If you are anything like me, January brings a re-examination of your financial priorities. It is a great month to look back, not just at the extravagances of Christmas, but at where your money was spent the whole year. We have been using iBank to help us in that process. This job of planing a budget for this year, and looking at how your money was spent last year can be both depressing and yet contain pleasant surprises! But, facing the facts of your situation is the first way to change it. Like most of you, there are areas where we did badly last year, and areas where we did better than we thought (we spent a whole lot less on going out to the movies than I thought we would have for example!) On the subject of spending money, it is so easy to forget that spending just five pounds a day mounts up to £1800 per year!
My wife does most of the food shopping for us, so perhaps not surprisingly that was an area where we were actually pretty good at controlling our expenditure last year. But it is an area that it is important to continue to keep check of. Especially if you live in the UK there is a great way to keep on top of your spending in supermarkets, don’t go!
I have found that if I do go food shopping I can easily spend over twice what my wife would do on the same trip. Those jolly Supermarkets are designed to entice you to spend more than you planned. How often is it said that you only went in for a pint of milk, and come out with half the shop? Increasingly such shops also have clothes, and other goodies that it is so easy to just slip into the basket only to have a heart attack when you are told the total at the checkout.
Thanks to the wonders of online grocery ordering it is possible to severely curtail these impulse purchases. We have dabbled in this in the past, but a renewed commitment to control our outgoings further, avoid the extra cost of me going to the supermarket, and increased busyness of life have led us to decide to use online shopping a whole lot more this year! Of course if this helps us to throw less food away it may also help with reducing our contribution to appalling food wastage.
Here in the UK the online grocery delivery market is very well advanced. The USA does seem to be a bit behind on this as far as I can tell. For example, Walmart USA only offers a beta of this service and only in some areas. In the UK most of the major supermarkets offer delivery to almost every address in the country. In the process of buying our food this way we are also giving a job to drivers and those that pick the food out, which is surely good for Society.
How can Internet shopping for your groceries save you money despite the modest delivery charge? The answer is simple, by looking at your basket you can see a running total of what you have ordered. If that gets too high, you can much more easily delete something from your basket than put it back from your physical trolley. Some UK Supermarkets can even load your most recent shops in store into their online system (Asda, and Tescos definitely have a way of doing this). That way you can track what you bought last time. Of course, like most tips, all this will only save you money if you are careful! Just because you are at home doesn’t mean you won’t be tempted to add things you really don’t need, or that you will magically remember to switch where possible to cheaper alternatives. Also, be wary of setting yourself too stringent a goal. If you don’t buy all your food in one go in an effort to save money, and instead end up having to go to an expensive corner store and do impulse shopping there, this whole process might loose you money not save! One more tip is to be careful about the sizes of items you are buying. It’s so easy to get a larger or smaller packet by mistake!
Today I want to introduce you to a step further in the level of sophistication. Given the choice of supermarkets available to you, how do you know which is going to be the cheapest for you to use? Enter MySupermarket.co.uk which comes with a strong recommendation from the King of money saving websites, MoneySavingExpert.com. We used this for the first time this week, and it was really helpful.
Using MySupermarket.co.uk is very simple. You can immediately register using Facebook, or you create an account. You then select a supermarket to begin shopping with. Then, you can use the quick shop feature to type in a simple shopping list. It will then show you the options available for your purchase. The way all this is laid out it is so much easier to scroll through all the options and figure out which is cheapest than in the average online store. Sometimes it really pays to buy a larger item to get a reduced price per 100g or 100ml or whatever. Different brand names can sometimes be twice as expensive for basically the same thing. And of course, for many items own-brand alternatives can be bought for less money too.
The first thing that MySupermarket.co.uk does to really help you happens at the point of you entering an item into the basket. It will sometimes warn you that it is possible to “switch and save” that item for something else that is much cheaper but equivalent. For example if you were buying two small packets of rice, but one larger one was cheaper it would warn you…something no Internet Retailer’s website will do.
As you continue your shopping you will also notice that at the side of the page, under the cost of the goods you currently have in your basket is the cost that the same basket would cost you at an alternative store. If after a while you notice that a worthwhile saving could be had, you can change your entire basket to a different supermarket! This is a fantastic feature. We discovered that for us Asda could save us significantly more than 10% compared to some of the others. We don’t even have an Asda near enough to us to realistically drive to, but they are more than happy to deliver so that is who we chose. Perhaps next week, however, one of the other stores will be cheaper. If so we can easily switch and use them. We even saved our shopping list so that we can use it as a basis for the next weeks shop.
The average family could probably save hundreds or perhaps thousands of pounds (or dollars!) this year if they resolved to always use MySupermarket.co.uk for their weekly shop, and to be so organized that they can also avoid popping to corner stores for things they forgot to buy (or at least vastly reduce such potentially expensive visits!)
If you like the sound of this, give it a whirl, let us know how you get on below. What other money-saving tips can you pass on to beat those post-Christmas budget blues?
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