Tips and Tricks for Making Your Budget go Further
There are a few good pointers to remember when shopping for today’s Katy family. Some of these tips you’ve heard before, yet some may be new to you. Applying even one of these money-saving ideas to your own family’s grocery budget will stretch your dollars, and that’s a good thing.
Consolidate the little runs to the store into one. All those extra runs to the store during the week stretch more than just your patience. The gasoline used, time spent, and stress level raised are just a couple of reasons to turn many little trips to the store into one big one. For some families, twice a month might be necessary, for others, maybe once a week. The point is to find something that works for your family, make it a priority, and stick with it.
Pre-plan the meals, then stick to the plan. To shop frugally, it is necessary to pre-plan the meals for the time period you are shopping for. For example, I go shopping every two weeks, so my menu plan is for that amount of time. Just thirty minutes earlier in the week (when you’re not hungry.) make a point to pre-plan the menu, as well as breakfast and staples needs. I save an average of $50-$100 each trip due to pre-planning, and I’d say that is pretty good pay for a half-hour’s work. It’s important, though, to stick to the list and forgo the impulse buys once you reach the store.
There are also many affordable services on the web to use for menu planning, and they are a really great option for busy families. E-mealz, The Menu Mom, and others are very low-cost, menu plans (and shopping lists.) for every kind of family.
Strategize the store specials – but count the cost. Watch the circulars, because the competing stores can have substantial savings at different times. Be aware, though, of hidden costs in shopping at too many different stores. Impulse buying, deceptive advertising, and the gas and stress of too many stops all add up and can backfire on the original intent to save. For example, I usually can manage two stops each trip, so I strategize between the top two stores as far as specials and overall savings on the items I really need for that time period. I am not a food hoarder, so I only shop for the ingredients, items, and add-ons necessary for those two weeks.
Use coupons, circulars and online specials wisely. Couponing is great, and I highly recommend it, but they must be used with strategy. If you are on a special eating plan, like gluten-free, low-sugar, or other diet plan, it is absolutely necessary to buy only the items allowed. So coupons should be seen as a help, not an excuse to buy foods outside of the eating plan. They can also be deceptive, as generic item many times is cheaper than the discounted name-brand item. Watching the store circulars for their sales and specials is just as simple to do online now, and pays off in time and money. You will be aware of what to buy where, and for stores like Wal-mart, which matches specials and coupons, you can bring in the circular or coupon and get the competitor’s price in one stop.
Bring cash or debit instead of credit. This is a biggie, and we just started doing this again near the end of last year. Paying with debit or cash for groceries increases the impact of the amount spent, according to a study by the Journal of Consumer Research done with 1000 shoppers over a period of 6 months. The study found that only 14% of Americans pay with cash, and that the impulsive buys, like junk food, decreased tremendously when the participant paid with debit or cash. The theory is that the consumer thinks twice about their purchase if they are parting with tangible money, versus the separation of money and emotion created by the credit card. My family and I found this to be true last year as we overspent on groceries an average of $237 per month, versus keeping to the budget 85% of the time this year so far.
Making a conscious effort to implement any of these ideas will show a tremendous improvement in how much of your family budget is spent at the store. Do you have any ideas that work for your Katy family? We would love to hear them, share with us.