The Cost of Driving vs Flying

Whether you’re heading to Vegas for a wild weekend adventure or trekking across the country to celebrate the holidays with your in-laws, chances are you spend a lot of time in transit.

After all, millennials love to travel. But before you book your next plane ticket or gas up your car for a road trip, it might be worth it to consider the pros and cons of driving vs flying.

After all, flying might get you there faster, but driving lets you see the sights. Flying might be more expensive, but driving can be more work. So which one is right for your trip?

Pros and Cons of Driving vs Flying

It can be easy to assume that the main benefit of flying is saving time and the main advantage of driving is saving money, but it’s not quite so simple. In fact, the pros and cons of driving vs flying depend on the type of trip you’re taking, your priorities, and your personal preferences.

For example, if you’re taking a business trip to attend a crucial half-day meeting in another city, your highest priority might be the speed of flying in and out. If, however, you’re planning a family vacation to a national park, you might want to pause before booking that plane ticket if you’ll have to rent a car when you get there anyway.

And if you’re six foot six and aren’t interested in spending five hours with your knees touching your chin, you might be more inclined to ride out the trip in the car—where you can stop to stretch as often as you need.
But beyond personal preferences, there are some additional pros and cons to flying and driving.

Unless you’re a college student taking a tour of America, road trips can get a bad rap, replete with images of dingy rest stops and greasy fast food bags stinking up your car with stale french fry smell.

But the truth is, traveling by car can have some benefits. First of all, it can be cheaper to travel by car than by air, especially if you’re going with a large group of people. After all, six people flying to Vegas will each need their own ticket, but they can all pile into the same minivan.

And about that road trip food? You’re not limited to burgers and fries, in fact, traveling by car means you can more easily access any type of food your heart desires, not just what’s available in the airport.

Some people even plan their road trip routes to go through foodie cities around dinner time to take advantage of world-class cuisine.

Let’s not forget the sightseeing—traveling by car offers flexibility so you can see the sights you want, whether that’s a quick detour through a national forest on your way across the country or planning a route that takes you from the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., to the National Blues Museum in St. Louis, to the Buffalo Bill Museum in Colorado.

One other benefit? Science shows us that the anticipation that builds in advance of a trip may lead to a happiness boost before the trip and could even help you enjoy the vacation more. That means that a long drive to get to your vacation destination might make the trip even sweeter when you finally do arrive.

Driving has its downsides, too, however. One of the more significant disadvantages, of course, is that you can’t just sit back and relax while you’re driving—you’re the one responsible for making sure the car gets there safely!

It also can take more work to plan a trip, as you have to choose what route you’ll take, where you’ll stay, and whether you’ll be hitting drive-throughs from California to New York or making reservations at noteworthy restaurants along your route.

And we can’t forget one of the main reasons many people choose to fly instead of drive: it takes a whole lot longer to drive cross-country than it does to hop a red-eye from Los Angeles to New York.

That time-saving advantage is one of the biggest pros when it comes to choosing to fly. A trip that could take days of driving might only take hours in the air. And since you’re not the one flying the plane, you’re free to close your eyes and snooze away the hours until you arrive at your final destination.

There’s no question of what route to take, where to stop, and when you’ll leave and arrive—the airline has that all figured out for you.

You can take off from New York and wake up in L.A. ready to roll, without the exhaustion of a multi-day road trip holding you back.

Of course, you’ll pay a premium in exchange for a speedy arrival and the convenience of flying. It is often more expensive to fly than to drive. You might also have to sacrifice a little personal space and dignity.

Airplane seats are getting smaller and more and more people are packed onto flights, which means that you can pretty much count on being kind of uncomfortable while you engage in a silent but cutthroat battle with your seatmate over who gets to use the single armrest.

And if you’re a nervous flyer, the anxiety of flying might outweigh the benefit of getting to your destination sooner.

Driving vs Flying: The Cost

For many people, the decision of whether to fly or drive may come down to cost. While you may be tempted to merely compare ticket prices to gas prices to decide which one is cheaper, don’t forget to take into account extra costs like eating out, luggage fees, and hotel rooms.

Here are a few travel costs of driving to consider:

•   Gas
•   Hotel Rooms
•   Eating Out
•   Car Maintenance
•   Tolls

And for flying:

•   Ticket
•   Seating choice
•   Luggage fees
•   Eating out
•   Transportation to and from the airport
•   Airport parking
•   Car rentals

Luckily, in this day and age, you don’t need a map and a calculator to figure out which transportation method will be more cost-efficient.

You can easily use an online calculator like this one from Travelmath or this one from BeFrugal to get an idea of how travel costs may compare whether you are driving or flying.

One thing to keep in mind is all the little costs that can add up while traveling, like unexpected purchases, annoying tolls and convenience fees and out-of-network ATM fees that rack up whether you drive or fly.

SoFi Money® is a cash management account where you can withdraw cash fee-free at 55,000+ ATMs worldwide, which means that you can pay for your vacation without shelling out for additional fees each time you want to grab cash.

No more running to the airport news kiosk store to buy a five-dollar bottle of juice you don’t need in order to get cashback. No more sighing when you finally find an ATM in a new city only to realize it’s for the wrong institution.

Learn more about how SoFi Money lets you take control of your cash.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
The SoFi Money® Annual Percentage Yield as of 03/15/2020 is 0.20% (0.20% interest rate). Interest rates are variable subject to change at our discretion, at any time. No minimum balance required. SoFi doesn’t charge any ATM fees and will reimburse ATM fees charged by other institutions when a SoFi Money™ Mastercard® Debit Card is used at any ATM displaying the Mastercard®, Plus®, or NYCE® logo. SoFi reserves the right to limit or revoke ATM reimbursements at any time without notice.
SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.


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How to Save Money for a Trip

Every year, you likely earn at least a few paid vacation days at your job. However, if you’re like many Americans, you rarely ever take them.

As the U.S. Travel Association reports, each year, more than half of Americans leave vacation time on the table. All that unused time accumulated to 768 million missed vacation days in 2018.

Of course, it’s easy to understand why many people simply forgo taking time off. After all, traveling can be expensive.

It’s all too easy: bills can pile up, professional duties can get in the way, and life events can take hold, all letting you leave those vacation days unused. However, there are ways to not only build vacations into your routine but to also save for vacations too.

With a little planning and a small amount of work vacations can be yours again. Here are a few ways you could work saving money for a trip into your financial routine so you never miss another vacation day again.

5 Tips For Saving For a Trip

1. Deciding Where You Want to Go and For How Long

To properly plan for how much you need to save for your trip, you first must decide when and where you want to go. Would you like to stay domestic or go international? Somewhere warm and by a beach, or cold and in the mountains? The choice is yours.

Once you make your choice, you could do a little calculating and add up the costs of transportation, accommodations, food, and entertainment for each member traveling with you. This way, you’ll have a ballpark number to save up to.

Here’s a vacation pro tip for you: If your vacation math comes out to be a little too high for your liking, you could look into your intended destination’s “shoulder season.”

Shoulder season is a professional travel term for the time between the high and low seasons. In other words, it’s a seemingly less desirable time to visit a place.

For example, the shoulder seasons in the Caribbean are in the late spring and early fall. During this time, visitors will still experience warmer temperatures, crystal blue waters, delicious Caribbean foods, and more.

But the early fall, classified here as September to November, also falls at the tail end of the hurricane season, making travel to the Caribbean a bit of a gamble. During that time, flights, hotels, and activities can be much cheaper as there are fewer tourists to fill the seats, rooms, and space.

2. Checking Out Your Current Finances

Once you decide where you want to go and just how much it will cost, then you could take a look at your current financial situation.

You might want to assess whether you have enough money to take a vacation right now, need to postpone until more fruitful times or have the ability to save up for a vacation later in the year.

If you’re not feeling like your finances are quite in the right place to take a trip soon, that’s OK, as there are ways to save so you can still use your vacation days. And that could begin with a budget.

3. Making “Taking a Vacation” a Line Item on Your Budget

If you already have a budget in place, that’s wonderful news. The only thing you might want to do is add in “travel” as a budget item and start socking away a little cash for that each month.

But, if you’re new to budgeting, that’s OK as well. Now might be a great time to start.

To begin, you could gather all your income statements and any outgoing recurring bills such as student loans, credit card bills, mortgage payments, or other debts.

Then, you could create a list of all your monthly expenses, including everything that comes out of your bank account each month, like rent, car payments, student loan payments, credit card statements, food, gas, insurance, gym memberships, streaming accounts, and more. Anything you spend money on, you could make a line item.

Next, you could compare your after-tax income against your debts and see how much you have left over. Any cash left over could go into your vacation fund.

However, if you have nothing left over at the end of your budgeting homework, you might want to take a cold, hard look at your spending and income level to make room for travel.

The simplest place to start might be by reconsidering your monthly spending. Are you still subscribing to that streaming service, and do you really use that gym membership?

If there are things in your current budget that can go, now could be the time to cut them. Then, you could reallocate that money to your travel budget instead.

4. Taking on a Side Hustle to Pay for Vacation

Of course, cutting back isn’t always an option. If you’re serious about saving for a trip, now may be the perfect time to take on a side hustle.

A side hustle is a part-time job outside your normal work. If you decide to go this route to fund your travels, you might want to think deeply about what you’re passionate about so it feels less like a second job and more like fun.

For example, if you simply adore meeting new people, maybe driving for a ride-sharing service is a good fit for you. If you’re a night owl, perhaps picking up a few shifts here and there as a bartender is good.

Or, if you like dogs, you could try signing up for a dog-walking service to bring in a little more money.

If you’d like to flex a little muscle with your other talents like photography, writing, or graphic design, you might try reaching out to a few places as a freelancer, which could both bring in a little more money and make you feel good at the same time.

5. Creating a Dedicated Space for Your Travel Savings

Now that you’ve done all the hard work of deciding where to go, how much it will cost, and how it fits into your budget, it’s time for a fun item: creating a dedicated savings account for your trip.

After all, it’s way more fun to put your vacation money into a savings account called “oh yes vacation time” rather than simply “account 3045766.”

And, you could take things a step further by making your travel account work for you by opening a cash management account that offers no account fees, like SoFi Money®.

SoFi Money has a vaults feature where you can create an individual vault for a specific goal within your overall SoFi Money account.

Plus, you can use your SoFi Money card during your adventure at any ATM around the world.

So, what are you waiting for? Now that you know how to plan, the world is truly your oyster.

Have a few vacation days at the ready? Start saving with a SoFi Money account and get going on your vacation sooner.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.


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Is Mobile Banking Safe?

People are increasingly relying upon mobile banking apps. A study shows how they are among the most widely used apps in the United States today, along with social media ones and apps providing weather reports.

Mobile usage in North America has climbed over the past year, with nearly 57 million consumers saying they use mobile banking. This is an even more common practice for Millennials.

However, another research shows that almost one third of Americans distrust mobile banking. And, younger Americans are nearly as worried as older generations with hacking and malware as two of the top concerns.

So, is mobile banking safe? Are mobile banking apps secure? How concerned should you be when banking online? Are all apps equally safe/unsafe? How can you improve your online security when you conduct transactions? Are mobile banking and online banking the same? If not, which type is safer to use?

This post will dive into these types of questions. But, first, no—not all banking apps are the same or come with the same degree of security sophistication. Some choices, then, are safer than others.

How is Mobile Banking Different from Online Banking?

At its simplest, mobile banking occurs when a person makes a financial transaction through the use of a mobile device, such as a cell phone or tablet.

Transactions range from pretty simple ones, like signing up to have your bank send you informational text messages, to bill paying, sending money to other people in the United States or internationally, receiving funds, and so forth.

Traditional, brick-and-mortar financial institutions are increasingly offering internet-based services, and there are now mobile lenders that don’t even have an actual building for customers to use. Their mobile devices and apps are their branches.

Here’s something else to consider. Not all internet-based banking transactions are mobile ones. Mobile banking is a form of online banking, but it’s not the only type. You could, for example, conduct financial transactions on your home computer. That’s online banking, but it’s not mobile banking.

Is Mobile Banking Safer?

Some may believe that mobile banking is safer than online banking, while others disagree.

Ways in which mobile banking can be safer include how well-designed apps don’t store data, which makes that data harder to illegally obtain.

Plus, you’re less likely to need to deal with a smartphone virus than a computer one. And, overall , “Mobile phones have more security natively…the apps are more protected than the open website experience.”

To toss in another factor when comparing safety, not all banks use the same security procedures across channels. For example, some financial institutions may use multi-factor authentication technology on their mobile apps, but they don’t use the same level of security on their websites.

Protecting Yourself

A couple of quick and easy things you can do to protect yourself include to:

•   create a strong password for your accounts
•   avoid conducting transactions on a public computer
•   avoid using public WiFi for your transactions
•   make sure your bank is FDIC-insured
•   keep your phone updated to take advantage of the latest security measures available

The good news is that technology continues to improve in ways that boost security. A security measure being used by many financial institutions today is two-factor authentication, also called 2FA, or two-step verification. In authentication processes, there are typically three factors:

•   something you know (your password, for example)
•   something you have (such as your smartphone)
•   something you are (which could be your fingerprint, face, or retina)

In two-factor authentication, users must provide at least two forms of ID, such as the password and a fingerprint.

Or, the secondary authentication could be a numeric code that the user requests and receives via text. This code can only be used one time, preventing it from having value to hackers in the future.

Activity monitoring or user activity tracking can also boost security. In general, this involves software that monitors user behavior on devices to identify suspicious behavior.

Then, risk management can take place to help prevent data breaches or minimize damages. Another security measure is the ability to freeze an account if malicious activity is suspected.

If you’re unsure about what measures your bank takes to protect your data, it’s reasonable to ask the question. If you’re not satisfied with the answer, it can help to explore other options.

Online-Only Account Options

Traditional banks, credit unions, and so forth often provide internet-based services for customers. This section, though, will take a look at the pros and cons of online-only banking, meaning online institutions with no physical locations.

When there are no brick-and-mortar locations, banks can keep overhead costs low—which, in turn, allows them to offer perks over traditional banks, such as higher savings account rates.

Often, though, these online savings accounts limit how many transactions a customer can make a month, which is another way that online banks may cut costs. Limits vary by institution.

Traditional banks may require minimum balances, or require automatic deposits. If those conditions aren’t met, they may charge you a monthly fee. Some online financial institutions, though, don’t make that a requirement.

Online banks have convenient hours, typically open 24 hours a day. This can be helpful for people who can’t necessarily bank during regular hours. Typically, online banks participate in a network of ATMs, perhaps Allpoint or MoneyPass.

These ATMs usually don’t have fees. And, if an online bank isn’t part of an ATM network, the institution may offer to refund related fees up to a certain amount.

With mobile banking, you can deposit a check into your account using your smartphone or tablet camera. Usually, you need to endorse the check, and take a photo of the front and back—some institutions may have additional requirements.

Mobile depositing can be quite convenient, and you can generally use the service 24/7, with deposits typically showing up that day or the next, depending upon the bank’s rules and the time of your deposit.

This service saves you from making as many trips to ATMs—you can deposit checks from anywhere you have a mobile device, and funds are available quickly.

Banks may have limits on how much you can deposit in a day or month, and they will have a funds availability policy that will help you to know how long the institution will place a hold on a particular check, either partial or in total.

Although most online banks provide a customer service line, they usually don’t provide access to a personal banker who can help you to set up accounts, apply for loans, or discuss an issue you’re having. Another challenge associated with many online banks: They keep fees low by limiting the range of services offered, and may not offer checking accounts.

Finding a Mobile Banking Solution

SoFi Money is a cash management account has no account fees. With SoFi Money you can spend, save, and earn all in one place. We work hard to charge zero account fees. With that in mind, our fee structure is subject to change at any time.

Additionally, SoFi takes protecting your account seriously. If you see unusual or suspicious activity on your account, or lose your SoFi Money card, you can freeze your card instantly online or by using the app. If unauthorized activity takes place, simply contact us and we’ll help you to resolve the situation.

•   Each card chip generates a unique transaction code—making it hard to copy.
•   We provide two-factor authentication. To sign into your account, you’ll need your passcode, along with either a security code or fingerprint recognition.
•   We provide activity monitoring. If there is suspicious account activity, we’ll contact you and, if needed, restrict the account until the concern is addressed.
•   If you travel, you can set a notice to help prevent usage interruption. To set the travel notice, simply call SoFi Money® Customer Service at 1-855-456-7634, one-two days ahead of your travel, and let us know the location and timeframe of your travel.

Getting started with SoFi Money is fast and easy!

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Each business day, cash deposits in SoFi Money cash management accounts are swept to one or more sweep program banks where it earns a variable interest rate and is eligible for FDIC insurance. FDIC Insurance does not immediately apply. Coverage begins when funds arrive at a program bank, usually within two business days of deposit. There are currently six banks available to accept these deposits, making customers eligible for up to $1,500,000 of FDIC insurance (six banks, $250,000 per bank). If the number of available banks changes, or you elect not to use, and/or have existing assets at, one or more of the available banks, the actual amount could be lower. For more information on FDIC insurance coverage, please visit . Customers are responsible for monitoring their total assets at each Program Banks to determine the extent of available FDIC insurance coverage in accordance with FDIC rules. The deposits in SoFi Money or at Program Banks are not covered by SIPC.
SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.


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Should You Sign a Cohabitation Agreement With Your Partner?

First comes love. Then comes marriage. Well, not necessarily. Love then marriage then babies isn’t exactly the natural or only path anymore. With the continuing movement away from the typical kind of escalatory relationships your parents might have touted, moving in with a non-married partner is increasingly becoming the reality.

While you may not be married, sharing a space with a partner is an important life milestone, and one that doesn’t come without its own risks—both emotional and financial.

Without the formal marriage (but, fortunately, without the debt that often comes with a lavish wedding celebration!) you may worry that your relationship and your investment in a life together will not be protected under the law. Luckily, this is not the case.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A cohabitation agreement functions similarly to a prenup for your shared living arrangement in a romantic partnership. Couples that are moving in together—whether they’re heterosexual, homosexual, polyamorous, or otherwise—can, depending on the state, receive benefits and protections similar to those of a married couple.

This can extend to applying for a mortgage, organizing child support, guaranteeing a mutual payment of a lease, or mandate the shared costs of utilities. The agreement can cover how and what kind of mediation will occur in the case of a dispute and can protect personal vs. communal property.

Many couples, whether traditional or not, discuss sharing finances and financial responsibilities when combining homes and lives.

Asking for a cohabitation agreement can be a natural part of this conversation to add legal protection to your financial and lifestyle merge no matter what stage of your lives you are in when entering into the partnership.

But Does Signing the Cohabitation Agreement Make You a Cynic?

Well, some might say so. But how cynical can it be to protect your property in a financial situation that is not only fraught with love and intimacy but also a merging of assets, a sharing of financial burden and responsibility, and the combining of formerly discrete properties?

Romantics may find this hard to swallow. The cons of the cohabitation agreement boil down to your weight on that romantic, often-nearsighted love against the practicality of forethought and a healthy dose of realism. At the end of the day, it’s really only as unromantic as discussing your budget or choosing the best joint account.

On the plus side, a cohabitation agreement—to a much further extent than a prenup—doesn’t have to all be about the doom and gloom of the potentiality of a failed relationship. Many times this agreement can amount to a well-thought-out plan for the course of your life together, things like how and when bills will be paid and by whom.

This can leave you with more time, later on, to focus on enjoying each other’s company rather than discussing the often dour realities of, well, life.

Additionally, one of the possible provisions of cohabitation agreements is to make space for the possibility of a changed relationship status, whether that means a marriage or parenthood.

Instead of thinking of the document as a piece of cynicism, you could think of it as a way to possibly create a happier habitation going forward without having to worry about the gray areas of any different disagreements that might come up.

How Do I Get A Cohabitation Agreement?

So you’ve decided to sign the cohabitation agreement. But what exactly is it that you’re signing? Where does this mysterious document come from and how can you and your partner(s) get your hands on it?

You can either consult a lawyer to moderate discussions and draft your document or you can go about it the DIY way. The Internet provides a number of useful templates that you can fill in to make a legally-binding document that covers the specific protections and clauses for your particular relationship and the finances and properties therein. Talk to a legal professional to learn the specifics of your state and situation.

Typical cohabitation agreements can include a variety of clauses. Partners can discuss what and what amount of shared expenses (including mortgages, leases, automobiles, child payments, bills, etc…) are to be held responsible by a single party or by both.

It’s always good to think about these things and have a discussion beforehand. Everyone’s situation is different, so do what is best for you and your partner. These may not apply to everyone but some possible clauses might be:

•   Who submits the rent check every month?
•   How much of every partner’s income goes into the joint checking account?
•   Who would keep Larry, the cat?
•   Will your partner(s) be a beneficiary for your inheritance in the case of your untimely death? (No, Larry can’t inherit your life savings)
•   Who would keep the hand-knitted rug you picked out together on your backpacking trip to Peru (even though, maybe, one of you carried it on our back for a few hours longer through the Andes)?
•   Who pays the water and who pays the electric?
•   Who would get the airline miles on the joint account?
•   Who pays the credit card bill that’s been piling up?
•   Who would keep the 1987 Datsun that still kind of runs so long as you don’t go on the freeway?
•   Who would be responsible for putting money into the retirement account or the second honeymoon fund?
•   Can you make healthcare decisions for your partner in the case of their incapacitation?

The possibilities are endless and the document is something you can craft to be the perfect fit for your relationship. Your relationship isn’t like any other, and your cohabitation agreement won’t be either.

Signing on the Dotted Line

Once you’re ready to sign the document you’ve crafted, you’ll need a witness—likely a notary or a lawyer, to validate that each partner signed the agreement themselves and not while under duress (which would nullify the agreement). Larry the cat, unfortunately, does not count as a valid witness.

Once everyone agrees the document is signed and you can go back to holding hands instead of holding pens.

Congratulations! You’re now officially cohabitating. A great way to get this house party started: a SoFi Money® cash management account.

With SoFi Money you can save, spend, and earn all in one place. Plus, SoFi Money offers joint accounts so you and your partner have equal access and control over the account. SoFi Money could be a great way to pay your housing expenses together.

Learn more about SoFi Money’s joint accounts.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.


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5 Ways to Save Money on Food

Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. And don’t forget snacks. Sometimes feeding yourself (and your family) can feel like a full-time job. But food is essential for survival and an unavoidable expense in a household’s monthly budget.
The average American household spent $7,729 on food , according to the Bureau of Labor statistics.

Of that, families spent just over $4,000 on food at home and just over $3,000 on food away from home—which includes take-out and delivery.

While spending money on food is completely necessary, there are plenty of opportunities to go overboard in this category. Between impulse purchases at the grocery store, morning lattes, and take-out, food expenses can add up quickly.

If you’re looking at your budget searching for ways to save money on food, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some possible tips and tricks for spending less money on food so you can focus more energy on any other financial goals, like paying off debt, saving for retirement, buying a house, or funding your children’s education.

Ways to Spend Less Money on Food

1. Eating Out Less

Sometimes there is nothing as luxurious as heading out to eat after a long day. Enjoying a delicious dinner without actually having to cook or clean is super relaxing.

But when you go out to eat, you’re paying a premium for that leisure. Most restaurants charge about a 300% markup on the items they serve. When you dine out you’re paying for convenience, service, and ambiance.
Takeout or delivery options aren’t much better. One study found that ordering delivery was nearly five times as expensive as cooking at home.

Cooking at home could not only help you save money on food, but it could also have added benefits for your health too. Research has shown time and time again that cooking at home can lead to healthier choices.
The more people cook at home, their diet is healthier, they consume fewer calories, and they are less likely to be obese or develop type 2 diabetes .

If the thought of cooking at home is overwhelming, you could start small. You might consider setting measurable goals like eating all of your breakfasts at home or packing your lunch at least three times a week.

As you get used to preparing those meals for yourself, you could branch out into other recipes.

You might want to build an arsenal of meals and recipes you and your family love, then start adding one or two new recipes a week. Cooking is like any skill—the more you do it, the easier it gets. Familiarity with recipes and your kitchen can go a long way in simplifying the cooking process.

2. Learning to Meal Plan

Cooking at home can be cheaper than going out to eat, but cooking for yourself can pose its own set of problems. It takes time to think of ideas and shop for ingredients before you even start cooking.

One option for those looking to cook more at home is to try meal planning. By planning your meals at the beginning of the week, you could potentially save money on food and simplify the process of cooking dinner every night.

Meal planning requires making a list, which could help keep you organized while you are at the grocery store. Don’t feel like you need to prep all of your food for the week—you could start by picking a protein, a hearty veggie, and a grain that you can use a few different ways.

Having a few different sauces and dressings on hand is one way to mix up the flavor and keep meals exciting all week long. There are a variety of resources online to help get you started and keep you inspired. Choose My Plate, run by the USDA, is a resource worth checking out if you’re new to meal planning or are looking for some budget-friendly meals.

3. Extending Shelf Life by Storing Food Properly

Are you constantly throwing out wilted herbs, sad-looking greens, or questionable fruits? Now might be a good time to make a change. Americans waste nearly 150,000 tons of food each day, and globally, one-third of all the food produced in the world is either lost or wasted each year.

Storing your produce properly could help minimize your food waste by maximizing its shelf life. Produce that tends to rot—think apples, pears, and other fruits and veggies that emit ethylene gas—should be stored in a low-humidity drawer.

Produce that has a tendency to wilt—think leafy greens like spinach, arugula, and kale—should be stored in a high-humidity drawer.

Herbs need a bit of humidity, so instead of storing herbs in their clamshell, you might consider wrapping them in a damp paper towel. If they have the stems, like cilantro, dill, parsley, or mint, you could place the stems in a cup filled with water.

If you find yourself using a lot of herbs, you might want to try starting a small herb garden. This could give you easy access to your favorite herbs, plus, since it’s a living plant, you won’t have to throw away any wilted parsley or cilantro after just a week.

4. Maximizing Freezer Space

You could make the freezer your friend by stocking up on staples like frozen veggies, fruits, and grains. Buying meat in bulk could cut down on cost, and you could freeze it in individual portions.

This way it’s easy to pull out exactly what you need for dinner. If you have fresh herbs on hand that are on the verge of going bad, you could chop them up and freeze them. You can even freeze whole citrus.

Certain meals, like soups and chilies, take well to freezing. If you’re making a meal that freezes well, you could double the recipe and freeze half.

What’s better than a home-cooked meal that you just have to defrost? Having convenient food options on hand could make it easier to say no to takeout when you’re in a bind for dinner.

Using your freezer to its full potential means staying organized. If you label everything with a description and date, it could eliminate any confusion or concern over what exactly is in your freezer.

You might want to take a sweep of the pantry and freezer before hitting the grocery store. If anything needs to be used, you could build a meal around it. If anything is close to expiring, it’s now on your radar so you could use it instead of wasting it.

5. Shopping Smarter at the Grocery Store

You could make a habit of reading the weekly sales at the grocery store you shop at most frequently and make note of when items go on sale. Since most grocery stores follow a six-week sale cycle , you could end up scoring a deal on some of your staple items by paying attention.

Another way to shop with purpose and save money on food? Coupons. Each grocery store usually has its own coupon policy, so you could get familiar with your local store’s policy.

Some stores have apps where users can link e-coupons directly to their rewards card, simplifying the couponing experience. There are also independent coupon apps that could help you streamline the couponing process.

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