In my line of work, I get asked the same questions a lot. One of them is this: “Stacy, how do you stick with a grocery budget without going over or having a panic attack and scarring the bag boy for life?” While the answer for me is very easy, it’s not so easy for others. Why do I not go over budget? Because I’m stinking ornery, that’s why. I just don’t let myself do it.
But, I was raised by budget-minded parents so I’ve kinda had a budget since birth – combine that with the fact that I’m tighter than Dick’s hat band, and well…budgets and I just go together. However, I know everyone is not this way, so today I’m going to give you some pointers and things you need to consider to make sure you don’t go over budget.
First, understand that if this is your first attempt at a budget, it’s not going to work. Yeah, you heard me. It’s not going to work for at least 3 months – sometimes more. It takes a while to get in your budget groove – to know how much you spend on certain things. So, take your time and learn slowly. The tortoise always wins the race. And if you don’t have a budget yet, you can easily set one up using our free guide and forms.
How to make your grocery budget work:
#1 Make sure it’s realistic.
At first, this is the hardest thing to get right. You might have no clue how much you’re spending on food. But if you’re in month 10 of a budget and your grocery budget is still busting you, then something is up. If under normal circumstances you spend $500 a month on food and you’re only budgeting $400, then it’s obviously NOT going to work. You’ll end up pulling money from somewhere else, and then you might have to do without toilet paper in the bathroom later in the month, but have caviar and shrimp in the fridge.
#2 Make a LIST
I’m a list maker at heart. Lists just make me happy – I like marking stuff off. It’s a disease. Lists can really save your behind on a budget. If you tend to run into the grocery and leave with 25 things when you only came in for milk and cheese, then you need to make a list and have the guts to stick with it. Make a list. Only buy what’s on the list. Repeat – ONLY BUY WHAT’S ON THE LIST.
#3 Consider Once a Month Shopping
This is a great option for those of you who go to the grocery weekly and end up making tons of impulse buys. Our family really enjoys shopping once a month for most of our items. I haven’t ever gone over budget this way. It’s a big chunk of money all at once and it takes a lot of planning, but it can really save you some time and money. It’s only one day to fight your urge on those impulse buys instead of four or five.
#4 Use Cash
This is a given for me. You have a budget. You get the money out in cash. You go to the grocery store. You spend it. You run out, you’re done. There is no way they’re letting you leave the store with your groceries if you don’t pay. That means it is an excellent way to stick with the budget. And if you do try to leave, you might find yourself having some nice, hot, free meals behind bars. If that’s not incentive to stick to your budget, I don’t know what is.
So, those are my tips for really sticking with your budget. For some, they find that a budget chokes them and doesn’t give them any freedom. Our family finds that the only way to live in financial freedom is WITH a budget. As Dave Ramsey says, tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.