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I’d Like to Save Money by Improving my Shopping Techniques…

No Credit Needed asked what area of PF management we’d like to improve. I think mine would be maximizing savvy shopping.

As I mentioned in a guest post on PaidTwice a while back, I’m an underbuyer. I don’t like to buy more than the minimum necessary. I don’t know why. It’s not like money’s so tight that we’ll run out of it if I buy more than one bag of rice at a time.

I thought that to help myself understand how to improve it, I’d break it down into downsides of the problem, reasons for the problem/fears, and steps I can take to make it better.

What are the downsides of being an underbuyer?

– We run out of stuff more often, hence more trips and more gas.

– We don’t maximize the sales.

– Therefore, we aren’t spending efficiently.

What are some fears/concerns which lead me to underbuy?

– That we won’t use it all. This is a big one. One answer would be: don’t buy perishables. Stick to buying things which we use on a regular basis — rice, beans, canned tomatoes, canned mushrooms, bread. Keep them in places where we won’t lose them. Don’t buy objects in bulk unless they’re staples.

– That we won’t have enough money. This is silly. We do have enough money. And I can look at it this way: We’ll have even more if we don’t have to go shopping as often.

– We won’t have enough space. This is a better point, our kitchen is pretty small. But we have more space than we use. And there’s more space in the apartment we could use as a pantry for canned goods. But I don’t even need supplies in bomb shelter quantities, just more than we normally buy.

What are the best strategies for me to motivate myself to buy efficiently?

– Shop at the local organic co-op. Advantage there is that the pricing is pretty good and it’s easier to buy in bulk. Why? Well, in part it’s farther away. Much harder than going to the Giant that’s maybe 3-5 minutes from our house. More reason to stock up and go monthly.

– Make a list of items it’s ok to buy in bulk. Take that list on shopping trips as a kind of permission slip. If the item is on sale, then buy in bulk. If not, then buy enough.

– Always buy more bread than we think we’ll need. Between sandwiches and toast, it seems we sometimes run out of bread.

That’s my plan anyway. Let’s see how it goes!

Are you planning to improve anything with your finances? (I think it’s better to start now than January 1st, less pressure and not the same experiences with New Year’s resolutions gone awry.)


{ 2 trackbacks }

Then It Hit Me: We Don’t Buy Stuff….
February 18, 2008 at 8:31 am
What One Area Of Your Personal Finance Management Would You Like To Improve?
February 18, 2008 at 9:13 am

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Ron@TheWisdomJournal February 17, 2008 at 4:03 pm

Since my wife has joined the Grocery Game, we’ve started stocking up on non-perishables. The goal is to buy as much as you’ll reasonably use within a reasonable amount of time while those items are on sale AND you have a coupon.

Last week she saved $56 on a $131 bill. We are actually having money left over from our food budget. That is the FIRST time EVER that has happened…and we have more food in the house than ever before.

Mercedes February 17, 2008 at 4:05 pm

HI Mrs. Micah,
I don’t know if you have one or not but putting together a price book can help you with underbuying. A price book not only tracks prices but also sales. If you narrow it down to the list of things you think you should stock up on then it would be less work. Once you have a price book for these things then you can identify sales cycles. It will also help you identify stock up point prices.
Here’s my post on how I put mine together and you can also check it out I have it posted online.
I have also done some of the work as I have priced some items at two big warehouse clubs.

Frugal Bachelor February 17, 2008 at 5:12 pm

I have written about this on my blog before, but I don’t believe buying in bulk. I live in a small apartment and don’t have room to stockpile extra stuff – also I do not believe the extra cost of real estate (e.g. for a pantry) is worth it especially if you live in urban area. Only a few things I purchase have significant quantity discounts. I don’t want to be in the business of ‘managing inventory’ which is essentially what you are doing when you are buying in bulk. I’ll leave that to the produce managers, meat department supervisors, and grocery store accountants. I go to the grocery store exactly once a week, and purchase exactly what I need for the week, nothing more, and nothing less.

mrsmicah February 17, 2008 at 5:18 pm

I like how you put it, Frugal Bachelor. It’s a lot like managing inventory. What I need to avoid most is underbuying so we have to go twice or even 3 times in a week. On the plus side, the grocery store is directly on my route home from work so I can just pull into the parking lot.

Minimum Wage February 17, 2008 at 5:41 pm

– That we won’t have enough money. This is silly. We do have enough money. And I can look at it this way: We’ll have even more if we don’t have to go shopping as often.

This is a very real fear for some people. And since I either walk or take the bus (I have a bus pass), there is no marginal cost in making extra trips.

Minimum Wage February 17, 2008 at 5:44 pm

For example, I have less than $10 right now and am living on cereal and potatoes.

Sandra February 17, 2008 at 7:17 pm

I get over excited about coupons and then think, ooh, I have three coupons for such and such. For example deoderant, I buy three. And then I’ll come across a couple of more coupons for the same and think I save more. I have to stop myself. What am I going to do with 5 sticks of deoderant???? So I watch what I want to “stock up” on.

Meg from The Bargain Queens & All About Appearances February 17, 2008 at 8:06 pm

Food used to be one of our largest expenditures. Since changing the way I buy food, I can’t believe how much my husband and I are saving — without cutting coupons. We bought groceries for the week today and spent about $40 for the both of us — including a few treats like about $8 on three bars of Dagoba chocolate. And really, a lot of the stuff we bought will last longer than a week (though it probably balances out considering that we are eating stuff we bought last month even).

I have some containers of dry stuff that I can get really cheap like chickpeas, oatmeal, couscous, rice, flour, etc. Each week or so I just buy some fresh veggies and fruits to mix in, like bananas for my oatmeal, carrots for the couscous, and celery for the hummus I make. I also have a few bulk bags of nuts and a huge bag of frozen veggies from Sams, in addition to lots of seasonings to so that I can experiment to my heart’s content.

We even have some of the dry stuff ‘on display’, which is rather comforting. I know that even if we couldn’t afford fresh stuff for a while, we have enough stuff to eat for months in those containers.

(My husband buys bread, milk, and a few other things. He isn’t much into veggies, so he’s eating pb&j sandwiches, cereal, and pizza he got on sale.).

And as far as non-food items, we’re just buying less but more carefully. There have definitely been some treat items, but we make sure that they’re really things we want and good quality. And we’re set on toiletries thanks to Sams Club and Walmart.com freebies. Heck, I’m still working on a bar of soap I took home from a hotel.

CatherineL February 18, 2008 at 7:27 pm

Hi Mrs M – I don’t see the point in buying in bulk either and I hate waste. But, as you say – you waste so much time and money going to get stuff you’ve run out of. It’s crazy.

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