Need Advice About Saving Money

Updated on December 04, 2012
D.M. asks from Saint Louis, MO
24 answers

I recently got married this Summer to my best friend, we chose NOT to live together until we were married. Neither one of us really prepared for the financial struggle we were gonna be faced with. Even though we now had to good incomes coming in we had double the debt. Not to mention we ended up having to buy a new car unexpectedly. My husband is all about financial figures (it's kinda of his job), he put us on a budget (a tight tight tight one) and made a few necessary cuts. However each month it seem as though we keep hitting a rough patch with our financials and just cant seem to catch up. I know this is normal for people especially right now in this economy, however I thought maybe more of the seasoned married woman or not married could help me out. I never had these kinds of issue when I was raising my son alone. I have watched the show "Extreme Couponer" and as fun as it may sound to try I do not have the space. However I have tried finding some coupons on line and just can't seem to find the right websites. Would anyone have any suggestions on how to save money on our grocery bill. Right now I am budgeted for $400 a month which I do not think is enough for as much food as they consume considering that also includes dining out (which my husband does which out telling me for his lunch break). Basically I NEED help desperately to save money any way I can.......I am truly begging at this point :(

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So What Happened?

I guess I should elaborate on some of your questions as well. 1.) as a single mother I was living rent free in a home waiting to be sold by a family member they couldn't leave it vacant and I needed a place to stay cheap (maintenance and paying utilities only) 2.) I was on assistance (NO I was NOT one of those moms, I worked almost 50-60 weeks just to survive) 3.) With his job sometimes brown bagging it is NOT an option when corporate comes down they have meetings out (you do not tell them no, and NO they do not pick up the tab) as far as why we do not have a lot of money and for those to assume I am allowing him to control things...he made a budget according to our finances and bills we are paying off TWO student loans a NEW car payment we were not expecting to have and I had input in the budget there just wasn't enough to move around. I original question was if anyone had ways to save food I could use to help my little family I was not looking for criticism or judgment. So THANK YOU for those of you who have gave great advice.

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answers from Dallas on

Hubby needs to buy into budgeting by brown bagging it, as you will save almost 100/month by doing that if he eats out every day.

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answers from New York on

I think we need more detail to help you. First off, what kind of debt? Is it credit card, student loans, ect? Were you both paying rent/mortgages when you were not married? There should be only 1 payment now for housing, right? Don't watch those silly coupon shows. No one needs 100 deodorants, ok? I use coupons and I have an organizer. I plan ahead and look at the circulars of the stores I shop and and buy what I need when I have a coupon and it's on sale. Your husband needs to stop eating out. That is very expensive. You need to eat and home and cook your meals. We eat a lot of soup, my husband hunts, and we do not go out for coffee or for drinks. It's usually not big purchases that will sink you, it's the little everyday ones. Think about what you want and what you need.

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answers from Portland on

I suggest that first you and your husband need to work on a budget with which both of you agree. He eats out but takes the money for it from the food budget without even telling you about it. Not good! I suggest he needs to have a separate budget for eating out. Or each of you should have some money for which you don't have to give an accounting. He could choose to use that money for lunches.

I suggest it rarely works for one person to make the budget and expect the other to keep it. Try sitting down together to make a budget. Have you tried getting by on $400/month and it's not working? Perhaps $400 is not sufficient and it's time to revise the budget.

Have the two of you discussed and decided what foods you're going to eat? If not that's the first step in finding ways to save money on food. Does he expect steak every week? Perhaps you'll have to eat more casseroles. You can spend less by planning menus using less expensive foods. Do you buy prepared foods? If so, you can buy more foods in their natural state.

Does the food budget also include toiletries, paper products and other non-food items? Try making a separate entry for those items.

I have found that coupons do not, in reality, save much money. Certainly not enough to drastically reduce the cost of food.'re willing to spend a great deal of time looking for and organizing coupons.

My parents saved money by buying in case lots and eating just a few basic things. We always had canned beans, corn and peas for example. They bought meat when it was on sale and froze it. We only had round steak and hamburger and pork steak (not pork chops).

Educate yourself about budgeting and money management so that both of you can manage your money. He needs your input on things you need money for so that the budget amount is doable.

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answers from Kansas City on

dave ramsey, definitely!

the thing is YOU have to be involved in this process. it's not fair or right for hubby to just magically produce a budget and expect you to follow it to a T. and i totally agree that he should be brown-bagging. $400 a month is PLENTY for three people IF you're not eating out too. that's not fair for him to spend family food money on his lunches.

get a dave ramsey book - even BETTER - get into a class!!! that will do wonders for you guys. you need to save money, yes, but you and hubby need to get on the same page and doing this TOGETHER. good luck!

(dave ramsey would also say - SELL THE CAR!! that's kind of an inside joke - but no, you did not "need" to buy a new car. you chose to. get his books or into a class, i'm telling you, that will save your life. good luck! and also, i get that it's "how things are" with hubby's company - but all those lunches should be on the company, not on hubby. just saying)

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answers from Las Vegas on

Hubby is on a single man's lunch budget...tell him to get with the program.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Get a Dave Ramsay book.
You can't fail!
Cut up all credit cards. Today!
Make a budget.
Stick to it.
Do the debt snowball process (pay off debts small to large, rolling the paid off bill payments onto the next larger O.)
NO new vehicles--EVER. Until everything is paid off.
Stay OUT of the mall/stores unless you have a list.
Spend less than you make.
Each spouse gets a set amount of "spend" money per week. When its gone its gone! (Your hubs can then take PB &J!)
It's not rocket science, mostly common sense!
Don't waste your time couponing. You'll save more at ALDI or Bottom Dollar or shop local supermarket sales. I only cut coupons for what I regularly buy. Buy store/off brands.

Seriously, pick up a Dave Ramsay book & start cracking!
(We're debt free, including our house! Proof it works.)

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answers from Washington DC on

If the $400 food budget includes toilet paper and health items I think that might be a hard budget to stick to. I think your husband should bag his lunch or you each should have just some extra spending money that you can use for whatever. You have to use every leftover and stretch the meal. It's cheapest to buy a whole chicken versus boneless, skinless chicken breast. I roast it then serve small amount with 1/2 vegetables, potatoes maybe some bread. A serving of meat for an adult could be 4 oz for those on a budget. I don't really like dark meat so then I put that in a casserolle, soup, stew, or chili. You can make chicken stock from the bones so you don't have to buy it. Limit prepackaged foods - bake more from scratch. Don't buy premade muffins, cookies. You can double up on sales then freeze meat, even cheeses and breads. Every once and a while I try to go for as long as possible not going to grocery store and using up all that unused items before they go bad.

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answers from Boston on

I'm curious as to how getting married made you poorer than you were as a single mom. If you were able to maintain a household for just you and your son (and manage your own debts), and your husband was able to maintain a household for himself (and manage his own debts), then when combining households, how do you not have MORE money given that you now live under the same roof? If you moved to a new place, does that cost more than the two place you lived in separately? Did one of you reduce your income? What else changed to put you in a position of greater struggle? I think that figuring out what the real issue is will help you to get a better handle on things than superficially trying to fix your problem with things like couponing. And honestly, I'm wary of any household where one person puts the other on a budget, especially one that he doesn't adhere to. A budget is something that the two of you should arrive at TOGETHER.

I was a single mom and did get poorer after my husband and I got married and moved in together, even though we went from two rents at a combined total of $2200 per month to a single mortgage of $1500. The issue was that prior to our marriage, he was actually NOT making ends meet and was instead living off of savings (from an inheritance) and credit to support a lifestyle that his income didn't support. So when we combined households, I unwittingly found myself in a position of subsidizing his income and in almost 10 years, that situation hasn't changed.

Take a hard look at the numbers - is he spending more than he makes? Is your portion of the household income exceeding his while his expenses are exceeding yours? It's great to think of everything as "ours" but it takes a while to really get there and getting there means understanding what you signed up for, which probably wasn't living paycheck to paycheck while he treats himself to lunch on a regular basis.

Again...look at the numbers. If he's a numbers guy, he should be able to agree that they tell a pretty obvious story and then you'll be able to figure out what changes you BOTH have to make to get back on track.

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answers from Honolulu on

Where is the debt coming from???
School loans?
From the wedding costs?
Paying off the wedding ring?
These are typical debt black holes.
And you have the car payments.

And, along with that, you "should" be automatically putting money aside, to "save", a certain percentage of your total income etc.

Then, if your Husband spends money willy nilly, despite "his" budget he put you both on, and spends money on eating out... call him on it.
Tell him.
He is your Husband.
Do you get to have money to say, cut your hair?

You also have to put aside "emergency" money. For things unexpected like car repairs, and whatever.
Does your financial minded Husband, do that???

You BOTH need to sit down and go over it again.

This seems to be mostly your Husband's ideas, and he is in the financial field? But yet, even with both your incomes, you come up short every month?

And for you, YOU put whatever money aside that you can. Do you have an account for yourself? Or a retirement account etc.? You need to.
Don't just rely on him.

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answers from San Antonio on

If you're cutting back, then he needs to start packing a lunch. It's as simple as that. He doesn't get to eat out for lunch 5 days a week when you're having issues putting food on the table.

I use Coupon Mom ( for groceries and other things. I also make sure that we use the in-store coupons whenever possible.

Good luck!

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answers from Chicago on

You need to cut the fat. Do you a have cable? or pay for TV? If so, cut it. Do you have magazine subscriptions, newspaper subscriptions? Get rid of them. Sit down and write out what you need (rent, student loan, food, utilities) and what you want (lunches out, mobile phones with expensive plans).

My hubby eats out for lunch too for business. If it is a real meeting, the vendor always pays. Then there are more "networking" type lunches. Hubby is on a tight budget with these. Yes, it is important to eat out with your co-workers, but my hubby did not do this until we started having the budget to allow for it. He would just tell people, "i can't really get out of the office today, but let's grab a quick sandwich in the cafeteria)"

In terms of couponing, I use to do it seriously but have recently stopped because it isn't worth the time and energy. I do still use coupons and look for good deals, and I do still get 4 papers a week --so I can at least buy 4 of something if it's free or cheap.

One way to really cut down on your grocery bill is to make things from scratch. Cook smarter. Roast a chicken, use the carcass to make stock, and then use the left over meat for chicken soup or chicken pot pie. Make a big roast, use left over meat for taco night, etc.

But really, you need to cut the fat. And eating out money is not grocery money!!!!! You need to separate that out.

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answers from Columbia on

My husband has been mostly unemployed since June. We're living on my military income. Sometimes it's tough, but we have learned to cut corners and are currently living very comfortably because, even though we're a one-income household of 4 people, we still make sure we put money into savings. We pinch our pennies until they squeak.

Use Dave Ramsey's envelope system. Seriously. Get his book from the library. He will save your life.

Cash in envelopes makes it much easier to choose not to spend because you SEE it going out. It really makes you think. Once the money in the "FOOD" envelope is gone, that's it. Or the money in the "EATING OUT" envelope. Once it's gone, there is no more until the next payday. Don't carry your debit card or checkbook and you won't be tempted to spend.

Stop using credit cards. Pay off your debts. Start with the smallest one. Pay minimum payments on the others, and pay as much as you can on the small one. When the small one is paid off, take the money you've been using to pay on it and start applying it to the next smallest you're paying $____ plus what you were paying for the minimum payment. Continue until you've paid them all.

Shop at ALDI and Dollar General instead of the grocery or Walmart. $400 is more than my family budgets per month for our family of four, and we eat great. We budget $320 per month for food. An average STUFFED FULL cart grocery trip to ALDI is usually about $110. Their stuff is excellent quality, and everything is so much cheaper.

Bring a list when you go shopping. That list should have your menu for the next week on it. When I make my menu, I scour my kitchen and freezer to see what I already have. If I already have pasta and frozen garlic bread, I only need sauce fixings and burger. I might need a can of cream of mushroom soup for the pork chops. So only what I need goes on the list.

My menu usually goes something like:

Mon: Pasta dish w/garlic bread
Tues: Pork chops w/veggies and rice
Wed: Leftovers (church night)
Thurs: Burgers and dogs with beans and chips
Friday: Pizza (family movie and game night)
Saturday: Leftovers
Sunday: Slow-cooker chicken with red potatoes and broccoli

Then consider what is needed for breakfasts and lunches. And snacks. Only buy what's on the list. And take your husband with you. You'll keep one another from buying stupid stuff, and it's a nice bonding time. If you find that you forgot something on the list, make sure that hubby agrees you both need it before it going in the cart.

Get rid of cable. We still have internet and a Netflix streaming subscription...So instead of paying $80 per month for cable, we pay $8 for Netflix, and $5 for new-releases from the Redbox. Lots of money saved there.

Pack your lunch. And your husband's. My hubby packs mine every morning.

Bring your coffee. Buying it every day is expensive!

Limit eating out to one or two times a month.

Cook so you'll have left-overs (saves electricity and time). Eat them.

Save your receipts. Pull them out at the end of the week, and figure out where your money is going. See what you can cut out or bring from home.

And finally...pray, talk to God, and tithe. God has blessed us in a situation where we should really be struggling. Everything we His. Praise his gifts and he will reward you abundantly. Praise His Son, for He has gifted us with abundant LIFE.

C. Lee

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answers from St. Louis on

If you are on a tight budget and he understands finances, your husband should know better than to eat out very often. Find out what he likes--even frozen meals are cheaper. (I make my own because I think they taste better--a big batch of something every weekend, put it in plastic containers, and freeze--after a while theres a decent amount of variety.) If he likes going out because of the social aspect, maybe his coworkers could do to-go? Either way, it's a sacrifice he should be willing to make for the betterment of the family. As for coupons, I don't keep a stockpile (well, I may have 2 or 3 of some items but that's it) but I use many of the other strategies they mention on the show. Online coupons are kind of hit-and-miss for me, but I sometimes have luck with stacking a target or walgreens coupon with one from the manufacturer. I also only buy underwear and socks/shoes new for me & kids; the rest of the clothing I can get used. That doesn't usually work as well for men though.

A friend of mine went to a non-profit debt consolidation place and had good luck. Check with the better business bureau though, to make sure the company is decent before trying something like that.

Good luck--I'm single but otherwise in a similar financial situation--but I trust God will take care of me in the long run.

P.S. I am making cookies and fudge for many gifts this year--it helps financially and most people don't bake so they love getting homemade goodies. If you want my fudge recipe, just send me a message. : o)

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answers from Phoenix on

I also have tight is my tip :
We don't drink coffee, soda or tea, at all! So, less money spent on beverages and sugar. We like beverages, but don't want to be addicted to them.
Wake up at 6, cook rice and prepare the lunch box + bottlewater for you and husband. I do this everyday, and save my husband's tendency to eat at Subway. I sat down with him and told him about the tight budget. At first, he didn't believe me so I dragged him to shop with me. Now he understands.
I learned how to cut my husband's hair, it worked! It saves you 20 dollars each month.
Review your toiletries need : I don't use lipstick, hair spray, or nail polish or hair dye. It saves you a lot. Just buy what you really need, my makeups : moisturizer, sunblock, lip balm, mascara. That's it! I do sometimes want to look more fashionable, but hey...let's try to save what we can save. I'd rather not wearing make ups than nothing served on the table.
Bike, walk, rail.
Sell unnecessary stuffs in craiglist
Buy stuffs in goodwill
Try not to buy anything on sale. If you are not gonna die if you don't buy them, you will be okay! No need to buy the newest gadget or whatever...
Rent your car in zipcar ( that's what rental car here called) or offered carpools so you can share gas.
Try to buy healthy foods. Invest on your health, less medical expense.
Good luck dear!You can do it!

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answers from Norfolk on

We eat out maybe 4 or 5 times a year - certainly not weekly or even monthly.
Buy meat on sale and freeze it.
Beans and rice are great meal stretchers.
Hubby needs to cut the eating out for lunch to once a week and brown bag it the rest of the time - when there are debts, eating out is a luxury you can't afford,

They have not updated this price list in awhile, but it gives you an idea of how to meal plan for a week and shop accordingly:

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answers from Dallas on

First off, congratulations! Second, you can do this. It will completely realign your priorities but you will be the better person for it. $400 is a tight, tight budget but doable.

First and foremost, the architect of this budget has to be on board. It does not include lunch out. He needs to make his lunch and bring it. Most of it being leftovers. It's going to take the two of you working together.

I did all my couponing before there were websites. There are probably easier ways but you will have to see from others. Basically you are looking for a certain price on an item, like sale prices and then look for your coupon and use it on it. You need to look for circulars either in the mail or on line. You have no loyalties to a store. You are a stock broker looking for the lowest price. You buy it at that price with the coupon. It does take time.

You freeze what you can't use right away. You look for recipes where you cook once and eat twice. Making over the meat into a new dish the next night. Slow cooker is your friend. Make a meat one night, a sandwich of part the next night then a soup. Envolve your H. This is work and he needs to be active in your goals.

Look at Dave Ramsey's site for more ideas. Find his books in your newest book store, the library. While you are there look for frugal cookbooks and other helpful books. I cut my boys hair till middle school. Glean all the ideas from people who can help. Learn about bartering. We swapped piano lessons for use of a lawn mower.

You can make this an adventure, learning and cooking together or you can make it difficult. You choose.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

If I were in your shoes i would try to buy most of my groceries at Aldi. I am amazed how much cheaper it is and the stuff is pretty similiar to national brands-at least the few that I have tried. I bet you would get better deals there than couponing-which IS hard. I tried and failed :-(
The closest I came to doing it though was a site called the grocery game. Basically you save your newspaper coupons each week in a folder (you don't have to cut them out) and this site tells you what is on sale at your store and where to find the coupons to use. It also tells you how much you are saving and when things are free.

If your husband is making you bdget then he also needs to-make him pack or starve. Eating lunch out every day is the most ridicuolous waste of money if you are on a budget.

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answers from Houston on

Grocery budget should be separate from eating out budget. If money is tight hubby should have a set amount for eating out a month. Once agreed on limit is reached he needs to brown bag it rest of month. Groceries are a need eating out is a luxury so they should be separate budget items.

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answers from St. Louis on

I am kind of confused, economies of scale tend to make financial situations better. I guess there is no reason to be honest with us but I hope you are being honest with yourself. It is not that your financial situation has changed for the worse it is that your choices are under a microscope. I am not being critical, this is just an observation. I remember my now husband asking why are you posting on a credit card when I have the money in the bank, errr.

So far as saving money, buy smart. I feed a family of for on four hundred by buying in bulk at Costco. I figure out what I need and wait for sales. Turn down your thermostat in the winter, up on the summer. Turn lights out.

Anytime I have to cut some fat I decide what is fat then cut what will hurt the least. Lather, rinse, repeat.

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answers from Los Angeles on

You can do this. It just takes time and/or awareness.
Those couponing shows are interesting but don't work for me. I don't have the storage for that nor am I preparing for the Apocolypse.
A few things that have worked for me:
-only clip coupons for things that never go on sale or you don not want to
buy generic like diapers or your fave-only-works-on-your hair shampoo
-buy generic food (or at the very least bottom shelf @ your grocery store)
-the only time I don't buy generic is certain canned veggies (they taste bad)
-call your cable company & get the minimum/least expensive plan or cancel it all together
-only dine out once a month. Twice a month at most. And I mean together as something to do. Hubby should bring his lunch.
-go to the cheapest gas station to fill up
-cancel any magazine subscriptions you have if you get a refund and/or don't renew
-look at your car insurance. Make sure you're not overpaying. Go with the cheapest yet best insurance offered. For ex, State Farm & Farmers, while good are a bit more expensive. Don't go for the lowest liability, however, as you still need to be protected.
-group your errands together to save money on gas
-can either of you carpool to work?
-double income is great but it also means double expenditures. This doesn't have to be all bad, it just needs to be worked on together.
-make sure your tires are at the appropriate air so that you don't underfill
-be frual with gifts this Christmas
-be frugal w/your electricity bill (turn off all lights in rooms you are not using etc.)
-see if there are ways for you to earn extra money (ex. watch a friend's child etc)
Hang in there. YOu can do this.

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answers from Detroit on

I would say follow Dave Ramsey's plan. Check out his website. He has a radio show also where people call in with money problems or to say how well they are doing.

He also has this course called "Financial Peace" which many churches around the country offer. In this course he will go over the baby steps.

One of the things he mentions is to do a budget at the beginning of each month and plan where you are going to spend it as to wondering at the end of the month where it went!

Good Luck!

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answers from Chicago on

I second the Dave Ramsey book! Good luck, you can do it!!!



answers from Amarillo on

It sounds like your husband budgeted but forgot to allow for his company/corporate meetings. See if you can have him rearrange a few dollars for this.

If you coupon do use it for products you use. I found out a long time ago it is nice to do but only if it is for items you use.

Make large quantities for meals so that you can freeze and eat later in the month.

Good luck to you guys.

The other S.

PS I remember the $400 for many years back when hubby was active military and I was a SAHM and cooked all meals from scratch. I had a menu for the month and it was posted on the frig kind of if it is Tues this must be spaghetti.



answers from New York on

Using an occassional coupon does help to cut down the grocery budget, but it's hard to find coupons that you can really use. I don't want to buy 3 of something to get $1 off when I only need one.

I could see feeding 3 easily on $400 a month, but if you need to spend $50 of that on meals out, it would be very difficult.

Ideas for cutting the food bill....
- Buy in bulk when things are on sale. For example, pork chops are on sale this week, I bought 3 packages, 1 for this week, and 2 for the freezer.
- Eggs - very inexpensive. Omelettes make a great lunch or dinner.
- Potatoes - also inexpensive. Make a loaded baked potatoe for lunch or dinner.
- Avoid package foods (instead of lipton sides rice, make white rice and add your own seasonings)
- Try generic or store brands.
- Make homemade soup. It's inexpensive and healthy. A cup of soup and a sandwich make a great lunch. You can also have a cup of soup as a side dish for dinner.
- Shop at more than one store each week. Every store has a few of those great items to get you into the store. Buy those great items at each of the stores and do the rest of the shopping at the one that is the least expensive.
- Cook a little extra so you'll have leftovers for lunches. Ocassionally we have a clean out the refrigerator night, where there's a little bit of everything.
- Look for free meals. It's ok to eat at a soup kitchen. Invite yourself over to your parents for a meal.

Here's one way I can make several meals for about $15. (purdue oven stuffer roaster, bag of carrots, rice, onions, celery, stuffing mix, lettuce, wraps/rolls). I make the chicken and stuffing (or rice) for dinner and serve with a salad or carrots. There's enough leftover for lunch the next day, make a sandwich or just heat up. Kids love chicken quesidillas. Then make chicken and rice soup. You can have soup and salad or soup and for another meal. And there's enough soup left over to be part of yet another meal.

Do a search on this website. There have been tons of posts about eating cheap, grocery budgets, and saving money in general.

Typically when 2 people move in together they actually find it much easier to save money since they are combining expenses, one utility bill vs. two. What was his budget before you got married, what was yours? I think you need to look at those and compare to what you have now.

A lot of people spend a lot on cell phone service. What type of service do each of you have? Are you on a combined plan? Does your phone have internet access? Do you really need that? We have no texting on our phones, it's expensive and we don't need it.

Good luck.

Added: I forgot one of the biggest ways to cut grocery budget. NO beverages. Drink water.

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