Saturday, January 16, 2010

10 Tips To Improve Your Grocery Budget In 2010

improve grocery budget
The year 2010 has just started. Have you made any resolution to save money and elimiinate your reckless spending?

Most of us have a habit of making New Year resolutions but we hardly meet any of our targets because our discipline fail us. Especially when it comes to saving money. We give in to temptations when our neighbors upgraded their cars, bought the latest gadgets or renovated their houses.

This year, you may find it easier to economize though as we are still struggling to emerge from greatest financial crisis in decades. There is also the possibility of a double-dip recession, meaning unemployment figures will not recover for years to come.

In order to save more money in 2010, here are ten tips to improve your grocery budget.

1. Monitor prices of commonly bought items

Create a list of products which you buy most frequently and then research the unit price for each item. This is useful for comparing prices when a good sale comes along.

2. Use coupons

When you talk about coupons, it may seem troublesome at first, just to save a few cents or dollars here and there. The coupons have to be cut and kept properly (in envelopes), lest you mix them up or cannot find them.

However, a little organizing and getting used to coupons can overcome your apprehension of coupons. You will save a lot of money in the process (at least 10% of your annual grocery budget). So stop procrastinating and start clipping now.

3. Stockpile your fridge

Who can resist a sale with products being sold at wholesale prices or coupons which offer 30% discount? Keep an eye out for such sales or coupons, and stockpile your fridge with your favorite grocery products.

4. Prepare weekly menus

Check your pantry or fridge for items you already have and plan your weekly menu around them. This will save you the trouble of cooking meals and then realizing you don't have the necessary ingredients.

Rushing out to buy them will always be more expensive as you buy in single, small portions and no discounts are given.

5. Watch for regular sales

Some items go on sales on a cyclical basis, like turkey during the holidays or fruits when they are in season. Watch for these sales and buy enough to hold you over until the next sale.

6. Don’t buy pre-packaged meals

Pre-packaged meals are very convenient as we can just put them into the microwave oven, wait for a few minutes and food is on the table. But they are more expensive and less healthy due to the preservatives and processing involved.

My wife prefers to buy uncooked chicken breasts rather than pre-chopped and cooked chicken.

The convenience comes at a premium, so if you don't want to pay more, just buy as much uncooked chicken as possible and freeze what you don’t need. You can use this approach for pancakes, snacks, bread, etc. too.

7. Join a co-op

A food co-op can reduce your weekly food bill up to 50% by volunteering and buying in bulk.

8. Shop early

Hit the grocery stores before 9 a.m. and you’ll have a better chance of finding sale items, particularly produce, dairy and baked goods.

9. Cut down on meat

Meat is a good source of protein, but it’s expensive. As we get older and lower metabolism, we don't need to consume as much protein in our diets as a budding teenager.

Substitute meat for peas, beans, cheese, and peanut butter to save money at check-out.

10. Use discount gift cards

Gift cards from big-box merchants like Target and WalMart can save money before you even hit the stores.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Have You Cleared Your Holiday Debts?

Have You Cleared Your Holiday Debts?
Have you cleared your holiday debts yet? No, well, the blame game is pointless as the fact remains that you swiped your credit cards for your vacation and shopping. Now your finances in the new year sucks.

Assuming your holiday debt to be $1200, at 12% credit card interest, you have to pay about $100 per month for 13 months.

Do you really want to repay your moment of fun with so many months of hard-earned money? You’ll pay more in interest on the credit card than you will earn if your money is sitting in a bank.

Thus, the best thing is not to incur that debt and the second best option is to write a check to pay off the bill right away.

If you can't do any of the above, here are a couple of debt reduction strategies to implement:

1. Find a new credit card which offers 0% APR on balance transfers. You can save money from not letting the interest accrue while you make payments. Once you’ve got the new card, you should get rid of the old one.

2. Reduce exepnses. There shouldn’t be any unnecessary spending. That means no more dining out, parties, movies, shopping, etc., until the holiday debts have been paid.

3. Channel “extra” money toward the debt. But you say, where are you going to get extra money besides your montly salary?

Remember the rebate checks from your holiday purchases? How about a reimbursement check from last year’s Flexible Spending Account? Sales from selling extra gifts on eBay? Or money from any contests?

Put all these bits of “extra” money toward that credit card bill every now and then, and you will shorten the debt repayment period.

4. Use tax refunds for your holiday debts. You need to get organized with these tax documents and if possible, get an accountant.

Choose the direct deposit option for your refund and you’ll get your money weeks sooner. Once you receive your refund, apply it directly to credit card debt.

If you’re anticipating refunds on a regular basis, consider adjusting your tax withholdings so that your monthly paycheck is larger, and the government isn’t holding on to your money, collecting interest on it.

Put each payday increase into one of those high-interest bearing online bank accounts and earmark your savings for next year’s holiday spending.

By implementing these tactics, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can eliminate your holiday debt and move on with your life. Just remember to plan ahead now for next holiday season, so that the debt monster doesn't rear its ugly head again.