If you want to reduce your spending and hit your savings goal, focus on the top spending categories where the majority of your money goes. One of the top expenses is food, especially groceries. According to a consumer expenditure report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we spend an average of 12.5% of our income on food – that includes both grocery spending and eating out. In our household, a good chunk of our money goes to groceries. So, even a $10/month saved in that category gives $120 per year.
There is no need to resort to a rice-and-beans only diet to save money, but small actions here and there without too much effort can save you a handful of dollars. Notice the word small, here?
Below are some of the strategies that worked for me:
Never go shopping on an empty stomach:
Fill up your tummy before you step out to shop if you don’t want to fill up your cart with extra stuff that will likely go to waste. This is the mantra to use to avoid impulse buys when grocery shopping. Always carry a snack in your car or bag. If you think you’ll get hungry while (or after) shopping, you’ll know that you can reach into your bag and munch away.
Pause before the checkout line:
Before joining the checkout line, glance at your cart to check if you bought anything unnecessary that can be removed. For example, during my last grocery shopping I realized that I had added some dips and chips that I didn’t really need. A quick look before checking out was all I needed to remove unnecessary things from my cart.
Bill the needs and wants separately:
Differentiate between milk (need) and that delicious box of brownies (big want!) This makes a huge difference. I’m not kidding. There is nothing wrong with buying something we enjoy as long as we know how much money is spent on them vs things we actually need. You can also set a budget for the amount you can afford to spend on wants. Until I tried this idea, 32% of our spending went on splurges.
Reduce the number of times you shop:
The more you visit a grocery store, the more you will spend. With proper planning, you can reduce the number of grocery visits to once a week. For example, I visit the Indian store once in 2-3 weeks and a generic grocery store once a week.
Perishable vs non-perishable:
Have you tried limiting non-perishable shopping to once a month? You buy all the non-perishables you need for that month during the first week of the month itself. Then you hit the grocery store only for perishable items such as vegetables, milk, etc. during the rest of the month.
This reduces the time spent in the grocery store and you’ll only need to plan your major grocery shopping once a month.
Amazon Prime Pantry is a great option if you try this approach.
Mobile app couponing:
Have you checked if your grocery store has a mobile app? If they do, be sure to download it and sign up for digital coupons. When coupons become available, all you should have to do is add them to your account and use them while checking out. Remember to tell the cashier about the coupons if they don’t ask you in advance.
Last but not least, take advantage of cashback apps to earn some cash back for your recent purchases. These are free apps that pay you money for everyday purchases. When you’re back from a shopping trip, simply check if any of your purchased items are eligible for cashback, scan the item along with the receipt and you’re good to go. It takes me hardly 5 minutes to do it. Some of the cashback apps I use are IBOTTA (Use this link or my referral code “gjheew” to earn $10), Checkout 51, and BerryCart.
Hope this helps!
Uma is a working mom of two little kids, living in New Jersey. She enjoys saving money and writes a lifestyle/personal finance blog called Centsible Indian.