Going to the US on a budget? Try these 9 easy money-saving tips!
Food, glorious food! Bigger is always better as far as the US is concerned when it comes to grub, and you might be surprised by some of the huge portions sizes. Even with the large portions, you could end up spending a big part of your budget on food.
Here are a few simple tips to help you save cash and still eat well in the US:
1. Keep your meals simple
Instead of buying processed foods, ditch the pot-noodles and buy basic staples such as rice, beans, and pasta. They’re cheaper, will last longer, and are healthier for you.
2. Cook it yourself!
Avoid processed meals and cook from scratch. Check out local markets for cheap, fresh, local fruit and veg. There are excellent farmer’s markets all across the US; Union Square Greenmarket in New York, Boston Public Market, or Heart of The City Farmer’s Market in San Francisco.
Here are 10 awesome markets around the US.
The average US tax back we get for J1 students is $800
3. Shop in cheap supermarkets
Such as Wegmans, Trader-Jos, and Walmart, and look out for deals and coupon giveaways. Couponing is a huge craze in the US and with a bit of clever shopping, you can make a lot of savings. Stick to the store’s own brand products if you want to save even more money.
4. Online discounts
You may be able to save some cash by doing your grocery shopping online on sites like Amazon Grocery that offer great discounts for regular deliveries.
5. Buy in bulk
Buying food in bulk can result in significant savings, and in the US, you’ll find a whole range of grocery stores selling in bulk; Bulk Nation, Cub Foods, Roundy’s Supermarkets, Giant Eagle, Food 4 Less, Lunds, Whole Foods Market, and WinCo foods.
6. Shop smart
Do your shopping in the evenings to avail of the reduced prices and look for items like baked goods that are reduced to clear. Buy store-branded products and get fruit and vegetables in-season.
7. Go vegetarian
Meat is expensive, so going on a vegetarian diet, even for just a few days a week, will save you money. Meat-free Monday is fast becoming a trend! If you want to buy meat, shop at the local butchers or meat market to find the best deals.
9. Restaurant deals
Feel like eating out? Look up daily deal sites like Groupon.com, Living Social and Rush49.com for discounts in your city.
Look for happy hour food/drink specials and don’t forget, tipping is mandatory in the US so budget for at least a 15% tip. Some restaurants have loyalty programs, so if you’re going to be in the same place for a while, it may be worth joining.
Also, be aware that some restaurants will add a ‘’sales tax’’ at the till, and you won’t see it included in the price on the menu, so don’t let it come as a nasty surprise! Some restaurants will even add tax at a higher rate by applying a special restaurant tax. TripAdvisor has a useful list of sales tax rates per state.
Avoid the tourist traps and research cheaper areas to eat. If you can, research the Yelp reviews before you go, so you don’t end up wasting money on a disappointment.
9. Be flexible
If you want to eat out, be flexible with what days you choose. A Saturday brunch menu could drop significantly on a Monday, as many restaurants and bars offer midweek deals to attract more customers.
Nip to the bakery at the end of the day when they are getting rid of cheap stock and if you’re old enough to drink alcohol, Friday is always a good night to find after work happy hour drink specials.