend splurging to make your fries animal style. – Sally French from Wire Cutter
Check out the lounge. The airports! I’ve visited over 35 lounges in the last 6 months and I always eat free and often come home with leftovers thanks to the restaurants that have been added. My favorite lounge are the Centurions and my favorite priority pass restaurant airport is Portland. – Justin Taylor from Saving Sherpa
Cheap Foods for Families
Put your Costco membership to good use. If you really need to eat on the cheap and you’re a Costco member, then definitely their $5 Rotisserie Chicken….$5 and it feeds the whole family of 4. – Pinyo Bhulipongsanon
Pick up a pizza. Instead of going out to a restaurant, getting a “take and bake” pizza is a big hit with our kids! Our local Aldi has huge take and bake pizzas that are priced around $5 each. Last time, we invited a neighbor kid to share the pizza, too. I instantly became the cool mom in the neighborhood! It’s our new favorite way to feel like we’re eating out. – Jamie Gibbs from Bubbling Brook Budgets
Add some ice cream. Our go to cheap place to eat is Dairy Queen for their $5 buck lunches. It helps that we both have flexible schedules that let us eat out for lunch rather than dinner. You get a burger or chicken strips, fries, a sundae and drink all for $5. You can even upgrade to a small Blizzard for $1 more. You can upgrade the ice cream to a larger size for the difference in cost between the small and the size you want. We use this hack to get a large sundae for just $0.69 cents more so we can split it with our son. If we bought another sundae on our own, it’d cost an additional $4. – Lance Cothern from Money Manifesto
Try a vegetarian option. We love Waffle House, Qdoba and Taco Bell. We are both vegetarian so those three places never let us down with the meatless options and we always spend less than $15 for both of us. – Danielle Flores from I Like to Dabble
Go to a restaurants where kids eat free. We love to eat out at the chain Cafe Rio. They have huge portions and all kids under age six get a free kids quesadilla. My husband and I can easily split one of their entrees and then our kids eat free. For under $10 it is a steal! – McKinzie Bean from Moms Make Cents
Visit the food court. My favorite place to get a cheap bite to eat is Costco. There’s plenty of pre-made food that’s pretty cheap including the famous rotisserie chicken. However, beyond that, if you’re just looking for a quick bite, you can rock the sample carts and try a variety of great foods. If you’re a bit hungrier, the food court is awesome too as you can get some cheap pizza or a hotdog at very affordable prices. Hell, even the bottle of water in the vending machine is 25 cents. Those are prices you can’t beat for the quantity and quality of food. Also, if you’re in a place like Hawaii where the weather is nice, you can rock the outdoor food court without even being a member. – Jarek from Time in the Market
Sign up to get free shakes and other discounts. My kids and I love eating at Ruby’s Diner, especially on Tuesdays when kids eat free after 4pm! You can also sign up for their rewards program and get free shakes, and discounts! – Lauren Mochizucki from Casa Mochi
Use a gift card. My family likes IHOP. My daughter and son love pancakes, and the rest of us like omelletes. We’d use our $10 OFF $25 coupon from Restaurant.com, which I only bought for $1 or $2. We order two meals and split those to four people. Since pancakes are included in the price of the meals, we only pay for those two meals. Sometimes, we go there when kids can eat free. With the coupon, we always end up spending less than $12 for a family of 6. It’s not bad at all since we have leftovers to take home. – Allen Liwanag from The Practical Saver
Grab a bite while shopping. I know this may sound crazy, but one of my favorite places for cheap eats is IKEA. While most people go there strictly for furniture shopping, I’d stop in there just to get a cheap bite to eat. They have a restaurant inside most of their stores where you can buy their pretty well known Swedish meatballs meal that comes with mashed potatoes and a veggie side for under $6. They also have several other options available in the restaurant, including a salmon dinner, but the meatballs are my favorite. And if you have kids, they have kids meals starting at $2.99. Now if you want to get really cheap, IKEA also has a small food counter by the exit where you can buy a hot dog for about a $1, or for about $3 you can get 2 hot dogs and a drink. – GP from Entirely Money
College Food Hacks / Cheap Student Meals
Take advantage of BOGO specials. I’m not sure if Chipotle is considered “cheap”, but I make it cheap by always answering the “how was your visit today” survey on the receipt. By answering it, I get a buy-one-get-one-free burrito or bowl on my next visit. So sure enough, I’m able to get Chipotle at basically 50% off every time I go in. I eat one burrito or bowl while I’m there and then save the other one in the fridge for the next day. I’m pretty sure this strategy isn’t unique to Chipotle and that a lot of fast food places have these deals for completing the survey on the receipt, but I was surprised at how few of my friends take advantage of these deals! – Logan Allec from Money Done Right
Try something new. Our favorite thing to eat when we’re in the mood for cheap for are Banh Mi’s. Most vietnamese restaurants offer them and they’re usually less than $6 and plenty of food to eat. Depending on your appetite, you could easily stretch them into two meals. – Richmond Howard from PF Geeks
Split a meal. We love to split a chicken finger sub from the Publix grocery store deli. The thing is MASSIVE. We get it sliced in half so that we can each pick our own toppings. It’s a super tasty $8 dinner for two. – Clint Proctor from Wallet Wise Guy
Use the restaurant’s app for discounts. I would say Mc.Donalds. I downloaded the Mc Donalds app, that alerts me of sales, shows the current menu, and most importantly it gives you all the current coupons that can be scanned right from my phone. – Swati Chalumuri from Hear Me Folks
Order off the value menu. I love Wendy’s. They have the 4 for $4 deal.You can get a combo of sandwiches, wraps, brugers, nugges, fries and a drink for 4 bucks. You can’t beat that. – Jason Butler from My Money Chronicles
Take a survey for a discount. Wendy’s and Panda Express offer free sandwiches and entrees, respectively, for guests who take the time to fill respond to simple surveys on the back of their receipts. It’s a quick and easy way to save several dollars! – David Cahill from Finance Superhero
Don’t forget your doggie bag. One of my favorite cheap (but still healthy) places to eat is Chipotle. And if you know a few Chipotle tricks you can eat for even less! I always get a bowl because the portion sizes are larger, and if you ask for half chicken/half steak (or some other combo), more often than not you get a decent amount of extra meat vs. asking for just a single option. You can also get a tortilla on the side as an extra bonus! I usually get 2 meals out of one bowl this way. – Andrew from Wealthy Nickel
Local Cheap Restaurants
Try the local noodle shop. My favorite cheap place to eat is Umaido it is a Japanese Noodle Shop here in Atlanta and it has some of the best food for very low prices. You can get a ton of food for under $20.00. – Sa El from Simply Insurance
Visit a food truck. It might be only prevalent in southern California, but one of my favorite cheap eats are authentic Mexican taco trucks that serve a variety of simple meat tacos. Each taco may be small, but the flavors are usually fantastic and the prices are catered to locals. One of my favorite in Orange County is Tacos Manuel. Their tacos start at a dollar each. – Jonathan Huang from Mr. Centsible
Try a local grocery. If you’ve ever been to Texas, you might have seen H-E-B around—it’s the local grocery chain that’s named after the initials of the founder, although it’s also said to stand for “Here, everything’s better.” The local H-E-B near me used to offer an “orange plate special” at their deli/prepared foods section. With this special, you were able to pick one entree and two sides for $6 to $8. (Pricing varied based on the choice of protein featured in your entree.) The service person would heat up your plate if you wanted, and there was even a small dining area in the store so you could enjoy it immediately. The portions were also quite generous, so you could have reasonably split the plate into two meals or at least one and a half. Unfortunately, this special was discontinued—likely because it was too good of a deal—but I used to love grabbing a quick and affordable meal there! – Joyce Chou from Financial Impulse
Hit up happy hour. My favorite cheap place to eat is this rooftop sushi bar in downtown Baton Rouge, La. On Tuesdays, they have happy hour all day (Half off sushi rolls and Sake). I usually order a tasty shrimp tempura roll and a large, cold pineapple sake for $7. The bill ends up being $9 because I leave a $2 dollar tip. – Jerry Brown from Peerless Money Mentor
Use your frequent buyer card. I love Rosita’s Fine Mexican, which is very small local chain in metro Phoenix that’s been around since the 60s. It’s awesome because the food is delicious, there are unlimited fresh chips & salsa, and they have what I call a frequent eater card that gets you free meals when it’s full. So in addition to the already cheap prices, you save even more by getting that card stamped. – Jackie Beck from JackieBeck.com
Earn cash back with your credit card. We have a local restaurant that has amazing food. The prices on lunch specials are always a steal at around $7. I then use my credit card to earn cash back and they are a partner with Swagbucks so I earn cash back there too. – Jon Dulin from Money Smart Guides
Try street food. For traveling, eating street food is a great way to save money rather than going out to eat at restaurants, especially in touristy areas! I always look for places that are busy and have a lot of locals eating there. You can easily pay half the price for street food compared to eating out at a restaurant and still get the same quantity of food. – Dale from Wander Her Way
Ask around about local gems when traveling. The place is called Lucky’s Golden Phenix and Lucky (yes, singular) has been around for 45 years in North Park, a trendy suburb of San Diego. I have been going here for over 20 years and they have only served breakfast during that time but I read he started out serving Chinese food.
Here’s the two crazy things about this place, #1) It literally is the cheapest place you can get breakfast in San Diego. You can eat a complete coffee, egg, bacon, hashbrown breakfast for under $5. #2) Lucky is a one man show. He takes your order, he brings you your drinks, he makes your food, he brings you your food, he then cleans up the table and the process starts again. It can take quite a while to get breakfast at Lucky’s but the entire experience is pretty unique and cool. – Mark B. Huntley from Credit Knocks
Do you have any other cheap places to eat to add to the list? Add them to the comments below!
Date nights can be a great way to reconnect with your partner when overwhelmed with all the tasks of daily life. It can also be a not-so-great way to reconnect with your wallet or credit card once you pay the babysitter, eat a fancy dinner, and catch a show.
Choosing cheap date night ideas over expensive ones means you’ll be able to have date nights more often. And while you should be budgeting for date nights, they don’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
No matter where you’re at on your debt repayment journey, cheap date nights are important. Putting your relationships on pause just to pay off debt can cause a lot of regret and possible damage. However, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to nuture those relationships and keep the ol’ home fires burning while paying off debt.
Cheap first date ideas
Listen, it’s been a good while since I’ve been on a first date, but I’m sure the premise is still the same: find fun things to do that aren’t too awkward and still allow you to talk with each other. Sound about right?
Even though it’s been a while, I know there are still things that you want to achieve. (No, not that. Sheesh.) I mean, getting to know the other person without shelling out an arm and a leg, but not looking super cheap either (save that for the 3rd date, at least). Here are my favorite creative cheap date night ideas for first dates:
1. Find discount tickets on local events.
Groupon always has lots of discounted tickets to local activities. Just put in the name of your town or zip code, and you’ll find discounts on anything from painting pottery to escape rooms. It’s also a great way to find new and unique experiences that you haven’t done before, creating some interesting talking points with your date.
2. See a movie with discount tickets.
Try by signing up for movie theater email lists or ticket providers to snag savings on tickets or refreshments. While it’s not one of the most cheap date night ideas ever, any savings counts when it comes to buying movie tickets. (I also won’t tell if you sneak in your own candy!)
Also, see if you have a Regal Cinemas in your area. They tend to have cheaper pricing as well.
3. Find amazing happy hour deals to share some appetizers.
Appetizers are great not only because of their price point, but because you don’t have to feel guilty for ordering more than one for the variety. Nachos and wanton tacos? Heck yeah. Often there are discounted drinks during happy hour, so if you’re not too picky, it’s a great way to save as well. Don’t forget to sign up for emails from your favorite restaurants to grab additional discounts if you stay for dinner.
4. Find a local arcade and have a skeeball challenge.
Everyone knows the best game at an arcade is skeeball, and you can go pretty far on $5. Challenge your date to a skeeball competition to find out how fierce their trash talk is, and if they can live up to the hype. And who knows? Maybe this cheap date night idea will pay off and you’ll even win a prize!
5. Find a coffeeshop with a music night.
There’s a reason why coffeeshops can be a great first date place. They’re comfortable, coffee’s cheaper than dinner, and you can part after a drink if there’s a lack of compatibility.
Whether you go just for coffee or stay to enjoy some music, meeting at a coffeeshop is a great cheap date night idea.
6. Visit a farmer’s market.
Free samples, interesting folks, fresh veggies. What’s not to love? It’s a great cheap first date idea since you’ll find out where they stand on cilantro and if you should persue a second date. 😉
7. Find local community events like food truck events or local festivals.
Again, it can be a cheap way to try new things that will help you learn about your date’s interests, not to mention, trying new foods. Check out your city’s events websites to see what’s happening this weekend.
8. Volunteer together.
Volunteering is a great first date idea – it sets a great impression and you’re helping out others. Everybody wins! Help out at the local animal shelter, a 5k, or at the food pantry for a free activity to connect with your date.
9. Grab cheap tickets to a local sports team.
Local or farm team sports events are always really cheap and a ton of fun. The food is inexpensive too, so if your date loves sports, it’s a great way to see some games without paying a lot.
10. Hit the park.
Parks have so many great events that make the best first date ideas. You can have a picnic, see a free movie in the park, or attend a concert. There’s also a lot of educational and seasonal activities as well that make for some cute date ideas. Check out your local park system’s website for events and activites.
Cheap date night ideas at home
Exhausted after a rough day at work? These stay at home date ideas for couples are perfect for some rest and recovery. It’s about spending time together, not about spending money.
1. Cook a nice meal together.
A nice surf and turf dinner doesn’t need to break the bank. If you can work the cost of the ingredients to your weekly grocery budget, that’s a double win. It’s also the perfect time to try out a new recipe or learn to cook a new dish together that you’ve been wanting to try. Just make sure you have a frozen pizza in the freezer if things don’t work out! 😉
2. Go with the old standby: Netflix and chill.
Plenty of romantic date night ideas at home start with Netflix. Horror movies are a great excuse to curl up with your popcorn and partner. Need I say more?
3. Have a book club night.
Find a book you’re both interested in, and have book club nights to discuss them as you read them. Break out some cheese and Three Buck Chuck, and you’ve got not only a relaxing and cheap date night idea, but some intellectual stimulation as well.
4. Watch the sunset together.
Sit on the porch with wine or go find a primo spot on the apartment rooftop to view the spectacular colors of the sunset. It’s the perfect way to relax and peacefully enjoy each other’s company
5. Participate in your partner’s hobbies.
Partake in your spouse’s favorite hobby, especially if they already have all the tools so you don’t have to spend more money. It’s a great way to learn more about what interests they have while spending time together. Rotate so that the next time they participate in one of your hobbies that you’d love to share with them.
6. Just talk.
Groundbreaking, I know. But shut off those electronic distractions and spend time talking about your dreams, fears, anything. We are lacking connection lately with all of the daily distractions we have in our lives, and this is truly a great way to reconnect.
7. Find a new podcast to binge together.
Love true crime? Financial advice? Conspiracy theories? Find some new podcasts to binge while you make dinner, eat or relax together by the fire.
Date night ideas for married couples
Start by Saving Money on Babysitting
Before I get into my favorite cheap date night ideas for married couples, let’s talk the cost of babysitters. Ouch. I get it – we all want generally well-adjusted, honest, good-in-an-emergency folks watching our kids. (Preferrably one that won’t drink our vodka and refill the bottle with water, eh?)
So while I don’t necessarily recommend cheaping out on who you pay to babysit your kids, there are ways to save money on babysitters. Some of my favorite are:
Swap babysitting with a friend or neighborhood folks. You watch all the kids one night, and then they take all the kids in return another night. Free babysitting, since you know you’ll be home with yours anyway – what’s a couple more kids to the mix?
Cash in your chips with Grandma. Or Grandpa, auntie or any other family member willing to help you out. Don’t forget to bring them home some dessert as a thank you, or you’ll burn that bridge mighty quick.
Utilize “Parents Night Out” with your daycare, church or other local community centers. Our daycare does this and I love it. The kids are already friendly with the teachers, I know the teachers are trained in CPR, and it’s cheaper than having a babysitter come to your house.
Now that we have some cheap babysitting alternatives figured out, let’s get to the cheap date night ideas. I like to think just about any activity can be a cheap date night idea for married couples when you add wine or beer, amiright?
1. Do something you loved to do when you first met – before kids.
Maybe you liked to listen to music and dance through the house, or do shots while cooking stirfry. Maybe you liked to hang out in coffeeshops, or hit art galleries. Use your date night to remind yourselves of what you used to do before having kids.
2. Have a budget date night! (Just kidding. Kinda.)
My husband and I can barely have a conversation without being interrupted, much less plan out a budget for the following month. It doesn’t have to be super intense or take all night – just grab a beer and a half an hour to review upcoming expenses and discuss if any specific budget items need reviewed.
3. Daydream together and research your next vacation.
We love to use this time to talk about what our next trip is going to be. Again, it’s kinda hard to have an in-depth discussion with our kids around, but this cheap date night idea is perfect for connecting and dreaming together. Not only do we get to talk through places on our bucket list, but we have something to easily connect over that’s fun and brings out our adventerous side.
It’s hard to find time to work out, and it’s a great way to spend time together. Not only are you getting one-on-one time, you’re becoming healthier and taking care of yourselves as well.
5. Trade massages, pedicures, or foot rubs.
I love a good spa night – it’s an easy way to take care of yourself and your spouse while you relax. Take turns trading massages, pedicures, or hop in a bubble bath with a glass of wine to unwind for a romantic date night at home.
6. Go on a bike ride, hike or walk.
If you want cheap date ideas near you, nothing’s closer or easier than going on a bike ride, hike or walk. Go on one through your neighborhood, at the local park, or find a trail in your hometown. If you don’t already own bikes, you can find companies that have rental bikes pretty cheap.
7. Have a cheap date night planning challenge.
Challenge each other to plan cheap date night ideas for under $25 (or $50 or $10 – you decide). See which of you can plan the most inexpesnive date night idea and who can plan the best cheap romantic date night idea. The winner gets bragging rights to being the best planner.
8. Stroll through a new section of town and window shop.
We have many neat and interesting sections of our city with lots of art, unique shops, and restaurants. We don’t get out often to visit these spots with the kids in tow, so a date night is the perfect time to do so. Grab an ice cream and take a leisurely stroll through while window shopping and exploring these new parts of town.
9. Find a trivia night at a local bar.
This could get expensive if you have a lot of drinks, but if you can limit it to one or two drinks, trivia night can be a fun way to get out of the house without spending a lot. There are trivia nights for a lot of crazy topics – everything from general trivia to super specific ones, like Harry Potter. Find one you’ll both love and test your knowledge!
10. Go for a drive and talk.
While it’s beautiful to go for a drive in the fall, it can be fun during the other seasons as well. Especially as the weather starts to warm up, there’s nothing like hopping in the car with no destination and cranking up some great music.
Or, even better – plan a day trip to something local and cheap that’s within a couple of hours. It’s a great opportunity to talk abou topics that aren’t work, kids or family. Reconnecting over your love of music or over a quick road trip can be a lot of fun.
11. Play a game of horse.
Grab the basketball you have lying around and challenge your partner to a game of horse, one-on-one, around the world, or any variation. Loser buys ice cream afterwards!
Indoor date ideas for couples
If it’s too cold or too hot (or too humid, or…just too outsidey for you) there’s always tons of fun, unique (and dare I say – possibly educational?) cheap indoor date ideas.
Some of the previous inexpensive date night ideas listed above can apply to this category, but I saved some specifically for for when the weather’s bad or it’s too humid to be outside. These are the best indoor date ideas:
1. Play games.
Whether it’s a board game, video game, poker or Twister, playing games is the ultimate cheap night in. Challenge your partner to a competition and see who can buy up all the property on Boardwalk first to win bragging rights til the next game night.
2. Go to a book reading or signing.
Watch for your favorite authors to do book signings in your area, and attend a reading/signing. Between bookstores and your local library, there are lots of unique events that you can attend for free. And you might actually get to meet an author you love in the process!
3. Find free/cheap museum days.
This one takes a little bit of research but will save you some big money if you can find cheap or free passes to your museum of choice. Some ways to score free or discounted tickets include: using your military ID, attending on free days, Seeing if your local library has passes you can have, and using your Bank of America card. Every year, Bank of America has a free pass day to certain museum on a specific weekend. If you already have the credit card, it’s worth persuing to see if any of the opportunities peak your interest.
4. Go on a free tour.
I love taking tours of distilleries, wineries, chocolate factories, and more. It’s also so intriguing to see how things are made and to learn about the process. Luckily, many companies give free tours of their facilities, complete with samples. Check out what companies in and around your city provide free tours and learn something new while getting some free samples. Now, if anyone knows of a cheese factory next to a winery, I’d be happy to hear about it!
5. Find discounts for local art studios and try your hand at pottery, painting, or photography.
Again, Groupon to the rescue! I love checking Groupon for fun, creative activities. It’s the perfect opportunity for a spontaneous and unique date. In our area, we often have creative activity offers for paint studios where you bring your own wine, music classes, and more. It’s an easy way to try out a new hobby without committing to see if it lives up the hype before you and your partner fully commit.
6. Take a community education class together.
Our local community college in Pittsburgh had the best education classes – everything from yoga to wine tasting. They had something for everyone, and while not every class isn’t super romantic (estate planning, anyone?), there were still a lot that could be a great opportunity to connect on a weekly basis with your partner.
There’s nothing like bonding over learning a new skill while exploring cheap date night ideas. Keep your connect strong by picking up a new hobby through the inexpensive classes at the college. If you find out you don’t like it all that much, they’re generally only about 8 weeks long so it’s not a huge loss of time or money. And who knows, you might find out you both really love to cook Indian food or really want to get your motorcycle licenses.
7. Study at the library together.
Assuming you’re both in school, and find that kind of thing fun (no judgement, my friends), studying at the library can be a good way to spend quality time together. Or, grab a coffee and just go to browse and wander the stacks together at a local bookstore.
DIY date night
There’s just something about learning a new skill or working on a project that can really be a great way to spend time together. There’s always that amazing sense of achievement and pride after your done that makes it worthwhile. Plus, you learn to work better together, and you find out what buttons trigger your partner. 😉
I’m fanscinated by the idea of geocaching but haven’t had the time to try it out yet. Geocaching involves using a GPS or your phone and other navigational techniques to essentially find buried treasure. These caches can be found at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world. Sounds awesome, right? Not to mention a great way to exercise, spend time together, and act like a pirate searching for gold.
2. Learn something new.
Learn how to do something you’ve both always wanted to – how to cook a steak, bake bread, or change the oil in the car. Teaching each other new things can be fun, not to mention really useful. Or, learn something brand new to both of you by watching videos on YouTube or taking a class.
3. Do the (side) hustle.
Pick up a side hustle you can do together. Sounds crazy, I know – but it’s a way to spend time together and earn money. It’s definitely a win-win! Try your hand at any of the great side hustles here to spend time together while earning cash to pay off debt. Not only is it a free cheap date night idea, but you’re making money as well!
4. Window shop at your favorite home improvement store.
Browser your favorite home improvement store or website together to daydream about DIY updates. Follow it up estimating costs, budgeting it out, and with binging some HGTV.
5. Visit a public garden for landscaping inspiration.
Conservatories often have special events where you can buy plants. Even if you don’t hit one of these sales, they’re a great way to go and look around for landscaping inspiration. Our conservatory gives discounts with AAA memberships, military IDs, college IDs, and even has the first Sunday of every month free for residents of Franklin County. Check out your local conservatory to see how to get discounted tickets.
6. Find local farms to go pick fruit in the spring or summer.
While this isn’t a ton cheaper than grabbing them at the grocery, it is a fun way to get out and do something different. Purchasing the fruit you pick on the farm is cheaper than purchased fruit they’ve already picked. Plus, you can make pies, desserts or jelly together afterwards wth your pickings.
7. Do actual DIY.
I might be weird, but I love doing DIY. My husband, not so much – but probably because he works at a home improvement store and stares at this type of stuff all day. I ask to do a project for Mother’s Day or birthdays, instead of a present. I know that’s super weird, but it’s something I really love. I love it because I love figuring stuff out, and it’s a fun way to work together on something. Plus, you get something really cool when you’re done, like new floors or a sweet new desk!
Late night date ideas
1. Go stargazing at an astronomy park.
We have an astronomy park that’s about an hour and a half away that just opened. They offer events on Friday and Saturday nights during the summer. Even better, the events are free and you don’t need to rent a telescope. Checking out a meteor shower or a special stellar event is a really unique and romantic night idea.
Find a great cheap diner that’s open late.
Review this list of cheap eats and find a unique and fun cheap diner for some late night disco fries. People watching is best done late at night with some greasy diner food.
Go on a ghost tour.
Many of the cities we’ve lived in or visited run ghost tours. Even if you’re not big into the paranormal, it can be a really interesting and fun way to learn more about the history of the city. Some local haunts even include overnight excursions for the truly devote ghosthunters. Make sure to check Groupon for discounted tickets for a ghoulishly fun night date.
Try your hand at night photography.
Spark your creativity and give night photography a try. One of you can man the camera on a slow exposure while the other uses glow sticks, sparklers or lights of any kind to produce so funky photography. Or, grab a tripod and find a spot with low light pollution to see if you can grab a beautiful photo of the city skyline or stars.
Relive your (no so long ago) youth by hitting a local pizza joint or dive bar.
We all like to relive our glory days and youth from time to time, right? Not to mention, the best (and probably only time) to really hit a dive bar is late at night after some drinks (for even more drinks). Hang out for a bit, sing or listen to some karoke, and follow it up with a late night visit to a college pizza joint that’s open late. Just don’t forget the Tums. 😉
Attend a midnight movie showing.
Depending on what types of movies you’re into, you can find some pretty amazing midnight movie showings in your city. While Rocky Horror Picture Show is the most obvious choice, there are lots of other options out there both new and old and can be a fun late night date.
Find a drive-in.
Drive-ins might not be as common as they were before, but there’s still plenty around. They’re generally open in the late spring and throughout the summer, which means movies don’t start until after 8:30 or so. Plus, they often have double features, so the price per movie per person is much cheaper than visiting the theater. Pack your own snacks, drinks, blankets and lawn chairs if you feel like sitting outside of your car. This is one of my favorite cheap date night ideas!
Enjoy the skyline.
Find the perfect spot to view the city lights at night. Bring snacks, coffee, and a blanket and enjoy some time to just relax and talk.
Test our your karaoke skills.
If you’re brave enough, karoke can be a great late night date option. Whether you’re singing or just watching, it’s a fun way to get out and test those singing skills ouside of the shower.
Set up a fire pit in the backyard.
There is nothing better than enjoying a nice fire with some beers, smores and your partner. It’s a cheap date night idea that’s easy, and you don’t even have to hire a babysitter. Just get the kids to bed, grab a baby monitor, and relax by the fire.
Fun date night ideas don’t have to expensive, or require a ton of work. There are plenty of cheap date night ideas, whether you’re in a couple or on a first date. I hope you enjoy these ideas!
During the past two years of budgeting, we’ve found a lot of ways to trim down our monthly expenses list. There’s no lack of ways to save money on a tight budget. Finding smart money saving tips is the easy part.
The hard part about budgeting is really about making the mental adjustment to changing your spending and to consistently use those personal expense tracker app or monthly budget worksheet.
On the surface, it can feel like being deprived. But when you stop and really think about why you’re doing it, you’ll realize that it’s just about deciding what’s really important to you. Is it owning a house? Getting a cleaning service to come once a week? Or having a cushy emergency fund just in case your employer’s check doesn’t deposit on time?
No matter what your “why” is, just identifying it helps with prioritizing what’s important.
How to Save Money Quickly Each Month
If you don’t have a budget, you need to create one as soon as possible. It’s the only way you’ll learn how to how to save money quickly and manage it long term. Without one, you’ll never know where you money is going, and you won’t know where you can cut extra expenses.
The best way to budget is to use a monthly household budget template of some sort, or a monthly expenses app. Without something to reference throughout the month, you’ll never know if you’re on track with staying within your budget.
If you’re following a 50/30/20 budget, that means that 50% goes to fixed expenses. Your fixed expenses list should include items that are fixed costs: your rent/mortgage, insurance, car payment, etc.
30% in this budget should go to variable expenses. Those are items with variable costs every month, like utilities, groceries, gas, clothing and entertainment.
The last 20% of the budget should go into savings. While these are not concrete, this can be a good rule of thumb to get you on track.
So what you do you if your expenses are out of whack?
Chances are, if you’re like 99.6% of people out there, your variable expenses are more than 30%. Which means, you’ll need to cut them down as much as possible.
Average Monthly Household Expenses
It can always be a bit shocking or confusing when someone in a Facebook budgeting group what everyone else’s average household monthly expenses are for a family of 4. Or 6. Or 12.
Because there are so many variables, there is no averge household monthly expense example that will apply perfectly to anyone’s situation.
So instead, take a look at your monthly expenses spreadsheet and aim for cutting 10% to start. Start by listing typical monthly expenses that could be an easy win for reducing their cost.
This will obviously vary for everyone, considering we all have very different obligations in life. Below are 14 ways we were able to learn how to live on a budget and save money. In fact, we were able to trim over $750 a month to put towards debt repayment with these money saving tips:
1. We switched our cellphone from Verizon to StraightTalk.
Savings: $102 a month
Generally, the savings on your cell phone bill will not be this huge for everyone. However, at the time, my husband had a work cellphone. When we switched to StraightTalk, we just dropped his line altogether and just moved my existing line (and phone) to StraightTalk.
It was really simple to get switched over and running, and they even handled letting Verizon know that we were done using them, which was great. They use the same cell phone towers as other companies, but don’t own them – which is why they’re so much cheaper.
Even better? I’m not locked into a contract AND I can purchase a new or refurbished phone on my own to use, rather than paying them $30+ a month for 2 years like other phone companies.
My husband recently picked up an $80 Samsung phone at Walmart to use with StraightTalk, and it works great! In fact, it takes better pictures than my Galaxy S5, which is several years old now.
Another great option is Mint Mobile. They sell unlimited talk, text and data in 3, 6 or 12 month chunks. The bigger chunk you purchase, the cheaper it is. It’s essentially the Sams or Costco of cell plans, since it’s giving you a discount for buying in bulk. Plans start at just $15 per month. Find out more about Mint Mobile here.
2. We contacted our car/home insurance provider about additional discounts.
Savings: $10 a month $62 a month
We were already saving a lot with our insurance because it was bundled and we have multiple discounts, including one for being a credit union member.
We also checked with an independent insurance broker to see if another company might be cheaper, since we’d been with Liberty Mutual for 9 years. However, he could only save us $5 – $10 a year, at most, so it wasn’t worth the switch.
We did call our company and did a review with their customer service rep, and we were able to adjust our coverage and premiums, which brought the monthly cost down $10 a month.
It’s important to review your policies yearly to make sure you’re getting the best deal. I suggest finding an independent insurance broker. You just answer a couple of questions, email them a copy of your coverage, and they have results in about a week!
Update: Another great place to check for savings is seeing if your employer offers any group discounts on insurance. My husband works as a manager for a large nationwide retailer, and they offered discounts on auto and home insurance.
Figuring that they wouldn’t be able to give us much of a savings, we called and spent 45 minutes going through all of the questions and paperwork. Turns out they are able to save us over $750 for the year on both home and auto insurance. And this is with the same (and even better in some instances) coverage! Amazing!
Don’t overlook opportunities to save through work. Make a note to check with your employer for group discounts. If you belong to any associations, groups, or memberships, check to see what they can offer as well. You might be pleasantly surprised!
3. We asked our daycare provider (and any other service providers) if there were any additional discounts we were missing.
Savings: $20 a month
Listen, I’m not above just asking for a discount from just about anyone. The tire store, the dentist, even daycare. While we were already getting the sibling discount, they were able to move my daughter up a class, saving us $20 a month.
It’s worth taking a shot and asking for a discount on just about anything. You never know what you might get!
4. We cut the cord, for good.
Savings: $52 a month
At first, my husband was very reluctant to cut cable. I told him it’d just be for a couple of months, as a trial run. Turns out, we have plenty of other things to keep us busy (when we actually have time to sit down in front of the TV). Plus, he gets more time to play his Xbox, so it’s a win-win!
If you’re looking to cut the cord, start by getting some hardware that you can stream with. We use an Xbox or our Roku, or you can use an Amazon Firestick, among other options.
Then, we signed up for Netflix, Hulu and CBS All Access. Between the three, we’re able to get everything that we like to watch. We specifically sign up for CBS All Access so that my husband could watch football games. You can get a free one week trial of CBS All Access here.
If you want to watch local channels you can get a digital antenna like this one which is easy to hook up, and works with both newer HDTVs and older TVs as well. This is great for haivng access to the local news and PBS, as well as other local channels.
5. We bought our own modem.
Savings: $10 a month
Our internet cost went up just a bit because each product is cheaper when you bundle them (such as internet, phone and cable). To make up the difference, we reviewed all of the charges on our internet bill with customer service. They pointed out that we can purchase our own modem for about $60, which would take a $10 rental fee off our monthly bill.
Time Warner provided us with a list of modems to purchase, and we snagged a good deal on one from Best Buy. Even better, if we cancel our service, we don’t have to fuss with sending them back any equipment!
6. We used Trim to save an additional $20 on our internet every month.
Savings: $20 a month
A perfect way to save money for the ultra busy folks, Trim is a great way to find those small leaks in your budget and easily plug them. For example, we had cut down on our internet, and thought we couldn’t get it any lower. However, Trim was able to negotiate with Spectrum on our behalf and save us $240 a year. And all for 5 minutes worth of work on my end.
Trim also catches those subscriptions you forget that you have and keep paying for every month. They let you know what you’re still paying for, and cancel them on your behalf. Again – saving money without lifting a finger? Sign me up!
7. We reviewed and trimmed life and disability coverage.
Savings: $69 a month
When I was pregnant with our first child, I was determined to get our finances in order, once and for all (ha!). So we went to go see a financial adviser. While the advice given was solid, I somehow didn’t realize that his goal was to make a commission off of us. And boy – did he ever!
Since I’m self employed, I needed life insurance and disability. Once again – this was solid advice, but we were just presented with one plan (which was the Cadillac of all plans). And we took it without questioning the amount of coverage and cost.
6 years later, it dawns on me that maybe this coverage is…over the top. So we reviewed the policies, the same way we reviewed our car and home insurance. We chose to trim some of the coverage, which saved us $69 a month.
While it’s important to make sure you have enough coverage, especially if self employed, make sure to review your coverage yearly. Circumstances change, and there’s no point in paying for something that you don’t need anymore.
8. We began buying groceries at Aldis / online grocery ordering and pickup.
Savings: $80 a month
Our switch to Aldi’s saved us a lot of money monthly, and I will always recommend it if you have one nearby. However – for the sake of my sanity and NOT having to wrestle two kids while grocery shopping, I have switched to ordering groceries online and picking them up.
True, it’s not as cheap as Aldi’s, however, it’s worth that extra $20 to me if it means that I don’t have to waste an entire morning getting kids ready, shopping, wrangling, and putting things away – all while hollering at them to “put it down” and “keep your hands to yourself”! Not to mention all the “extras” that’d end up in our cart by walking up and down every aisle.
My latest budget win from ordering groceries online? I ordered 6 navel oranges at 68 cents a piece, which is what they charged me. What we got was 6 bags of oranges instead! That’s a total budgeting win, right? Now, to break out the juicer…
9. We paid off our credit card with a 9.75% interest rate.
Savings: $35+ in interest every month
Enough said. It’s silly to throw away at least $30 on interest every month. That’s a meal out or an awful lot of toilet paper!
10. We dropped our kid’s Tumbling Class.
Savings: $39 a month
Our daughter participated in a tumbling class through daycare every week. Sometimes she refused to go (who knows why). Since she was transferring from daycare to kindergarten soon, and it was summer and she got plenty of activity outside, we chose to remove her from the last three months of class.
While I think that kids need activities to help them learn different skillsets, it doesn’t hurt to question if it’s beneficial or not. Are they even going? Do they want to? Or, maybe it’s worth a temporary pause if you know you’ll be missing classes due to holidays or traveling during summer break anyway.
11. My husband started packing lunches for work.
Savings: $240 a month
My husband works outside the home and is not a planner (putting it lightly – but I still love you, dearest!). Convincing him to take his lunches was hard at first, but once we saw the financial benefits and the waistline benefits, he (somewhat) happily jumped on the bandwagon.
He still goes out to lunch, or forgets to pack. But now that’s part of his monthly fun money that’s part of our planned budget, rather than just a bunch of charges getting racked up on the credit card.
12. We Used iBotta, Ebates, TopCashBack, and Checkout 51, MobiSave, Savings Star to maximize rebates on purchases.
Savings: $10+ a month
I’ve tried just about every rebate app there is, and while they all work differently, it’s worth the time and effort to incorporate them into your shopping routine.
For couponing tips and tricks, these bloggers know their stuff! This is where I learned to stack my coupons and discounts and look for the best deals every week.
Not to mention, they stay on top of the latest updates to stores’ couponing policies, app updates and changes to all things sales based. These are the best of the best couponing sites to check out (in no particular order):
14. We started using the library to rent movies and check out books.
Savings: $15 a month
If you haven’t checked out your local library in awhile, you need to ASAP! Ours not only has books and DVDs to check out, but you can rent tons of digital items.
I can easily log into the library website, check out the books I want, download them from Amazon to my Kindle, and enjoy. Or, there’s even a streaming service now for movies as well. Now you don’t even have to hit a library in order to enjoy all of the benefits they have to offer!
Total Monthly Savings: $774
Additional Money Savings Ideas to Try
You should always be on the lookout for new ways to save money. Whether it reviewing your insurance policies once a year, or contacting customer service to see where you can cut costs, it’s not a “once and done” kind of thing.
For us, I have some new year goals set to find additional ways to save money. Some of them include:
Test out the Paribus app, which that automatically finds lower pricing on purchased items and files price adjustment claims for me.
Reinstate the gift closet so that we’re prepared for birthdays and holidays
Budget for after holiday sales to pick up items we need at a discount
Research additional summer daycare options to compare pricing
Test out the Mint app versus Personal Capital and see which helps me save more money by keeping better track of it!
Try creating your own frugal cleaning hacks to save money on cleaning supplies while sparing your family from unwanted chemicals
Figuring out how to save money each month doesn’t mean having to eat rice and beans for the rest of your life. What it does mean is that you get to decide what’s important to you, and focus spending your money on that. Then, find ways to cut back on things that aren’t as important. Get those basics as low as possible and free up money so you can do things like pay off debt, invest, and save for retirement and college.
Do you have any budgeting tips or tricks up your sleeve? Share them below!
It’s estimated that 42 million Americans traveled last summer. At an average cost of $1200 per person, that’s a whole lotta dough. Traveling with a family or even friends can add up quick, making a family vacation cost about as much as your health insurance deductible. Ouch.
And that’s just for a summer vacation. What about girls’ weekend trips, holiday travel, and travel with your kid’s soccer team throughout the year?
With all of the commitments we make to spend more time with family and friends (and the soccer team), it can really put a dent on your budget or on your credit card.
Luckily, there are about a million and one ways to learn how to plan a trip on a budget. Whether you’re traveling on a budget with a family or you’re traveling in your mid 20s, here’s some great budget travel inspiration.
How to Travel on a Budget
When traveling, there are three main pieces that create the trip of a lifetime:
The dates you pick
If you can be flexible with dates or destinations, you can save money. However, if you’re set with a specific weekend or place, then we’ll have to trim the budget with some outside the box ideas.
Create a Travel Budget You Can Stick With.
Start by creating your travel budget. This can be a rough guestimate of how much you think your vacation will cost, based on the number of days, people, and destinations.
Wondering what to include in a travel budget? Depending on how you’re traveling, and with whom, you’ll want to plan for:
A place to stay
Car rental, taxis, Uber or public transportation
Snacks, eating out or groceries
Tips for hotel staff, drivers tour guides, etc.
Activities such as theme parks, ziplines, etc.
Must have trinkets or souvenirs
Obviously, a weekend trip budget is going to be much cheaper than traveling around europe with a family. However, it’s about deciding what’s important to you. Some people are foodies and want to dine at the finest restaurants. Others are all about the activities and couldn’t care less what their hotel room is like. Take some time to rank what’s important to you, and then work on cutting the costs on items that aren’t a priority.
The number one rule of traveling on a budget is to be flexiible. If you can be up in the air on dates or destinations, you’ll save a ton of money.
Check out price variations on flights depending upon the days traveled. When searching airfare, there is often a calendar with pricing for each day. Traveling mid-week tends to be cheaper.To find cheap airfare, check out Google Flights. Not only can you view a calendar of flights with pricing, but you can set alerts that will let you know when the price dips for the dates and destinations you want. I love using this to keep an eye on flights for dream vacations.
Consider staying over on Sunday night. Sunday night rates are usually cheaper than Friday or Saturday nights, since everyone heads home on Sunday.
Try picking your destination based on where you can get a cheap flight to. If you’re stuck with traveling during a certain time, use Google Flights or my favorite, Scott’s Cheap Flights, to find cheap travel destinations that fit your schedule.
If you’re not able to change locations or dates, you can still save money by finding ways to trim your budget. There are four main categories where you can cut your budget and still have a great time: food, activities, transportation, and accomodations.
How to Save on Activities & Food During Your Vacation
Depending on your vacation plans, most of these great budget travel tips will work for you. It’s just picking and choosing what makes sense for your family, trip and budget:
1. Research your destination.
Before heading out on your trip, find travel bloggers, facebook groups, instagram accounts or local websites that can provide you with cost effective activities and places to eat. Do your research and find out what touristy activities are worth the money and which to skip.
Once you’re on vacation, don’t be shy. Make friends with the locals and find out where they go to relax or have a great meal. Chances are you’ll find something off the beaten path that you never would have found otherwise.
2. Find free events in the area.
Often you can find free activities through local websites. Some attractions have free days, or you can get free admission through your credit card, AAA membership, AARP or with a student ID.
3. Use attraction coupons found in brochures and tourist booklets.
You know the giant case I’m talking about – with a bazillion brochures and flyers in the hotel lobby. They’re hard to miss, since you’re usually staring at them while checking in. You can also find them in local restaurants or you can ask for extra brochures at the hotel’s front desk. Or, check out ShowTickets before you leave to get your attraction tickets early!
4. Talk to the concierge.
The concierge can not only help you get tickets or find activities, but they can help you find savings as well. They’ll know the cheapest ways to attend events and attractions, and where to find discounts.
5. Eat out for breakfast or lunch.
Since breakfast and lunch tend to be cheaper than dinner, you’ll save money by only eating out for the less expensive meals. Then grab something from the grocery or have leftovers for dinner.
6. Take advantage of continential breakfast or snacks provided by the hotel.
On the other hand, free breakfast is free breakfast, right? Often times there are some great snack options as well during continential breakfast that you can grab and use as snacks for later. By timing it right, you could eat a late breakfast, a snack and an early dinner, and save by skipping lunch altogether.
7. Find restaurants off the beaten path.
Main tourist streets – like the Strip in Vegas or Bourbon Street in New Orleans – are going to cost much more because they’re smack dab right in the middle of the tourist area. A rule of thumb is to walk 4 – 6 blocks away from the main tourist areas to find cheaper restaurants. (Of course, it goes without saying to avoid risking your safety for some cheap grub!)
8. Eat street food.
Depending upon how you feel about food carts and food trucks, these can be a great cheap option for a lighter lunch or dinner. Plus, you’ll get authentic local food that you might not easily find elsewhere.
9. Book a room with a fridge and a microwave.
If you’re staying for more than one night, booking a room with a fridge or microwave can be a perfect way to cut down on food costs. Whether you’re storing leftovers for later, cold water to take with on outings, or preparing meals, it’s a great help in trimming your food budget.
10. Use Yelp to find great eats in your price range.
Yelp is the perfect app/website for finding exactly what you’re want to eat. You can search by price, type of food, or location. Yelp reviews help to take the guesswork out of finding a great restaurant that’s in your budget.
11. Bring snacks with you.
Whether you’re hiking, roadtripping, or cruising the Riveria, bring snacks and water with you, always.
Carrying a refillable water bottle will also help to avoid spending extra money on overpriced drinks. Often there are ample opportunities to fill it up. For example, bring your reusable water bottle empty to the airport, and then fill it once you’re past security. It’s a great way to avoid spending money in the overpriced gift stores that can be found at the airport.
12. Pack a picnic.
My sister packs a picnic to take on car trips, which is brilliant. It gives the kids a chance to get out and stretch their legs and saves money on food at the same time. A total win-win!
This is also a great way to save while on vacation. Finding a local grocery and buying snacks to have a picnic is a great way to enjoy your destination’s parks and monuments.
13. Shop at farmer’s markets and local stores.
While in Switzerland and Paris, my husband and I stopped at the grocery and picked up cheese, bread, and salads, rather than eating at yet another restaurant. It’s a great alternative to yet another overpriced restaurant meal, without the waiting for seating and having to pay extra for tips.
13. Figure out food prior to being hungry.
Or, hangry. If you get hangry, you know what I’m talking about. There’s nothing worse than trying to find food when you’re starved and angry. Try to plan at least a couple of hours ahead so that you have a general idea of where your next meal is coming from.
Otherwise, you’ll just eat anything, anywhere in order to curb your hunger (and anger). Planning ahead means your stomach and wallet will thank you!
14. Take advantage of happy hour.
Plan ahead to have dinner during happy hour. While it is a bit early, chances are you can find a restaurant that has happy hour pricing. It’s the perfect time to split some appetizers, have some drinks, and not pay an arm and a leg.
15. Look for city tourism cards.
We used these city tourism cards in NYC, and I thought they worked out great. You get entry into over 100 attractions for a fraction of the price. Plus, it helped us to plan out which activities we absolutely had to see while we were there.
They were easy to use, and only a few attractions you had to register for. Otherwise, they covered everything from city bus tours to the Empire State building! These are two of my favorites:
While traveling by car is the cheapest way to travel with family, the recent drop in cost of flights makes flying a close second.
No matter how you chose to get there, transportation is generally the biggest cost. Here are some great shortcuts to help you trim down your transportation costs.
1. Go directly to the airline website to purchase your tickets.
While I’ve never tried it, some people swear by booking directly on the airline’s website once you’ve found the flights you want. The idea is that you’ll be more likely to hit any additional deals or sales by booking directly.
2. Compare the cost of booking two one-way flights.
Sometimes booking open flights, or one way flights, can be more cost effective than booking round trip. Using a comparison website should be helpful in figuring out whether this budget travel method will work for you or not. Some websites to try are:
If you’re wondering how to travel on a budget in Europe, consider open jaw fares. Open jaw is where you fly Point A to Point B, then on the return trip fly Point C to Point A. This is a great way to save if you’re traveling internationally or are planning a vacation with multiple destinations.
3. Book your flights on the weekend.
I’ve never thought to try this, but it’s rumored that booking your flight during the weekend means that it’ll likely be cheaper. The idea is that corporate travel bookings tend to happen during the week, so prices are up.
4. Consider alternate transportation.
Once you’re at your destination, consider alternatives to renting a car. You can Uber, walk, rent a bike, or use public transportation.
Consider booking a hotel that’s central to everything you want to see, so that you can walk when possible and take public transportation the rest of the time.
5. Make sure your car is in tip top shape.
If you’re headed out on a road trip, make sure your car is just as ready as you are. It’s important to check tire pressure and get an oil change if needed. While you’re there, have the attendant top off any fluids and check your air filter as well.
To make your car as fuel efficient as possible, try to keep your speed under 65. Studies show that going faster than 65 lessens your car’s fuel effiency.
And for the love of pete, don’t pull a Griswold and overpack or drag something behind you!
One of the best budget travel tips that I know of is to consider alternate places to stay. While hotels are nice, they tend to be the priciest. If you are up for a little adventure and trying something new, I recommend considering one of these accomodation alteratives:
1. Go camping.
If you want to know how to travel cheap in the USA, look no further. Camping is one of the best ways to cut travel expenses and enjoy the great outdoors. You can stay in a national park, at an HOA campsite, or somewhere in between. To get started finding the perfect spot, check out Camping-USA.com.
2. Rent an AirBnB.
Depending upon how many people you have and your length of stay, you can easily rent an entire house through AirBnB for much cheaper than several hotel rooms. With more people to split the cost, it turns out a ton cheaper and you often have more options than you would at a hotel.
Even better, you have a kitchen so you can cook (or at least use the fridge to stash your booze). With some easy meals and drinking at the rental, you’ll save a ton of cash. All of this makes AirBnBs are the perfect for cheap family vacations!
3. Crash at a friend’s or family member’s house.
We’re not all lucky enough to know someone in Italy with an amazing guesthouse, and who’s willing to put up with a family world travel adventure (dang it). However, chances are you know someone that lives in a pretty amazing place and is willing to let you crash.
Obviously offer them some form of compensation in return – whether it’s money, cooking for the week, or rewiring the electric in their entire house – so that they don’t regret ever opening the door.
By bypassing having to get a hotel room, and being a polite houseguest, you’ll save a ton of money and hopefully become closer to someone you wanted to spend some time with anyway.
4. Stay in a hostel.
I stayed at a working commune type place in Switzerland once. I would like to think that hostels tend to lean more towards that than the horror movies that I avoid watching. If you’re brave enough to try it, hostels are a great cheap alternative to hotels.
And really – you’re not likely to spend much time in your room. So what’s the big deal about sharing a room with some fellow travelers? If you’re comfortable enough, check out your options on sites like Tripadvisor. Tripadvisor is full of great reviews so you can get realistic feedback about everything from places to stay to activities in the area.
If you’re still planning on staying in a hotel
Ok, fine – you’re not the super adventrous type. That’s totally cool, I get it. If you still want the security or luxuries of hotel living, here are travel on a budget tips that will still help you save on hotel rooms:
1. Don’t get the best room.
How much time are you really spending in your hotel room anyway? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
If you’re just looking for a place to crash in between outings, don’t get the best room possible. You can easily trim your budget by not opting for the penthouse suite and getting something that’s clean, simple and budget friendly.
2. Always stay at the same place.
Staying loyal to one particular brand of hotel means that you can sign up for their hotel rewards program and earn points.
However, if you find that their pricing is always higher than other options, I would stick with the immediate savings of a cheaper room than versus the earning of points. Hotel reward programs really only work if you frequent the hotel enough with a year to accumulate enough points to redeem them for free stays.
3. Stay longer.
Staying over a Sunday night is cheaper, and staying more than one night can sometimes work out to a discount. Some hotels reward customers with a free night or discounted nights if they stay longer.
4. Call the hotel directly to book your stay.
By calling to book your stay, you can ask for a discount while you’re booking the room. If you like to live dangerously, you can try to book the a couple of days in advance. Chances are they could have empty rooms that they’re happy to fill at a discount, rather than let them sit empty and make nothing on them.
If you go this route, you’d better have a couple of back up plans just in case there’s a cheerleading competition in town that weekend, and every hotel is booked up!
Additional Traveling on a Budget Tips
These are some tried and true additional savings ideas to get your within your travel budget. While they didn’t quite fit into any of the categories above, they’re still absolutely worth mentioning!
1. Travel during off peak times.
If you’re wondering how to travel cheap in Europe, try off peak times. Off peak times, or shoulder periods, can be a great time to travel for dirt cheap.
For example, we went to Ireland at the end of February. Their high tourist season is April, May (spring flowers), July, August, and October. However, the weather was great (a little rainy) but warm enough that we didn’t freeze. We were able to get around easier and avoid the crowds for a lot of the attractions.
While there were a couple of attractions not open, it was well worth it. We even ate dinner at a restaurant one night and were literally the only patrons in the entire place!
Flights, hotels and car rental were much cheaper because it was off season as well. So instead of looking for cheap places to travel internationally, try figuring out when the off season is for your international destination. If you can grab that window right before or after the tourist season, you can save thousands.
2. Cash in those credit card points.
Assuming you have a credit card that offer frequent flyer miles or some sort of travel benefits, cash them in.
Or, consider travel hacking. It’s not for the faint of heart, but travel hacking is opening credit cards at the right time to score a ton of points and get free flights or hotel stays. Another popular option is to optimize your flights on an airline like Southwest, so that you fly enough to earn not only a free companion pass for the year, but free flights as well.
3. Find discounts through everyday places.
You’d be surprised at some of the places you can find discounts for travel:
Costco or Sam’s Club: While I’ve never looked there, I hear great things about the vacation packages through membership clubs. If you’re looking for an all-in-one option, this could be worthwhile if you already have a membership.
Groupon: Groupon has great discounted travel package deals all the time, especially for budget travel destinations and international locations.
Your employer: Some employers off perks such as discount travel packages through their corporate travel agent. Ask around and see if they offer any programs to their employees.
Travelzoo’s Top 20: This is a weekly email that goes out and has discounted hotel, flights, and activities that are flash sales. You can sign up here if you want to receive the weekly top 20 deals email.
Social media & newsletters: Follow your favorite brands so you’ll know when they offer an epic discount on a trip you’ve had your eye on.
4. Use your age (or cash) to get even more discounts.
Whip out your student ID or AARP membership to see if they offer student or senior discounts. Hey, it’s always worth a shot, right?
Also, try asking for a cash discount. See if paying with cash can get score you an extra discount as well. If you’re feeling really brave, try bargaining. In some countries bargaining on a purchase is expected.
Try shopping where the locals shop to get better deals. Buy your souvenirs from a local store rather than a tourist shop.
Have you tried any of these travel on a budget tips? Have you figured out how to travel the world with no money (or just a little money)? If so, leave your comments and tips below!
fWhen it comes to budgeting, one of the easiest places to overspend is the food category. We’re so busy running from work to picking up kids to extracurricular activities, it’s almost impossible to find the will or energy to cook dinner every night.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household spent $3,008 eating out1.
$3000? That’s a reeaaaaally nice vacation, right? Or a heck of a jumpstart on a college fund, retirement savings, or debt repayment. When you give the savings a monetary value, like $3,000, it helps to make it easier to set budget goals and cut back on eating out.
Even if you fight the temptation to eat out, then we have to have meal plans in plan. At the very least, some default cheap dinner ideas that can be made without too much work or energy.
I don’t know about you, but often it can be tempting to just slosh down a bowl of cereal in front of each kid and call it a day. Especially after a long day at work when my husband’s working late and no one is there to witness my lack of cooking.
Thankfully, there are a ton of great cheap dinner ideas out there that are quick, effortless and cheap. It’s just a matter of making a quick meal plan for the week and getting the groceries. (Thank goodness for grocery pick up and delivery, right?)
Whether you’re looking for cheap recipes for families or cheap dinner ideas for 2, I’ve got you covered here with a ton of great dinner ideas to help you save money.
Quick Tips to Jump Start Cheap Dinners at Home
Thankfully, there are a ton of quick and easy shortcuts to make cheap easy meals on a budget. These tips will help you create super quick dinner ideas that can be whipped together in a matter of 30 minutes or less.
Let me be the first to tell you: it’s ok to take shortcuts. If you want to buy frozen, pre-cooked chicken breasts, great. If you want to buy frozen vegetables, do it! It’s impossible to do cheap dinners every night, exactly how you want to. But what you can aim for is to do better than before.
If you went out to eat five times a week, aim to only go out three times a week to start. Doing it perfectly is not going to happen. But doing it better than last week can.
Buy and prep meat in bulk.
Find the best place to buy meat in bulk and freeze or prep at once. Some people shop at local farms for larger meat orders. Others use services like the now defunct Zaycon, which I loved and am so sad that it shut down.
Another great idea is to purchase a rotisserie chicken and use the meat in multiple recipes. The hard work of cooking the chicken has already been done for you, so you just need to figure out what recipes you want to use it in.
Consider using frozen vegetables and fruits.
People diss frozen fruit and veggies, but they’re flash frozen which actually locks in more nutrients. Unless you have the time to properly prepare and blanch vegetables, frozen is a great option. Plus, they won’t go bad before you can use them the same way fresh produce does. (I’m looking at you, bananas!)
Get help with trimming your grocery budget.
If you still need additional help with cutting your grocery budget, I highly recommend the Grocery Budget Makeover. We were able to cut our grocery budget in half by using the steps in this course!
Now that we have some cheap grocery shortcuts out of the way, here’s some quick healthy dinner ideas.
Basic Quick Dinner Ideas
Simple, quick and perfect for a late dinner. They’re easy to adapt to everyone’s preferences and you can even pre-cook the bacon (or turkey bacon) in the oven. Win-win!
Paninis and Sandwiches
Nothing’s easier than making a sandwich (Except maybe cereal…). They’re just so easy to dress up with some nice bread, condiments and sides to make it a filling meal. Throw it in a panini press and it’s a great way to treat yourself after a long day at work.
Whether they’re premade from the deli, or you’ve cooked it all day in your crockpot, soups are an easy and cheap dinner idea. Pair it with a sandwich or a nice crusty loaf of French bread and salad, and you’ve got a really easy and filling meal.
Sausage, Peppers & Onions
A classic and easy meal, just slice and sautee peppers, onions and sausage. From hot Italian sausage to turkey kielbasa, this cheap dinner idea is really versatile. Throw it on a hoagie bun or a bed of rice and you’ve got a meal.
Cheap Meals for Large Families
Feeding a large family on a tight budget isn’t easy. But it can be done by finding ways to purchase and cook in bulk. Hearty comfort meals that are filling and served family style are perfect for large families:
Chili with Cornbread
The beauty of chili is that it can be cooked on the stove, in a crockpot, or with an instapot. It’s easy to make large batches of, and the ingredients are relatively cheap. It can be served with sides to cater to everyone’s tastes: chopped onions, peppers, cheese or sour cream.
Cornbread is the perfect side to chili and there are a ton of great recipes out there. It can be savory or sweet, made in cast iron or a 9×11 pan. Again, the variations are endless depending upon who you’re feeding!
Potato Sausage Foil Packs
While these usually remind people of camping, they’re an easy way to cook something delicious with easy clean up, which I’m all for!
Traditionally, these are usually potato, onion and sausage. But you can mix it up and add:
A variety of veggies, like chunks of corn cobs, green beans, or zuchinni
Herbs, spices or sauces to give it different flavors
Different meats, such as chicken, shrimp or cuts of beef
If you have not tried Shepherd’s Pie, you are missing out. Then some amazing beef stew, topped with mashed potatoes that have been slightly crisped on top in the oven. But a zillion times better than that description.
We used to go to a fabulous Scottish Pub in Pittsburgh that served chicken Shepherd’s Pie. It has chicken, mushrooms, carrots, onions, and an amazing sauce that could have had Guiness in it. It was a thing of beauty.
You can find packets in the spice aisle at the grocery for Shepherd’s Pie to create the sauce/flavoring for you. Just add your choice of meat, cooked vegetables, and top with mashed potatoes. Perfect for a cold winter night as well as a big family.
Casseroles of any form are an easy go-to for cheap healthy dinner ideas for family. I love them because you can fit vegetables, protein and a big ol’ helping of comfort food together in one dish. Easy clean up, right?
If you’re looking for inspiration, think back to what your mother or grandma used to make. Unless it’s Tuna Surprise (sorry mom, love you but NOT the Tuna Surprise). Then your next best bet is to hit up Pinterest for some quick and easy casserole ideas that the family will love.
Cheap, Healthy Vegetarian Meals
Some of our favorite cheap family meals are vegetarian, since we don’t eat a lot of meat in our house. We tend to eat a lot of beans and soy sausage, along with chicken. Some of our favorite recipes are:
Stir fry is so quick and easy to make you don’t even need a recipe. Just grab your favorite vegetables, a bottle of you favorite teryaki or stir fry sauce. Don’t forget to add seasame seeds, nuts, and spices. Make some rice, or, if you want to get fancy, noodles and fry it all up in some seasame oil.
Baked potatoes are a great cheap dinner idea and can be made in the oven or the crockpot and topped with just about anything, like:
Vegetables like steamed broccoli or sauteed mushrooms and onions
Proteins like shredded chicken or bacon
Any type of cheese
Condiments like hot sauce, pesto, or sour cream
Some combinations to try:
Chili and cheddar cheese
Cheese, sour cream, chives and bacon
Black beans and salsa
Cottage cheese, black pepper and chives
Gorgonzola and buffalo sauce, sour cream, green onions
BBQ pulled chicken or pork with cheddar cheese
Fried egg and sriracha
Fajita seasoning with grilled chicken, peppers and onions, topped with sour cream
Another vegetarian cheap dinner idea is to grab a bag of mixed salad greens and top them with whatever you’re in the mood for. Grab crutons, cheese, chickpeas, nuts, or hard boiled eggs. Or try a sweeter salad with dried cranberries, walnuts, and feta cheese. Use whatever toppings you have to build a salad and make a super quick and easy meal.
Quick Dinner Ideas with Chicken
Some of the best cheap healthy family meals use chicken. It’s a cheaper option for protein for meat eaters, and is versatile enough to create a variety of cheap dinner ideas. Chicken can create the perfect comfort food, spicy entree, or healthy dinner idea for kids. Certain cuts are cheaper than others, such as chicken thighs. Stores like Aldi’s or a purchasing in bulk from local farm options can help to cut meat costs as well. Some great quick dinner ideas with chicken are:
Chicken Crockpot Meals
I have a ton of great chicken crockpot and instapot recipes that I’ve found through Pinterest. I love that I can set it up in the morning and have dinner ready by the time I’m done with work. I just make some rice and cook some vegetables, and dinner is served!
If you’re not sure where to start, these are my absolute favorite go-to crockpot recipes. Even better, these recipes are freezer meals that you can prep on the weekend and throw in the crockpot each morning. Our favorites is the Crockpot Cafe Rio Chicken, which is even a hit with the kids.
Chicken Fried Rice
The beauty of chicken fried rice, besides being easy, is that you can adjust it according to what you have in the fridge. No egg? No problem. Don’t have any peas? Add extra carrots. Chicken fried rice also doesn’t need much meat either, so it’s a great way to stretch the some kitchen staples into a full meal.
Chicken and Dumplings
My kids love this – and it’s so easy. Chicken and dumplings is the perfect comfort food for a cold day. It’s one of those great family dinner ideas for those busy nights of activities and homework as well. This recipe is the one we use and love!
Cheap Dinner Ideas for Kids
While it’s easiest to opt for cereal or peanut butter and jelly when it comes to feeding the kids, there are still plenty of easy kid friendly dinner recipes to try. They don’t have to be complicated or a crazy ton of work to be meals kids love.
Try any of these healthy kid friendly meals on a budget to help make it through the week:
Grilled Cheese and Soup
Grilled cheese and tomato soup is a childhood classic, and for good reason. It’s easy to make and everyone loves it. Try switching it up with different combinations of cheese or other types of soup.
Another great childhood classic are Sloppy Joes, which can be made with ground beef or turkey. Kick it up a notch by making Korean BBQ or Buffalo Chicken Sloppy Joes. Use your favorite buns, or use thick sliced bread to make a grilled cheese Sloppy Joe combo. Sloppy Joe mix can be thrown it in a casserole dish and top with tater tots to give it a new spin. The possibilities are endless, and Pinterest has some great recipes on how to mix it up.
Breakfast for Dinner
Often called “brinner”, breakfast for dinner is a great way to serve a balanced meal without too much effort. Whether it’s pancakes and sausage, oatmeal with berries, or eggs with toast, kids love breakfast. Serving it at dinnertime adds an extra bit of excitement to the meal as well!
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spaghetti and meatballs is a cheap easy healthy meal that you can be sure the kids will eat. Really, any pasta and sauce will do, right? I usually end up making two batches of sauce – one a more traditional (plain) style of the kids, and a a second batch with onions, mushrooms and spices for my husband and I. There are a million combinations of pasta, sauce and additional add-ins that you’re sure to find something that pleases everyone.
Whether breakfast or bean, burritos are a healthy dinner ideas for kids that they’ll love to eat. Any combination of toppings make a personalized meal for each family member, and setting out the ingredients allows them to build their own. Less work for you and more fun for the kids!
With so many options to choose from, it’s easy to find cheap dinner ideas to feed your family, no matter what their tastes. Use these ideas to help build a repertoire of go-to meals when time of short and budgets are tight.
Using these cheap dinner ideas will help you to not only save money, but to also eat out less. When you have a backup plan for those crazy busy nights with the family, you’ll be much less likely to eat out. Don’t forever to learn how to trim your monthly grocery budget as well!
The easiest way to pay off debt is by finding the best legit side hustles that fit your schedule. There are a billion great side hustles out there, everything from proofreading to delivering pizzas. Some involve learning a new skillset, while many others have costly start-up fees to get going.
The key to finding legit side hustles that work are to focus on ones that fit into your life. If you have a 9 to 5, or do shift work, you’re most likely to find success with finding somewhat unusual ways to make money. Finding an MLM isn’t likely to work, seeing as how their success rates are stastically dismal at best.
Low Start-Up Cost Legitimate Side Hustles (that aren’t MLMs)
MLMs (multi-level marketing) are side hustle jobs that are dependent upon your commission from sales, but also on getting others to sign up underneath you, so you’re earning a bit of their profits as well. They usually involve some sort of in-home or online party where a friend hosts it to make money towards their purchases. It usually involves products from leggings to face creams to kitchen products to kids books to food. You know what I’m talking about, right? There’s one for just about any type of product you can imagine.
While I’m not personally against MLMs (as I’ve said before), they work for such a small percentage of people. Why? Because not everyone’s built to be a salesperson. If you don’t have the right skillset or personality (or an insanely HUGE friend/family group to sell to), it’s almost impossible to make back the start-up money that you invested. Not only have you lost our on your time and energy, but you’ve lost out on even more money than if you’d done nothing at all.
On top of that, we’ve recently run into a rash of bizarre and ridiculous news stories in which women (typically) are being pushed into buying more product to sell, even when sales are down. When they try to step away from the business, they end up stuck with a ton of merchandise they can’t offload and no way to recoup that cost.
While I believe that you have to invest money to make money, starting the best side hustle for you shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. It also shouldn’t be a steep learning curve to getting yourself up to snuff in order to make money. When choosing the best side hustle to make money, you need to think about your return on investment. If you’re looking for a part time businesses to supplement your income, and just need to make quick money, remember to keep things simple. There are plenty of ways to make money with little to no money to get started.
I’ve gathered a list of easy and low cost side hustles that aren’t MLMs to get you started quickly on your path to debt repayment!
Work from Home and Online Side Hustles
I love finding online jobs for extra income – they tend to be easier side hustles and can be done while watching TV in the evenings. There are a ton of side jobs you can do from home out there, but unfortunately a lot of them can be scams. Be careful with anything that sounds too good to be true!
Create printables on Etsy/Crafty (if you already have the software and skills)
Get paid to test websites at Usertesting.com (this is my go-to side hustle when I need easy ways to make money!)
Teach English through a company like VIPKid, which pays $14 – $22 an hour and lets you set your own schedule
Do affiliate marketing. You don’t need a website, you can do this through Pinterest or landing pages at ConvertKit
Edit videos with software
Digital bills/paperwork organization
Offer budgeting services and help others organize their bills and get started on their debt snowball
Plan vacations/seek out vacation deals for others
Find deals for others on particular items, get paid a percentage of the savings
Write blog posts for other bloggers
Proofreading / editing
Do jobs on Fiverr
Do surveys on Swagbucks, Survey Junkie, Springboard America, etc.
Participate in in-home testing of products through companies like Swagbucks
Become a VA (Virtual Assistant)
Become a Social Media Manager
Be a coach or consultant in something you’re passionate about
Publish an ebook
Sell your photos on stock photography sites
Trade in old gift cards
Become a voiceover actor
Become a video game / app tester
Get paid to do research
Review and edit resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles
Provide translation services
Become a personal assistant
Data entry services
Become a customer service rep (there are many opportunities to be your own boss and work from home here!)
Become a brand ambassador for your favorite products
Get Paid to Drive
Driving or delivery side hustles are a great way to get out of the house and make some money. It’s not all about delivering pizzas, as Dave Ramsey would suggest.
Thanks to technology, there are so many more options to get paid to drive now. 10 years ago, your options were to deliver pizzas or find seasonal work with the post office, UPS or FedEx.
Now, there are many possibilities to make money driving. You might be able to use your own car, or even bike or scooter depending on your location. Here are just a few popular options:
Drive with Uber. When you drive with Uber, you can use your car to give people rides. You can earn on your schedule – including tips that riders can add from the app!By driving with Uber, you can set your driving schedule. You can get paid to a debit card up to five times per day when you register for Instant Pay! With 24/7 phone support, in-person support, and more, it’s a great way to make extra money on your schedule, not someone else’s. Click here to learn more about earning with Uber
Deliver with Uber Eats. Another great opportunity with Uber is to become a delivery partner with Uber Eats. There’s no picking up or dropping off any passengers (unless you count fettuccine alfredo with a side of breadsticks!). The requirements are a bit more flexible than driving with Uber as well, in that you can deliver with a car, scooter or even a bike (depending on your location). Again, you set your schedule and can get paid instantly (including tips) up to five times a day when you register for Instant Pay with your debit card.Sign up, download the app, and receive food delivery requests after you have completed your activation process. Pick the order up, deliver it, and on to the next one! The Uber Partner app gives you the option to use turn-by-turn navigation to every destination, or you use your own navigation app. This side hustle’s a win for college students, folks with full time jobs, or anyone with a family. Click here to learn more about earning with Uber Eats
Deliver meals with DoorDash. DoorDash is a food delivery service that has partnered with local restaurants in over 300 cities across the U.S. Be your own boss, work on your own schedule, and make great money doing it! Learn More about DoorDash
Drive for Lyft. Lyft provides a great opportunity to earn some extra money. With increased prime time pricing and the ability to keep your tips, means you’ll make more in less time. Learn More about Lyft
Make deliveries with Postmates. Not only is it quick and easy to get signed up, but you get 100% of your commissions for each delivery. Work when you want without fees! Learn More about Postmates
Physical and Outdoor Side Hustle Ideas
A lot of these easy hustles for cash are things that some people can’t do anymore themselves. Look for opportunities in your neighborhood, church or with family friends. They’re great, creative ideas to make money outside of your normal work hours as well:
Start a paper route
Wash cars or windows
Offer power washing services
Sell vegetables, flowers, or bulbs from your garden
Do laundry for those without access to washers/dryers
Run errands for others
Read to people who are physically unable to
Haul things for others
Pick up/trade in scrap metal
Help people move
Meal planning for busy parents and families
Offer latch key hours for kids in the neighborhood until their parents get home
Bartend / Waiter / Waitress
Seasonal work with USPS, FedEx or UPS
Provide elder care so that family members can run errands or get a break
Set up and take down outdoor holiday decorations
Batch cook food and sell the meals
Sell holiday baked goods at church, work or elsewhere
Groom pets, clip nails (assuming you already have experience)
Provide chauffer services to those that can’t drive
Offer grocery buying services
Offer gift wrapping services
Help with seasonal work around the house (changing furnance filters, winterizing, covering A/C, etc.)
Turn Your Current Job into an Easy Side Hustle
Don’t forget to look to your current job for additional easy ideas to make money. It can be easier to land one of these because you’ve already established yourself as a reliable worker and you’re already on the payroll:
Ask for a raise
Ask for additional duties at your main job for additional compensation
Pick up a better paying shift and/or holiday hours
Pick up extra shifts/hours
Figure out how to do your current job in a freelance capacity
Look around for your position at another company – get paid more for the same work!
See where you can earn referral fees for networking you already do
Teach classes about your skillset online or in person
Create a course online that focuses on the skills used in your current job
Set up a coffee cart or snack bar at work to sell goodies
Sell your craft items at work
Pick up an after hours job cleaning at your workplace
Remember, you already have the skillset, so your learning curve would be minimal as well as your financial investment. Going with a job that you already currently do – but in a different capacity – is one of the best side jobs for extra money out there.
Start a Small, Part-Time Business to Earn Extra Income from Home
If you’re looking for a bit more than side gig ideas, consider creating your own business. It doesn’t have to be formal and difficult, just find ways to make money on the side that involve having a clientele base you want to grow:
Small engine repair (if you already have the know-how and tools)
Landscaping / mow lawns
Starting a cleaning service
Hauling services to the dump
Digitize and organize documents for people and businesses
Teach music, art or computer lessons
Teach others the ins and outs of your favorite hobbies
Do nails (assuming you’re already a licensed technican)
Cut hair (assuming you’re already a licensed technican)
Start a painting service
Start an organization service to help people with clutter and cleaning out their homes
Become an event planner
Rent a room to do massage therapy (assuming you are a licensed massage therapist already)
Babysit or start an in-home daycare
Become a sleep training guru for toddlers (I would have handed over my retirement funds for this one, seriously!)
Create and sell crafts at craft shows or through a friend’s storefront. Anything you can possibly make can be sold, including:
Soaps, lotions, scrubs, and candles
Knitted, crocheted and sewn items
Painted signs, furniture, and picture frames
T-shirts, signs, or mugs with Cricut vinyl sayings ironed on
Embroidery or needlework, or printed and framed graphics
Birdhouses, work carvings
Scrapbooks, handmade cards, bullet journals or planners
Drawings, paintings, or graphics files
Hair bows, headbands, tutus, or toys for kids
Wreaths, swags, floral arrangements, and table arrangements
Home decor or holiday decor
Offer professional photography services at family/friend events
DJ for parties and weddings (without all the crazy equipment)
Become a wedding organizer that helps the couple arrange details, complete tasks, and ensures the day runs smoothly
Help with organizing tax paperwork or help file taxes (if you know how)
Tailor / seamstress services
Bake and sell treats and cakes for parties and special occasions
Buy flowers wholesale, then create and sell flower arrangements
Tutor kids with reading, math or other classes
Provide coaching for job interviews
Turn Legit Side Hustles into Passive Income
One of the absolute best ways to make money is through passive income, hands down. Passive income is money that you make while sleeping. Ok, not really – but I got your attention, right? 😉
Active income is money that you earn by doing an active job, such as your 9 – 5 office job. Passive income is income that’s created by investing either time or money into an income stream, and then reaping the benefits further down the line, once all of your work is done.
There are a ton of great passive income ideas to explore – but here are a few just to get you started:
Rent out a room
Use your home for AirBnB
Rent out your car
Rent out your possesions, such as tools, movies or books
The best advice I can give is to find side hustles that match your skillset. By picking jobs that you already know how to do, you’ll feel more confident when applying for them, and will be able to have a larger return on your investment by shortening your start-up costs and time.
Making money on the side doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming. It’s about finding different hustles that fit your needs. When you figure out what you need, and take a look, you’ll find tons of great ways to make extra money.
Speeding up the debt repayment process doesn’t have to be difficult, costly or overly time consuming. What it really takes is figuring out your “why” and putting yourself out there. If you’re willing to work harder and smarter, you’ll find yourself debt free in no time!
Have you figured out the best side hustle for you that fits with your schedule and family? Or do you have more to add? Post them in the comments, I’d love to hear them!
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Racking up debt can happen for a variety of reasons: overspending, medical issues, a car accident, a layoff.
Often it can take just one or two unplanned instances to end up neck deep and struggling – especially if you’re already living paycheck to paycheck.
Millions of Americans are one paycheck away from accuring more debt, or worse – bankruptcy.
My family has been there. We’ve struggled with worrying about going negative every month and using the last small bit of savings we had to stay afloat. Forget figuring out how to eliminate credit card debt on top of that.
We didn’t spend lavishly or have fancy cars and clothes. But we did spend foolishly, by not keeping track of what we had coming in versus going out.
Not to mention we were so disorganized and constantly playing catch up in all aspects of life, including our money.
It doesn’t matter why you have debt – what’s important is that you’re ready to learn how to get out of debt and have the tools you need to finally become debt free.
In this article I’ll outline step-by-step how we officially, finally became debt free (hooray!) and the tools and tricks we used to get there.
Struggling to pay off your debt is no way to live. Why not make this year the year you finally drop the burden of debt once and for all?
5/01/18 Update: We’ve now paid off $26,619 of debt in just 17 months and raised our net worth by $57,952!
Our Steps to Being Debt Free
My husband and I had accrued various types of debt for almost 20 years. We were struggling to figure out how to get out of debt and stay there. While we weren’t necessarily drowning in debt, we weren’t killing it in savings and investments either. Just a lot of living for the day and never setting any financial goals.
Most of our debt was from life in general. Student loans, two costly births, a car wreck, credit cards, home improvements. Having a house on the market for almost a year after moving to a new state certainly didn’t help.
We finally sold our house when we had $700 left in savings to cover the next month’s expenses. The term “living beyond our means” couldn’t have more accurate.
All these decisions we had made stacked, and stacked, and stacked – until I realized just how dangerously everything was teetering.
It was like a bunch of wobbly teacups stacked in angles on top of each other, just waiting for a tiny push to topple them over. I began to realize just how one tiny thing, like a job loss, could topple everything and break us financially.