I've had several people ask me if coupons really make a difference in our budget, and if we are really able to actually save money using them. The answer is of course YES!! I don't think I could ever go back to shopping without coupons...to tell you the truth, it is so hard on me when we really need something and I don't have a coupon for it. Here are a few tips to help you start saving money.
1. Sit down and look at your budget and really figure out what your food budget should be for the week/month. This will vary depending on your family size and your dietary needs. I include all toiletries, cleaning supplies, and medicines in this budget, but do what works best for your family.
2. At the beginning of each week, get that amount of money out in cash. This is a personal preference, but one that has made an incredible impact on our budget. Once this money is gone, I have to wait until the next week to get any more money...it really makes me think twice about buying things and cuts down on the little extras that sometimes end up in your cart.
3. If you are just starting out, sit down and make a list of everything you NEED at the grocery store for the week...try to get these products for the LOWEST price possible. If there is any money left over after getting all your NEEDS, use this money to start stockpiling items that are on sale and that you have coupons for.
I have to say that this step will be the hardest step. When we started out we were already on a tight grocery budget. Some weeks I would only have $3-$5 extra after getting all the items that we absolutely needed. I took this extra money and used it to stock up on items that were dirt cheap...you'd be amazed at how much this little bit will get you if you start combining coupons with sales...$5 at CVS or Walgreens will usually buy several bottles of shampoo or deodorant. If you find the right sale $5 can buy you 4 or 5 boxes of cereal. Find what is on sale that week and STOCK UP!!
I cannot emphasize enough that the way to really see a big difference in your grocery budget is to stock up when things are on sale. I am at a point now that there are very few things that we NEED to buy each week...I have enough of a stockpile now, that I am able to first shop from my pantry and then make my short list for the grocery store...this usually consists of milk, eggs, produce, and bread. All of the money that is left is used to STOCK UP on sale items.
If you are just starting out, step 3 will probably take a few weeks or months, depending on your grocery budget. It took our family about 2 months before I noticed a big difference in our list of needs vs. stock up prices.
4. When you start to notice that your grocery list of needs is cut down, I would suggest going back and reevaluating your grocery budget. You will probably be at a place where you can comfortably cut your grocery budget by 25%-50%. Take that extra money and pay down debt, start saving, and start giving!!
5. I would suggest reevaluating your grocery budget every couple of months...needs might change...more children, kids growing and eating more, etc.
6. Do NOT get frustrated if you don't see a big savings at first...like I said, it took almost 2 months before I noticed a BIG difference. I was able to buy more with our grocery budget, but wasn't at a point where I felt comfortable setting aside less for our grocery budget. If you stick with it and are consistent, you'll be able to do it. Think how wonderful it will feel when you are able to buy more with a grocery budget that is a fraction of what it once was.
7. Have fun and encourage other people to do the same!!
Let me know how you are doing, and if you have any tips of your own feel free to share!!