My mother taught me early about budgets. In fact, I can remember one Christmas bragging to an elementary school friend that my family was “on a budget.” First of all, it was a new word to me–a grown-up word that I couldn’t wait to use in a sentence. The trouble is, my mother overheard me and she was mortified. “Hang up the telephone right now,” she ordered. I was confused and didn’t understand that this was a “family” discussion only. I didn’t get it. After all , I received everything I had on my Christmas list. No problem there. So what was the fuss all about ?
Years later, I feel the same way. I have no qualms about marching into the grocery store armed with that week’s circular and my grocery list–determined not to deviate one cent–unless, of course, I can justify an additional purchase with a mental check list that goes something like this, “Well, we are almost out of this and it is on sale this week.” I use coupons but only for those items I would normally buy.
Thus, my tips for budgeting are relatively simple. The main objective for me is to buy only what I normally buy–or an item I have been wanting to try but have been holding out because I reasoned that it could eventually go on sale. I have also strayed away from my mother’s mantra of buying only name brands and particularly items that I am going to throw away. Examples include garbage bags, paper dinner napkins and the like. And guess what ? Many of the store brands are just as good as the name brand items. (My mother would disagree with that one but this is a 2012 economy and most of us have to budget accordingly.)
The Kroger1 grocery store chain, for example, offers its loyalty customers (those who sign up for the Kroger “Thank You” discount card) weekly choices of purchasing 10 selected items for $10. That’s great for items that you buy frequently but it’s not likely to work out for you if the sale is on, let’s say, 10 containers of coffee that you regularly buy– but not all at one time. Another frequent perk for Kroger1 consumers is to buy 10 qualifying items to get $5 back in savings. The trick is to be sure that you are either purchasing items that you would do so normally or that you are getting a savings on an otherwise expensive item that you’ve been wanting to try. In other words, before you purchase, do the math–literally–of buying 10 qualifying items to get the $5 promised in savings.
Another opportunity to make the weekly grocery or gasoline fill-up trip work for you may be to shop at a chain that offers discounts on fuel through a customer loyalty program. Kroger1 and Shell 2, for example, have teamed up to give consumers some form of discount on gasoline through a combination of grocery and fuel purchases. Use caution though. Sometimes, gasoline prices are steep even with the discount because the economy–not the store chains–are fueling the costs. Check your neighborhood gas station and compare their prices versus the distance you’d travel (and the gas you’d use) in chasing the chain’s fuel discount.
It is not impossible to budget, although I hesitate to offer congratulations to some of the shoppers featured on TLC’s popular “Extreme Couponing.” 3 To be sure, there is excitement in getting almost anything for free. However, I’m not sure how cost effective it would be to have one hundred bottles of shampoo in my basement. Even shampoo has an expiration date, doesn’t it ?
Sources: www.kroger.com 1www.shell.com 2www.tlc.com 3