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Desperate Measures for Grocery Budgeting

March 24th, 2006 at 03:36 pm

Quite a few people set a budget for groceries they believe is totally reasonable, and yet they cannot manage against it. There is ALWAYS SOMETHING that prevents it.

If you are truly desperate to keep yourself inline, here is a surefire tip:

DISCLAIMER: I'M NOT A FAN OF G/Cs, but in this CASE THEY ARE A MUST.

First, determine what your budget is for the week. Say it's $100 a week, $400 a month.

Go to the one store with the best sales and deals, and coupons, whatever you have to work with. Or a few select stores. Purchase gift cards for the budget. You can get one $100 card each week, or 4 $100 cards each month. And you don't have to do it ahead of time; you can walk up to the counter, purchase the card, walk back out to your car and lock up your wallet.

Very seriously here. Do not enter back into the store with any form of payment other than the prepaid card. No cash, no credit cards.

Bring a cell phone if you like, most have calculators, or you can call your SO to help choose priorities. But as you fill the cart, remember that you cannot go over, and you have no means to pay more than your budget.

If you KNOW that you ALWAYS forget something, and must go back to pick up items later, save $10 or whatever ON THE CARD (i.e., you can only spend $90, to keep $10 on the card for emergencies in the week).

Now the good news is, if you are under budget, you can apply that money to the next week. If you go over, force yourself to put something back.

For those who keep a stockpile, and a separate budget for that, again, keep a prepaid card and only charge against that for the stockpile. It will keep your weekly budget separate and manageable, and also help you see how you are managing the stockpile budget.

The cards don't have to be store specific, they can be any kind of pre-paid debit card. But they have to be cut off limit, no exceeding, and the store cards tend to force you to stay focused on that one bill. Running around to more stores, shopping lots of different ads and sales, can be highly effective for stockpiling, but can kill a weekly budget by not recognizing all the little things that are adding up. If you want to shop for a FEW things at a second store, again, give yourself a specific budget on the card, or a separate card, and DO NOT EXCEED.

It's difficult. It may seem cruel. It may seem impossible. But when you force yourself to make choices, you start managing your budget.

After a few weeks, decide if your budget is realistic. If it is, are you able to start managing it without restraints? Keep going until you find the right budget or the right shopping habits.

ABOVE ALL ELSE, do NOT treat the cards as gift cards, fake money that doesn't count and you can add to. They are the ONLY money you get. No loose change, no cards, no wallet!

Good luck!

6 Responses to “Desperate Measures for Grocery Budgeting”

  1. spendless Says:

    Interesting concept. Certainly sets a spending limit and instills discipline shopping skills. Good post.

  2. baselle Says:

    Interesting idea. And for the organizationally challenged, you could team this up with the my-envelopes concept. You watch as your gift card gets converted into grocery receipts, which gives you data for a price book. Add a few coupons, and you've got the beginnings a nice compact system.

    Grocery gift cards can be reloaded, right? If you get better at budgeting, and you consistently go under your budget, your savings is essentially trapped on the card. A little more thought, and you could reload the card to 100$ (or your budget), then deposit the difference in savings.

  3. PrincessPerky Says:

    That is a cool thought. I like it Smile

  4. boomeyers Says:

    Great idea! I doubt I will ever be this disciplined as I like to add "super unadvertised sales" to my cart sometimes, but for those who are desperate, they should try it!

  5. kristina moffitt Says:

    i used to do this with my gas bills. I put a set amount on a visa gift card and then use it for several months at a time. it helps me check my gas spending for several months at a time, i can get gas anywhere and i can check it online too. Has been several months since i used it but it worked well for me.

    Also, i had friends in college whose parents would send them those cards while at school.

  6. jodi_m Says:

    I like the idea...except I don't know until Sunday (when the ads come out) where I will be shopping that week. There are three different stores I frequent. Maybe I can figure out a way to adapt this...but I guess this would work if I just bought the card each trip for my weekly set amount. thanks for the tip.

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