It Takes Money to Save Money
Any one living paycheque to paycheque understands how groceries and household items cost more when money is extremely tight. If you are waiting for payday to purchase things you need, you likely cannot wait, once you have the money, for a better price to come along. When you buy larger quantities it usually costs you less per unit—a good example is toilet paper. Having only enough money every week for 4 rolls prevents you from cashing in on the monthly sale of a 24 pack which would give you considerable savings/roll. Having a bit of extra money in the bank allows you the luxury of buying multiple items when they are on special. So how can a family dig itself out of the cycle of paying full price for small quantities? How can you get a bit ahead so that you, too, can buy what you need on sale and have more money leftover?
Keep Track of Grocery Spending
It cannot be overstated that if you do not know what you normally spend, you are powerless to reduce your budget. For one month, keep your receipts for every food/grocery/household related cost. Include toiletries, cleaning supplies, beauty products, take-out, dry food and produce. At the end of the month you should have an idea of what your monthly costs are and where, if at all, you can trim your spending. Go through the house and collect what can be used up: do not buy a cleaner that you prefer to use if you already have something that will do the job. Vinegar and baking soda will tackle most cleaning tasks—your goal here is to reduce spending somewhere so that you have a bit of wiggle room in your budget to take advantage of bulk prices and sales.
You Only Think It Can’t Be Done
If you’re talking budgets with friends nowadays, and most people are, there is inevitably someone who says “we gave up because nothing we tried worked”. It is absolutely true that cutting spending and living on a reduced income can be defeating. But knowing where your money is going is very empowering if you give it a chance. Cut the cable bill, reduce your cell package, return your recycling. Free up some money, wherever possible, and use the amount you have saved to stock up on your most needed household items when they come on sale (this may be meat, canned or dry goods, coffee, toilet paper or other necessities that you will end up paying full price for). If you do not already collect points or use your grocery store rewards system, start now. When you have collected enough miles or points, spend them on necessities that you find on sale. Your goal is to stock your pantry with healthy, low cost food and household supplies. Once you have a stockpile of provisions, watch sales to maintain your stash and put the rest of the money you are saving against your highest payment or bill.
Re-evaluate Your “Needs”
Do you have certain brand names that you are committed to paying for? Are you reluctant to let go of the satellite/cable TV? Challenge yourself for one month and see how you feel without those things you feel that you cannot do without. Skip the drive thru and take your own coffee. Change your routine and keep track of how much money you save. Again, dedicate this money to stocking your fridge and freezer.
Make Space for a Stockpile
Some items you should commit to never paying full price for are: meat, toilet paper, coffee, condiments, canned goods, flour and baking supplies, cleaning supplies and the list goes on. You may need to declutter a closet once you are able to buy some items in bulk. If you eat meat, you will want to rotate the meat in your freezer to keep the oldest being constantly used up. You may even want to hunt kijiji, yard sales, or watch flyers, for a deep freeze. Once you have the ability to purchase meat and vegetables in bulk you will see a drastic reduction in what you are forced to buy for full price.
One Day at a Time
When more money is being spent than is being collected, a person has two options: reduce what you spend or increase what you earn. Jobs are scarce and the cost of living is high, so it is no wonder that people feel overwhelmed and like they lost before they got started. But if you dedicate one month to evaluating your spending you might be surprised at how much you can trim and put towards a well stocked home. Every bit of progress you make on your budget is a step towards financial stability.