From Tawna, a reader
This may be a shocker but I never shop with a complete list. Very often I find items on sale that are running low. Tissues were the most recent example. They were not on my list because the store had not advertised them and we were not out, only low. I found a terrific deal plus I had a coupon. Was it an impulse buy? Maybe. Why should I spend more the next trip to buy the same thing?
Another shocker–We have never kept a formal budget. If we really need something, we buy it. We try to need as little as possible but if is worn out, I replace it. Seems to work for us. We raised 3 kids, own our house, and are planning for an early retirement, all this on a lower middle class to middle class income.
This may come as a surprise to most readers, but mom and I aren’t in the “stick to your list” club either. The truth is, if we did we would miss out on a lot of great deals that could save us money in the future. I do have a list but if I see something that I will use in the future and I can get it for a great price like my great milk and meat deal then I will grab it up in a heartbeat!
Tawra is right. I only make lists of things I know I am out of or things that are on sale that I want to get. Sometimes I’ll have my bare bones menu for the week so if I find something on sale I can change my menu a little if I need to. I rarely stick to the list.
I have also never never ever had a budget and I buy things just like you do, Tawna. I really don’t believe in making budgets. There are some people out there who have success with them but most people I know stick to a budget as well as they do to a diet, myself included…
Photo By: Steven Lilley
Jill and Tawra, You both are 2 of the most inspirational women on this planet. I read your blog every day. You really help me to be happy with what I have and I don’t feel so “poor.” I don’t have a lot of money but you help me to feel blessed and rich. Thanks.
Oh, I forgot to mention in my earlier comment that one of your readers mentioned the “Farmer Boy” book and that inspired me to get out my copy and read it. It’s so true that those Laura Ingals books teach so much about making do, etc. Adults today should read them. They would learn a lot.
Do you know of any websites out there that you can use to keep track of the money you spend? I hate pulling out a notebook and writing things down. You have to rummage thru your purse for it and a pen and by then you are on to something else. I have a smartphone that I use from my job so it wouldn’t cost me anything but would sure make my life alot simpler.
Carol yes I do ours. We have many different articles and ideas on how to keep track of your money other then a notebook. Here is one to get you started. It is called Easier Budgeting which tells you some different methods. Then check out the other articles at the bottom of that page to help you find some more if you need them.
If you need more help holler. I do know you want something for a smartphone but I don’t have one at the moment.
I do the same stuff. I always am made to feel guilty by not having a budget or sticking to my list, usually just by all of the die-hard financial buffs out there who say that if you don’t have a budget you’re doing it wrong. I just pay the bills every month and do the grocery shopping, and try to sit on whatever’s left as much as possible.
Thanks for the encouragement!
I know what you mean Mich. I never can figure out why we think the more complicated something is the better it must work. I know these things work for many people but on average it is just confusing and a lot of work.
I agree with Tawna and Tawra I have a grocery list of things I definitely need and are on sale, then I’m on the lookout for unadvertized specials. I don’t really plan menus in advance, but the night before I decide what to have the next day. My freezer and “pantry” allow for several choices. Ive never had a budget either. We farmed and the money coming in varied so much and was usually in lump sums. I tried to buy what I needed and pay as little as possible. It all worked out very well. Different people need different ways of handling things.
One thing that’s helped me save a lot of money in the past year is to non-food items on my list when they’re getting low (before I completely run out and HAVE to buy them). That way I have a few weeks to keep an eye out for a good sale every time I go to the store, and I almost always end getting what I need without paying full price. It just takes a lot of patience to keep adding it to the list every week and keep looking at every store until I find a deal. I read somewhere that most household items go on sale every 6 weeks and so far that seems to be true.
Grizzly Bear Mom
I have an excell spreedsheet of all the groceries I buy and how much they cost whereever. Than I buy those items when and whre they are cheapest: ham at A store, cheese at B store. I don’t run around. Each store gets its own week. In a pinch even the dog can eat peanut butter sandwiches. About the only things I MUST have are tampons and toilet paper. Hard to substitute for those.
Grizzly Bear Mom
Forgot to mention that the list is magneted to the fridge and I circle those things I need or running low on. My spreedsheat is broken down by canned food, baking aisle, meats, vegetables, etc.
THE WORD BUDGET INICATES THAT YOU HAVE SOME MONEY TO WORK WITH, AFTER I BUY GAS PAY MY BILLS THEN I WORK WITH WHAT I HAVE LEFT. WHERE I LIVE YOU CANT MAKE A MENU BEFORE YOU GET TO THE STORE BECAUSE YOU MAY NOT WANT TO BUY WHAT MEAT THEY HAVE BECAUSE IT LOOKS SO BAD OR THEY HAVE ALREADY RUN OUT, SO YOU BUY IT THEN MAKE A MENU OF WHAT THEY HAD. I REALY NEVER MAKE A LIST BECAUSE I AM ALWAYS ON THE LOOK OUT FOR A BARGAN, AND I HAVE HAD TO FEED THE THREE OF US ON 40.00 BUT WE ALWAYS MANAGE TO GO TO BED WITH A FULL BELLY. SO I ALWAYS THANK THE LORD FOR FOOD ON THE TABLE CLOTHS ON OUR BACK AND A ROOF OVER OUR HEADS.BLESSINGS 2U
We have been trying to just spend $50 per week for our family which is down to 3 people now, but I also did it when we had 4 at home. I find that I am more conscious about what I buy when I set a limit. I focus on the basics. If I don’t need as many groceries that week, I just stock up on something that is on sale. I look through all the ads and plan a detailed list before I go, but I do have some flexibility to skip buying certain things for others if a fabulous deal falls into my lap. I plan a menu before I go and use what is left in the fridge and what needs to be rotated in the freezer in my menu plan. This helps eliminate food waste. Do you have a monthly budget that you go by? For me, the planning and preparing ahead of time is what makes me more successful with my shopping. I am not saying this way is right for everyone. The important thing is finding what works for you and doing it that way. I was just curious if you tried to keep within a certain amount to feed your family or if you do it by the month or the year or just buy sales and don’t worry about cost.
Marianne, I don’t usually have a set in stone budget I use. I do plan a general idea of meals and then get what I need for those and what is on sell. My situation has been that most of my life I have not had a regular income coming in and I have often had to readjust my spending not only month to month but week to week.
To make things more interesting is my life is such that even if I plan out every hour for what I am going to do tomorrow the chances are pretty good it will all change by morning. Which means I may have the perfect menu planned only to find for one reason or another I will not be home or even able to fix it.
Now that being said I do have such control over my money that I know pretty close to what I have in my checking account most of the time and what I will need for bills to pay so I have an amount in my mind that I know I can spend. But once again I am not normal.
The biggest thing I would do to control the money I spent on groceries was not so much a plan or budget but I learned as much as I could about serving nutritional meals- not organic, fat free or sugar free but basic nutrition. That means if my kids had a glass of orange juice (which I put in a small glass to get the right amount) for breakfast, they wouldn’t need a whole lot more for vitamin C for the rest of the day especially if I knew I was going to have potatoes or broccoli later in the day.
By using this method I didn’t buy or feed my family any more food then pretty much what their bodies needed. People have no clue how much controlling portions and nutrients in their diets can save money on their food bill. Most Americans eat double the amount of food and drink they really need each day. Even if it is organic, fat free, sugar free they still eat too much.
Now I’m not saying I always eat like this. When I have extra money I eat “normal” but if I don’t have much to spend then I pull in the reins and watch it.
What I love about you Jill is that your advice is based on lived experience and that makes it true to life. Necessity is the mother of invention, and that is why you are so creative. What many people do when they are in hard circumstances, is they do something self-destructive to get out of them, like use credit cards to buy food, instead of working with the money they have. You give advice that shows how to work with your circumstances, instead of making matters worse, and that is where you God-given creativity comes in, and it shows in all you write about.
Thanks for your comments. I agree that most of us eat too much. If we ate half of what we do, we could cut our grocery bill in half and feel better without having to cut coupons or do anything different than normal.
Many thanks to Jill and Tawra for your website and your commonsense advice. I tried to go into your Easier Budgeting webpage that Jill mentioned on 7/15/11 and could not get in.
Lee Ann, I’m not sure why you are having problems but here it is again. Tawra https://www.livingonadime.com/make-budgeting-easier/
I always make a shopping list. Not just for the things I need but the sales only. I have quite a few stores near me and the major ones always double and sometimes triple coupons to $1.00. My list is for each stores items on sale and the price. The ads come out on Wednesday and it takes me about 20 minutes to do the list. I do not go out of my way to get to the stores farthest from me but if I am in the area will run in and get the specials. I have no big freezer so am unable to stock up on frozen products though.
It is no longer necessary for me to do the list as it was for so many years but now just habit. Over the years I know I have saved LOTS doing it this way.
I don’t have a menu in mind when I grocery shop, but I try to get enough to make a main meat item (my DH is a confirmed meat eater), a starch, and a vegetable for every evening meal. We have a fridge at work, so we keep sandwich items and other breakfast, lunch or snack items there. We have no set time to leave work for home, so I try to have a variety of options for supper depending on time we get home and how tired I am. All this time I thought I was an oddball and everyone else had lists and schedules for everything!
You aren’t odd at all Sandi you are what I call normal (for me anyway). We worked at home most of the time so like you dinner could vary and it would depend too how tired I was at the end of the day. I would have stuff on hand for what I called easy quick meals- sandwich, salad or even canned soup then things for my bigger meals – roast, potatoes, veggies – although even those didn’t take me more then15 mins. prep work and maybe just a little longer of actual cooking.
I often look at a budget or shopping list as a challenge to see how much I can deviate from it and still come out a winner. I will use coupons, but only for things I would buy anyway, look at the grocery advertisments in the paper, and usually buy what is on sale and what fits our lifestyle.If then by going to the store I find things on sale, markdowns etc. I will stock up. Always lived within our means, if there were $25 left for the last week in the month “That was it”, we just made do!! Work well while we were in the military and then in civilian life. Have no debts now. Grew up in Europe where credit or charge cards where unheard of before coming to America.
Jill, you and Tawra are the most down to earth people I have met in a long time. Bless you.
Thank you Gertrud. If you don’t mind my asking where did you grow up in Europe. Tawra spent some time in Germany then a little bit in Holland and Sweden. The year she graduated we had exchange students living with us and running in and out.
I grew up in Northern Germany, near the North Atlantic, but lived in different parts in Germany for yrs.
Still amazes me that people have “snacks” on their grocery lists and gripe that “chicken breast at 99cts/lb” had ‘bones’ in it, and when I mentioned she could those out “Oh, no, I wait until the bonesless one goes on sale”. Go figure.
Well, I read your column everyday, it’s like visiting with friends. Love you guys, Gertrud