Monday, March 9, 2009

Getting Control of the Grocery Bill Part I

In case you missed this post at last week I am re-posting here for you to read. Part II of this series will be posted on Thursday.

Getting Control of the Grocery Bill Part I
In the past 2 weeks I have received many phone calls and emails all saying the same thing, "Help, I need to get control of my grocery bill!" My blog is dedicated to posting current deals and weekly updates but I find that new readers are having a hard time figuring out where to start in the world of frugal shopping and coupons. To kick my time off on I thought I would do a series on basic ways you can start to gain control of the grocery bill before diving into the world of coupons. What I share in this series is what I share with anybody who asks me for help. Please keep in mind that it is all just a suggestion.

For the 1st post of this series I want to focus on the importance of knowing how much you are actually spending on groceries. If saving money is the goal then knowing what is being spent is important so it can be known what can be saved.

Define what groceries are.
In my household the term groceries refers to food items only. Everything else is either toiletries or paper products, thus I have a different amount of money I spend on each category every month. If you consider all those items groceries that is okay, just account for it and create your "spending plan" accordingly. Just so you know up front I am what one friend deemed the other night a "budget freak"!

Know what is an appropriate amount of money to be spending on groceries (food).
Every one has a different income level and therefore can either spend more or less. If you only live on $30,00 a year chances are your spending is going to look vastly different than someone who might live on $80,000 a year. So for this I recommend a percentage guideline table. The tables here (scroll down and click which ones best describes your family size) gives a suggestion for how much of your net income you should be spending where. In the example of a family of 6 you can see that if you are living on $25,000-$65,000 per year you should not be spending more than 14-15% of your NET income on food. So for a family of 6 living on $45,00o (net spendable of $35000 a year after taxes) per year the most you should spend monthly on food is around $400 a month. For our family this also includes eating out.

Develop a "grocery spending plan."
I recognize that the word budget is scary so don't even go there, just think spending plan. By this I mean have a set amount of money that you are going to spend on groceries (food) every month and STICK TO IT! It might be according to the spending guideline I presented above or it might be more or less. For our family we live on drastically less than we possibly could simply because of debt. That lousy student loan eats up a lot of our spending plan, therefore we have to account for it other places. You may have to do this, too, if you have debt you are paying off or if you have savings goals you are trying to meet.

On that note begin thinking about needs versus wants and where you might have wasteful spending in your grocery bill. This will be our topic next on Thursday!

Do you have other ideas that work for you? Please be sure to share them in comments section!

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