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January 15, 2008

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We usually use a list when grocery shopping, and it usually works (but we always forget something. One thing that helps make the list is that we make a menu for the next pay period (for us, around 2 weeks). We don't always stick to the menu, but it's a great help, and seriously cuts down on how often we eat out (another money saver!) BTW, Costco gives out free cookbooks during the holidays; the '07 edition is the first one I've gotten, and it's pretty good.

We've been trying this method for our trips to Target. It seemed like we were going a couple times a week and spending $40-50 each time no matter what we "needed". I convinced the wife to start a list on Sunday, update it throughout the week and we would try to wait until the following Friday night or Saturday to do our weekly trip.

Of course, last Saturday (the first in our experiment) we spent $100, but we were out of a lot of stuff that will last longer than a week.

My wife not only makes a list, but also puts the list in store aisle order. She knows all of the grocery stores around us and whichever one she goes to, she will put it in that stores order so that she can go from one side to the other in one pass, hitting only the aisles she needs to and not miss anything on the list. I don't know how she does it, but that saves a lot of time. We both rarely go to the grocery store hungry, but if we do, we acknowledge it to each other and help each other with avoiding the spur-of-the-moment items. I typically do the short trips to the store, with a list. I can get in, get what I need, and get out much quicker than my wife (I'm a guy. I'm like that). We also make up our menu for a week at a time (only a week because fresh veggies don't last very long). It really helps with the budget AND the waistline because we know that we are eating healthy food.

Just a pet peeve here with point number two.

Putting you spending on an hourly basis works for many items, but assuming you go into the store with a list and purchase only what's on the list, cutting your shopping down from an hour to half an hour will result in you spending going up to $200 an hour (assuming your list has a total cost of $100).

I understand that the idea of limiting time to reduce the chance of impulse purchases. I'm just not a fan of trying to post it as a cost per unit time for the above reason.

When I shop I tend to take much longer than my fiancee becuase I spend time analyzing the unit costs of several varieties of each item, which is normally easy to do except that most places do not update the unit prices to include sale prices.

I eventually plan on getting a PDA (for many other reasons) and using it to build a databas of the normal prices of items at several stores to use when comparing ssale prices or the prices at Wholesale clubs.

Adam,
FMF states:
"The book also notes this in its next tip as it says that typical consumers spend almost $100 per hour while shopping."

While I have not read the book, I guess this $100/hour shopping is an industry average. That is, on average grocery shoppers purchase groceries at the rate of $100.00 per hour. This says nothing to specific individuals with plans & lists. I would like to see that number broken down into planned vs. impulse velocities as well as an overall velocity.

I have worked in the headquarters of a general merchandise retailer and they put a fair amount of resources into planning and analyzing their marketing strategies and use a fair number of psychological quirks to try to stimulate us to buy (stores attempt to funnel traffic in & out of the store in certain patterns for reason that go beyond shrink control). The longer you are in a store the more susceptible you are, but with a solid plan you minimize your exposure and stiffen their resistance to their gimmickry. It isn't about tracking one's grocery money velocity.

Your idea to analyze & observe unit costs is a good one. I have a Palm Pilot and every time we are in the store I collect a few data points for a spreadsheet database I have as well as using receipts. If you are gathering data points to determine unit prices to the nearest thousandth of a cent, I doubt most of the gimmicks will have an effect.

Another "rule of 30" is "you'll spend at least $30 everytime you go into Wal-Mart." (Source: my brother, and similar to Kevin's post above.) I'll add my vote for FMF's point #3 - "batch and save" plan.

I am reading a fantastic book: "Gotcha Capitalism" by Bob Sullivan. I found it in my local B&N and I couldn't put it down. It is not only useful, it is very entertaining...

Definately make a dinner list for the upcoming week and stick to it. Also, making more than you can eat at dinner will help spending money on lunch foods if you don't mind eating leftovers.

#1 is a killer at Costco for me. I go in with a list and it is so HARD to stick to. That DVD for $9.99 or some tasty looking food. That place is a major budget blower.

Besides a list, I find that carrying cash is one of the best ways to curb spending. I can usually estimate the cost of my purchases from my list, and only carry that amount of cash on me. Otherwise, I can "pay" for extra purchases using a credit card, and wind up blowing my budget.

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