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Beware of credit repair

Debt Management versus Debt Settlement

How to get ahead of late fees

Is There a Service That Helps You Not Pay Bills

Is a Debt Owed

Patience is the key to furnishing a new home

How to split expenses with your partner

Will my boyfriend's bad credit affect me?

Tax filing options to consider

What to do if your account is turned over to collections

Celebrating Valentine's Day on a budget

Personal Credit and Starting a Business

Finding Money to Reduce Your Debt and Improve Your Credit

Simple Keys to Personal Finance

Be vigilant to avoid telephone and internet scams

Debt Settlement

Understanding credit utilization

Setting New Year's goals that you can keep

The pros and cons of skipping a payment

Strategies for Financially Surviving the Holidays

Creating a fun and memorable holiday on a budget

Keep an open line of communication with parents about their finances.

Make a Choice to Get Ahead Financially

What to do when a relative asks you for money

Should You Buy a Home Now or Wait?

The difference between debt settlement and debt management

Tax Refund Delays for some in 2017

The negative impact of paying a payment 30 days late

Stressed by Finances

How to navigate two significant financial decisions: starting a family and buying a home

How to advise someone close to you who is coming into a significant amount of money

Make a Conscious Decision on How to Spend Your Money

Tips for Back-to-School Shopping

How do you know if you have a good credit score?

Americans spend more money eating out than on groceries

Having Good Credit Saves You Money

Developing good money habits with your first job

How to save for a home

How to Know if you are Ready for Home Ownership

When is the right time to buy a home?

You can improve your credit to buy a home

Plan a Memorable Vacation Without Incurring Debt

The Hidden Costs of Payday Loans

Be Wary of Credit Repair Services

Use Caution when playing the credit card game

What does it mean to say bankruptcy gives you a clean slate?

How your credit is affected by various debt options

Be wary of predatory small business loans

What to do if you fall behind on mortgage payments

Financing a College Education

Money, Credit and Relationships

Should you be concerned with your date's credit scores?

Best options for a small, short-term loan

How to help a relative who is always borrowing money from you

Setting New Year's goals that you can keep

Making the holidays memorable for families on a tight budget.

Skipping a Payment over the Holidays

What to do if you are overwhelmed by medical bills

Make your financial intention a financial goal you can achieve

Should Consumers Use the New EMV Cards?

What to do when a collector calls you

The difference between paying bills and managing your money

My wife and I have gone through some tough financial times, which eventually led us to file for bankruptcy.  Following this experience, I don’t ever want to use credit again, but my wife

What do I need to know to pay ahead on my mortgage?

What to do if you get an unsolicited credit card in the mail

What to do when moving in to share expenses doesn't work out

Americans spend more money eating out than on groceries

Q. I often read about how you believe budgeting is the key to reaching personal goals, but I think budgeting is a frustrating process. It costs so much to live these days that I don’t know how anyone can get ahead. Even food is a major expense for our family. How do we pay for what we need and still reach our goals?

A. I won’t disagree that it costs a lot to live today. But my experience has also shown me that most people spend money in some areas without thinking about it. It’s easy for all of us to confuse our needs with our wants.

Food is, of course, an example of a need. However, meals out and convenience foods are not needs.  According to Quart (a news source), Americans spent more money at eating and drinking establishments than we spent at grocery stores last year. 

Now there’s nothing wrong with eating out. But if the money you spend on meals out exceeds the amount you spend on groceries, and you are frustrated with your finances, then it is time look at this area more closely.

No matter how economical you are, it costs more to eat out than it does to cook a meal. If you are a family of 4 and go out for lunch, you will probably spend anywhere from $25 to $50, depending on where you go and what you order. 

On the other hand, you could spend less than $25 and buy deli meat, a loaf of bread, condiments for your sandwich, fruit, chips, a gallon of juice, and a box of ice creams bars and still have a few leftovers for another meal. Similarly, you could purchase a box of instant oatmeal, a gallon of milk, and juice for a family of 4 for what one person would have to pay for instant oatmeal and an iced coffee at a drive-thru.    

It doesn’t matter whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, it almost always less expensive to make your meals at home than it is to buy them. What’s more, when you prepare your own food, it is healthier for you, since you can control the amount of salt, sugar, and fat that goes into your food. 

It might take practice to get in the habit of preparing meals at home, but you can do it. It will be easier if you make food planning, preparation and clean-up a family responsibility. No one person should have to do this alone. If one person is left to do it all, then the end result will be the family will spend more money on meals out which can create stress on the family’s finances. 

I’m not saying that you should never eat a meal out – but do so in moderation. If you’re frustrated with your finances, I encourage you to track what you are spending on eating out for a whole month. Count all those seemingly insignificant purchases—even the candy bar at the gas station or the coffee at the drive-thru. Getting a clear picture of what you’re spending will help you see where you can save money to reach your personal goals.

Bonnie Spain is the executive director of the American Center for Credit Education and Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Black Hills. For more information, email acce@acce-online.com.

The material in this transmission is provided for personal, non-commercial, educational, and informational purposes only. ACCE makes no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this transmission and assumes no responsibility for errors, inaccuracies, omissions, or any inconsistency herein. You should consult a professional where appropriate.