A New Spin on Brown-Bagging Your Lunches

A New Spin on Brown-Bagging Your Lunches

One simple way to save money is to brown bag your lunches every day. This is a favorite tip among financial advisors. Brown bagging may not be anything new, but if you want to save up to $1,800 per year, you may want to consider it. $1,800, really? Eating out adds up. Think about it: If you spend about $7 each day on lunch, that adds up over the course of a year. Even if you have a modest $5 lunch each day, that’s $1,300 annually.

If the thought of having to prep a boring bologna sandwich in the morning before work doesn’t sound appealing or appetizing, keep reading. Here’s a simple trick to help you only think about your lunch menu once a week.

Choose a day of the week to stop by the grocery store and stock up on yummy sandwich supplies – bread, good cheese, deli meat, veggies, sandwich spreads or whatever else you love on your sandwich. The idea here is to make your sandwich more than PB&J (although there’s nothing wrong with that). Be sure to add some “sides” to your menu including things like fruit (apples and grapes are good and will last the whole week), low-calorie chips, hard-boiled eggs, celery or baby carrots and humus. If you enjoy fruit juice or ice tea, pick that up too or make a large homemade batch. Now you have all of supplies you need for a week’s worth of tasty and nutritious lunches. Your supply may even last longer than a week – depending on the item. For instance, a package of cheese may have enough slices for two weeks. 

Stock up on your lunch supplies at wholesale stores like Costco or discount grocery stores like ALDI.

Store all of your supplies at work utilizing your desk, locker or a safe drawer for your bread and the office refrigerator for your cheese, meat, veggies, etc. Be sure to label your items so that it’s clear that they are yours. Now each day at work you have enough supplies to make a quick and healthy lunch. 

This method could easily cut your lunch budget in half. Feel free to spice things up each week by switching from sandwiches to salads. You could try different varities of lettuce, toppings and dressings. You can also try different deli meats and cheeses and/or a new sandwich spread (e.g. cranberry aioli). Another way to add variety is to bring leftovers from dinner — just to give yourself a change. 

Image Credit: Grant Cochrane/freedigitalphotosnet

Denene Brox is a Kansas City-based freelance writer. 

Easy 3-Step Budgeting

Easy 3-Step Budgeting

The word “budget” doesn’t usually excite most people. In fact, many think of budgets as restrictive. Or they may think of spreadsheets, complicated equations or time consuming number crunching. The good news is that a good budget doesn’t have to involve any of those things. Well, a good budget may be a little restrictive – but only in the sense that you’ll only spend money you actually have and you’ll have a good idea of where your money is going.

If you’d rather relax during your time off than balance complicated personal accounts, keep reading for an easy, 3-step budget that will put you on the road to better financial health.

Total Your Bills

How much does your life cost each month? Take out a sheet of paper and list the regular bills you pay each month and the amounts (e.g. rent/mortgage, utilities, cable, phone, debt repayment, etc.). Then write down all of the irregular bills you pay quarterly or annually and the total amounts for each (e.g. car registration, car insurance, taxes, etc.). Now add both your regular and irregular bill totals together for a grand total and divide that total by the number of paychecks you receive each year. For instance, if you get paid once a month, divide your total by 12. This is the amount you need to set aside from each paycheck and deposit into your bills account (more information below).

Keep Things Separate

Now that you have a handle on the amount of your bills, the next step is to open separate bank accounts for all of your various needs. A good place to start is with three accounts: An operating account, a bills account and a savings account. Here’s the purpose of each account:

Bills: This is the account you’ll use to hold money for your regular and irregular bills that you totaled on a piece of paper (see, no spreadsheets required). Deposit this amount each pay day into this account so that you are confident that you’ll always have money to pay your rent, utilities, annual car registration, etc.

Savings: This is where you’ll save money for an emergency fund, travel or anything else that you need to set money aside for. You may choose to have more than one savings account to keep track of each goal separately.

Operating: Need cash from the ATM? It comes from this account. Buying concert tickets? Purchase them from this account. Basically funds in this account are free for you to spend because you’ve already allocated funds to cover your bills and any savings.

You can have your pay check direct deposited to your operating account and then simply transfer the amount you need to set aside into your bills account each pay period.

Be sure to shop around for banks that don’t charge fees for these various accounts. You want to utilize free checking and/or savings accounts so that money isn’t flying out the door each month in fee charges.  


The remaining funds can be used at your discretion for groceries, entertainment, hobbies, etc.

Feel free to tailor this budget plan to fit your needs. You may want to include things like car repairs, gas and groceries as part of your bills account and save for them out of each paycheck. You can make this plan work for you and your budget. The most important things is that you are planning for each area of your life – the necessities and the fun stuff, and you that you have a pretty good handle on how much money each area costs. 

Image credit: Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

Denene Brox is a Kansas City-based freelance writer. Visit her online at www.earnmorelivewell.blogspot.com. 

Two Side Business Ideas for Nurses

Two Side Business Ideas for Nurses

Have you always dreamed of starting your own business? You don’t have to give up your nursing career or job in order to be a business owner. In fact, many people work full time and run side businesses or “side hustles” to earn extra income, grow their savings or pay off student loan debt.

Nurses have a wealth of skills and knowledge that naturally lend to entrepreneurship. Here are two businesses that nurses can start with little to no start-up costs and maximum flexibility.

Freelance Health Writer

Are you a good writer? Your writing skills combined with your health knowledge would make you the perfect health writer for websites and/or magazines. You set your own hours and have the flexibility to take on as much or as little work as you like. To land assignments, you’ll need to learn how to develop article ideas and pitch those ideas to editors. Pay varies by publication. For more information on getting started, check out Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer by Moira Allen.

Teacher/Public Speaker

If you love sharing health knowledge and teaching people about diseases or healthy living, teaching/public speaking may be a great side hustle for you. You can offer your services to community health organizations, hospitals or colleges/university continuing education programs. Pick your topic and contact the education department to see how to get started. 

Those are just two of the many side businesses that nurses can start to boost their earning potential. Your side business doesn’t have to be related to your career as a nurse. If you enjoy making jewelry, you could sell your creations. If you enjoy cooking, you could offer personal chef services on your off days. The possibilities are truly endless. 

Photo credit: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

3 Ways to Rein in Spending

3 Ways to Rein in Spending

Like most Americans, your financial situation may feel out of control. Maybe you overspend for big-ticket items – like a car payment. Or more likely, your money problem is little purchases here and there that add up over time. What financial gurus call the “latte factor.”

For instance, you figure it’s harmless to drop by Starbucks before a shift for a cup of Joe. Before you know it, you’re dropping $15 a week on coffee — which can add up to more than $500 a year. That’s a sure recipe for fiscal disaster. Here are three steps toward more sane spending.

1. Identify your “hot zones”:

Most of us have a particular item or situation that causes us trouble. We’re probably not even aware of it. If you carry a notebook and track everything you spend for a few days, you’ll have a good feel for where your money goes. You can also use an app like Mint, or look at your online banking activity if that’s easier but still reliable.

Do you see a pattern? Are most of your purchases for food – because you’re starved when you get off a 12-hour shift and head straight for take-out? Or is your downfall late night online shopping – to fight off boredom or frustration? Once you’re aware of these hot zones, you can detour around them.

2. Set a Dream Goal:

It’s hard to change habits by saying “No” to yourself all the time. (Willpower is limited.) Outsmart careless spending by imagining a savings goal that’s so motivating you’ll be able to resist the impulse to overspend. For example: a family reunion road trip this summer (immediate goal) or early retirement (long-term goal).

Stoke the power of your dream by visualizing it whenever you’re tempted to fritter away money. Or cut out a photo of an Airstream (to remind you of your reunion or retirement) and keep it in your wallet, right next to your credit or debit card.

3. Set a Budget:

It sounds so old-fashioned, but creating a budget can help curtail overspending. From your money tracking notebook or other records, figure out your average monthly household expenses and income.

Some expenses are fairly fixed (rent), but others are variable (utilities). Don’t forget to budget for savings, emergency buffer, 401K contributions, etc. By prioritizing expenses and planning for seasonal or unexpected outlays, such as new car tires, you’ll feel more in control of your financial life.

Jebra Turner is a freelance health writer in Portland, Oregon. You can visit her online at www.jebra.com.