Our family is on a “no-nonessential spending kick” for September. Why? We had a few hangover bills from a summer vacation and three unexpected car repairs. So a spending freeze seemed like a sane way to get our budget back on track.
Now, we’re pretty careful with our money anyway, so I thought, “How hard can this be?” Well, it’s only September 2. And I’ll tell ya the truth: It’s very, very hard!
I read a suggestion in financial celebrity Suze Orman’s 2009 Action Plan (which I downloaded for free; you can still read the first chapter here). It was: Don’t spend ANYTHING for one day. So during the last part of August, I kept trying to do that, in preparation for September. Emphasis on “kept trying.” I’d think: OK, this is an easy day to spend nothing. Then we desperately needed milk. Or it was my “mom’s night out” and I wanted to buy a cup of coffee with a friend. Or I needed to send in a check for my daughters’ lunch money.
So I’d put off the “spend nothing day” until tomorrow. But the funny thing was that something kept popping up—sometimes a need, sometimes a very strong “want”—and I found it really tough to go even one single day without spending at least a few bucks! I wondered: How the heck are we going to get through September?
Our project for this summer: Start a vegetable garden. Not only do we hope to save money on produce, I think it will be fun, too!
We’re planning to install two 4′ x 4′ raised garden boxes on the narrow south side of our house. One will be a “salad garden” with arugula, lettuce and other greens. The second will be an “Italian garden” with basil, parsley, tomatoes and the like.
I’ve been wondering, though, how we’d know if we’re really saving money by growing our own veggies.Then I came upon this cool savings calculator that helps you figure out how much you save by planting your own vegetable garden. Perfect! Now I’m off to the nursery to buy basil and blueberry bushes and tomatoes….
I’ve been “playing” The Grocery Game for more than a year. See this post for more info, but it’s basically an online service that tracks weekly sales at your selected grocery store (I use Safeway), notifies you and tells you how to combine sales with coupons for really incredible savings.
I thought I was doing a decent job of using the Game’s principles. Then I read founder Teri Gault’s newest book. It really opened my eyes.
I realized I wasn’t really doing the Game with full power. After reading this book (it’s a quick, fun read), I buckled down and really shopped right. In just one month, I dropped our household grocery budget (2 adults, 2 kids) by $125! From $560 down to $425. And I don’t think we’ve ever had more food in our pantry and freezer, seriously. I’m actually excited to see how little I can spend this month.
I will say that my husband was a little worried when he saw how much food I bought last month. He was SURE I must be going over budget. But when I showed him the cash left over at the end of February, he became a huge supporter.
And the most fun of all? Sounds silly, but it’s being congratulated by the checkers at my local Safeway for the great deals I’m getting! They’re starting to ask me how I’m doing it. Kudos to Teri Gault and her saving system! I think she is fab. (And not just because we have the same first name.)
This one little tool: A hand-held row counter. (Mine is this one by Clover.) In knitting, you click it at the end of every row, and it helps you keeps track of your work so you stay on pattern. But after buying it, I realized it was just what I needed for grocery shopping! I keep it in my pocket and when I toss an item in my basket, I round the price up to the nearest dollar and click my counter.
Whenever I’m poring over grocery ads and clipping coupons, I wonder: Are we big food spenders compared to our parents’ and grandparents’ generations? I don’t feel like we buy a lot of expensive or convenience food, yet somehow I’ve always had a gut instinct that we are spoiled shoppers compared to the families who came before us.
And eating out? I remember going out maybe once every other week when I was a kid in the 1970s. My own family today (2 parents, 2 kids) goes out slightly more often—maybe twice a week. And my husband eats lunch out more often than my dad (a consummate brown-bagger). So I often feel a pang of guilt when we pay a restaurant bill.
Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren did a comprehensive comparison of American spending patterns in the 1970s compared to today. And guess what: We aren’t blowing our paychecks on expensive restaurant meals and designer clothes after all.
My family goes through a lot of sandwich fixings. The kids eat sandwiches almost every day, as does my hubby. But buying the meat gets spendy!
I don’t love the packaged, thin-sliced meats filled with sodium, though they’re cheap. And the sliced deli meat is close to $6 a pound right now–too expensive for every day. So I was thrilled to read a great tip in this interesting book. You can also more read about The Economides family and their frugal living ideas at their Web site.
Saving money at the grocery store is something I fuss about and research all the time. I guess it’s because our monthly grocery budget feels a little more–flexible?–than, say, the monthly mortgage payment, school tuition and all of our other fixed expenses.
And to be honest, there are a lot of opportunities to overspend at the grocery store these days (“Oooh! A new kind of cheese!” or “Oh, these would be so easy to pop in the kids’ lunches!”)
So I was thrilled to read a series of real-family grocery spending profiles– “How Low Can You Go?” here, in The Oregonian, my hometown newspaper.