How to Save money on your grocery bill

Couponing has cut my grocery budget in half.  I literally spend half as mush as I used to on groceries, and my family has grown in size.  I have 4 boys, and they like to eat.  Check out my tips below on how to start using coupons and save on your groceries.

1) Figure out your budget-For everyone that wants to start saving money on their grocery bill, you first have to figure out how much you’re spending.  Take your bank statement from the last month and add up how much you’ve been spending on groceries. Now, take that amount and right off the top take 25% off of what you spent last month, that is now your goal this month.  If your bill was $400 last month, this month make it $300.  Trust me, you can do it.  Now, let’s all get on the same page here, whatever your attitude is in this will determine what the outcome will be.  I’ve had people tell me “I don’t have time to make a budget” or “couponing seems too hard.”  If that’s how your starting, then head to the next post because you wont save any money if that’s the attitude you start out with.

Now that you’ve figured out what your grocery budget will be, sit down with your spouse and go over it.  Trust me, if you and your spouse are not on the same page with saving money, you won’t save any.  You’ll find that every penny you save with coupons, they’re spending on….hmm….candy, or some weird thing that will be broken and in the trash next week.  I’m laughing as I type this, and I’m sure my husband will be laughing when he reads it too!

2) Shop with cash- I ALWAYS grocery shop with cash.  Dave Ramsey agrees! Shop for groceries with cash. There’s something about swiping a little plastic card that tells you that you can spend as much as you want.  That’s how people go into debt.  Credit cards tell you that you can spend it and not worry about it right now.  Unless you are disciplined enough to pay them off every month, don’t use them.  Ill get into that on another post. You’ll be much more likely to shop for sales and get the most from your buck when you’re using cash.  You’ll be more conscious of the price of things if you’re using cash.

3)Shop once a week- I know some people who grocery shop once a month, and quite frankly, I can’t do that.  There will always be something that I want to make and I’ll need ingredients or I’ll run out of milk.  I shop once a week.  Not to say that you can’t shop once an month, if it works for you then I commend you for that.  So I make my list every sunday night after the store circular ads come out.  All of my grocery shopping is based on what’s on sale that week.  Last week lettuce was on sale and so was chicken, so grilled chicken salads were on my menu.  Base your meals around the sales, otherwise you’re overpaying.

4) Use coupons- I always try to match sale prices with coupons.  I get most of my coupons from coupons.com or in the Sunday paper.

5) Stock up on items when they’re cheap- By creating a stockpile of items when they are cheap, you’re saving money in the long run.  Within a few months of couponing, you’ll begin to have a large stockpile.  When its time to grocery shop and meal plan, you start using those items that you have on hand in your pile instead of having to go out and buy them at full price, this will save you hundreds of dollars.

Within a few months of doing this, you should be able to cut your grocery budget in half.  Watch for future posts on my meal plans and you’ll see exactly how I save.

Determine that you’ll save 25% this month! You can do it, I always think of what I can save that extra money for. Each month I tuck it away, and when Christmas time comes, I NEVER spend any extra out of my budget because I already have it from what I’ve saved throughout the year on groceries.  I also use it to buy my kiddos a big family gift every summer….I’m not sure what that gift will be yet this year.  Let me know if you have any fun ideas!

 

Minimizing your Debt

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Nobody likes debt.  AND nobody thinks about that when they go into debt!  Swiping that little plastic card can lead to devastating circumstances for families.  Most people put something on credit and just assume they will pay it off quickly, but then…the car breaks down, the roof leaks, the water tank bites the dust.  Those are things that happen and they are NEEDS!  A lot of times where we run into trouble is that we owe our credit cards, but we see that outfit we want, or those new shoes, or that new TV.  Here lies the problem.  We intend to pay off debt, only while going into MORE debt! I was a manager at a credit recovery agency before I got married.  I spent my entire day trying to get people on a plan to pay their debt.  Here’s how to start…

#1) GET MOTIVATED! You will not become debt free unless you are motivated to do so.  You have to work at it! It’s like dieting, no one enjoys it, but you work at it because of the outcome.  To get there, you need to get motivated!

#2) DON’T PAY THE MINIMUM- Break that habit of only paying the minimum each month.  Understand the game of banking, you borrow from them and the longer you take to pay them back, the more they make, and the less you have! That is EXACTLY what they want you to do.  Pay as much as you can each month.  (see #7 below) We all have our “luxuries” for things.  And you know what yours is.  Mine happens to be dunkin donuts coffee!  Cut out the coffee shops, the eating out, the things that you do that you don’t NEED to do.  If I owe money to someone, I don’t have luxuries until they are paid first!  Cut those things out and you’ll find the extra money that you need to pay a little more on your debt.

#3) CHECK WHAT YOUR PAYING IN INTEREST- If you have one credit card with 27-30% (yes it’s true some cards charge you 27% interest and you probably don’t even know it). If you can’t pay it off quickly, then transfer it to a card that has a low interest rate.  If you can’t transfer, then pay that card off first.  Make that your goal.  Don’t pay the banks 30% interest on your accounts.

#4) CALL YOUR CREDITORS- Last year I helped a family call all of their creditors to see if they could remove some of the interest and late payments on their accounts.  Their accounts were past due and they wanted to start trying to pay them off.  We called every creditor they had, and guess what, every single one took charges off.  Negotiate! With their last creditor, they had $500 left to try and pay the account off.  Their bill was $1100, we called and asked if the account could be settled for $500, after a little negotiating, they agreed!

#5) PAY OFF THOSE LITTLE BILLS BEFORE THEY COME BACK AROUND AND BITE YOU- A couple of years ago, a friend of mine had a newspaper subscription that was unpaid, they were sinking in debt and the newspaper bill was not even something they were considering.  After they worked hard to pay everything off, that little $30 newspaper subscription went to collections and became a $300 newspaper subscription after collection fees and late charges! Obviously you need to be wise but don’t let those little ones snowball into something ridiculous.  Make sure you are keeping track of everything you owe.  At one point I worked on a Citibank contract collecting unpaid debt.  You wouldn’t believe how many people had an original balance less than $10 and after late fees, and collection charges for years, they now owed hundreds.  Keep track of what you owe and when you pay something off, keep your $0 balance bill for proof that it was paid (just incase)

#6) USE WHAT YOU HAVE- It’s wise to keep a buffer in your savings account incase of emergencies.  If you owe on your credit cards, put your saving to a halt for now.  What you’re saving you are really paying in interest if you owe credit card debt.  I’m not saying to drain your savings, because I think it is important to have money in case of a major emergency….BUT pay toward your debt.  We keep a certain amount in our savings account, and each month anything that we have over that amount we put toward our mortgage.

#7) DON’T ROB PETER TO PAY PAUL! Make sure you are not skipping one payment in order to pay extra on another.  Pay the minimum of all of your payments except one.  Pick the one that  either has the highest interest or the lowest balance.  Pay every extra penny you can towards it.  I really mean every penny.  If you can only pay $5 extra this month, PAY IT! Once you get one paid off then go to the next.

Like I said, it’s something that you have to work toward.  No one wants to be in debt but sometimes it happens, but you CAN get yourself out of it.  Imagine the feeling of being debt free, now go ahead and get started.

“Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another.”  Romans 13:8 NIV

 

How much should you tip your waiter/waitress?

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Welcome back to Wednesday Q&A!

 

How much should I tip my waiter/waitress or server?

 

You should generally tip 20% of the total bill before tax.  Wait staff work hard, and rely on your tips as part of their salary, and many times have to split with the bus staff as well.  Remember that it’s not your wait staff’s fault if the food is poor quality or not timely.  You can take that up with management.

 

Large parties (over 6 people) will generally already have the tip included.  Feel free to tip above and beyond if the service was good.

 

If the service was inadequate you tip 10-15%.  You should never leave a restaurant without tipping unless the service was unacceptable.

 

 

Should I still tip at a buffet?

 

Yes, but generally 15% of the total bill before tax.  The wait staff still brings your drinks, clears you plates, and accommodates you with any additional things you may need, and is available for any questions.

 

 

Many smartphones have Tip Calculator apps you can download.  Tip Me is a great app to have on your phone, as it does all the calculations for you, including how to fill out those credit card bills.

 

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This app will help you determine the tip easily and effortlessly.  It can even split the bill between people in your party.  Download it to your phone, and never be unsure again if you left the right tip!

 

 

Missed last week’s Q&A?  Check it out here!

 

Make a list of money saving goals

I am a zealous believer in making lists.  Mostly because it keeps me organized, and lets me know what I need to do, but ALSO because when you can cross something off of a list, you have accomplished something.  My husband laughed at me a few weeks ago because we made a list on Saturday of stuff we wanted to get done for spring.  He had finished a few quick projects so I crossed them off of his list.  As I was crossing off things on his list, I added a few things to mine and crossed them off immediately.  Ha! Like I said, you feel a sense of accomplishment when you are able to cross something off of a list.  I had already vacuumed my upstairs and put the laundry away, those things were not on my list.  I added them after I already had done them because I needed something crossed off my list!

Anyway, we had made a list of money saving goals to accomplish this year.  Some were small goals that would not take very long.  Others were larger goals that we would be able to accomplish over time.  We made a list of 10 goals, some are things that we would like to purchase, build or fix at our house.  Others are things that we would like to pay off.  I have 10 goals on my list.  I’ve been able to cross a few off (accomplishment!!!) 🙂 Make yourself a list of short term goals and long term goals for your finances.  You’ll find that you will work harder to save money, spend frugally, and shop wisely if you have a goal in mind.