Numbers You Need to Know to Save Money

By: Amy Hannold

Frugal Living Editor

A question was posted recently on a local parenting group forum:  “What do you spend on groceries every month?”  As the discussion went on, several posts were published, all with varying answers.

I think we are asking the wrong question. Comparing monthly spending amounts of two different families can be misleading, even discouraging. What you really have to look at is what you, the individual family, are buying, based on your choices, lifestyle, diets, and circumstances.  Let me explain.  Does your grocery budget include the pet food and toiletries—and how many diapers are you buying? The question we should be asking is “Who buys what I buy, and how to you spend less on those items?”

Online, the participants of the forum soon realized that their numbers varied significantly. They began to detail their buying habits and spending preferences. An exchange of gardening ideas and best prices on organic food followed, much to everyone’s benefit.

What Does It Cost You To Eat?

Instead of relying solely on someone else’s numbers, evaluate your own spending. Then, ask the right questions to your neighbors to learn their money-saving tips.   Consider looking at all of your “sustenance” spending as one number. Several statistics I read recommended an average of 15-20% of your monthly income be spent on groceries, including restaurant meals.

Plan your weekly shopping on your week’s activities.  If you eat out regularly, spend less on groceries. When you’re making real effort to eat at home, set yourself up for success with affordable homemade meal ingredients.

What is Your Policy on Larger Expenses?

Where do you draw the line between an item you buy when you need it or want it – and a purchase you wait a day, a week, or even a month before buying?

Waiting on a larger purchase can get you the best product, for the best deal.  Use that waiting time to save you some money.  Research the product, and its competition.  Compare the prices and the store promotion policies. Is there a holiday (or post-holiday) on the horizon which may bring a sale on your desired item?

What’s the “State of Your Checkbook”?

Have you had any changes in income lately?  Do you know what you earn and where every penny goes?  In other words, at the end of the month, have you kept in line with your plan?  Is there a need to change your “normal” to meet either a recent increase or decrease you’ve encountered?

Is Potential “Income” Cluttering Your Home?

Look around your home for items that are not being used.  Could it be worth something to someone else?  Eliminating some of your “stuff” will help you put some money away towards your new goals, making you feel better about your financial situation.

Where’s the Gap in Your Budget?

After a month or so of closely following your spending, you’ll know whether you have to earn more or spend less.  Either way, be creative in the solution. Use your skills, networking and energy towards making real change, one day at a time.





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