Fair warning: this post has absolutely nothing to do with food and everything to do with February’s budget and my strategies to save money.
Tomorrow is pay day and damn, do I need it.
I was working out a budget today and went through 3 or 4 symptoms of depression…
1. Denial – there’s no way that I have only this little bit of money to spend on groceries.
2. Sadness- I have no money
3. Anxiety- How will I eat this month?
4. Hope- It may be fun to be SUPER thrifty and at the very least, I will have something to write about!
Back in February when I found out how much money I would be making as an Associate Instructor at IU, I was ecstatic. I thought I was going to be living super comfortably and would finally have “the” life. ha.
To be fair, I get by. I feel very fortunate that I worked this summer because many of my coworkers have had to resort to the phone call home. In their defense, January was a particularly tough month because our last paycheck was December 16th.
But, where has all my money gone? In working out my budget, this is how I anticipate to spend February’s pay check (I made a pie-chart but can’t figure out how to post it…):
Paying off the Christmas/NYE Credit Card Bill: 39%
Energy Bill: 6%
Student Loans: 3%
Spending Money: 3%
So, why exactly am I freaking out about groceries? This budget leaves me with $107.71 to spend for 29 days. Between January 3rd and January 30th, I spent $136.91. That ended up being ~$34 a week. To be honest, I don’t know if that’s a lot or a little, considering this is my first time trying to do the all-organic thing. I know in undergrad I spent ~$50 a week, but I bought a lot of superfluous food, too. I also think I eat a little bit more than the average person because I run 50+ miles a week.
I’ve developed a few strategies for the upcoming month in an attempt to get the most bang for my buck:
1. Only go to the co-op on member days
I try to do this anyway, but there are a few times throughout the month that I slip. I also checked around town for other “deal” days. Marsh gives students 10% off on Saturdays and Sahara Mart gives 10% off on Tuesdays.
2. Find coupons on facebook
I’ve been trying to get in the habit of “liking” my favorite brands on facebook because most offer coupon deals/giveaways. Also, other people who like the same page usually post tips when stores put that brand on sale.
3. Look for “manager’s special”
I’ve bought quite a bit of bread and meat this way. Typically (this seems to work best for me when I go at night), you can find food that is about to reach it’s “sell-by” date go on sale 25-30% off. This tends to happen more with organic food because it has a smaller market. I have gotten great deals on bread, chicken, steak, and hummus in this way. If you do buy meat, make sure to freeze it right away. I have made the mistake of letting it sit in the fridge and then wind up wasting my money.
4. Ditch the sandwich for lunch
My lunch habits have gotten exponentially better since I got this wonderful lunch thermos for Christmas. I waste less and buy less “lunch food” by being able to bring leftovers from the night before.
5. DIY more
Making my own cheese, yogurt, bread, almond butter has been incredibly cheap, fun, and delicious. Now that I have invested in the equipment and have saved the appropriate starters, I will be able to save even more money.
6. Make smarter bulk selections
Everyone knows that buying from the bulk section saves money. However, it’s always wise to know which store has the cheapest bulk sections. I’ve now staked out all the grocery stores in town and I know, for instance, Sahara has organic almonds $4.00/lb cheaper than Bloomingfoods does, but Bloomingfoods’ organic walnuts are a better deal. I also have to be better at stocking up when I find good bulk deals.
7. Remember my reusable bags
Pretty much every store has a bag discount…I usually save ~$0.15 by bringing my own bags, which adds up!
8. Be flexible with my food choices
I know a lot of people, myself included, who spend a lot of money at the grocery store because they HAVE to buy the same 3-4 things every week. For instance, I always get bananas, even if they’re not on sale. Do I NEED bananas every week? No. So if I can find another fruit or vegetable that’s on sale, I will go for that instead and be creative. Besides the fact that this will save money, not eating a variety of foods is bad for you. Even if what you eat every day is healthy, your body craves variety.
9. DON’T buy something just because it’s a good deal
This is a bad habit I learned from my mom. I have a tendency to buy something just because it is on sale, even though I could just as easily do without it.
So, there it is…pretty much the same list that everyone posts when they talk about saving money in the grocery store. I’ll keep y’all updated on how this works out.