How to Budget for Food While Paying Student LoansJanuary 11, 2022
Tinkering with your budget is about making the most straightforward changes first. That can mean cutting out subscriptions you don’t use, moving to a cheaper apartment, or negotiating for a lower price on your bills. But after cutting back on the obvious expenses, freeing up room in your budget gets a little trickier.
One area to look at is your grocery budget. From figuring out your average grocery bill to learning how to save money on groceries, we’ll walk you through the best strategies to tighten up your grocery budget so that you can make your student loan payments with confidence.
What is the Average Grocery Bill?
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2020, the average US household spent $4,942 on groceries, which comes out to $411.83 a month.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the average grocery bill. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, food prices have increased as supply chains worldwide have been disrupted. According to the BLS, the cost of food consumed at home increased by 4.5% in 2021. During that same time, the price of meat, poultry, fish, and eggs increased by 10.5%.
How much your family spends on groceries partially depends on your personal diet and where you live. The USDA provides how much households should spend on food depending on household size and family budget. According to the USDA, a family of two should spend between $402.80 and $800.70 a month, while a family of four should spend between $588.10 and $1,147.80.
How to Save Money on Groceries
Creating a grocery budget is essential if you’re trying to pay off student loans. The less you spend on food, the more money you can apply toward your loans. Here’s how to save money on groceries.
First, get out of your comfort zone when it comes to where you shop for groceries. If you’re used to only shopping at big-name grocery stores, check out smaller stores like Aldi. Ethnic markets are another great option and often have amazing deals on produce and spices.
Start perusing the weekly ads and stocking up when there’s a good sale. For example, if you see chicken breasts on sale, buy a few pounds and freeze what you can’t use right away. Shopping based on what’s on sale can take more time but can save you a lot of money.
Consider going meatless a couple of days a week, especially since meat prices are rising faster than other food staples. Use low-cost beans and quinoa to get some of your protein and start rethinking the kind of meat cuts you’re buying. For example, a whole chicken is cheaper per pound than chicken breasts, while a chuck eye steak is cheaper than a ribeye.
One of the most significant ways to reduce food costs and stick to your grocery budget is to waste less. The average two-person household throws away $750 worth of food each year. Before you buy perishable products like produce, plan how you’ll use them. Use the food you already have in your fridge and pantry to meal plan. For example, if you already have chicken thighs and Brussels sprouts, find recipes that incorporate those ingredients instead of buying new items.
Learn to store food properly to extend its lifespan, like soaking berries in a vinegar-and-water mixture or using special air-tight containers to store spinach. Buying frozen fruits and veggies can be another way to reduce food waste while still eating healthy.
Some consumers buy bulk items from warehouse clubs to save money on groceries. If you go this route, make sure you’re actually using up all the items. If you aren’t, you may be better off buying regular-sized portions. You could also split bulk items with a friend or neighbor. That way, you get the cost savings associated with warehouse clubs without storing 24 rolls of toilet paper in your closet.
Refinancing Your Student Loans Can Help You Save Money
If you’ve applied the suggestions above and are looking for new ways to save money on your student loans, student loan refinancing could help reduce your interest costs and speed up the repayment process.
Here’s how refinancing could help you save money. Let’s say you owe $60,000 with a 9% interest rate, 10-year term, and a monthly payment of $760.05.
If you refinance to a 4% interest rate and a 10-year term, you’ll pay $18,310 less in interest over the life of the loan. Your new monthly payment will be $153 less each month. If you keep making your old monthly payment of $760.05, you could pay off the loans in just seven years and six months.
ELFI offers student loan refinancing with five, seven, 10, 15, or 20-year terms, so you can pick the repayment plan that fits your needs.* If you have a low credit score, no credit history, or no recent employment history, you may have to add a cosigner to qualify for student loan refinancing. ELFI lets borrowers include cosigners, which could result in a lower interest rate.
Refinancing student loans with ELFI is a seamless process. When you submit an application, you’ll be matched with a personal loan advisor who will guide you through the entire process. That’s what separates ELFI’s customer service from other private lenders. As of January 2022, ELFI has a 4.9 out of 5 rating on TrustPilot with more than 1,500 reviews.
If you’re taking advantage of federal loan programs like income-driven repayment or Public Service Loan Forgiveness, keep in mind that you can choose to refinance only your private student loans.