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.
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Today’s saving tip is: Dedicate yourself to plan shopping trips.
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. While it is not exactly like making money, you will at least keep more of the money you worked so hard to earn.
Here’s what this looks like in our home:
I put in a grocery store order 1-2 times a week. Rarely, I go to the mall about once every 6 months. We also go to one of the big bulk stores about once every 2-3 weeks.
Each week, on Sunday night, I sit down and plan the meal plan for the week ahead. I have a simple, ingenious system for making menu planning easy! I used to spend hours clipping coupons – in my pre-baby days. Now I don’t have the time to dedicate to it. If we happen to find a coupon at the store, I will use it. But I tend to save money on groceries in different ways than I did in the early days of my marriage.
Taking the time to figure out our menu and look at what we are doing in the upcoming week, helps me to stay on top of my plans.
The Plans to & Places I Save
For the grocery store, I start with a meal plan for the week. 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.
Over the past few years, I have placed a greater value on saving my time than saving my money. When grocery pick-up became I thing, I immediately converted. Getting my groceries without leaving my minivan was a Godsend for me!
Earlier this year Swagbucks offered an incentive to switch to grocery delivery. I counted the cost…and jumped on the deal. I am SO thankful for groceries delivered direct to my door!
After I have my plan, I ONLY buy what is on the list. The fact someone else is doing my grocery shopping removes all the temptations of impulse buying. It is super easy to stick to the list when I am not even in the building!
When I only get what I know I need, I don’t end with a bunch of impulse buys which destroy my grocery budget.
The Mall & Retail Outlets
For the mall, my techniques are simple. Stay far, far away! I ONLY go to the mall when I absolutely have to. Window shopping can easily work into impulse buys and frivolous spending.
Often, I only go to the mall or other retail stores when I have coupons. 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.
Sam’s Club & Costco
For the big bin stores, we go every 2-3 weeks. 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 – I am in no way perfect on this basic tenet of saving. But I have found I do save more when I dedicate myself to 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.
I used to spend a lot of my time couponing. But as I said above, I have discovered I don’t have the time to do this anymore. But I thought I would throw in my tips for shopping drugstores for deals – in case you have the time. Now we only hit up drugstores about 2-3 times a year.
These following tips are from when I used to go more frequently.
For 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.
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? I know I have! Thus I make sure I have a plan when those automatic doors welcome me in.