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23 Ways to Chop Your Grocery Bill

Need a foolproof way to cut your food/grocery expenses by 25% this month? Announce to your family that there will be a complete ban on the consumption of food during the first week of every month. There. That should do it!  Twenty-five percent right off the top.

What?! Don’t think you can pull that off? Me either, but not to worry. Here are some much less painful—and I hope a bit more realistic—ways to chop the high cost of food.

 

You couple aghast at the cost of their groceries while looking at the receipt

Create a shopping list

Do this at home when you are hungry. You will be more creative and thorough.

Not hungry

You will be compelled to buy everything in sight regardless of what’s on your list. Tip: If you can’t avoid it, head to the bakery a pick up a cookie or grab a protein bar on your way in. That will be enough to silence your hunger and clear your mind.

Leave the kids at home

You will stick to your shopping list with much less frustration and stress if you fly solo.

Avoid convenience or specialty stores

You won’t find many bargains there.

Groceries online

Online grocery shopping is the latest and greatest for many (me!). It keeps me out of the supermarket where, even with a list, I’m an impulsive disaster just waiting to happen. I shop at KingSoopers (part of the Kroger Family of stores) and pay a flat fee of $4.95  per order for its ClickList service. (Read more about that here.) Walmart offers its groceries online program with free same-day pickup is now available at hundreds of Walmart stores nationwide (store locator). Walmart does not charge a pickup fee but has a minimum order requirement of $30.

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Stores Now Offering Layaway Programs

It’s not easy being a consumer. In fact, it can be downright confusing because of all the payment choices.

First, you have your cash, your checkbook, credit, and debit cards. And then you have deferred billing, easy payments, skip-a-payment, nothing down, no payments, and the semi-popular deferred double-digit interest rates. And on top of all of that, the fine print. See what I mean? Confusion, pure and simple.

Farmer Holding a sepia tone Chicken in front of the Farm

 

Prehistoric consumers had it easy. Only one choice: chickens. They traded poultry for things they needed. The rules were simple: No fowl? No food, fuel, fun or futons!

Then along came the invention of currency. That gave consumers a second choice—one that caught on quickly since folding a chicken to fit neatly into ones wallet is messy.

A third option was born the day some unknown retailer came up with a creative payment plan, surely named in memory of the good ole’ chicken days: Layaway.

There was a time and not so long ago that every major retail store in the country allowed customers to buy merchandise on layaway. The item was placed in a backroom and customers could take all the time they needed to pay it off. Interest-free. And when they made the last payment, they took the item home.  Read more

12 Shopping Triggers We All Fall For

I blame my suspicious nature on my neighborhood grocery store. The store used to be a logically arranged market with bright lights and clean floors—a basic, friendly, functional place to shop. Then the bulldozers morphed it into a big fancy schmancy supermarket complete with shopping triggers of mood lighting, Starbucks, Panda Express and lots of comfy chairs. 

 

Fancy supermarket with mood lighting

 

I have nothing against beautiful spaces and modern conveniences, but I’m no fool. I knew all of this effort was to one end—to get me to spend more of my hard-earned money. 

Take the “Three for $6!” special of the week. Why not just say $2 each and drop the exclamation mark? I muttered to myself as I placed one jar of spaghetti sauce in the cart. 

Before I could wheel away I had my answer: I saw several customers dutifully place three jars in their carts. Not two, not four, but three jars. 

That response was no accident. In fact, that’s a simple example of how retailers use tricks to persuade consumers to buy more. Retailers hire experts like Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, and his company, Envirosell, to follow thousands of shoppers a year in person and on videotape, observing their every move. 

Using this information, the stores find ways to get people to shop longer, spend more, and return often. Underhill and his crew are so good at what they do, they can tell retailers what will entice people to enter the store, which way they’ll look once they’re inside, and a lot more. 

How important is consumer persuasion to the marketplace? “If we went into stores only when we needed to buy something,” Underhill to me in one of my favorite interviews of all time, “and if once there we bought only what we needed, the economy would collapse. Boom.” 

No one wants the economy to get any worse, but we don’t want to overspend either. So our defense as consumers is to educate ourselves. Here are 12 tricks to know about. 

1. Trigger: Beautiful Ambience

Retailers know that as much as 70 percent of all purchases are unplanned! They want you to linger as long as possible, so they create an atmosphere that’s inviting to the store’s target audience. The music, the lighting, the displays are all designed to pull us in. 

Outsmart it! Don’t browse. Just get in, get what you need and leave. True needs are not discovered while standing in a store aisle. 

2. Trigger: Colored Walls

Stores use certain colors according to the audience they’re trying to reach: Younger people tend to like bold colors; older people prefer softer hues. 

“Universally, a soft shade of blue creates a sense of calm, which makes people want to stay longer,” says Underhill. Meanwhile, most fast-food restaurants are decorated in vivid reds and oranges, which encourage us to eat quickly and leave—exactly what the fast-food operator wants us to do. 

Outsmart it! Take note of a store’s colors, then smile knowingly. Just being aware of them helps you take control. 

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How to Curb Emotional Spending in 5 Easy Steps

Somewhere back in my dark financial past, I discovered that emotional spending was a great antidepressant. I spent to change my mood, to reward myself and to make myself feel better. 

I spent money when I felt sad and when I felt glad. I spent money so I wouldn’t feel broke. I spent to get approval, to make my kids more popular, to impress people I didn’t even know. The list goes on and on. 

 

 

Emotional spending, or it’s much cuter name “retail therapy,” was my go-to activity when I was feeling stressed out, bored, under-appreciated, incompetent, unhappy or any number of other emotions. In fact, I’ve been known to spend mindlessly just because I’m happy.

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How Materialism Leads to Discontentment

I should not have even picked it up. I knew better. After all, what was I expecting from a magazine titled simply, SHOP Etc.? 

I can say with all honesty that before flipping open the magazine, I needed nothing. Not a thing. I was content and quite busy with my work. If anything was tugging at my attention it was my garden and all my planting issues—not a lack of shoes, clothes, and household items. 

Close-up of woman mindlesssly wandering through a catalog creating discontentment

In the space of just a few minutes, everything changed. Just like that, I needed new shoes (Kors, $235), sunglasses in the hot purple shade for summer (Prada, $245) and of course The Cutest Suit (J. Crew, $296).

And once I realized the new must-haves for the kitchen, everything I have now seemed completely unacceptable and hopelessly out of style. I need new Czech goblets (Crate and Barrel, $8.95 each), a stainless steel sink (Kohler, $1,815) and faucet (Essex, $385). Don’t even get me started on all the things I realized I need for my bedroom, patio and living areas. How naïve I was only a few minutes earlier feeling content and quite satisfied with my life. A mere 164 pages later, I was filled with inadequacy and discontentment. 

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Shopping With Cash is Still the Best Way to Save Money

When did you last hold a $50 bill in your hand? The new ones look strange … faintly colored, graphically random.

US-50-dollar-bill.jpg

You should pick one up some time to reacquaint yourself with something called U.S. currency. Look closely. It still reads: This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.

Here’s my question: Does pumping my own gasoline at Costco constitute a debt, either public or private?

Between the moment my gas tank is full and the moment I actually pay for the gas, I owe Costco some money. I have incurred a momentary debt, and it seems to me I should be able to pay it with my U.S. currency.

Just try. In fact, at Costco filling stations my only choice is to pay with plastic—even though there are plenty of human attendants readily available.

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This is Why I’m Crazy about Amazon Prime

It’s been more than 10 years now since I first looked into a membership service called “Amazon Prime.” Being the frugalista that I am, of course, I dismissed it out of hand for one simple reason—currently the annual membership fee. For what, I asked? Nothing tangible, that’s for sure.

I wish I’d researched Amazon Prime more thoroughly back then. I had no idea what I was turning down. By not joining until two years later in 2009, I spent far more in shipping costs alone than I would have paid for the annual membership.

 

 

a-pretty-woman-at-home-picking-up-delivery-box

 

Honestly, I am in love with Amazon Prime and my love only grows as the years go by. My life is busy and I am such a disaster-waiting-to-happen in a shopping mall environment. I rely heavily on Amazon for household needs, personal items, and business supplies and equipment, too.

Free shipping alone saves me hundreds of dollars in shipping fees every year, not to mention time, gasoline, frustration, and impulsive disasters.

Since I first posted about Amazon Prime, the benefits have increased tremendously!

How do I love Amazon Prime? Oh, let me count the ways: Read more

Retail Panic for Some Means Job Security for Others

I’m not proud of myself for loading up a shopping cart and then in some kind of retail panic, leaving it in the aisle and fleeing the store. Well, maybe I am a little. 

beautiful-bolts-fabric-filling-retail-store.jpg

It was about the most impulsive (repulsive perhaps) thing I’ve done in some time. And it’s all because despite how far I’ve come, I’m still me. And I just happened to be in the area. 

I don’t normally travel in the direction of the largest fabric store in the universe. But I did and there I was, only a few short blocks from the entrance. So I stopped in to just … uh, … look around.

Potential. That’s what I saw. Aisle after aisle of potential gifts, quilts, tablescapes, sweaters, hats, decorator pillows, blankets, pure joy.

There were several bargains that quite frankly one should never pass up. And that is the ONLY reason I found a shopping cart. I mean come on … my favorite brand of flannel—the really good stuff—BOGO (that’s buy-one-get-one-free for you novices)? And flannel-backed satin in the perfect shade of Christmas red for $4.59 a yard? And the most adorable fleece for next to nothing!

I made my way to the cutting table when I noticed something new: A take-a-number machine. Hate those things. But now I’m stuck, so I plucked 73 from its little mouth and pulled back to notice Now Serving 61. 

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