Grocery shopping like a pro

grocery

Want to make your money stretch?

Want to be sure that you’re getting the most for your money?

Want to spend less time in the store?

Use these 6 tips to make the best of your time and money when grocery shopping:

1 – Know your budget

The first and most important point is to have a budget! If you don’t have one yet then you may want to start by taking the 30-challenge of tracking your everyday expenses. This will give you a good idea of where and how you’re currently spending your money. This is a great way to start your budget.

If you already have a budget; well-done!

2 – Make a list

Having a shopping list will not only clear your mind and take the “I’m forgetting something” feeling away, it can also speed up your shopping. You can keep a list on your fridge or on your phone and add to whenever you find you need something. Then, before your next shop, read it through and add any extra items you need. Be like Santa and check your list twice.

If you are doing a big shopping spree then categorize your groceries by the following (or something similar that works for you):

  • Fruit & Veg (fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs)
  • Frozen goods (anything in the freezers)
  • Dairy (any dairy goods)
  • Meat (if you eat it)
  • Dry goods / Other (tins, spices, bread, juices and anything that you would store in your cupboard at home)
  • Toiletries (not really groceries but needed)
  • Cleaning products

Generally stores keep similar type items together and if you have a list of what you need from each area it saves you from walking around the store several times. You can categorize your items in whatever way makes the most sense to you, but don’t make your system too complicated as you probably won’t keep it up then.

3 – Don’t shop when you are hungry

If you’re hungry you’ll probably pick things off the shelf that you want to eat now! You’ll also over-cater for your next meal as your poor starving brain cannot deal with the sight of all the food. Another concern is that if you are really hungry and feeling that your blood sugar is low, then you will most likely rush to get through your shopping as quickly as possible. Saving money and sticking to a budget will be your lowest priority. Hangry is a real word!

Keep yourself from temptation and rather delay your shopping trip if you’re hungry.

4 – Check prices per unit

Stores change their prices often and we’re conditioned to think that the larger quantity “bulk buying” is always cheaper. Well, it isn’t! Don’t assume something is cheaper just because it’s in a bigger box or because the packaging tells you to “buy in bulk and save”. Always check the price per unit. Not all stores display the “per unit” price but that’s when you need to take out a calculator and work out which size is best to buy.

5 – Use cash

If you only take cash to the store and no credit or debit cards then you really have no option to spend too much. The embarrassment of not having enough money will surely drive even the most out of control shopper to calculate exactly what they have in their trolley. It’s amazing how good you become at shopping when you only have a set amount of cash and no more.

6 – Join the store loyalty program

Most stores have a loyalty card (points card) of some variety. The savings vary but if you shop at the same store often then it is worth joining their program and using whatever savings are offered to you.

Be aware of the marketing though and remember that they will try to entice you to spend more. So remember your budget and shopping list and don’t be tempted to veer off.

 

How to calculate the interest you can earn

calculateHere’s a quick explanation on how to calculate the interest that you can earn on your savings (or pay on your debt).

Let’s use an example of R1,500 (don’t worry about the currency – the maths is the same) and you deposit it in your bank account that earns 3.5% interest.

First thing to note is that the interest rate is always given as the annual rate (unless very specifically detailed otherwise). If you use a calculator (or a spreadsheet such as Excel) and do the following : 1500 x 3.5% the answer you get is 52.50.

Thus R1,500 invested for 1 year at 3.5% interest will earn R52.50. That’s easy!

To calculate what the monthly interest is, simply divide 52.50 by 12 and you will get R4.38 (rounded up) interest for 1 month. You could be more accurate and divide 52.5 by 365.4 (number of days in the year) and then multiply by the exact number of days in the month (e.g. 30).

E.g.  52.5 divided 365.4 multiplied by 30 = R4.31 (a very slight difference to the first answer we received)

So, if you invest R1,500 for 1 year at an interest rate of 3.5%, the interest at the end of the year would be R52.50. However, banks and all financial institutions calculate interest on a daily basis and pay it out monthly. If you withdrew each months interest (and leave the original amount of money in the account) then you would effectively earn “simple” interest – just as we calculated above and you would have R52.50 (assuming no fees or charges)

However, if you leave the interest that you earn each month in your account, then the bank would calculate the next months interest on your original amount plus whatever extra interest is already in your account. So each month you would earn slightly more. This is what is called “compound” interest.

In this case the difference is not great, but the larger the starting amount is, and the longer time you keep reinvesting the interest, the larger the difference is! In fact, after a few years, compound interest can be really large. Remember of course that we are assuming that no fees or charges apply.

CompoundInterest

This example may seem simple, but there is no need to complicate things!

Pay yourself first

This is one of those things that you’ve probably heard many times before and you know you should do it, but most likely you don’t. So let’s look at what is meant by paying yourself first, and how it will help you save.

To pay yourself first really means that once you have set up a monthly budget and worked out how much you can save each month, then you should transfer that amount into a savings pocket immediately after being paid. If your bank allows, you can set up a recurring payment to transfer the money each month.

We’re used to setting up payments for accounts and debt repayments, but we seldom take our savings “payment” seriously. You should think of this as another account that you have to pay.

The advantage of transferring the savings amount out to a Savings Pocket immediately is that you cannot be tempted to spend it. You can’t spend what you don’t have (well you can with a credit card but that is a discipline you need to solve for yourself)

Challenge

Work out how much you can save (either actual savings or extra payments towards debt) and set up an automatic payment now to transfer this money. If you’re not sure how to create a budget, read this blog.

Manage your credit card spending

Managing your credit card spend and keeping it within your monthly budget can be a bit tricky. The reason is that we budget for a calendar month, but our credit card statement generally happens at a random mid-month date. My credit card statement cycle is from the 8th of each month to the 8th of the next, but my payment must always be made by the 3rd. Now that’s just confusing!

It would make so much more sense if the statement cycle just ran over a normal month so that we could easily track our spending. But this way, the banks keep us confused and we just keep spending money never really being in control.

Let’s take a closer look at the issue and I’ll show you how to stay in control with just a very simple calculation. It will just take a few minutes of admin and a weekly checkup on your statement to make sure you know what’s happening.

Step 1:

Make sure that you can easily access your statement whenever you want. You can probably do this online, via an app or possibly even some texting service. However you do it, be sure that you’re set up as you will want to check your balance weekly.

Step 2:

  • Set a few reminders on your phone
  • 1st of every month – check your balance
  • Set up a monthly reminder to pay your card balance on the same date each month
  • Set reminders for the 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th to just check-up on your balance (it will soon become a natural habit to do this, but reminders will help in the beginning)

Step 3:

Create a spreadsheet similar to this. My calculations assume that I make a payment near the end of each month, so you must just take into account when you make a payment.

Manage CC
Zoom in if you can’t read the notes

You need to know what the starting balance on your account is. This is how much money you can spend. Then, enter the amount that you budgeted for your credit card spend.

The payment due amount will only be known later in the month, and the real final balance obviously only at the end of the month.

Because my monthly payment happens near the end of the month, my weekly check-points are simply the opening balance less a quarter of my budgeted spending. These figures are just rough estimates to what my account balance should be and if there is a major discrepancy I can always look at the transaction details.

The Predicted Month end balance is the Starting Balance less spending plus the payment made into the account.

All it takes to track your spending is a weekly check-up of your balance to see that you are on track.

Don’t let the banks mid-month statements confuse you, take charge of your money!

Budget by payment forms

As with your simple budget, there is no generic solution to understanding how you spend your money. We all have different spending habits and ways that we understand our money.

Something I find useful though is to know how much money is spent via automatic payments from my account, how much money I spend as Cash, and how much on my Credit Card. You of course may have multiple credit cards or store cards and if that’s the case it will be very difficult (if not impossible) to budget spending per card. If you have multiple cards then you really need to ask yourself whether you need them all, and if not, start cancelling them. One tip I can give with absolute confidence is that if you want to be in control of your money, you need to keep things simple!

Basic Budget 2

In this example I have simply indicated which categories are paid via Automated Electronic payment, by Cash & by my single Credit Card. In reality, your spending will never be exact, and unplanned things happen. That is fine, as long as you know what your plan is, and can identify where and why things have changed.

The advantage with categorizing spending by type is that you can actually draw the cash you need for the month upfront and you can also keep track of your credit card expenses as you know what is budgeted for your card. When doing this exercise though, have a look at the advantages of using cash and consider using cash for more of your spending.

This is just another way to understand what you are spending money on, and how. Take this concept and make it work for you with your specific circumstances.

As always, take charge of your money!

 

Create a simple budget

If you’ve never made a budget before then you should really start with something simple. Not that you ever really have to get too complex, but as you work with a budget over time you may find things that you want to change or situations that don’t work easily with your budget.

Before starting it would be good to know how much you’re currently spending. If you don’t have a clue then take the 30 Day Challenge of keeping track of each and every expense.

I like to use a spreadsheet for my budgeting as it makes the maths easy; you can however use any tool including a notepad and pen.

Start off with your income. You should hopefully know how much you earn each month, but if not, go find your salary slip. I would use my “net salary” (the money that is actually paid into my account) as my income as there is nothing I can do about taxes and other deductions off my salary. Of course, you may have access to a company store or canteen where purchases are automatically deducted off your salary – and these expenses you have full control over. So, use your full salary less taxes less compulsory expenses that you don’t control. (You can use your gross salary and show taxes on your budget, but that depends if you want that kind of detail)

If you have any other stable income (that you can rely on) then add it in as well. Examples would be over-time that you always work, rental income or a personal loan that someone is paying back.

With the Income section completed, now it’s time for the hard work. You need to categorize your spending into categories that make sense to you. Everyone has different spending habits and there is no “one fits all” solution. Categories could be things such as:

  • Satellite TV
  • School fees
  • Loans
  • Insurance
  • Groceries
  • Eating out
  • Entertainment
  • Fuel
  • Telephone
  • Club memberships
  • Golf
  • Other (for small things that don’t fit into a category of their own)
  • etc….

Although most expenses are monthly, some may be annual expenses (e.g. club membership) or possibly even quarterly expenses. The best way to handle these is to work out the monthly amount and budget per month and save the money in a specific savings pocket so that you don’t get a shock when you need to pay the money. It’s really easy to do once you’ve set up your “system” and reminders on your phone.

The most important aim of a budget is to ensure that you earn more than you spend! If you don’t, then you have to spend less. It’s that simple, but in practice it may take a few months to change your spending habits. You may want to consider cancelling store cards as these make spending far too easy!

Basic Budget

Now that you have decided how much you can spend in each category, you must stick to the budget! You will find that you cannot control expenses exactly as you plan as things happen and we react accordingly. However, if you overspend on the Groceries category then you need to underspend somewhere else to ensure that your overall expenses do not exceed the budget.

I also like to have a category for “Other” expenses which are often unplanned things that come up.

Once you have created your budget, see if you can find any extra cash or ways to save money.

Challenge

Create your budget now!

Guilt-free spending

shirtsWe’ve all experienced feeling a little guilty about buying something. Wouldn’t it be great though if you could go shopping and be guilt-free?

Well it’s possible and the solution is so simple and obvious. In fact, you already know what the solution is, you possibly just don’t want to hear it.

Make and stick to a budget!

That’s it! That really is as simple as it is. Once you have worked out how much money you make and spend each month, you simply need to create a budget. This way you can truly go shopping with no guilty feeling. If you have planned to spend say R2,000 per month on clothes – then go for it! (Don’t worry about the currency or figure, it’s just a example) And if you have been saving for some new expensive device, go and enjoy buying it!

A good way to stick to your budget is to use cash. If you arrive at the shopping centre with a set amount of cash in an envelope (and no bank cards), then you really can’t spend any more than you planned to. You will see how the sales and “must-have” items are suddenly less tempting.

When you are in control of your finances it really is fun to go shopping and to spend money on the things you have planned for and saved for. And buying things within the budget is completely guilt-free as you don’t even need to think about whether you can afford it or not. You have already done that thinking and you know the answer.

Being in control of your money will reduce any stress you have that is related to money. The stress is usually because of lack of knowledge of your situation and feeling out of control. It can be sorted out with just a little effort (well initially it may be a lot of effort!)

REMEMBER: plan, budget, spend