Sunday, December 05, 2010

Impulse Buys will be the Death of My Budget

I'm not the best shopper. I'm great at finding bargains, but it seems that every other day I've run out of something that we have to have and I make another trip to the store. I am apparently incapable of running into the store for just one thing. I have to check the discount bins and specials fliers which sends me all over the store, and I end up buying $30-$40 worth of stuff I probably didn't need. Do that several times a week and you're impulsing yourself into the poor house.

So I started meal planning. Breakfasts and lunches are pretty easy as we're boring about it, but dinners require some variety. It's not hard to do, but you do have to take the time to think it all out in advance.

First take a look through what you have and see what you've got to work with. Start with the entree or meat, and plan meals around that. Keep in mind anything going on during the week; for example, Hubby has school Tuesdays and Thursdays so I tend to make a kid dinner around macaroni and cheese (with a big salad for me) and I don't need to plan a full "grown up" dinner. Allow at least one meal designed to use up leftovers.

Next, make a grocery list of everything you need to make the meals you've planned. Don't forget to inventory staples like bread and peanut butter (Kiddo's favorite school lunch), cereal (Junior's favorite breakfast), and coffee (do not run me out of coffee!). Check shampoo, toilet paper, laundry soap, all that stuff that might make you dash to the store.

Get online and check the store specials. Many stores allow you to load coupons onto your club cards. Safeway is currently my favorite for this, as they have all manufacturer and store coupons available for loading on their website. Check for specials that stack with coupons. Try to do all your shopping at one store, as driving to several stores costs gas.

Got it all together? Great! Now go have a snack, because you're more likely to impulse buy at the grocery store if you're hungry. Call your husband/roommate/pets/kids and see if there's any last-minute additions to your list.

Now head to the store, and stick to your list. Religiously. Or else. Since you've done all your research you shouldn't need to go cruising for bargains. Keep your head down and your eyes on your list!

The first couple times I did this I scared myself because I spent $70-$80, which seems awful when you're used to grocery trips costing around $35 each. But when I did the math I found I was spending $120-$150 a week making several small trips, which makes shopping this way a real savings. Since many places now have minimums for their bonus offers (like gas discounts or cash coupons), I'm also getting more savings in other areas.

Right now I feel like I'm spending half my Sunday on this exercise, but I do enjoy not having to think about what I'm going to make for dinner and I seem to have a little extra money at the end of the week. If I can make it a habit it should really add up!

Next I want to go through my pantry and get rid of all the miscellany that has been sitting there just taking up space. Betcha most of it was impulse buys.

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