You’re doing it right now. You did it last week, and you’ll do it tomorrow night. Sabotaging your grocery budget might just be the easiest, sneakiest way that you can personally damage your finances, throw your budget off course, and end up in the red. Breaking these habits is tough to do, but you’ll find that when you finally do, your budget will line up nicely with your expectations, and you might just finally stop wondering where it is that your money is going every month.
1. You’re trying to coupon your way into savings. Coupons work, but they don’t work as well as retailers and manufacturers would like you to believe they do. In today’s computer age, coupons are extremely well manipulated to provide the best advertising advantage for products without losing either the grocery store or the manufacturer any money. Sure, there’s extreme couponing, and it works for some folks, but really, how many bottles of conditioner and packages of paper towels do you go through in a year? Probably not nearly as many as some of those folks seem to think! If you pay attention to pricing, you’ll typically find that items featured on coupons (with the coupons) are priced at about market level with off-brand or store-brand products, which come in at number 2 in our list.
2. You shun store brands in favor of national brands. Sometimes, this is okay. Breakfast cereals and peanut butter might just be a matter of personal preference for you. Let’s say it’s a can of creamed corn, though. If the national brand is $1.50 and the store brand can is .69 cents, why do you think the national brand is better? It isn’t. Buy the store brand and save half your money. Another sticking point is medications. You don’t need to buy national brand medications. The store brand meds HAVE to work just as well, or stores wouldn’t be able to sell them! Save your money!
3. You snack with near religious fervor! We all do it, but remember that it stacks up! A bag of chips is around $3.50 these days, if not verging on $4.00. Same goes for lots of other snacks. Nuts are good for you, but they are supremely expensive. Instead of “going with your gut,” follow your health nut friends by putting away your snacks after 6pm. Got a raging hunger? It might be your body telling you you’re thirsty. Try tea instead of chips, and you’ll save your wallet!
4. You grocery shop in just one place. Grocery shopping is called a trip, but we seldom do it at more than just one stop. This could mean overpaying for items that may be less expensive elsewhere. Instead of just one list, make at least two. Check for the lowest meat prices in town, and shop there for that. Next, make a list for the lowest boxed and canned goods in town, and shop there for that. If you buy more than $150 in groceries at a time, you could save lots of cash by dividing the grocery stores before you conquer them!
5. You rely on loyalty cards for gas discounts. Loyalty cards are nice, and you can rack up a nice little discount on your fuel purchases, but remember that most stores require you to spend $1,000 per month to save $1.00 off a gallon of gas at one fill-up. Additionally, most grocery chains limit how much gas you can purchase at this discount. If a grocer only allows up to a dollar off on up to 25 gallons of gas, you’ve only saved $25. You might well have spent $500 or more in extra groceries you didn’t need just to reach that level. Oh, and the kicker? Grocery stores don’t allow that amount to roll over into the next month any more. Once the first rolls around, you’re right back at square one.