With this economy, many of us have lost jobs, taken pay cuts or taken jobs for less money. Unfortunately, basic necessities like groceries, gas, electricity, housing and even toilet paper are getting more expensive. I used to not think twice about some of my purchases. But now I think three and four times before placing some items in my cart. I find myself asking if I really need that or do I really need that now? Can I fix the old one or replace it with a cheaper one? These are questions I consider before walking up to the register anymore.
When budgeting money, being able to honestly distinguish between your needs and wants becomes very important. For example, its easy to see how food, gas, housing and toilet paper are needs. But, your cell phone - is that a need or a want? Cable television - is that a need or a want? You may think you need those items, but unless you need your cell phone for work, those are wants. Sure, we all want a new car, new clothes, new phones, but being able to honestly assess those items is crucial to staying within your budget. And, even for those items that you really, really want, create a budget for your purchase. Sometimes if you have to wait a couple months to purchase something it loses its excitement. If you've lived without it for this long, you'll most likely survive another couple months without it. And, if you saved and budgeted for that special new thing, you'll appreciate it even more as you head to the register.
- Plan meals. Its really that simple. By choosing five healthy meals for the week you'll know exactly what you need to buy. And, for those other two days in the week, you've got leftovers. You might even have lunch. Once you know what you need, often you find you already have most of those ingredients. Don't forget to check your cupboards when planning meals. You might already have the makings for a couple meals.
- Bring a list. If you've followed my advice on planning meals, you'll know exactly what needs to be on your list. And don't deviate from this list. Get exactly what you need and get out as quickly as possible. There is a direct correlation between the amount of time in the store and the amount of items piled in your cart... at least in my case.
- Consider generic. For some basic staples like canned or frozen goods, cereals and pastas, give generic a try. Often you'll find the generic versions to be just as good.
- Never shop while hungry. Only if you've recently arrived from another planet would you have not heard this. I only repeat it because it is so true and one of the easiest ways to escape the budget-busting impulse buys