The food and clothing sections of your budget often leave plenty of room for tightening your belt. Whether you're a fashionista foodie or just like to dress well when dining out, changing your spending habits gives you more wiggle room in the budget. Ignore those visions of eating ramen noodles while wearing threadbare clothes. Smart shopping strategies allow you to still enjoy some food and clothing indulgences without cutting into other areas of your budget.
Save your receipts for clothing and food purchases for at least two weeks to track your spending. Include grocery bills and receipts from meals at restaurants, including work lunches that come out of your pocket. Total the amount you have spent in each area to get a sense of what you're spending now.
Read the label of clothes before you buy them to check on cleaning requirements. Avoid buying dry-clean-only clothing if possible to save money down the road.
Keep your clothes in good condition so they last longer, saving you money. Wear clothes more than once, especially items that need dry cleaning. Wash clothing on the gentle cycle and air dry them when possible. Fold clothes or hang them neatly as soon as they are washed.
Use what you already have on hand as a foundation for an outfit or a meal. For example, you might have a sleeveless dress that you can wear for a fall wedding by pairing it with a sweater. In the kitchen, base your meals on main ingredients you already have in the pantry so you only have to buy a few supporting ingredients to finish the dish.
Buy different brands instead of sticking with the more expensive name brands, but keep quality in mind. Generic food items are usually comparable to their name brand counterparts. When buying clothing, consider alternative brands as long as the quality is high enough to make them last.
Purchase only what you need. A menu and shopping list helps you buy the necessities at the grocery store. When shopping for clothes, only buy items you will definitely wear.
Shop at different stores to find the best deals. You might find similar items at a different store for much less.
Stock up when you find a bargain, whether the sale is on beans or socks. If the sale item is something you use regularly, buy a few extras when the price is low. Consider the clearance items at the grocery store and your favorite clothing stores to find discounts on products that are perfectly fine.
Spend more time at home. Cooking your own meals saves you significantly on your food budget, and you won't need as many dressy clothes. The nicer clothes you do have will last longer if you don't go out as often.
Purchase classic styles for your work clothes. This allows you to wear them for longer than trendy outfits that go out of style quickly. Mix-and-match pieces also work well because you can make several outfits from a few basic items of clothing.
Allow yourself a few splurges for both food and clothing if the budget allows. The occasional indulgences might help you avoid feeling deprived, making it easier to stick with more thrifty food and clothing purchases most of the time.
Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience comes from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.