Today’s saving tip is:
Dedicate yourself to plan shopping trips.
If you were to ask almost all savings mavens what the top three savings tips they could give to others, I can almost guarantee, they would say planning is one of them. Without a plan, the store can be a wallet waiting to be emptied. And the retailers mean for it to be this way. They pay people lots of money to figure out how to get more of yours. Everything from the colors on the walls to the music playing overhead is part of a great big conspiracy to get your hard earned cash.
So, how do you fight this enemy? Planning.
If you want to save money you will dedicate the time. If I were to hire you to save me money and I told you I was going to pay you $10/hour, you might be a little more apt to want to do it. So, why not want to do it for yourself and your family? The time you put into planning your trips to whatever store you are going to will save you money. So, while it is not exactly like making money, you will at least keep more of the money you worked so hard to earn.
So, here’s what this looks like in our home:
I try to go to the grocery store one to two times a week. I also try to go to the local drugstores as deals are worth it (about 2-3 a month). I go to the mall about once every 2-3 months. We also go to one of the big bulk stores about once every 2-3 months.
A Time: Each week, on Sunday night, I sit down and sort my coupons, cut coupons from that day’s paper, cut coupons that I printed during the week, organize my coupons, and look at the ads for the week. I also get rid of expired coupons so I don’t get excited about a deal that I missed out on.
A Place: I keep all these things, including my scissors in one place and then go sit in the living room and work while I listen to music or something playing on the TV.
For the grocery store, I start with a meal plan for the week and then look through the ads to see where I can get the best deals on what I plan to eat. Some people do this the other way around, and it works both ways. Once I have my meal plan, I write down all the items I need to make those meals happen minus the items I already have on hand in my pantry. Then I think through the coupons I have and determine if I can save some money on what I need. Doing coupon matching before going to the store keeps me from spending a really long time looking through coupons while I am at the store.
After I have my plan and my coupons, I ONLY buy what is on the list when I get to the store. This is where the savings really happen! When you are only getting what you know you need, you don’t come home with a bunch of impulse buys that destroy your grocery budget.
For the drugstores, I start with the ads for the week. I only plan to go to these types of stores when a) I need something or b) there is an amazing deal on something I know I will use. So, with these two things in mind, I plan my trips to the drugstores in a similar way to my grocery store trips – keeping in mind all my coupons and only planning to buy what is on my list. Staying out of the store when I don’t need anything keeps me from spending money. How many times have you run into the drugstore to get just one thing and come out with a bag full of miscellaneous items you didn’t need until you walked in the door? I know I have, and so I make sure I have a plan when those automatic doors welcome me in.
For the mall, my techniques are simple. Stay far, far away! I ONLY go to the mall when I absolutely have to because window shopping can easily work into impulse buys and frivolous spending. Often, I only go to the mall when I have a set of stores I have coupons for and I plan my way through the mall before I get there. I figure out where I am going to park and what route to take, creating a path of least temptation for myself as I walk into the lion’s den of merchandise.
For the big bin stores, we only go every 2-3 months, so I keep a short list of the things we need when we go the next time and try to shop ONLY for these things. I also get coupons on a monthly basis from these stores, so I look them over to see if any of the savings are worth it and ignore the items I know are not a good buy based on price per unit. For more about how to buy in bulk, check out my post in this series on Bulk Buys.
Short disclaimer here: I am in no way perfect on this basic tenet of saving, but I have found that I do save more when I dedicate myself to have a plan. I realize it takes a little more work before hitting the store; but I have found it saves money and time as I do my shopping.