Simone's Blog: Money Magnet

As the Director of Affiliate Relations at HomeFree-USA, I’ve always been fascinated with how people handle their money. Like everyone else, I’ve had my financial ups and downs. In fact, it took me 32 months to pay off $32,000 in credit card bills and build up a six-month emergency fund. While that was a very difficult period, I am grateful – and wiser -- for the experience.

Through my personal experiences and working at HomeFree-USA, I’ve gained a ton of insight that I feel compelled to share. You’ll find those lessons here. Feel free to take the thoughts and ideas that resonate with you most and put aside the rest for later. I look forward to sharing my journey.

I'm (Finally!) Learning How to Control My Food Budget

I know I'm not alone in my love for food. More than just nourishment, eating can be an experience in culture, socialization, even love. And when there's a new food trend popping up every 5 minutes, holidays like Thanksgiving, anyone that calls for a cookout, or new restaurants opening constantly, it's easy to lose track of one simple question: can you afford it?

This time last year I realized that I was constantly going over my food budget. Like, every month. I couldn't afford that, so here's how I cut back:

1.  Committed to only eating out with others. I usually catch up with friends over a meal. That's important to me, and I didn't want to give it up. What I gave up instead is eating out alone, which I was doing 2-3 times per month. This includes full-service restaurants and take out food.

2.  Drink at home. There's great wine and champagne choices for less than $15 per bottle, but if I purchased the same brand at the club I'd pay at least $8 for a glass. I now typically drink at home before going out and have someone else drive. By the time I arrive, I don't want any more alcohol.

3.  Scour the cabinets. Before I go grocery shopping I check my pantry and refrigerator to see what I have, and create meal plans around those items. Now, food is never wasted.

4.  Cook and freeze. I truly enjoy cooking, but there are days when I'm starving and have no time or energy. So I make a lot of soups and freeze them. Today is one of those days. I'm having a butternut squash soup I made last week.

5.  No packaged foods! Packaged foods cost far more than the ingredients it takes to make them. Many have them purely for those moments of sheer exhaustion and raging hunger. If this is you, see above suggestion to freeze your cooked meals.

6.  Drink more water. As my sister says, water is nature's Hennessy. It's also a great way to curb my appetite and the desire for junk food. I keep a refillable glass bottle with me at all times, and re-up whenever I can. If you don't like plain water add a splash of lemon.

I implemented these tactics and a few more. My overall food spending has dropped tremendously, especially in the restaurants category. I am spending more at the grocery store, so I'm now scouring for coupons and hunting for better prices. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

And so it is.