Gas guzzling up all your money? Grub gobbling up your entire budget? You’re not the only one.
A new survey from Bankrate finds that, on average, millennials spend $2,300 more per year than other generations on groceries, dining out, gas and cellphone services.
Here are some even more cringe-worthy numbers: Millennials, on average, spend more than $9,500 annually on groceries, around $3,000 on gas and $2,800 at restaurants every year.
You GUYS! Yikes.
I know, spending on these categories is necessary for survival (however, I promise you’ll be OK if you opt to go without unlimited data), but there are still easy ways you can dramatically cut those costs. Because while saving major money at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale or on a sweet treat on National Ice Cream Day might give your budget a little boost, your finances will still be in a funk if you’re spending crazy cash on routine purchases.
That’s why I’ve compiled my top three tips on stacking up savings in the three categories millennials spend the most on: groceries, gas and dining out. It might not be the most glamorous, but it could be end up being glue that holds your budget together.
1. Buy generic (or Brandless)
By now, everybody should know that store brands often offer good, quality items at a fraction of the cost. My faves are Costco’s Kirkland Signature and Target’s Archer Farms, because they fuel me up without skimping on flavor.
As further proof that being a label snob is just plain weak, a company called Brandless launched just a few weeks ago and is marketing to money-savvy millennials in a majorly new way. At Brandless, everything from food to beauty to health products is just $3.
Brandless eliminates what it calls the “BrandTax” (aka, the hidden costs you pay through inefficiencies and markups) that it says typically raises product prices by an average of 40 percent. The site doesn’t offer as many options as you’ll get on a typical grocery shopping trip, but that could actually be better for your budget. And, the minimalist packaging is v. millennial.
2. Meal prep
The secret to trimming your waistline while beefing up your bank account can be as simple as a indulging in a little meal prep. Preparing your meals ahead of time will cut down on the food you waste (so you’re really getting the most for your money), and will help you swerve the temptation of dining out (more on that later).
Plan your grocery list for the week around a protein that’s on sale, and buy in bulk. (Bonus points if you get your grub at a warehouse club!) Then, mix up the flavor with different seasonings and marinades. Save any leftover chopped veggies as snacks for the week.
3. Shop in-season produce
Being healthy is not only hard (hitting snooze > hitting the gym), it can be pricey, too. Fresh produce that does your body good can spike your grocery bill, which is no bueno. Shop strategically by buying in-season fruits and veggies — that’ll save you a significant amount of money.
If you like visuals as much I do, check out this cool chart from the National Resources Defense Council, which outlines what produce is in-season in your state, month by month. Summer in New York = beets, blueberries and broccoli. Yum.
1. Download a gas app
If you really want to be frugal about your fuel, download a few free gas apps to ensure you’re getting the most for your money! Apps like GasBuddy and Gas Guru hunt for the best fuel prices at gas stations near you, so you can be smart about where you stop and fuel up.
2. Use your go-to grocery store for frugal fuel
I already know you’re spending more than you should on groceries (Bankrate’s survey proves it!), so you might as well really maximize your money at the supermarket by using loyalty programs to your advantage.
Here are a few standout fuel rewards programs at major grocery chains (note: offers might vary by market):
- Kroger: Earn one fuel point for every $1 you spend on groceries with your Kroger Plus Card, and earn twice as many fuel points when you buy gift cards. Redeem 100 fuel points at participating Shell stations for 10 cents off per gallon, or up to 1,000 fuel points at Kroger Fuel Centers for $1 off per gallon.
- Safeway: This chain’s loyalty program offers one gas reward point for every $1 spent on eligible on groceries, and two points for every $1 spent on select gift cards. Every 100 fuel points earned equal 10 cents off per gallon at participating stations. The maximum at participating Sunoco stations is 20 cents off per gallon and $1 off per gallon at Safeway stations.
- Stop & Shop: Score one gas rewards point for every dollar spent on eligible purchases with the Stop & Shop Card. 100 points = 10 cents off per gallon at participating stations, with a maximum of 20 gallons of fuel per vehicle per purchase. You also can snag one point for every $1 you spend with Stop & Shop’s Peapod delivery service.
3. Check out discounted gas gift cards
1. Dine during off-peak hours
Really craving a specific dish from your fave restaurant? Indulge for less by dining during off-peak hours. Eateries often offer timely promotions and discounts (hello, happy hour!) to attract diners during those awkward hours between lunch and dinner.
Through OpenTable, a popular app that rewards diners with points for making and fulfilling reservations, many restaurants even offer 1,000 points (as opposed to the usual 100) during specific times of the day. Points can then be redeemed for rewards!
2. Take advantage of Restaurant Week
Frugal foodies, you’re in luck: Restaurant Week season happens annually many major cities! Once or twice a year, a bunch of big cities offer week-long promotions at their hottest restaurants. Participating restaurants typically offer discounted three-course, fixed-price menus. It’s the perfect opportunity to go to that fancy restaurant you’ve been dying to try but know is way out of your price range, or to treat yourself in a controlled way.
3. Skip it!
Here’s the major difference between the gas and groceries categories and dining out: The first two are likely essential to your day-to-day, while the other is not. And that’s important to remember.
Dining out is totally fine, as long as you do it moderation. And, my friends, spending $2,800 on restaurants annually is not exactly in moderation. Slash those dining-out expenses, sock a little more into your savings and follow the tips above to always feel financially strong.
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