Organized to Save

by Bonnie Rice


If you're afraid that getting rid of clutter means you won't have those things when you need them and that is will cost you money to have space, don't be! Getting organized (and losing a lot of clutter) will save you money more than it will cost to replace almost anything you're likely to toss while decluttering. And it will make it easier to find the things that we really value or need when we need them!

So how do I save all this money? The obvious answers are the hard things like clipping coupons and rebate forms and remembering to use them. Once you are organized this should be easier.

The less obvious answers are actually easier like putting the keys in the same place every day so you don't have to have another set made when you can 't find them or like paying attention to how you spend your money.

It's not so difficult to put things "away", it just takes a minute to establish a convenient spot, and if the spot is convenient enough, you will use it. The experts say that if you do something every day for a month, it will become a habit you won't even have to think about doing it. Think carefully about where you want to put each item to make it easy enough to use that place.

Keeping track of how you spend your money can take just a few minutes each week planning your shopping and taking stock of it when it is done.

As you clean, you find a lot of items needing to be "put away" in the house. Do you have trouble deciding where to put those things? The concept of a "place for everything" may seem rather drastic. Take it one item at a time. Find a permanent place for the scissors, the tape, the can opener, your keys, whatever other small things you are always looking for or that you have bought extras when you couldn't find them. Think about use. Where do you usually use the item?

Don't put it in the place where everyone else does, or where your parents did put it where it will be handy next time you want to use it, and where there is a reasonable chance that you will put it back when you are done! (Strange concept, but it works!) So how much will that save me? Well, even if you don't value your time spent hunting (and you should) consider the cost of replacing those items when you fail to find them. They're just a dollar here or two dollars there, but it adds up.

And nothing adds up faster than groceries. I've gone into a grocery store to pick up bread and milk and a few things for dinner and spent $50 or more. So if being organized can help save on groceries, that should add up pretty nicely. Right? And you may have clipped hundreds of coupons for that purpose but you have to use them to get the benefit, and there are more steps you can take to save grocery money.

The first tip is to create a complete grocery list and stick to it a lot of impulse buying is for overpriced, over-processed snack foods, so don't do it. If, on the other hand, you discover that your store is having a special on some staple that you can store and use write that on your list while you are in the store. (Did you know that you can write on your shopping list in the store?) One trick you might try is to carry a small cookbook or your meal-plan so that you can make sure you buy items to make a complete meal with what you find on special.

Put a copy of your list into a notebook and write just one item on each line. As you go through the store, write down the price you actually pay for each item. (Bonus, if you write things down as you go through the store and notice that the price scans incorrectly, you may get a special price from the store-some will double the difference back or even give you the item free.) If the item comes in various sizes, write down the size you bought. (Use the margins or a calculator to figure out which items are actually cheapest by weight or by piece.)

For some items you may know what you usually pay, but for other items you might be surprised. A lot of us have certain items that we don't think about produce, dairy, and meat are items we need, right? But you can choose produce that is in season when the price is low and the quality high. You can choose lower priced brands of dairy products you may not notice any difference at all. And you can find good sales on various cuts of meat depending on supply and demand.

Some Tricks

  1. Sometimes you pay more than twice as much for the larger package even if it isn't more than twice as big. Sometimes you can get 3 one pound bags of carrots for the price of one two pound bag. (Strange, but true). If you can 't do these in your head, there are some very small and very inexpensivecalculators that will do it for you. The formula to plug into the calculator: Price of the first item divided by (/) number or weight of same item compare to: Price of second item divided by (/) number or weight of second item. Buy the one that comes to the lower price per weight or per piece.

  2. Figure meat prices based on serving price how much it will cost to feed the family one meal. The per pound prices of bone-in and boneless meats can be confusing, so just think how much it will take to feed the family and what that costs. Some "expensive" boneless cuts aren't as bad as they look.

  3. Watch for specials on shredded cheese. Shredded cheese has a relatively short shelf life in the refrigerator (though it freezes fine) so if the grocery store gets too much, they will sell it for less per pound than the bricks. You'll want to freeze or use it quickly, but it does save the time and trouble of shredding it if you use it that way. (To freeze shredded cheese, spread it on a baking sheet and place in the freezer for a couple hours, then pack lightly in freezer containers or Baggies. A little flour or cornstarch stirred in prevents sticking. I have frozen bags of shredded cheese unopened with good results.)

  4. Produce that is chopped for use (mushrooms, peppers, onions, etc.) can also be chopped and frozen. If you use these in cooking, consider stocking up when there are specials instead of just paying the going rate when you need them.

Now, about that notebook: when you get it home, look through it. Were there any surprises? Were you pretty much aware of prices or didn't you really think about it? The "Price Book" is going to become a regular part of your grocery shopping. Each time you go shopping, you will fill in the prices of the items you buy. You don't have to do this in the store, it can be done by using the register tape when you get home. You might not think you need the book, but everything you do that helps you to be more aware of your spending habits can help you to save money. Aware is the secret. If the entries in the book are pretty consistent, you won't need to keep writing them down, but do jot down any specials and the dates (you might notice some patterns you'll be able to use later).

Once you know what you buy, you may want to start clipping coupons. There are all kinds of ideas on coupons, but you really have to decide for yourself if they are worth the effort and time. They do save money if used carefully. Some tips on coupons and rebates:

  1. Use coupons when the coupon brings the price of the item lower than the price of other brands you would use if it's still the most expensive brand with 25 cents off, don't bother! Wait until it goes on sale to use the coupon don't spend more just to get rid of that piece of paper.

  2. Use coupons on items where you have a brand preference (if you're buying that brand anyhow, take the cents off). This is the one reason for using coupons that don't bring the price lower than the competition if the other brand just isn't the same, it's better to spend what you have to on something you'll actually use than to buy the cheap brand and let it rot in the cupboard.

  3. Consider rebates if you are aware of them when comparing prices. Consider the costs of postage when you think
    about rebates.

  4. Save coupons only if you might reasonably expect to use them. There are coupon exchanges if you insist on clipping all of them, but filing them until they expire is a waste of your time and space.

  5. Do not buy anything just because you have a coupon and it's cheap. If you won't use it (whether it's a product you don't use or a brand you don't care for) you are wasting your money. (I know people who buy pet food on sale when they don't even have a pet you never know, it might come in handy some day!)

  6. Turn your coupon file over to a child from time to time sorting for expired coupons is good practice. This is also something you could do while sitting in a waiting room or even while waiting in line at the store if you have some kind of container to hold the expired coupons. The cashier probably has a waste basked where you can dump them when you get there.

As you are organizing your weekly plan, consider any store specials that might make one day a better grocery day than others some stores have specials on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, so if you can get to the store even late at night or early in the morning on one of those days, you may be able to pick up some extra specials. Stores are also less crowded in the middle of the week as well as in the middle of the night so you'll save time and perhaps you'll be better able to concentrate on what you are doing.

The grocery store isn't the only place you can save money by being aware of prices and by knowing what you really want or need as opposed to buying whatever you see that looks good at the moment.

Start paying attention to your other purchases. Are there days when your favorite department store or discount store has more specials? If you pay attention, you might notice opportunities everywhere. Be aware of what you spend on clothing and other items and watch for real specials you might be surprised to find that what are marked as specials are really not so special.

Plan ahead for any large purchase and shop around. If you make impulse buys or wait until the last minute, you will buy whatever is available and pay whatever is asked. If you plan ahead, you will know a good deal when you see one, and you will be able to take advantage of it.

If you are tempted to make an impulse purchase, write the item and the price in your price book instead and check on your next two shopping trips to see what the best deal is on that item. If you still want it, you'll know what to expect to pay.

Buy in quantity if the sale is good and if you have room to store the items. Don't just stash your supplies, store them where you will be able to find and use them when you need them. Write down perhaps in your price book, that you have made the bulk purchase and where you are storing the items if you look at the price book the next time you "run out" you will see the notation and be reminded not to buy more.

Start that price book immediately. If you don't have to go grocery shopping this week, at least get your grocery list into a notebook. You can also get a head start by using old register tapes admit it, some of you have piles of them (our elementary school collects them so we keep them), right?

Choose any of the other tips the next time you are shopping and save some money for yourself. Spend some of that money on a reward for your efforts you deserve it!


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