New Year, New Spending Habits
After a month of eating badly and not really moving around, I decided it was time to get my body back in shape and get fit again. Instead of turning to an easy workout, I decided I’d let my very fit friend talk me into the 30 Day Shred with Jillian Michaels. Although it’s making me extremely sore and tired right now, after 5 days I can already see the benefits and know that the end is in sight and the benefits will far outweigh the sacrifice.
Saving money is no different. Christmas has a way of sneaking up on you, and before you know it, the budget is out the window as you spend money like no other month. This year I want to encourage you to set some budget goals that are easy to maintain.
Habit #1: Making Wiser Choices
My new workout plan is hard right now, but I know — in the long run — the benefits are going to be enormous, and I’ll feel better. It’s also like that when it comes to spending habits. You may have gone along for years on a nice income, and then you lose your job and things were tougher. Or you may have thrived on two incomes, and then your spouse has a baby and it’s now time to trim the fat off the budget.
2010 can be the year that you significantly cut your grocery spending so that you can live better and have more money in your back pocket, but first you have to make the decision to do it by making wise choices. Being a wise consumer is the first step to cutting your bill, because even when you want to splurge, you will know whether or not you have the money to do it. It’s not about cutting back in every area, but making wise grocery decisions that will lead to more money for the piggy bank. Being aware of where that money is going and how it’s being spent is the first step on the road to new spending habits.
Habit #2: Buying on Sale
This seems simple enough, and yet it's huge when it comes to budgeting. You know the drill: you run into a store last-minute to grab a couple of things, and you end up with a cart load of groceries that weren't on sale. Because you shopped without a list and ignored sales, you spent more than you wanted to.
Or, while browsing the aisles you found the strawberries for $3.99/lb that looked so yummy and the apples at $1/lb that just didn’t quite appeal. The difference is a whopping $2.99/lb, and this year it’s time to think through decisions like that. Although it may seem like such an insignificant amount, if you put just 15 items into your cart that are $2 more than another similar item, your grocery bill just went up $30. If we’re going to really save money this year, you need to watch seasonal sales and buy accordingly. During the summer, when exotic fruits are in abundance, stock up on your need for mangoes, star fruit, and the like, but during the winter resolve to eat apples and oranges to truly cut costs.
Habit #3: Buying Generic Brands
A friend of mine and I went grocery shopping a few months ago, and watching her was an interesting study on human behavior. As she wandered the store, she “blindly” threw items into her cart, not paying attention to what she was doing. It almost looked like she was looking for name brands, and when she spotted one she threw it in the cart. Perhaps that’s why her grocery bill for a family the size of mine is $75 more per week. She bought items because she always did and because her Mom used to — without even comparing prices.
I won’t lie. I’m a box reader. I read the ingredients and the price. You may be thinking, “Woah there, I don’t have time for all that nonsense.” In honesty, I don’t think it takes that much more time, but it will save you a lot.
Compare the prices and save. Generics typically cost much less than their brand name cousins. Worried about the taste? This research done by Yahoo proves that there’s no difference.
Habit #4: Re-discover ALDI
Once an unclean, unkempt place with more MSG, high fructose corn syrup, and water-added ingredients than is healthy for any normal person, ALDI may not be the first place you want to shop. However, if you haven't stepped into an ALDI recently, may I suggest that 2010 be the year you do? Here's just a few reasons why...and trust me there's many more:
- Their Fit n Active line is perfect if you’re on a diet or trying to eat healthy. Unlike most healthy food, it won’t cost you the earth.
- When I’m thinking baking, this is one store that has me covered for way less. From pie crusts to powdered sugar, I’ve found that the ingredients at ALDI are about $1 cheaper than elsewhere.
- For a place where cutting costs is premium, I was shocked to learn they have a great meal planner tool online. If I can plan all my meals online before going and have a list to take with me, voila! How easy is that?
Don’t forget to bring cash or a debit card (as they don’t take other cards), a quarter for the cart, and some reusable bags.
Spending Habit #5: Couponing
I can hear you groan through the computer as you think this is reserved for people with too much time on their hands and no children to tag along. Consider this: Through couponing I haven’t paid for most toiletries in 8 years. Through couponing my family of 3 lives on $50 a week for groceries. As for the time spent couponing? With about an extra hour per week, I save at least 50-60% on my grocery bill. That’s huge. In fact if I think about monetary savings it’s about $35-$50/week that I save. That calculates out at around $40 an hour, which to me, is a great wage!
I am very simple when it comes to coupons:
- I cut out mainly toiletry ones (to couple with free things at the drugstores for their rebate programs).
- I only cut what I need. Once my kiddos are old enough to cut, I'll circle the ones I want and have them clip away.
- One night a week, while watching a show on TV with hubby, I clip and sort. (Sometimes it takes way less time than that.) I then put them into one of 2 folders: one for toiletries and one for food.
- While I'm adding new ones, I take out expired ones and so I don’t have to do tons of weeding out.
Coupon-clipping can appear daunting at first, but it is well worth it in the long run. Over the years, it’s enabled us to get things we already use for free, get things we don’t use but can donate for free, and live on one income.
Like any other habits cutting your grocery bill takes time and takes work — but, oh the payoffs! The benefit of being able to buy a caramel macchiato every week are so worth it for to me to be clued into where my money is going and what it’s doing when it comes to the grocery store.
This is a guest post by Clair Boone. She bought diapers for 20 cents a pack and earned the applause of the cashier checking her out. Over the past year, Clair Boone’s website Mummy Deals and money-saving tips has helped thousands of people all over the U.S. save hundreds of dollars.