You’re trying to save money and have cut back on everything. Maybe you’ve tried ditching cable and you’re back to using a pay by the minute cell phone. But you’re looking for more cuts, and the only thing left is the essentials like rent, groceries, and utilities. Of those three the easiest to cut should be groceries. You can try turning the heat down, but you’re still going to use power, water, and gas. And moving to save money can end up being quite costly with the cost of actually moving.
But can you cut back on your grocery budget without ruining the quality of the meals you eat? Some will need to switch to rice and beans to get to a better financial place, but most people can make little cuts to make big progress.
Photo by Janine via Flickr
There is a niche group of users that have mastered the couponing game. They know when deals are coming, they’ve got their groceries coupons cut, and can end up getting $50 worth of items for $5 to $10. The internet (and primarily mommy blogs) have loads of incredible stories like this.
It is a lot of work, but cutting coupons can really pay off if you know how to use them. You can start with our coupons section (or sites like Coupons.com), get the Sunday newspaper to clip them yourself, or have someone else cut the coupons for you at sites like TheCouponClippers.com.
Use Store Programs
Stores have frequent buyer programs that encourage you to come back for more deals. Grocery stores typically offer a “buyers card” discount every week on certain items. The lower price is publicly displayed, but you have to be a member to get it. Most major grocery stores have a discount card.
Drug stores offer more complicated programs that offer you what amounts to in-store cash if you buy a particular item. CVS has “ExtraCare Bucks” where, for example, you buy two things of a specific deodorant and you get $2 back in “ExtraCare Bucks” to spend on anything in the store.
If you’re standing in the grocery aisle and Brand X has an item for $1 and the store’s generic brand has the same item in the same quantity or size for $0.80, why not try it? You’re saving 20% automatically. Now imagine if you could do that for every item on your list!
There are a lot of grocery items that come from the same factory. The only difference is a different label is slapped on it before the pallet is put on the delivery truck. We’ve had a lot of success with generic canned vegetables — if the item doesn’t require any special spices or preparation at the factory then you’re just putting vegetables in a can. Kind of hard to mess that up.
But as you’re trying generic items don’t buy several months of supply at a time. Try it out first. There are simply some items that just don’t come out well as generics. Give it a try, and if you like it just as well as the branded item you can then stock up.
The folks that save a ton of money — and often get money back after the shopping trip — combine all of the above strategies. They’ll buy branded items when they go on sale at the store, then use a coupon on top of it, and earn in-store dollars to spend on other items. The rest of their trip is spent picking up generic items that they couldn’t find a branded item on sale (with a coupon) for.
It can be a lot of work, but if you’re cutting down to the bones of your budget it makes sense to stretch those dollars as far as possible. Couponing, store programs, and buying generic do just that.
Kevin Mulligan is a debt reduction champion with a passion for teaching people how to budget and stay out of debt. He’s building a personal finance freelance writing career and has written for RothIRA.com, Discover Bank, and many others.