Shopping with Coupons | Set a Budget

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This is the first baby step of my snacks on Shopping with Coupons: A Beginner’s Guide to Saving. This snack is focused on Setting a Budget specifically for shopping with coupons.

For me, a budget is knowing how much I can spend and a personal measure of success. Our family has a budget for every component of our life: tithing, mortgage, utilities, cars, insurance, debts (soon these will be gone!!), grocery…you get the idea. While I am not going to attempt to convince you that setting a budget is the smart thing to do, hopefully you will see that setting a budget is important to live within your means.

I have shared many, many times that our family grocery budget is $100 per week or $400 for the entire month. This has evolved over the past two years from upwards of $200 per week to as low as $75 per week. Obviously, the $200 number was before I started using coupons. Some of the things I have considered when I/we Set a Budget for our family were:

What items are included in the grocery budget?

For us, this $100/$400 is for all groceries, any household items (cleaning, paper goods), any health & beauty (shampoo, deodorant), baby items (formula, diapers). We don’t have animals but you may want to consider if your animal needs would go into the grocery budget, or possibly have a separate budget set aside for that.

In order to measure your success, you will need to ensure that those items included in our totals are truly part of this budget.

How often am I actually going to shop?

For our family, we stockpile many things so shopping weekly allows me to take advantage of weekly sales to stockpile. I have found that the best way I can achieve big savings is stocking up on items our family consumes the most of (see my Top 5 Tips to Build Your Stockpile). I hit the sales each week to ensure I can have access to the savings.

I truly measure the monthly grocery spend but I do give myself a weekly limit to ensure I don’t go over.

What meals will be included in the budget?

Our family has at least 5 prepared dinner options I menu plan. We also have breakfast and lunch in there too. I pack lunches for my boys and my hubs will take lunch/snacks to work too. All of these have to be considered so you know how much you will need to purchase to make it through the week or month (depending on your shopping frequency).

I measure my success in seeing the pantry/freezer items on my menu plans and knowing those meals were included in my budget.

How often and what am I going to cook?

Going back to meals included in the budget, determining how often you plan on cooking is important to know what types of items to purchase. If you are a heavy red meat family and plan on cooking meals with these meats every night, your cost may be more expensive than others. Our family mixes our meat options between beef and poultry so we have a variety. We tend not to purchase seafood since I am the only one who would eat it and I’m not cooking for one, I am cooking for 5.

My measure of success with this tip is looking back each week to see if I actually executed my menu plans! There is no hiding the fact that this does NOT always happen for me (you know me, full disclosure always)!

How often will you be eating out?

Some families eat out more frequently so their grocery budget may not need to be as high. I have seen where families have a separate “eating out” budget. If this is you, then your budget may be less since your are preparing fewer meals. Right now, we have a small “eating out” budget and it doesn’t impact the money I spend each week since I do prepare several meals.

I measure my success by simply meeting that budget. At times, if I am under in our grocery budget, I will allow those monies to be converted to the “eating out” budget.

Again, these tips are what I have used to establish our grocery budget. I do challenge my process but have found that at the end of the day, this is what has worked for me.

Stay tuned for baby step 2: Get some Coupons.

See all steps in the Beginner’s Guide to Saving by clicking here.

by Savings Lifestyle: Andrea on October 20, 2008

6 Comments

  • Emily - October 20, 2008 @ 11:25 pm
    1

    This is the part I have struggled with the most since I have started couponing, ironically! I think it’s because I don’t always make my grocery budget “weekly,” so instead I’ll do a big trip one week and then the next week only budget for milk, fruit and other necessities – leaving little or nothing for the stockpile deals. I really need to work on this because I will often go over the budget because I CAN’T pass up those deals – even if I do have to take the money from somewhere else.

  • Amy - October 20, 2008 @ 11:36 pm
    2

    This is great, Andrea! I love baby steps and we are working towards keeping our grocery budget low too. I am finding it to be more and more challenging with the rising grocery prices. Thanks for these great reminders!

  • Savings Cafe - October 21, 2008 @ 1:20 pm
    3

    Thanks for the refresher course…ha ha ha!!

  • justusseven - October 21, 2008 @ 3:49 pm
    4

    Very well written post as usual! I linked you: http://momsbyheart.blogspot.com/2008/10/best-of-blogosphere.html

  • kari - October 21, 2008 @ 6:45 pm
    5

    great first baby step. thanks again!!

  • tawnee - September 26, 2011 @ 3:41 pm
    6

    is it best to track spending for a month on individual grocery/etc stops before starting the process to be able to see how much is truly spent on groceries each month? how do most people track this kind of spending? spreadsheet? Trying to figure out really where to start, we are so NOT doing the budget like we should and I really want to work through these steps. Thanks.

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