Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tony's Home Economics Rule #3: Learning To Shop

In tough economic times, people often have their financial weaknesses exposed whether they like it or not. Sometimes it is the bad mortgage choice, or the ill advised car purchase, or the vacation that we couldn't afford, or even the credit cards we ran up. It is easy to focus on the large things because they get our attention more than the small things. However, in my younger years, a gentleman once told me something about running a business that applies to personal finances: "Watch your pennies and your dollars will take care of themselves."

What he was trying to say was it is the little things that make a big difference in your bottom line. It is the extra half a percent off your mortgage interest rate, or the no fee credit card, and so on. That same line of thought matters when it comes to our individual shopping habits. We don't realize it generally, but our grocery choices can make a huge difference. And in today's day and age of technology, it doesn't have to be a difficult thing.

If you are unsure of what it costs you for groceries, toilet paper, toiletries, paper towels, and so on, try keeping a running tab on your grocery shopping for a given month. I know it shocked me how much my wife and I spent the first time I tracked it. They are things we don't think about, we just buy them and assume we need them and we just get to choose out of what is there. We often think that we either can't get it cheaper or that it is too much work to do it.

Yet, everything from our personal meal choices, to whether or not we use coupons, or price match, or use advertisements, all have an impact on the costs we pay. To make it easier, let me start by saying with little effort, you can cut your costs dramatically by using two websites:

Grocery Game. Grocery game is a well known website that has been publicized on CNN and other shows. It probably does the most work of any site out there for you, but it has its cost. All you have to do is to get your Sunday Newspaper, and potentially some online coupons, print out your selected stores spreadsheet, choose what you want to buy, and buy it using their method. One trick is that you stock up when it is on sale with coupons and it takes a little organizational work, but most of it is done for you. This is one of the places I learned to be very efficient with my shopping and if you do it well, you can cut your costs in half or more.

It's Hip to Save is a relatively new version of grocery game. It isn't as well organized and all pre-done for you, but it is FREE of charge at this point. It tells you how to save and where to save, keeping basic stores updated and giving you free promotions.

I will tell you that I currently don't use either website, but rather use what I have learned from them and I will occasionally check some of the latter site's information. Once you get good at it, you can figure out how they do it and save the money you pay them. You learn your own shopping habits and you learn how things tend to work out.

Currently, I use advertisements that come out in the Wednesday paper locally and get coupons out of the Sunday paper. Together, we save 30 to 50% of our monthly shopping bill without doing a ton of work and without paying of these sources a dime.

Part of shopping is making smart decisions. For us, we use meal planning and using left overs by making larger meals to save money. Making more of something often makes it cheaper, especially when you get it on sale. For example, right now, we have a freezer full of chicken tenderloin that we got at a great sale price. We have several different chicken recipes, so we make two of them a week. Then to dress them up, we may have a salad of some kind with chicken on top; or we may have rice, a vegetable, and chicken that goes with it; or many other variations, but to have bought and cooked in bulk saves both time and money.

In each case, it will take some time up front to learn the systems. It takes time to learn how to plan things you haven't planned before such as shopping and meal planning, but just like any other planning you learn, over time it takes less time and less effort to do it.

In a recession, cutting your grocery shopping in half can save a family hundreds of dollars a month without having to give up quality of food, and it can be a teaching lesson for kids to help them grow up with a better understanding of how to save money.

In good economic times, it can mean more money saved for a rainy day, or for a family vacation, or for something like a new laptop, a field trip for children, and much more.

Any way you look at it, people probably will enjoy spending money on those things they want to do than to spend it on shopping for groceries, soaps, toothpastes, etc. Learn to shop with websites like these and shore up your home economics.

1 comment:

Uncle Don said...

Agree. I would add that when shopping for groceries, follow these two rules: 1. Always eat first. You will spend much less on impulse buys for snacks and such if you are not hungry. 2. Make a list.Go to this site and save this list to your computer. Alter it to fit your preferences and print it out. Good article,Tony!