March 19, 2011

Want to save the most? Do without.

When I think about one of the biggest ways that my family has saved money in our grocery bill the last few years, I think about all the times we did NOT buy an item because it just wasn’t a good enough deal. We simply do without. Sounds drastic and depressing. But I don’t see it that way. Let me explain. . .

You only have a certain budget for food for the month. As a consumer you get to decide how that gets spent. Just as with anything when there is a limited supply (time, money, energy) you have to prioritize how to use or spend it, right? This is a personal decision, the priorities will be different in every family.

When I decided to stay home with my kids, it meant cutting our income by 60%. That’s right, 60 percent. Take $100 and throw $60 of it out the window. What was once $100, is now $40 at the grocery store. I wouldn’t change it for a second. I wouldn’t trade anything for those extra 60 dollars, but I will be picky in how I spend what I have left.

For us, this means – if it’s not on sale and/or we don’t have a coupon – we generally don’t buy it. It’s that simple. If it’s not a loss leader in the grocery ad (one of the best of the best deals), we will generally wait, and do without, until it does go on super sale.

A good example for us is apples. Our whole family loves apples. Each one of us would easily eat one a day, if we have them – but I prefer to buy organic apples (again, a personal decision) and if I can’t find them for under $1 a pound, we just do without. We buy bananas instead. Or we eat whatever fruit IS on sale that week. And you know what? We live.

Or another example is coffee creamer. Oh how I prefer my morning coffee with a little creamer. But my coffee doesn’t taste nearly as sweet when I know I spent $4 on my bottle of creamer, when I could have waited and paid $1 or $2 or even gotten for FREE. So I’m drinking black coffee this week. And you know what? I live. And I do so gratefully.

There will be weeks when we don’t have peanut butter, or we’re out of bread, or we don’t have cheese (gasp!). But instead we’ll make homemade rolls or pick up other dairy products on sale. We still manage to eat balanced, healthy diets with the foods that ARE on sale. We are flexible and I believe this really helps us be frugal.

Now I’m not saying you should only live on bread and water. Vegetables, fruit, dairy – you should still be stocking up on the staples of a well-balanced diet, but I’m just suggesting you re-assess what’s a necessity and or a need versus a want. Just because you LOVE Yoplait brand yogurt, for example, doesn’t mean that for a couple week’s you can’t use the store brand variety, until another big sale comes along on Yoplait, or whatever you favorite thing is.

Eventually everything goes on sale. We don’t do without forever. 🙂 Most everything we want or need goes on super sale at least every few months. And we stock up when it does! For most products, they will reach a rock-bottom price about once every 12 weeks (or three months). If you’re family can’t live without it – stock up when it’s on super sale, enough to last you a few months or so.

As your stockpile of staple items grows, it’s easier to do without. Some weeks I just don’t shop, except for produce. By having a stockpile of pasta, rice, bread (in the freezer), canned tomatoes, homemade freezer meals – whatever we have on hand – we make due. And we’re fine with that. My three-year-old son already knows that if it’s not on sale, we generally don’t get it and it’s the only way he’s ever known – so frankly it doesn’t seem to phase him (that doesn’t mean he doesn’t ask!).  I’m not neglecting my kids because I won’t buy the fancy cereals or the brand name fruit snacks or fancy candies. Believe me, he does just fine.

You could get this, or you could get that. A $3 bag of chips for example. Not on sale. No coupon. Personally? I’d rather spend $3 on apples or $3 on meat. It’s a constant juggling act of prioritization and thoughtful consumerism. What it’s not? Going to the grocery store and picking up a little bit of everything. That gets expensive fast.

Just prioritize. It’s that simple.
With all this said, do I buy full-priced items? Yes. I will. If you see me at the store will you see splurges in my cart? Yes, you probably will. But I’m strategic about it. I will buy a $5 gallon of organic milk because organic milk is one of those areas I splurge. Organic pasta? Potato chips? Not so much. We make sacrifices in some areas, so we can splurge in others. We decide what things are really important to us and what things we can waiver on. Again, personal choice and thoughtful consumerism.

Treat yourself, it’s hard work saving money! I will be the first person to tell you that if you save $5 on your grocery bill with coupons, that you should be able to walk over to Starbucks and buy a $4 latte – and not feel guilty about it. I won’t judge you for your purchases and I hope people would never judge me for mine – it’s a personal decision. I’m just saying, be strategic about it. Reassess your “needs” and focus on being flexible. And sometimes do without. You’ll find that by doing without, you actually end up with more in the long run.

Tell me, are there certain things you won’t go without? What items are splurges for you?

One thing you don’t have to do without? Queen Bee Coupons! Come on over to my Facebook page (we have a lot of fun over there) or sign up for my daily newsletter, and follow me on Twitter! Thanks you for your visit!

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  1. We are definitely in the trenches of learning what it means to live with out sometimes! It’s really hard to make that sacrifice sometimes, but it is worth it in the long run to meet our financial goals. Have you ever check out the “More with Less” cookbook? It was written by Mennonites, but I really appreciate the whole attitude of the book. In the opening article it talks about how we are trained to expect and demand constant, changing, variety instead of learning to be content with what we have, even if it is simple. It’s the way most of the rest of the people in the world live. I want to be content.
    Thanks for the post!

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