Average credit card interest rates: Week of April 28, 2021

The average credit card interest rate is 16.15%.

Credit card lenders left new card APRs unchanged again this week, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report. None of the cards tracked weekly by CreditCards.com advertised new interest rates. As a result, the national average card APR remained at a more-than-one-year high for the fourth straight week.

Interest rates on new credit card offers are currently at their highest point since April 1, 2020. But despite higher APRs on some cards, most credit card offers tracked weekly by CreditCards.com haven’t changed since last year. As a result, the average new card APR has hardly budged in months.

Exactly a year ago today, for example, the average card APR stood at 16.12% – just a few basis points lower than today’s 16.15% average. Similarly, the lowest APR average CreditCards.com has recorded all year is just 18 basis points lower than today’s APR average.

Last fall, the average card APR dipped below 15.98% for the first time since June 2017. But despite slightly increasing since then, average card APRs are still near three-year-lows.

Overall, the average new card APR hasn’t budged by more than a fraction of a percentage point all year.

See related: How do credit card APRs work?

These days, splashy card changes are rare

Every week, CreditCards.com checks the APRs of a representative sample of 100 U.S. credit cards and compares them to the APRs lenders previously advertised.

Before 2020, APRs on new cards changed frequently – especially when lenders revamped a card’s rewards program or revised its secondary benefits.

When a lender introduces new credit card perks or substantially revises a card’s rewards program, it often boosts the card’s APR at the same time.

But lately, only a handful of lenders have made significant changes to a card’s rewards program or pricing. An even smaller number have made changes since the beginning of 2021.

Since Jan. 1, for example, just eight cards included in the weekly rate report have undergone a rate change. Meanwhile, four of those cards are from the same issuer.

In the first quarter of 2021, U.S. Bank hiked APRs on at least two consumer credit cards, including the Harley Davidson Visa Signature card and the U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card, and two business credit cards. It also increased the APRs on two business credit cards. Unlike other lenders, U.S. Bank has been relatively active since the fall of 2020. Last year, for example, it increased the APRs on a number of key credit cards, including the U.S. Bank Secured Visa Card and the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card.

But most banks tracked by CreditCards.com have been much quieter.

Among the 100 cards included in the weekly rate report, for example, just one other bank card has received a significant rate change since January. Bank of America lowered the starting APR on the Bank of America Travel Rewards Card for Students* and increased the card’s maximum APR. The bank also revised the non-student version of its no-annual-fee travel card; but that change didn’t affect the national average since it’s not included in the weekly calculation.

Meanwhile, the only other two cards advertising new rates this year are co-branded retail cards. The retailer L.L. Bean increased the APR on its co-branded Mastercard in February, while the energy giant Chevron increased the APR on the Texaco Techron Advantage Visa card earlier this month.

The information for the Bank of America Travel Rewards Card for Students has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

CreditCards.com’s Weekly Rate Report

Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 16.15% 16.15% 15.97%
Low interest 12.91% 12.91% 12.77%
Cash back 16.03% 16.03% 15.85%
Balance transfer 14.03% 14.03% 13.85%
Business 14.22% 14.22% 13.91%
Student 15.98% 15.98% 16.12%
Airline 15.51% 15.51% 15.50%
Rewards 15.85% 15.85% 15.75%
Instant approval 18.47% 18.47% 18.38%
Bad credit 25.30% 25.30% 24.43%
Methodology: The national average credit card APR is comprised of 100 of the most popular credit cards in the country, including cards from dozens of leading U.S. issuers and representing every card category listed above. (Introductory, or teaser, rates are not included in the calculation.)
Source: CreditCards.com
Updated: April 28, 2021

Historic interest rates by card type

Some credit cards charge even higher rates, on average. The type of rate you get will depend in part on the category of credit card you own. For example, even the best travel credit cards often charge higher rates than basic, low interest credit cards. CreditCards.com has been calculating average rates for a wide variety of credit card categories, including student cards, balance transfer cards, cash back cards and more, since 2007.

How to get a low credit card interest rate

Your odds of getting approved for a card’s lowest rate will increase the more you improve your credit score. Some factors that influence your credit card APR will be out of your control, such as the length of time you’ve been handling credit. However, even if you’re new to credit or are rebuilding your score, there are steps you can take to ensure a lower APR. For example:

  • Pay your bills on time. The single most important factor influencing your credit score – and your ability to win a lower rate – is your track record of making on-time payments. Lenders are more likely to trust you with a competitive APR – and other positive terms, such as a big credit limit – if you have a lengthy history of paying your bills on time.
  • Keep your balances low. Lenders also want to see that you are responsible with your credit and don’t overcharge. As a result, credit scores take into account the amount of credit you’re using, compared to how much credit you’ve been given. This is known as your credit utilization ratio. Typically, the lower your ratio, the better. For example, personal finance experts often recommend that you keep your balances well below 30% of your total credit limit.
  • Build a lengthy and diverse credit history. Lenders also like to see that you’ve been successfully using credit for a long time and have experience with different types of credit, including revolving credit and installment loans. As a result, credit scores, such as the FICO score and VantageScore, factor in the average length of your credit history and the types of loans you’ve handled (which is known as your credit mix). To keep your credit history as long as possible, continue to use your oldest credit card so your lender doesn’t close it.
  • Call your lender. If you’ve successfully owned a credit card for a long time, you may be able to convince your lender to lower your interest rate – especially if you have excellent credit. Reach out to your lender and ask if they’d be willing to negotiate a lower APR.
  • Monitor your credit report. Check your credit reports regularly to make sure you’re being accurately scored. The last thing you want is for a mistake or unauthorized account to drag down your credit score. You have the right to check your credit reports from each major credit bureau (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) once per year for free through AnnualCreditReport.com.

Source: creditcards.com

The “Cashless” Cash Envelope System

The post The “Cashless” Cash Envelope System appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

You have probably heard people talk about how to use a cash envelope budget to save money and help you get out of debt. But, what if you don’t want to use cash? Does that mean you can’t use envelopes? Nope. Not if you follow one of the cashless cash envelope methods available.

Cash Envelope system without cash

If you follow any money advice, you are usually taught about using cash and implementing the cash envelope system.  That is what I recommend here on our site.

As much as this is the perfect solution for our family (and one of the catalysts to help us kick-start our debt pay-off plan), I also understand this is not an option for everyone.  Even if you don’t use cash, you still should budget and spend as if you do.

If you are just learning about budgeting, you will want to check out our page — How to Budget. There, you will learn everything you want to know about budgets and budgeting.

The way to do this is by using a cashless envelope system.  It is how to use cash envelopes without using cash.  The idea is simple, but there different ways to track it.

 

HOW DOES A CASHLESS CASH ENVELOPE SYSTEM WORK?

The idea is the same as the regular cash envelope method.  You have a budget and need to ensure you don’t spend more than what you should.

Each pay period, you record the amount budgeted for each category onto your “envelope.”  As you spend, you keep track of it.  When you are out of money, you can’t spend anything else.

Using the cash envelope system without using cash can work – if you want it to.

 

WHY IS THIS METHOD BETTER?

When you are trying to get control of your finances, you need to know where you spend.  The best way to do this is to track your spending.  Not tracking after you spend – but as you purchase.

Most of the time, you swipe your card without worry.  This action can easily throw your budget out of balance.

While using cash has emotion attached to it, tracking every purchase requires awareness.  You are always watching what you spend and where.  There are no surprises that you spent $250 on groceries when the budget was $200.  You see it happening right in front of you.

The cashless envelope system works because:

  1. You don’t have to worry about carrying or getting cash.
  2. It forces you to track of your spending in real time.
  3. You can see exactly where your money goes and make budget adjustments as needed.

The cashless envelope system forces you to be more responsible for your spending without the hassle of carrying money.

 

CASHLESS CASH ENVELOPE SYSTEMS TO TRY

When you are ready to try a cashless system, you need to determine which is the best for you.  You can find one on your phone, or there is also a printable option.

 

CASHLESS CASH ENVELOPE APP

There are several apps that claim they can help you keep track of your spending with virtual envelopes. If you have found one that works well for you, then I say keep using it!  But, if you are new to this idea – or want something new – the one I recommend is Mvelopes.

Mvelopes has three different plan levels, starting as low as $4 a month.  You can use the one that best suits your needs.  If you are new to the platform, I recommend starting out with the basic plan.

To start, you will add the app to your phone  — or you can use their online site (which I love).  Once you do that, you sync your various accounts.  Make certain to include the cards you will use for your various categories.

For example, you may charge every purchase to your credit card to earn rewards or cash back.  If this is you, you will connect your credit card.  Some may use the debit card for some purchases and a credit card for others.  Those of you who do this will connect both cards to your account.

Once that is done, you set up your online envelopes and add budgeted amounts to each.  Then, you just swipe as usual.  Every time you make a purchase, the purchase amount is deducted from your online envelope.  With a couple of swipes, you see not only how much you have left to spend, but even where you spent your money.  There is no guessing.

This system helps you give every dollar a job.  You know where it will go even before you spend it.  Using Mvelopes puts you back in control.

If you want or need even more help, Mvelopes has other plans that you can purchase.  They offer the Mvelopes PLUS plan for $19 per month.  This service includes all of the services available under the basic plan but also helps you tackle your debt.  You even receive you a personal finance trainer who will visit with you once per quarter.  This plan helps you set and achieve your financial goals.

Should you need more one-on-one help, you may want to consider the Mvelopes Complete package instead.  You get all of the benefits of the Plus plan but receive your own, one-on-one finance trainer.  This coach works with you to help you achieve your financial goals.  You aren’t left alone to figure things out as there is someone right there, guiding you along the way.

As I said you don’t need to purchase one of the larger plans as the basic plan will meet most people’s needs. However, it is great to have these options available at your fingertips.

Related:   The Best Apps for Your Budget

 

CASHLESS ENVELOPE PRINTABLE

Apps are great, but there are times when you would rather have the simplicity of writing something down rather than having to pull it up on your phone.  That’s where the printable cashless envelopes come in handy.

These work in the same way as regular envelopes — just without cash.  Print them off and keep them handy.  Record the budgeted amount for that category at the top.  Then, as you spend, keep track of it.  Jot down every purchase and keep a running total of how much you have left to spend.

I get that it is a pain to keep track of “cents”, so I recommend you round up.  For example, if your grocery budget is $200 and you spend $105.74, record that you spend $106 and have $94 left to spend.  That is MUCH easier than keeping track down to the penny.  (Truth be told, this is what I do with our cash envelopes too).

Once you reach your spending limit, then you are done with that category!  If you budget $100 for dining out and there is just $5 left, don’t pick up that coffee and cake for $7 – or you will have just busted your budget!  If you find that you are always out of money for select categories, or often have money left over for others, then it may be time to make adjustments to your budget.

printable cashless cash envelopes

Grab your cashless envelope printables.  Now, I don’t recommend you print this onto regular paper, as that is really thin and will tear easily. Purchase card stock to use to print out your cashless envelopes as they will be more durable.

Related:  How to Figure Out How Much Money to Budget For Groceries

 

Even if you don’t want to use cash, it is still essential that you continue to track your spending, so you never exceed your budget.

cashless envelope system

The post The “Cashless” Cash Envelope System appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

6 Ways to Save Money on New Clothes

6 Ways to Save Money on New Clothes

Cut Your Clothing Clutter

If you have a favorite navy shirt, chances are, you rarely wear your second-favorite navy shirt, and never wear your third favorite! If you tend to buy a lot of items that are similar to each other, try organizing your closet by color, so when you pause by that navy polo shirt at the store, you’ll remember just how many navy shirts you already own.

Shop in the Off-Season

For the best deals on clothes, shop in the off-season. Buy spring and summer clothing in July and August, and fall and winter clothing in January and February. (You can often find the best sales right after the holiday season.) It’s sometimes a bummer to buy something you’re not going to be able to wear for six months, but when the time comes to switch seasons, you’ll be happy you already have some new clothes to wear—all of which were purchased on sale!

Befriend Those in the Know

If you have a favorite shop you find yourself spending a lot of time in, make sure to get friendly with the sales staff! Clothing stores often have unannounced sales, or they regularly begin sales on certain days of the week. If you’re down with the people who work there, they’ll often you tip you off. And if they really like you, they may let you put an item on layaway until it goes on sale a few days later.

Keep It Simple

When you’re buying clothes, always go for classic looks rather than modern, trendy ones. A blue V-neck T-shirt will be fashionable year after year, while something with more exotic colors or patterns will go out of style quickly. By choosing the basics, you won't have to buy as many new articles of clothing each season.

Take It to the Tailor

Going to a tailor may seem like an expensive proposition, but it’s often worth it if you unearth a good deal on a suit or other item of clothing that doesn’t quite fit. Found some jeans for ten bucks that look great but are an inch too long? A jacket that’s a steal, but a bit too baggy in the arms? For a small price, you can get these items custom-fitted at a tailor. And you’ll still be saving a bundle from what the normal retail price would be.

Revamp Shoes and Purses Yourself

Not happy with the color of a handbag or pair of fancy shoes? Instead of buying new accessories, turn that unbecoming chartreuse into an elegant black with a can of shoe color spray. You can pick up an inexpensive can of shoe color from a repair shop, then revamp those heels yourself instead of paying someone else to do it for you.

Get more great tips on our podcast by subscribing on iTunes or Stitcher. You can also sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook for our daily tips!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Do You Know How Much You’re Spending on Dining and Takeout?

Pretty much everyone upped their spending on take-out food in 2020 – and for good reason. With restaurants closed for indoor dining and grocery stores experiencing unpredictable staffing and inventory issues, many consumers chose to order out for the majority of their meals.

Now that things are slowly returning to normal, you may be wondering how to adjust your budget accordingly. We’ll walk you through how to determine the right amount to budget for take-out and dining, and give you some strategies to save money when ordering from your favorite restaurants.

How Much Should You Spend on Dining and Take-Out?

It’s hard to give an exact prescription for how much you should spend on take-out because it largely depends on the specifics of your budget and financial situation. In general, your food budget, including groceries and eating out, should make up between 10 and 15% of your income. Families with multiple children may spend more than that, so don’t worry if your percentage exceeds the recommendation.

If you’re not sure how much you spend on food, go through your transactions for the past few months and calculate the percentage.

John Bovard, CFP of Incline Wealth Advisors said consumers who have no credit card debt and invest 20% or more of their income in a retirement account can spend 10% of their post-tax income on take-out.

Ways to Save on Takeout

Want to keep your takeout tradition but still feel like you’re spending too much? Here are some tips to save money when ordering out from your favorite restaurants:

Pick up in person

Everyone knows that delivery fees add a huge surcharge to your total bill, but you might not realize how big the difference actually is. A New York Times article found that the same sandwich at Subway costs between 25% and 91% more when delivered, depending on the specific delivery app.

A $20 order could cost between $5 and $18.20 more if you get it delivered. The cost is generally higher during weekends and holidays.

Look for specials

Plan your take-out around restaurant specials. Follow restaurants on social media to see when they’re running discounts, like half-price oysters on Sundays or happy hour specials. When you’re picking up the food, ask someone behind the counter when the best deals are.

Restaurants often print coupon codes or discounts on their receipts, so don’t forget to check there.

Use discounted gift cards

Many restaurants and fast food places sell gift cards and often run special sales, like selling a $50 gift card for $45. This is especially popular during the holiday season.

Wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club regularly sell discounted gift cards to popular chains. For example, you can buy $100 worth of gift cards to California Pizza Kitchen for only $80 at Costco, or $75 worth of Domino’s gift cards for only $65.

You can also buy restaurant gift cards online through GiftCardGranny or CardCash, which sell gift cards for up to 10% off.

Skip dinner

Dinner is the most expensive meal of the day, so opt for breakfast or lunch if you’re eating out. If you get take-out a couple times a week, use one for dinner and the other for brunch or lunch.

Cash in rewards

Some restaurants have loyalty programs you can join with an email address or phone number, while others have an old-fashioned punch card system. Keep track of these rewards so you cash them out before they expire.

Order catering

If you’re eating with a group of people, see if the restaurant offers catering, which may be less expensive than ordering individual entrees. Everyone will have to eat the same thing, but it’s a great way to save money.

Sign up for restaurant emails

Both local and national restaurants often have email newsletters you can join to get extra discounts. For example, my favorite Mexican restaurant is constantly sending me emails for 10 or 15% off take-out.

Create a separate label for these emails so you can sort through them before ordering take-out. You can also add reminders on your phone to use the discounts before they expire.

Use a rewards credit card

Many credit cards offer points or cashback when you dine out, and some let you cash in points for restaurant gift cards. Look up the rewards policies for your current credit cards to see which one you should use for restaurants.

Consider opening a new card if you don’t have a dining rewards card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers 2% cashback for dining and also comes with a year of DashPass, the DoorDash subscription service with $0 delivery fees.

Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders earn 3% cashback on dining, get a free year’s worth of DashPass and also have $60 of DoorDash credit for the first year.

Most dining rewards cards have an annual fee, usually around $95, so don’t open one unless the cashback rewards will exceed the fee. Some card companies will waive the fee for the first year, allowing you to see if you’ll earn enough rewards to offset the fee. Some rewards credit cards also let you cash in points for restaurant gift cards.

Buy a food delivery subscription

If you don’t have easy access to transportation, then ordering delivery may be your best option.  In this case, consider signing up for a food delivery membership. DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, and Uber Eats all offer a monthly subscription for around $10. Each subscription comes with free delivery and other specials.

Before you sign up, calculate how often you order out and see if a monthly membership makes sense. If you have a neighbor or roommate, consider splitting a subscription with them to save even more money.

Many of these services have a free trial period, allowing you to gauge how much you’ll actually use them. Choose the app with the largest number of restaurants you like.

Use a browser extension

Browser extensions like Rakuten provide cashback when you order from delivery sites like Grubhub and Seamless. Just click on the Rakuten button on the top right of your browser when you visit either of those sites. You’ll earn up to 11% cashback with eligible orders.

The post Do You Know How Much You’re Spending on Dining and Takeout? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Ready to Work Remote? Here Are the Home Office Essentials You Need

Plan on working from home? Make sure your workspace is ready to meet remote-job requirements with these home office essentials.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

7 ways to use your tax refund

Every year, Americans are required to go through the process of filing a tax return. But while doing your taxes isn’t exactly exciting, most people have a significant incentive to do so: a tax refund.

You’ll have more time to file this year – due to the coronavirus outbreak, the IRS has extended the tax deadline to May 17.

According to the IRS, as of March 26, 2021, roughly 56.5 million taxpayers received a refund for 2021 so far, with an average haul of $2,902. Depending on your financial situation, that kind of windfall can have a major impact. But the question every refund recipient faces is what you should do with that cash.

Millions of Americans have joined the ranks of the unemployed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Many will likely use their tax refunds, as well as federal stimulus checks, to tide them over until they can get back to work.

Is credit card interest tax deductible?

7 ways to use your tax refund

  1. Boost your emergency fund
  2. Pay down high-interest debt
  3. Invest in the future
  4. Invest in yourself
  5. Spruce up your home
  6. Buy a new (to you) car
  7. Donate to charity

1. Boost your emergency fund

According to a survey by CreditCards.com, 28% of Americans who expect to receive a tax refund plan to save it — the most popular answer in the survey. While there are many different ways you can save money, the most pressing for many people is to create or beef up your emergency fund.

Financial experts generally recommend keeping three to six months’ worth of expenses in a savings account for emergencies. A few thousand dollars may not be enough to achieve that goal, but it’s a good start.

medical emergencies and home repairs or vet visits are unpredictable,” says consumer finance expert Andrea Woroch, “and savings can give you the peace of mind that you can get through these tough financial times without going into debt.”

2. Pay down high-interest debt

Roughly a quarter of Americans plan to pay down debt with their tax refunds, but it’s important to keep in mind that not all debt is created equal.

“I’d look to pay down high-interest debt first,” says Mark Wilson, a CFP and president of MILE Wealth Management. That may include credit cards, personal loans and some student loans.

If you’re wondering which debts are considered high interest, think about it in terms of the opportunity cost. If you were to invest the money in the stock market, for instance, an investment advisor may tell you to expect a return of 6% or 7% over the long term, to be conservative.

If you have debt with an interest rate that’s higher than that, pay it off first because you’ll likely get a better return in the form of interest savings than you would in the market.

“I would not likely recommend paying down mortgage debt,” Wilson adds, “as this is often low-interest and deductible debt.”
average credit card APR is above 16% as of April 1. And a 2021 CreditCards.com survey showed millions of Americans accrued more debt during the COVID-19 outbreak.

financial coach based in Portland, Maine. “Retirement comes first, before most other savings priorities, excluding some emergency savings or possibly a down payment for a house or investment property.”

See related: How to use your tax refund to boost your credit score

4. Invest in yourself

Investing in the future doesn’t necessarily have to involve an investment account.

“You are your own greatest asset, and investing in yourself thoughtfully can help boost your earning potential,” says Woroch.

Woroch recommends looking for different ways to improve your skills, or even gain new ones, through workshops, seminars, conferences, mastermind groups or networking events. Although any event that requires people to travel or gather in groups is currently on hold, you may still find helpful resources and virtual networking events online.
Bankrate, the top improvements with the best return on investment include garage door replacement, manufactured stone veneer, minor kitchen remodel, deck addition and siding replacement.

See related: Best credit cards for home improvements

6. Buy a new (to you) car

For many Americans, their car is their primary form of transportation, so it’s essential to have a reliable vehicle to get to work, school and other necessary activities. If your car has some mechanical issues that could make these things difficult, buying a new one could be considered a form of risk management, and it could also save you money on future repairs.

Keep in mind, though, that if you have a loan on your existing vehicle, you’ll need to get enough money from selling it to pay off what you owe.researchers, charitable giving can improve the emotional and mental well-being of the giver.

If you’re thinking about going this route, use services like Charity Navigator to find and vet nonprofit organizations. You’ll get a glimpse into how your favorite charities spend their money, so you can make as meaningful an impact as possible with yours. The site has a dedicated coronavirus section if you want to contribute to COVID-19 relief efforts.

See related: 1099-C surprise: Canceled debt often taxable as income

Consider whether you want big refunds in the future

Getting a tax refund every year can feel like a nice gift, but it does mean that you don’t have access to that money throughout the year when you could.

“I have mixed feelings about tax refunds,” says Wilson. “They obviously feel like free money, yet they mean someone lent their money to Uncle Sam for too long, for free.”

The good news is that it’s possible to estimate how much tax you’ll owe based on your wages on the IRS website. Doing this can help you determine whether you should reduce how much is withheld from your paycheck.

While it sounds complicated – you’ll need to contact your payroll manager to request a lower tax withholding amount – it’s important to consider if you have financial goals and don’t want to wait until you get your refund every year to work toward them. It’s especially important if you have high-interest debt, says Bishop.

“For a W-2 employee, if you reduce your withholdings and put that extra money every pay period directly toward your debt,” she says, “you’ll be much better off financially over the course of a year than accumulating a large tax refund and putting that lump sum toward your debt.”

Bottom line

Ultimately, what you choose to do with your tax refund – or whether you decide to get that money once a year or throughout the year via reduced withholdings – is up to you. But these tips can help you get an idea of options that can help you achieve your financial goals and improve your financial and overall well-being.

Source: creditcards.com

How to Figure Out Your Family’s Grocery Budget (and Stick to It!)

The post How to Figure Out Your Family’s Grocery Budget (and Stick to It!) appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

One question I see time and again is “How much should I spend on groceries for my family of four ?” — or three, five, etc.

When you’re making a household budget, it’s easy to know how much you need to include for most of your living expenses, like utilities, student loans, and even fuel. But when it comes to your average grocery bill, how much should you expect?

As much as I wish there were a simple answer, a family’s grocery budget will be different for every household. There’s no right or wrong number, but finding yours is key to keeping your grocery spending in check.

Here’s a guide to help you figure out how much you should spend on food each month.

Calculator and receipt in shopping cart for grocery budget

WHY YOU NEED A GROCERY BUDGET

It may sound like it should go without saying, but you need a food budget because it will force you to think about money when you’re grocery shopping. After all, your income is a certain amount, and that means you only have a certain amount of money you can spend on food for your family.

The other reason you need a frugal food budget is to make sure you don’t spend too much money for the food your family needs (and to save money by not buying food you don’t need). You become smarter about your spending and think twice before adding impulse purchases to your shopping cart.

HOW MUCH TO BUDGET FOR FOOD

It can be tough to figure out how much you *should* budget for food vs. what you’re currently spending on your meals. There is not a right or a wrong number, but you must find the right amount so you don’t overspend.

Here are some tricks you can try to help you figure out exactly how much to spend on food per month.

Budgeting Hack 1: Use the National Average

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average household spends about 6% of its income on groceries each month. However, the study also shows that the average American also spends 5% of his or her disposable income on dining out. That makes your food budget 11% of your overall income — a significant expense!

If you want to keep things simple and use the national average to calculate your monthly grocery budget, then plan on spending 6% for groceries and an additional 5% for dining out.

Here is an example: If your take-home pay is $3,000 a month, you will budget around $180 for groceries and $150 for dining out. Of course, if $180 won’t cover your needs, then you need to commit to a more thrifty plan: Scale back on eating out and use any additional money toward your grocery needs.

Budgeting Hack 2: Use Your Actual Spending

A more realistic way to figure out how much to budget for groceries is to look at your current grocery spending. An easy way to do this is by completing a spending form.

Here’s how it works. Review all your purchases over several pay periods. You should include food spending, fuel, dining out, entertainment — everything. Having all the numbers in front of you will help you calculate the average of how much you’re spending on groceries (and all your other budget categories!) every week.

If you think your expenses for food add up to too much money, you can try to reduce your spending. Just keep in mind that your family will have to adjust the way you eat.

Budgeting Hack 3: Use a Grocery Calculator

Sometimes, you want to get specific help when figuring out how much to budget for food. There is a simple to use, online grocery budget calculator; you can use it for free.

Fill out the information for all of your family members, then hit calculate. It will return an average you should plan on budgeting for your family.

I ran this report for my family, and the result said we should plan on $219.35 for an average grocery budget for our family of five. That is more than we spend. On average, I spend $125 – $150 per week on everything our family needs.

While using a budget calculator can be helpful, it might end up doing the same thing for you: Suggest an amount that is higher than what you know you spend — or is higher than what you can afford. Use this calculator as a guide, but not the only factor when determining your budget.

Budgeting Hack 4: Look at the U.S. Average

Another way to reach a grocery budget amount is to look at the plans created by the USDA. The most recent plans are on their website. They provide the weekly cost for a thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost and liberal plan on a weekly and monthly basis. The amounts are broken down by gender and age. You will need to total the numbers listed for the people in your family.

For example, the average grocery budget for a family of four is about $871, per this report. The amounts will be lower, of course for a family of three or higher if you need to budget for a family of five.

Once again, these numbers should be a guide. Once you start grocery shopping for your family, you may find that you spend much less – or even more – than what the average family spends on groceries.

Don’t Forget Special Dietary Needs

If you have a family member who cannot eat gluten or who has other dietary restrictions, these can affect your budget. Make sure you keep these foods in mind when developing your budget as they can cost much more than average foods or require trips to a specialty grocery store.

TRICKS TO MAKING A MONTHLY FOOD BUDGET

There is no magic formula or grocery budget app that will pull the numbers together for you. The key is to make sure that you put forth the effort in the right manner to make it work for you. Keep the following in mind when figuring your monthly food budget:

1. Consider Your Current Spending

Before you can make any changes, you have to know where you are starting. That way, you can see what you currently spend on your groceries so you can start cutting back.

Need help figuring our your average grocery bill?

You can use the Spending Worksheet and go back to find your spending on food over the past 8 weeks. Look at every transaction in your bank statement and total it. Then, divide that amount by two. You know have an average your family spends on food every month.

The next step is going to be finding a way to not only spend that amount going forward but try to find ways to spend even less if you can.

2. Put It in Writing

The next things you need to when creating your budget for food is to put it in writing. Once written down, you are more willing to commit to the process. Make sure your spouse or partner is also on board so you can work together to ensure you don’t overspend.

3. Start Using Cash

If you really want to stick to a tight budget, you need to use cash. Each payday, get cash from your bank for the amount you’ll need at the grocery store. That is all you have to spend until the next payday. No cheating! That means you can’t whip out your debit card if you run out of money.

You’ll quickly learn better ways to be smart and strategic when figuring your budget and sticking to it. (Read more about how to start using a cash envelope budget ).

4. Commit to Using Your Budget

You can have the greatest intent to use a budget, but if you aren’t ready to do so, it will never work. It is just like dieting. You may know you want to shed pounds, but if you are not willing to put in the effort, the weight will never come off.

Once you know the amount you have to spend at the grocery store, you need to stick to it (this is another reason to use cash). You have to make the conscious decision that you want to budget and then do all you can to make it work.

Your spouse or partner needs to be on board, too. It will never work if one of you is committed to making your grocery budget work and the other is not. Have a long heart to heart talk and make sure you are on the same page.

Read more: How to talk to your spouse about money

GROCERY SHOPPING ON A BUDGET

If you’ve tried all these ideas and still need to save money on groceries, here are some simple tricks you can try.

Reduce Your Dining Out Budget

Stop eating as many restaurant meals. That’s an easy way to find money to add to your grocery shopping budget, especially if this means you’re cutting back on alcohol spending at restaurants.

Use Coupons

While they are not for everyone, coupons are the simplest way to save money on the items you need. Even if coupons aren’t available for the grocery items you need, you can find them for household products you use, like toilet paper and laundry detergent, thereby reducing your spending and increasing the money you can spend on the foods you want.

Stick to Your List

Never shop without a list and only purchase the items on your list. Put in writing or use a grocery list app and don’t be tempted to add extra items to the cart.

Make a Meal Plan

Create a meal plan before you grocery shop. That way, you have a plan for the week not only to know what you will eat but also to make sure the ingredients will be on hand when it’s time for meal prep (reducing those frequent drive-thru meals). Meal planning saves you time, money, and the stress of figuring out “Mom, what’s for dinner?” without resorting to frozen pizza.

Keep a Price Book

Start watching the sales cycles at your grocery store and you’ll learn when it is time to stock up on your pantry staples, so you always pay the lowest price. Keep track of the prices in a price book for every item your family needs. (Bonus: When you get good at identifying your store’s food cost cycles, you can plan a meal or two around the fresh foods on sale in any given week.)

Add a Meatless Meal

One item that can quickly increase your grocery bill is meat. Try having a meal without meat every week (like Meatless Mondays), and you’ll find that you spend less.

Vegetables are cheaper than meat and can be just as filling. Having vegetables for your main course at dinner is not only healthy but can also help with saving money. Try loaded sweet potatoes, pasta with veggie sauce, or cheese and vegetable pizza for a delicious meal.

If veggies are a hard sell for your family, try fruit salads or breakfast for dinner — pancakes and French toast are cheap and fast!

Buying fresh fruit and vegetables that are in-season can help you save even more on your monthly grocery bill. And frozen vegetables and fruit are often cheaper (and tastier) than “fresh” produce that’s not in-season.

  • Pro tip: When you’re buying meat, remember that cuts like chicken thighs are often significantly cheaper than chicken breasts, and they have more flavor. Get more tips on saving money on meat, produce, and dairy products.

There’s an App for That

There are many grocery savings apps that can help you keep tabs on food prices and create a smarter shopping list. What is great about an app is that you always have it with you on your phone, so no worry that you left a coupon at home or in your car.

Steer Clear of Mistakes at the Grocery Store

When you grocery shop, there are temptations around every corner (and I don’t just mean the ice cream and chocolate chip cookies). There are sales on the end caps, fancy signs and different tricks stores use to make you spend more money. Learn about the ways grocery stores get you to spend more money so you can avoid them.

Avoid Haste and Waste

One of the biggest ways people waste money when it comes to food is through waste. People often buy food that goes bad before they get around to eating it.

You might also waste money buying convenience foods. (That frozen meal might seem like a deal when you’re running low on time, but you’ll save more if you prepare big batches of homemade, healthy food and freeze some leftover portions for later.)

These are two ways you are killing your grocery budget. Study your habits and find ways to make changes so you aren’t wasting money on food.

  • Pro tip: One convenience food I occasionally give into is a rotisserie chicken. It’s ready to eat when I get home from the store, and you can use it in a few other meals during the week.

NOW GO SAVE MONEY ON YOUR GROCERIES!

Take the time to create a grocery budget that is both frugal and feasible for your family. Don’t try to make the dollar amount so low that it is unrealistic, or it will fail month after month. But if you pay attention while you’re shopping and keep an eye on how long the food lasts your family, you’ll soon discover that having a realistic grocery budget is the tastiest way to save money!

The post How to Figure Out Your Family’s Grocery Budget (and Stick to It!) appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

How to Make Tough Decisions as a Couple

Marnie and Tom live in a nice suburb in the Midwest with their two young children. Marnie’s mother, Elaine, lives about an hour away.

When the kids were babies, Marnie's mother used to drive to Marnie and Tom's every day to see her grandkids and help out. But lately, Marnie's mother's health has been declining, so she can’t drive over anymore.

One day Marnie gets an idea: What if she and Tom sell their house and move closer to her mother? Then the kids would be able to see their grandmother more often. Plus, Marnie would be able to keep a closer eye on her mother in case her health gets worse. Seems like a perfect solution.

There’s only one problem—Tom doesn’t want to move. Tom likes the neighborhood they’re in. He thinks he and Marnie paid too much for their house, but other than that he’s very comfortable.

Tom says no.

Tough decisions and zero-sum situations

Faced with big decisions like this, a couple will ordinarily try to compromise. But in this case, there’s really no half-way. Economists call this kind of thing a zero-sum situation. Someone’s going to win, and someone’s going to lose.

For over thirty years, I’ve watched couples struggle with zero-sum problems. Some more successfully, and some less so.

Some classic zero-sum problems for couples involve whether or not to move—often for one partner’s career—and whether or not to have another child. But there are lots of others.    

For thirty years, I’ve watched couples struggle with zero-sum problems. Some more successfully, and some less so. Today, we’re going to talk about what works, and what doesn’t, when you’re faced with one of these situations.

Three ways not to make tough decisions as a couple

 First, let’s talk first about what doesn’t work. There are three main approaches that don’t work. Unfortunately, most couples try all three:

Mistake #1 – Trying to convince your partner they'll be better off

The first mistake is to try to convince your partner that they’ll be much happier if they do things your way. In Marnie’s case, this might involve demonstrating to Tom all the wonderful things about the neighborhood she'd like to move to. Wouldn't Tom be better off there? 

No one likes to be told they’ll be happier if they just do things your way.

 Here’s the problem: No one likes to be told they’ll be happier if they just do things your way. It's better to assume each person has good reasons for feeling the way they do. And that those reasons aren’t likely to change. In couples therapy, we call this "staying in your own lane."

Mistake #2 – Suggesting there's something wrong with your parnter for disagreeing

The second thing that doesn’t work is to suggest there’s something wrong with your partner. Otherwise, they'd see it your way. If only they were less anxious, less obsessive-compulsive, less oppositional, less stuck in their ways, or less damaged by unresolved childhood trauma. Then they’d surely agree with you!

A lot of people get sent to my office for therapy by their spouses for just this reason. Believe me when I tell you, it doesn’t work.

A lot of people get sent to my office for therapy by their spouses for just this reason. Believe me when I tell you, it doesn’t work. It usually just leads to a lot of bad feeling.

Mistake #3 – Appealing to your partner's love

The third thing that doesn’t work is to appeal to your partner’s love and insist that if they really love you as much as they say they do, they’ll give you what you want. Almost every couple tries this.

Marnie is no exception.

“Tom,” she says, one night as they're getting ready for bed, “Don’t you see how I can’t sleep at night worrying about my mother? I can't stop thinking about how she’s missing out on so much of our kids’ lives. Can’t you see what this is doing to me? Don’t you love me?”

 “The answer’s still no,” says Tom. “And it has nothing to do with whether I love you or not.”

I'd be inclined to agree. Just because you love someone, that doesn't mean you're responsible for giving them everything they want. 

A better way to make tough decisions as a couple

The good news is there’s a much better method. There are three steps involved.

Step One:  Let’s make a deal

In business, this would be a no-brainer, right?  You’d never ask someone to give you something you want for free. Instead, you’d find out what their price is.  

In marriage, it’s the same thing. The main question is: What’s going to motivate the other person to do a deal?

Let’s see what happens when Marnie tries this approach.

One night in bed, just before they turn off the lights, Marnie turns over to face Tom.

“Tom, what can I give you to make you agree to move?” she asks.

Tom is silent.

“A promise to never complain ever again about you watching TV?”

Tom smiles. “It’s going to cost a lot more than that,” he says.

Marnie thinks some more. “How about if I agree to spend every Thanksgiving and Christmas with your family?”

Tom shakes his head. But now Marnie has the idea. She’s not asking for favors anymore. She just wants to do this deal.         

“I'll do all the cooking and cleanup three times a week,” she says. "And we spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with your family."  

Tom raises an eyebrow. Now he knows she's serious. "Let me think about it,” he says, and turns off the light.

Time for Step Two.

Step Two:  The $64,000 Question

The following night, Tom is sitting at his laptop paying bills. Suddenly it hits him. “Marnie,” he says, “I think I see a way to do this. If we’re going to move, let’s get a smaller house and start saving money again. What do you think?”    Marnie’s actually been hoping for a bigger house. It’s painful to hear that this is what Tom wants. But hey, now he’s named his price. That means he’s in the game.

To me, this looks promising. Marnie gets something she wants very much. And she pays for it, fair and square. Same thing on Tom’s side.

Marnie thinks for a minute.  

“Let’s see what we can find,” she says.

Step Three: The Price is Right

Now comes the fun part.

The following Sunday, Marnie and Tom drop the kids off with her mother and start house-hunting in earnest. After a few weekends, they find a house they both like well enough. It breaks Marnie’s heart to be downsizing, but it was the only way to make things work. And it helps that once they find a place Tom likes, Marnie gets him to agree to new cabinets and closets.

Decision making builds strong relationships

 A good deal will have both of your dreams in it. That’s important, because it means you’re both fully in. You never know how a move like this is going to work out. If it goes well, you both share the satisfaction. If not, you share the blame.

A good deal will have both of your dreams in it.

One sign of a good deal is that in the end, neither of you got everything you wanted. The final result didn’t look exactly like what either of you originally had in mind.

But hey, isn’t that the case with anything creative? Eventually you have to face reality. And in a couple’s relationship, reality often takes the form of the person next to you in bed.

Sometimes life brings you to a fork in the road, where no compromise is possible. When that happens, assume you’ll need to do some serious deal-making—as if your relationship depended on it. Which in fact, it will.

Eventually, you have to face reality. And in a couple’s relationship, reality often takes the form of the person next to you in bed.

As Yogi Berra famously said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”

In the long run, how you settle the issue may matter more than which fork you take.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com