11 Simple Ways To Save Money on Food and Drinks

It happens to all of us. We’re exhausted, we pass by a Starbucks, we make a U-turn and go in. Next thing we know, it becomes routine, a $4 latte here, a $5 Frappuccino there. Soon, all that caffeine adds up—as the money in your bank account subtracts.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Starbucks, too, but there are several ways to get your caffeine fix outside of the corner coffee shop. Okay, you’re saying, big deal. What’s $20-35 a week on coffee? Well, multiplied by four, it’s up to $140 a month, which is the same as my friend’s car payment (and this is excluding muffins and donuts and anything else you buy in addition to the coffee).

After you read the money-saving tips below, you’ll suddenly find yourself with a surplus amount of money—to open a savings account, CD, or to invest in mutual funds or stocks. So, stop spending and start saving. Here’s how:

1. Make an overall budget

Let’s figure out what we’re working with. To some people, $100 a week on groceries is a lot. To others, $50 a week is a lot. Create a chart with things such as groceries—must-haves (lunch meat) and wants (Oreos), coffee shop drinks, Happy Hours, etc.

2. Make a specific weekly food budget

Make a weekly food budget for groceries—account for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. If you spend $100 more this week on dining out, try to spend $100 less this week on groceries or in another category—meaning, every time you add, be sure to subtract so you come out even.

3. Make your own coffee

With programmable coffee makers these days, there’s no excuse not to make your own coffee. All you have to do is set it up the night before and there you go—freshly brewed coffee. Plus, the scent of it brewing will wake you up, too.

If you can’t stop buying coffee out, at least taper your caffeine (and money-spending) addiction and get it as a reward once in a while versus a constant every day. Get a store-bought coffee once a week instead of daily, get a cup of drip coffee for about $2 versus a fancier drink (already, you’ll see your savings!), and so on. But, if you don’t skimp on the fancy coffee, then something else must go.

Average weekly savings (assuming you buy at least one $5 cup a day): $35 ($140 a month).

4. Make your own lunch

Maybe you have to do business lunches as part of your job (and they are expensed) but, if not, read on. To save money, either make your lunch, bring the ingredients to do so, or opt for a salad or sandwich from an economical place, like Trader Joe’s versus that overpriced gourmet corner deli. (As a reward, treat yourself and go there once a week or every other week.)

Average weekly savings, assuming you buy at least one $15 lunch a day: $105 ($420 a month).

5. Limit the drinks after work

There’s no time like now to sidle up to local Happy Hours. If the average non-Happy Hour drink is $14, that quickly adds up to $42 for three drinks before you know it, and what’s the reward? A hangover in the morning? Either limit yourself to one drink (two, tops!), drink non-alcoholic drinks, or—yep, you guessed it—have water! Few people will be able to tell if your drink is club soda with a lime or a vodka soda with a lime. Also, limit the number of nights you go out for drinks and you’ll be amazed at how much extra money you have.

Average weekly savings, assuming you spend $14-42 in drinks per day: $98-294 ($392-1176 a month).

6. Limit the late-night drinks

Similar to the above, find late-night Happy Hours (which are becoming more and more popular). Why not?

7. Switch it up

We all have our fave weekly hangouts, but try new (cheaper) places. Not only will it vary your nightly or weekly socializing, but it will also make your wallet thicker from all the money you’re saving.

8. Make dinner

Take-out (or delivery services like GrubHub) is so easy, especially when we’re exhausted after work and the last thing we want to do is go home and cook. But it’s expensive! Instead, if you marinate food (like chicken) or use a crockpot while you’re at work, you’ll have a way cheaper meal waiting for you when you walk in the door.

9. Have dinner parties

Aside from making dinner for yourself, how about for a date or for friends, too? Better yet, have them make it with you (and you can split the cost of ingredients). Plus, the drinks will be cheaper, also!

10. Movie night

Going to a movie theater is pricey! Pick the friend with the best TV and host a movie night—via DirecTV, a DVD, Netflix, or what have you. Make popcorn, serve Cokes, buy your favorite candy, etc.

11. Free events

For fun date (or non-date) ideas, check out this post for indoor ideas, like making ice cream, going to an animal shelter, or taking a train ride someplace new, or this one for outdoor ones, like having a picnic, going to a garage sale, or stargazing.