Now before you unsubscribe or block me for thinking I've gone off the deep end, let me explain.
I recently had a client come in for budgeting advice. They couldn't understand why their budget was so far off track.
After some further investigation, it was pretty clear... Groceries were the culprit. However, it wasn't really the "groceries" that were pulling them down, but the "other" stuff that ended up in the basket that got dumped into the "grocery" category.
For this example, I will use Walmart. Not because I have anything against Walmart. I don't. Really. I shop there frequently. (Sorry, Target...).
So to set this story up, the individual had trouble staying on track with the grocery budget. They had an ample amount in place but always seemed to go over...by a lot. I thought maybe part of the issue was buying prepared food, so for the next month, we created a meal plan.
We scoured the advertisements for items on sale. For this, I used Flipp, which provided me with all of the local ads. One of the benefits of using Flipp is that it is searchable, meaning that if I'm looking for "chicken" I can type that into the search area, and everyone that has chicken listed in their ad will be displayed.
First, we focus on proteins, then veggies, and lastly the extras. We did this for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for the entire week. In fact, we found chicken on sale for a pretty reasonable price, so we ended up planning two weeks worth of meals, using it in various ways...
Obviously, the family would get tired of eating chicken, so we threw in a few other meals. We looked for beef, pork, and seafood, and while the latter proved to be a bit more difficult, we were able to alternate and shuffle the meals with other proteins.
The saving grace of it all...grocery take-out. Yes, I said take-out. You can save money ordering take-out... To be more exact, I mean take-out to your car.
Many stores are offering "take-out" services, where you can order online, schedule a pick-up time, and pull up for your stash to be delivered to your vehicle. It's fast, convenient, and can save you cold hard cash.
How? Because you never have to enter the store. That means the bag of M&M's, nor the cute little dog clothing will ever end up in your "cart".
I had some pushback on just how helpful this service was, saying the prices may be more expensive than you could find in the store, so I thought I would put it to the test. Here are my results...
Nope. Just as cheap. Sorry-
So how does this save you sooooo much money? Because you aren't IN the store throwing the extra crap into your basket. It's typically the "other stuff" that makes your budget suffer, so by eliminating that, you can stay on track.
Not a believer yet? Give it a try... And please, share your experience. I would love to hear how this worked for you-
Michelle Kuehner is a Registered Investment Advisor Representative and President for Personal Money Planning. She is also a Certified Credit Counselor and Certified Financial Health Counselor, writes Fix Our Budget blog, and has over 25 years of experience in the financial industry.