Creating a budget, you can follow every month is not easy. I have been there! Coming up with budget tips is neither easy. I am still struggling to stick with my own budget because of inflation. The struggle is real; I am not going to lie. But I found ways to help me every month and avoid a few bumps. Besides signing up for different supermarket rewards cards, signing up for the circulars, using the right types of coupons, I am able to keep a budget that it possible to maintain with my budgeting tips.
People often say that budgeting is an art. Is it really? Personally, I don’t think it is an art. I think budgeting is a way of being organized. I also think that being organized is an art that can be cultured and shared with adaptable techniques. Being organized results in proper planning, proper budgeting and is a stress reducer. Once you learn how to be organized, shopping becomes easy and your budget tips are manageable. There is a downside to shopping even after you master your organizational skills. Subliminal messages!!! Every day several companies create new products and the marketing and advertising tactics they employ are full of subliminal message to entice us to buy. The key is to have control when we see those message.
Having control will manage impulse buying. When entering a store, you are automatically drawn either with products tagline, messages or with the way the items are beautifully displayed on the shelves. Stay calm! Remember that the use of proper lighting at your local supermarket is to help you see better, nothing else. There is no chance in fooling you. When you learn to control yourself by not carrying the entire store in one trip then you will be a powerful shopper. It is about following your shopping list.
Rules of budgeting:
1) The first rule of budgeting is figuring out how much money you need a month in food. I have read several articles and seen website mentioning that you need xxx amount of dollars for a family of four. What about a family of 2? What about a family of 6? Who decides on the numbers?
These numbers do and don’t matter because price increases very often. Today your favorite supermarket has a gallon of milk for $3.29. Next week the price goes up by 20 cents. Your budget will need to be adjusted because of that one item. The best thing to do is to increase your budget by $5 to $10 monthly. Increasing your budget will leave a little bit of room for price increases. I would advise that it should not be more than $15 at most. If it is than you need to start all over. After figuring out what is needed a month, the second step is easy.
Before going into the remaining budget tips, gather your old receipts and start thinking about car mileage, distance and gas. They do affect your budget.
2) The second step of budgeting is shopping in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Your pantry is the most valuable place in your home beside your bedroom. Your pantry can break the bank, keep you healthy and help you stay organized with your diet and lifestyle goals if you treat it right.
I am certain that you have heard of spring cleaning, a great way to apply your budget tips. So, let’s apply the same concept for your pantry. Every month, beside performing the usual inventory process, cleaning is crucial. Cleaning your pantry will help you stay healthy, sane and on top of your budget.
What happens when you do not clean your pantry? Dust and cobwebs, and not forgetting humidity affects your goods. Your pantry must be well ventilated to keep your items at the proper temperature so they don’t expire before their shelf life. Once you master the art of keeping your pantry clean, organized and well ventilated, inventory will be a breeze.
Your refrigerator and freezer must also be cleaned at least 3x a month. I am not kidding! Do you know how long milk last? When was the last time you checked the label? What about cheese and yogurt? Organizing and cleaning your refrigerator is the key to preserving your food. The freezer!!! That’s a huge one! I have seen many overstocked freezers. I was one of the culprit. But not anymore. Keep it clean and organized.
I started calculating the amount of meat I would for about month and purchase only what I needed. Meat and poultry can stay in the freezer for a long time but not all seafood. This is where a menu is handy or even an eating routine is needed. For example, there are 7 days in a week, right? So divide the week into categories. Poultry day, red meat day, and seafood day. If you eat meat 2x during the week, seafood 2x, poultry 2x you are left with one day to eat whatever that pleases you. You start by figuring out the quantity needed for one week then 4 weeks and create your shopping list from what you need.
3) The third step is trimming down: Trim down means, buy what you need, use what you need and don’t indulge in unnecessary items by saying that one day you will use it? What if that one day comes and the item has expired? You will start feeling guilty and blame yourself for not being organized and for not cleaning your pantry. Trimming down should be a priority at adapting to the budget tips.
You learn to prioritize! Figure out what you need and purchase only those items needed. Do not be fooled by sales, coupons, and other incentives. You are the one who will be stuck when you get home – trying to figure out space when to store impulse purchases is not fun. I have been there, I know! It’s aggravating.
4) The fourth step is coming up with a system where you can create a list from your inventory. This is an important step because it will help you determine the items that are most important to buy and the ones that can wait for the following month.
This is where your organization skills come into play. How do you create a system that will actually work for you? There are several tools and apps that can help with the process. As of the date of this article, I do not use an app therefore cannot provide any feedback as to which works and which ones do not.
I like manual inventory. Why! Because it helps me remember. Research have proven that writing things down help you remember much better. We practically live on technology to help us survive, why not do one exercise that will help us stay more organized? Manual exercising! Manual exercises that require us to write and use critical thinking is a perfect for the brain to stay active. It is great because we can remember more easily tasks and shores. Manual inventory takes away the headaches of using apps that have been created, are no longer functional, have phone capability issues or have not been updated since development.
Manual inventory is crucial because many of us repacked or replace storage, example, flour. Many of us do not store flour in its own packaging, we store it in a container designed and selected for that only. What about the expiration date? How do we log that in? Do we save the empty packaging and create more clutter or do we enter the information on our inventory system? We add the information to our inventory system. If you answered correctly, kudos to you!
Whatever budget tips system you use to do your manual inventory must be user friendly and easy to modify.
5) The fifth step is mastering price calculation. This section is about learning prices of items/products you regularly buy. Oftentimes, price fluctuates because of change of season, environmental issues, the economy, weather, etc.… When food prices increase or decrease be on the lookout for sale on other food items you will need in the near future.
Your local supermarkets may not have the sale you are looking for, therefore browsing other supermarkets is a great idea. There is no need to purchase an item for a few extra dollars more just because it is at your local market and on sale at another. A great way to master price calculation is by following the above tips but also, check out upcoming circulars. For example, many supermarkets give you the option of viewing their upcoming sales a day before the previous sales will end. By doing so, you can make better decision and make sure that you don’t go over budget. Why spend money that you don’t have?
6) The sixth step is Buying in bulk to save money: Buying in bulk can save you money if you do it wisely. What I mean by that is, buying things that you need, things that you will use for a period of time, things that will not spoiled after a few days of non-use. Stores such as Costco, Bj’s wholesalers, Sam’s Club or any other wholesalers, give you the option of buying items/ingredients in huge quantity. Take advantage of it, make your list and shop wisely.
All the above budget tips may not be for everyone, but I am sure you can find a small section that is useful to your food shopping adventures. I have been able to apply many of the suggested tips and they have worked. You will struggle at times for unforeseen reasons. Don’t get discourage with budget tips, apply techniques that will work for you; shop where you trust.