It’s January. That time of year when people set resolutions and often times one of those is to get finances under control. While the best place to begin may be making cutbacks and creating a budget, I also wanted to touch base on the little things that can add-up over time. There are so many little changes that can be made that can add up to huge savings when you make them a part of your lifestyle.
The first one I want to start with is to always keep your house inventoried, as I call it, to prevent unnecessary purchases and/or waste. I’m not only referring to your basic foods kept in your fridge, freezer or food pantry but also places such as your bathroom cabinets and wherever it is that you store your cleaning supplies.
In the past when I have run out of stock of something in my house and I’d have to go out and pay full-price for it, I would get upset at myself for allowing such a silly thing to happen. But when you stop and think about all the things you, and your family, use in the course of a month, you’ll discover that you are doing a pretty good job of keeping up with things.
But pretty good doesn’t equal big savings either. So let’s look at how to prevent such a thing from happening. Your end goal is to never have to pay full-price for anything!
The first place to start is to roll up your sleeves and dig right in there to your pantry shelves. There’s no way of knowing what you need if you don’t know what you already have. As you are weeding through shelf after shelf, you’ll be mystified at what you may find. You’ll be excited over the foods and items you didn’t have a clue were lurking there and you’ll get angry over allowing several things to have expired and are now useless. Money lost. Smile over your good finds and shake off the money losses for now.
While you are sorting through these cabinets and shelves, take time to organize them in a useful manner. Foods and products you use most should be near the front. Items that are rarely used can be pushed further back. As you are going through the items, pull out anything you see that has an expiration date within a month or two of when you are doing this overhaul. Those items, regardless of type/category, will be moved to a new place that I simply refer to as “Use First!” I have a separate area for these items in my fridge, freezer and cabinet. I find it is much easier to remember to get them used that way.
When you are all done with each cabinet/shelf, grab a sheet of paper and jot down three things: 1) Everything you do have 2) Everything you are low on and 3) Everything you are out of stock on. Yes, this will take some time. When I went through this process, I just did one cabinet per day, over the course of about a week.
Once you are done, not only will you be more organized and have a clean pantry/fridge/freezer/cabinet, but you’ll have also created some very important lists. You see, those lists are going to save you big money over the next month and here’s why.
The first list of things you have (List = things you have) will help you to find meals you can create with things you already have on hand or meals that you can make where you need the least number of items purchased at the store. This is where you test your creativity and open mind to new recipes. We often have one or two months a year where we try to have an “eat from the pantry” challenge and make only meals with what we have on hand, aside from a few random fresh fruits/veggies purchases. It’s a great way to clear out older food and you can take all the money you’d spend on groceries that month and use it for something important, like paying down another bill or having a cushion in the next month’s budget to stockpile up a few great deals you can find.
The second list of things you have (List = items you are low on) will help you to know the items you are going to have to be alert for finding great deals on those items. These are the things you’ll want to look for coupons for and watch the sale ads for a hot price on them.
The third and last list (List = items you are out-of-stock on) are those things you need to add to this week’s grocery/household shopping trip. You’ll want to scour the ads for the best price you can find that week. If it’s something you use quite often, you’ll then want to add it to your “low inventory” list and mark it “watch for stockpile price” so you won’t run out of them again.
I try to do this inventory check each quarter, about every 3-4 months. It’s a great way to weed out expired items and take note of things you can use soon to save you money in the long run. If you keep up with this quarterly (or monthly if you have time!) inventory habit, you will never run out of things you need and you’ll always be getting the best prices for things that you use. Apply this inventory process to everything including food, medicine, paper products, cleaning supplies, clothing items, household needs, pet supplies, etc.
Don’t be discouraged by the amount of time it will take you to do this the first time. It will get easier each time you do it as you’ll find yourself getting more organized and also needing to write down less low and no-stock items.
This is just the first step in helping you to save more money. Stay tuned for more little ways to save big!