Make Grocery Budgeting A Game, The Price Is Right Style
Growing up, I stayed with my grandparents during the day on summer breaks from school. Our mid-mornings were usually spent casually watching The Price is Right. This was back in the days when Bob Barker was still hosting the show, and the "guess the price of the car game" always started off with a "1" in the ten-thousands column. My, how times have changed! My favorite part of the show was the Showcase Showdown, where contestants would bid an amount "closest to the actual retail price without going over" on a host of prizes. Maybe those Showcase Showdowns ingrained something in my frugal memory bank, because my family now enjoys a grocery budgeting game with similar rules.
Grocery Shopping: Price is Right Style
Today when my family visits the grocery store I carry along a pen and a sheet of paper (usually just the back of our grocery list). I used to perform this exercise in my head, but as my brain has grown older and calculators have become cheaper, I now rely on technology for accuracy. This would be a good time to remind you that under my frugal shopping rules one should never enter a store without a list. Even a small mental list of just the few items you need will suffice in a crunch. Without being armed with a list there are just too many opportunities to pick up unnecessary items and blow your food budget .
Rules of the Game
With our food budget firmly established ahead of time and our list of weekly staples properly spelled out, we embark on our weekly grocery shopping journey. I usually follow along behind the wife and kids equipped with my paper, pen and calculator. As the kids toss boxes of Pop-Tarts into the shopping cart I write down the price (rounding up to the nearest $0.50) and keep a running total working down the sheet of paper. It isn't necessary to write the item description, but for example purposes I've included it below:
- $1.50 Pop-Tarts: $1.50
- $2.00 Mac and Cheese: $3.50
- $2.50 Strawberries: $6.00
- $9.00 Laundry Detergent: $15.00
You get the idea. The estimated item price is listed first, followed by a description, and then the running total. Again, it isn't necessary to list the item price and description on your list - we simply keep up with the running total column.
Now, Time to Calculate and Submit Your Bid
By rounding up to the nearest $0.50 we are intentionally inflating the cost of our goods a bit to prevent a budget overrun, much in the same way The Price is Right contestants undervalue the estimated price of their Showcase Showdown prizes to avoid over-estimating their packaged deal. When the shopping cart is full, or your list is complete, grab your calculator and multiply the final total by your tax rate to estimate sales tax owed. Add this amount to your running total for grocery purchases. If this amount is less than your food budget you've done well. If not, return to the aisles to look for cheaper alternatives, or move that steak dinner to next week's menu schedule.