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budget for food


Do you make wise shopping decisions? If you answer yes to 2 or more of the following questions, you may find that you spend more money on groceries, clothes, etc. than you can comfortably afford.

  • Do you make impulse purchases?
  • Do you feel you must have an item right away when you actually can wait?
  • Do you make purchases without first determining if you can afford them?
  • Do you watch (and buy from) television shopping clubs?
  • Do you easily succumb to high-pressure sales?

The following information will give you the tips you need to be a successful shopper and not break the family bank.

Grocery Shopping Tips

Groceries are one of the major expenditures in a family budget. Outside of your mortgage and/or car payment, the next thing you probably spend the most money on is groceries. The average family spends about 7.4% of their income on food (US Statistical Abstract). It may not seem like a lot of money because it’s a little each time that you shop, but if you add it up over a year, it becomes a lot of money. For example, a family with an income of $40,000 a year will spend nearly $3,000 on groceries. Saving money at the grocery store doesn’t just involve saving while at the store. You need to start planning while still at home.

Tips For Saving Before You Go To The Store:

  • See what you are spending money on now. Get an old grocery receipt and highlight all of the convenience foods, doubles of foods you already have, and food you could do without. Add it up and see how much you spent.
  • Decide what your family’s grocery budget will be and only spend the amount that you budgeted. If what you are spending now is over budget, what can you eliminate to meet your budget?
  • Only take cash. We tend to spend more when we pay for purchases with a check or credit card.
  • Post a list on your refrigerator.
  • Plan menus for the week. Plan the menu according to what’s on sale that week and go from there.
  • Don’t go grocery shopping when you are hungry, tired or in a hurry. People who shop when hungry tend to spend 17% more at the store.
  • Go alone – especially if your children, spouse, or significant other have a case of the ‘I wants’. Shopping with kids can result in a 30% increase in spending.

Tips For Saving While At The Store:

  • Try not to linger. The longer you are in the store, the more money you’ll spend.
  • Avoid pre-cut fruit and vegetables because they are more expensive.
  • Beware of the expensive items. The most expensive items are at eye level of a 5’4″ woman. The least expensive items are on the top and bottom shelves.
  • Limit impulse items. Put impulse items in the child seat area of the cart. That way, you won’t buy as many because there isn’t much room.
  • Consider the store brands. National chains make most store brands. If your family eats one or more boxes of cereal a week, you can save $100 a year buying store brand cereal.
  • Limit convenience items. The more steps you are willing to take for yourself, the lower your grocery bill will be.
  • Buy store-brand over the counter medications.

Online Shopping Tips

Use your common sense when shopping on-line. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do when dealing with a mail-order company. Designate one credit card only for e-commerce. If the number is stolen, it’s easier to cancel one card than several.


  • Check out the merchant’s reliability. Read the company’s privacy policy and security policies before you buy. Look for the Trust-e symbol or a BBB online seal.
  • Set a budget. You may be on a virtual shopping trip, but remember, you are spending real money; decide what you can afford to spend before you log on.
  • Make sure the company has a physical location. Make sure you have the company’s address and phone number. Before making a purchase, call the number to verify the information you were supplied on the company’s web page.
  • Determine the company’s refund and return policies.
  • Be smart about creating passwords. If you are required to create an account with a password, never use the same password you use for other accounts or sites. Don’t reveal your password in response to unsolicited emails.
  • Never give out your social security number or personal bank account information.
  • Print out a copy of your order and confirmation number for your records.
  • Know your rights! The same laws protect you in cyberspace that protect you when you shop by phone or mail.
  • Only use secure servers. You can tell a secure server by the presence of the whole security key (not broken) symbol at the bottom of the screen.

Clothes Shopping Tips

Americans, on average, spend approximately 5% of their net income on clothing and its care. How much you spend should be determined or related to the amount of wear the item will receive. The more times you wear it, the cheaper it becomes.

Money Saving Clothing Tips:

    • Visit thrift and consignment stores for bargains.
      • Trendy clothing will go out of style before you get full wear out of it.
      • Buy second-hand maternity and children’s clothes.
        • Take good care of your clothes.
          • Mothproof your woolens when you store them for the summer months.
          • Wash silk blouses and sweaters in cold water. They may not need to be dry-cleaned.
          • Don’t use too much laundry detergent; it will weaken the fibers in your clothing.
        • Shop wisely.
          • Coordinate your wardrobe with interchangeable pieces.
          • Take time at the beginning of each season to determine what needs to be added to your wardrobe and how it will fit in with what you already have.
          • Choose darker color outerwear for less frequent dry cleaning.
        • Don’t forget about your shoes.
          • Have shoes resoled to prolong the life of the shoes.
          • Have tips put on the bottom of shoes to save the heel from wearing.
          • Spray shoes and purses with weather protector.
          • Keep an old pair of shoes in the car to wear when driving.

Appliance Shopping Tips

Buying a major appliance, such as a new refrigerator, stove, or hot water heater is a major expense in a family’s budget. Ask yourself the following questions before you shop for major appliances:

        • How much capacity or performance does your family need?
        • Which extra/costly features are unnecessary?
        • How large is the space allotted for the appliance?
        • Are there any physical limitations that must be considered?
        • Which style do you prefer?
        • Which style will be the most energy efficient?

Things To Consider When Buying:

Dishwashers –

        • Style
          • Do you need an under-the-counter or portable dishwasher? You’ll need a portable model if you lack counter space. A portable dishwasher offers the most flexibility because it can be used either way.
        • Size
          • Don’t choose a dishwasher that’s too big for your needs; why spend extra money if you don’t have to? Carefully measure the area where it will be installed before ordering.
        • Cleaning Cycles
          • A flexible wash cycle can mean energy savings to you.

Gas/Electric Ranges –

        • Gas or Electric
          • How is your house set up? You will need to consider the cost to run a gas line or electric line and figure that in the cost of the stove.
        • Traditional coil burner ranges are the least expensive to buy.
        • Gas ranges cost a bit more to buy, but they are less expensive to operate than electric models.

Microwaves –

        • It is generally wise to choose the largest size microwave that will fit in your kitchen. It will accommodate your largest dishes and grow with your needs. The more power your microwave has, the faster it will cook your food. Compare the watts when shopping for a microwave. Average power is 800 watts. General range available is 600-1100 watts.

Refrigerators –

        • Design
          • Top Freezer – These models are easy to find and are inexpensive to buy and operate.
          • Bottom Freezer – These models are not as common, so they may be a bit more expensive. They are very inexpensive to operate because they are very energy efficient.
          • Side-By-Side – These models are more expensive to buy and operate than a top freezer.
        • Size
          • Evaluate your present and future needs when selecting size. In general, refrigerators with a capacity between 18 – 21 cu. ft. are popular choices and sufficient for most households.
        • Ice Makers and Water Dispensers
          • Ice making units actually help you save electricity. Many people spend more time with the door open to make or get ice cubes than for any other reason. Models that allow you to get ice and water through the door help cut down on the frequency of opening the doors altogether, saving you more electricity.

Back To School Shopping Tips

For moms and dads, the end of summer means that it’s back to school time. Back-to-school shopping can wreak havoc on both a parent’s nerves and wallet. You can prepare your kids for school without breaking the bank. In addition, your children can actually benefit from the shopping experience. School shopping is a great opportunity to teach kids how to be wise consumers.

Determine What Needs To Be Purchased:

        • Go through each child’s closet and have them try on clothes to see what still fits.
        • Where possible, repair current clothes; buttons, patches, zippers, etc.
        • Compile a list of clothing and accessories to be purchased for each child, involving your child in the process. Include items such as backpacks, lunch boxes, shoes, etc.
        • Create a master list of school supplies for all of your children. These can be purchased together.

Set Budgets:

        • Decide on appropriate dollar amounts to spend on each child.
        • Estimate the total expense for the items currently on your list. If you are over-budget, look for places to trim.
        • With your child, set priorities on purchases. Explain the amount you have to spend. If there is a particular item they have to have, help them adjust their budget elsewhere.
        • Encourage your children to save some money for after the school year begins. That way, they will still have funds for an overlooked ‘must-have’ item.

Shop Smart:

        • Start setting aside money as soon as possible so you don’t have to foot the whole bill at once. Whenever possible, pay with cash. If you must charge items, make sure you can pay off your charges within three months.
        • Take each child separately shopping for clothes.
        • Comparison shop. Shop early for school uniforms. The stores may run out of your child’s required colors or size.
        • Many schools run uniform exchange programs.
        • Check out consignment stores.
        • Watch for sales on school supplies, clothes and shoes.

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