I hate money. It keeps me up at night, gives me anxiety and seems to dictate every moment of my life. I hate that even at the age of 31 I still struggle with money. I still have to watch my account every day to make sure it doesn’t overdraft. I still live paycheck to paycheck. It wasn’t the life I had hoped for as a college graduate. This past December I decided: no more. No. More. I’m going to take my money, sit it down and have a real good talk with it. After all, I wasn't born to just pay bills and then die. I know, a bit dramatic, but this is what debt has led me to.
The first thing I did was read Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover because I obviously didn’t know anything about money. The book had been sitting on my shelf for four years. Four years. A friend had given it to me and I had poo-pooed it. I was like, “That’s not for me. I got money in my pocket. I can pay my bills. I’m good. But I’m just gonna hold on to it so I don’t make her feel bad.”
A few chapters into the book, I became convinced I could be debt-free.
I stayed up all night to finish the book. The next day, I told my husband he needed to read it, too. Unfortunately, I couldn't convince him, but I did convince him to help me change our spending habits. We put together a budget, gave ourselves personal spending allowances, and directed every dollar we spent. One of the areas we tackled was our spending at the grocery store.
We used to spend anywhere between $30 to $70 on one trip to the grocery store and we used to go to the grocery store EVERY week. Sometimes we would go two to three times. Each time I’d leave the store feeling sick to my stomach because I knew we could've used that money elsewhere or, even better, put it into our savings. When we decided to change our spending habits two months ago, we found eight ways to help us save money. The last three times I went to the grocery store, I spent less than $20. A few times I only spent $10!
1. Take only the amount of cash you need to the store.
There’s no reason to take more than you need. In fact, it would only give you reason to buy more items. If you do end up grabbing more than you can afford, simply tell the cashier that you decided not get an item and he'll put it back. No big deal.
2. Take inventory before going to the store.
Have you ever bought cinnamon because you needed it for a dish but didn’t know whether you had it at home or not? I have, and one day, as I was cleaning out my cupboard, I counted three different bottles of cinnamon, and cinnamon isn’t cheap.
3. Visualize what you're going to cook before you go to the store.
Sometimes I even look at a recipe, just so I know exactly what I’ll need. That way, I don’t spend money on ANOTHER bottle of cinnamon. Plus, it also helps keep me focused when I’m in the store.
4. Cook with in-season or all-season veggies.
I’ve learned how to be really creative with broccoli, carrots and cabbage.
5. Use everything in your fridge and cupboard before you go shopping.
Like I said, I’ve learned how to be really creative with broccoli, carrots and cabbage.
6. Be open to shopping at places you might not be familiar with.
Sometimes we get used to shopping at one store all the time that we don’t stop to look around. It’s close by so it’s convenient or we know the cashiers so we’re comfortable. But sometimes it’s worth driving to drive just little further to spend $20 less on grocery.
7. Substitute high quality products with regular products.
I mean, it’s not like you’re cooking for the president (unless you are). I used to buy organic all the time, until I realized it was costing me twice as much as regular vegetables. Name brand spices were also costing a few dollars more per bottle than standard, but I found that they tasted pretty much the same, and I was willing to make the sacrifice.
8. Hold each other accountable when shopping.
My husband and I are bad at this. He always lets me buy whatever I want, and it doesn’t take a lot of asking for me to give in to what he wants, so when we go shopping we have to not only hold each other accountable, but we also have to hold ourselves accountable. Sometimes we’ll ask questions like, “Do we really need this?” or “Can we substitute something else for this?” You can also do this with roommates.
Believe it or not, grocery shopping sucks a lot out of your monthly budget. Neither my husband nor I love every way to save money on this list, but tackling the grocery monster is just one way that we are trying to get our budget under control so that we could live the life we want in the near future.
No matter what stage you are in your life journey, to be free you have to learn how to manage your money. But don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Learn from people who have done it successfully. I just happened to have The Total Money Makeover on my shelf, but you don’t have to read that same book or use Dave Ramsey’s strategy. What’s important is that you start using a strategy.
How are you saving money at the grocery store? Comment below.