How to Save on Groceries: Shop at More than One Store

For years, I would only shop at one store a week. I blamed it on having limited time, and little ones to cart around. I didn’t realize how much it was costing me to pour all of my money into one store. After noticing other stores weekly ads and doing a little research online, I thought I could actually save quite a bit by shopping at a discount market for some of our staples. I also got a membership to a big box store to buy some items in bulk. Now my grocery shopping routine looks like this:

  • Once a week for produce and milk: big chain grocery store (i.e. Kroger, Whole Foods)
  • Twice a month for big shopping trip after I’ve done our meal plan: discount store (i.e. Aldi, Save-A-Lot, Coopers)
  • Once a month for non-perishables I can buy in bulk: big box store (i.e. Costco, Sam’s Club)

What about you…do you shop at more than one store?

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How to Save on Groceries

Let’s face it, we all have to eat. It’s a fact of life. If we want to live, we must feed ourselves.

Luckily for us, we have a great deal of options when it comes to food. We can decide where to get our food, how much we want to spend on food, what types of food we want to eat, etc. When it comes to budgeting, food is something that must be considered and included into any good monthly budget. With a little thought and planning, we could drastically decrease the amount we spend each month on food. For the next few weeks, we will be talking about different things we can do to make savings happen.

First things first, you must make a budget. If you do not have a budget, read the small series on budgeting, then meet me back here. To come up with the number to budget for groceries/eating out, look back at the past few months and start there. Chances are, over the next few months you will be able to shave that number down, but start where you are now.

Once you have a fixed amount to spend on groceries for the month, I recommend getting the money out of the bank at the beginning of the month. If you see how much money you have to spend, you are less likely to overspend. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. You will be force to plan and allocate accordingly to stretch your money for the month.

After a few months of using cash, it becomes fun! It’s a game to see if you can make it to the end of the month (the first month you might eat Ramen Noodles for the last week!), or even have money left over!

Next week, we will talk about something that I love to do and have been doing for about six years now…meal planning! Your homework for this week is to come up with a realistic, workable grocery budget. Have a great week!

from the archives

How to Conquer Credit Cards

There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence so important, as living within your means.

-Calvin Coolidge

We’ve all done it. We approach the check out line with three gorgeous pairs of shoes (insert your weakness here…tractors, electronics, etc. Pick your poison.) and the cashier offers us a deal we can’t refuse…10% off if we open a credit card. Not only do we save 10%, but we don’t actually have to pay for it yet. And with one little signature, we have entered into the world of credit card debt, a dark, scary place that most of us find ourselves trapped in for quite some time. Hook. Line. Sinker.

In March of 2011, the average credit card debt per household reached a staggering $14,743. Cardholders have on average more than 3 credit cards with average interest rates of 14.83%. We start our relationship with the credit cards in college, and unfortunately do not break up with them for years. It’s so easy to make the minimum payment every month, not touching the principle owed, while sky-high interest compounds daily. We’ve all heard Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman yell at us about the desperate need for everyone to cut up their cards and get rid of their debt, but it’s much easier said than done. So how do you stop the vicious cycle?

We spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to make impressions that don’t last, on people we don’t care about.

-Tim Jackson

  1. Stop Spending. Again, easier said than done. If you do not have money set aside in an emergency fund, you might be turning to the card for every out of the ordinary expense. It’s time to put the brakes on spending and get rid of the card. The first step to paying off credit card debt, is to stop increasing credit card debt. Debt is just a symptom of the underlying problem of overspending and undersaving. Peace of mind and financial freedom comes when we learn to live within our means, and that begins with a step back to consider how we spend the money we have.
  2. Consider Your Options. When it comes to paying off debt, you have to know exactly how much you owe first. Make a list of all of your cards, along with the balance and interest rate. After you know what you are dealing with, you have a few options.
    • Borrow money from savings. This is a controversial way to pay off credit card debt depending on your investment philosophy. The plus side is that the gain is higher using the money to pay off debt than it will earn sitting in a savings account. For example, if you have $1000 on a credit card at 18% interest and $1000 in a savings account earning 4%. To pay off the credit card balance plus one month of interest would be an extra $180, versus the $40 you would earn on the money sitting in a savings account. That’s a savings of $140 in interest! The bad side of paying with savings is that it depletes your savings account. Without money in your savings account/emergency fund, you are more likely to turn to a credit card when an unexpected expense comes up (i.e. air conditioning goes out in the car).
    • Negotiate with the credit card company. A simple phone call to the credit card company could save you several interest points. Call and ask for a better interest rate and they will most likely work with you.
    • Balance transfer offers. This is another controversial way to pay off credit card debt. Several credit card companies will offer a special introductory offer to new card members in which you can transfer balances from other cards at 0% for a certain time period. This could be a reasonable offer if you have good credit and you are absolutely positive that the balance will be paid by the time the offer ends (i.e. You have a balance of $2000 and you are planning to pay it off with your annual $5000 year end bonus). Beware of transfer fees (usually anywhere from 3-5%), annual card fees and the end of the promotional period.
    • Debt consolidation loan from your local bank. If you have good credit and a good relationship with your local bank, you might be eligible for an unsecured loan to consolidate and pay off your credit. The benefits are a lower interest rate than the credit card company, and a fixed monthly payment. Beware of the term. If the term is too long, you might pay more in interest than you would have if you would have left the debt with the credit card company.
  1. Make a plan. To get out of debt and stay out of debt, you have to have a plan. Not only do you have to have a plan, you have to be committed to the plan and stick to it.
    • Make a budget. How much do you make each month? How much do you spend? There are several tools available to help you with budgeting, my favorite being pearbudget.com. After you know what you make and what you spend, examine what you can cut out. Any extra money can go toward…
    • Debt snowball. Factored into your monthly budget should be your debt snowball. Snowballing is a simple way to paying off debt, starting with the debt with the highest interest rate. For example, you have three cards, A, B and C. A has an interest rate of 20%, B of 18% and C of 14%. According to your budget, you can afford to put $150 toward your debt snowball and the minimum payments on B and C are $50. Your snowball amount would go toward card A, while you would pay the minimum on B and C. Once card A is paid, you would move onto card B, paying the minimum $50 plus the $150 debt snowball you were paying on card A. Once card B is paid off, move onto card C paying the debt snowball amount of $150, plus the minimum on card B, $50, plus the minimum of $50 that you were paying on card C. By the time card C is paid off, your snowball would have reached $250. After all your credit card debt is paid off, you can use the debt snowball you created to put toward your…
    • Emergency Fund. It’s recommended that you have 3-6 months of expenses set aside in an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses and emergencies. Having this fund eliminates the temptation to use credit cards, thus wiping out credit card debt for good.

Credit card debt is not easy to conquer, but with a plan and some motivation, you can conquer it for good.

from the archives

Our Condolences

It will go down in history as one of the events that is so traumatic that you remember exactly what you were doing when you heard the news.

I was sitting on my couch at home. I had just finished homeschooling my kids and putting a load of laundry into the dryer. I sat down for a moment of quiet…and a quick check in with the outside world via Facebook. First, I read about the officer that was killed on duty in Memphis. She had four babies. Girls, like mine. As if that wasn’t heartbreaking enough, I kept scrolling only to find the name of a small Connecticut town over and over again in my feed. I brushed it off the first few times I saw it, but then saw the words “shooting” and “elementary school” and “kindergarteners” and that was enough for me to click the news link.

Tears. No words. Babies. Just babies.

In the midst of these heartbreaking days, let us wrap this community with prayers. Our President offered comforting words at the vigil held on Sunday. From everyone at The Bank, we offer our deepest condolences to the families affected by these tragedies. If you would like to help financially with the family of Officer Martoyia Lang, please click here.

Fayette County Cotton Festival

It’s that time of year again! On September 8, 2012, the 13th annual Fayette County Cotton Festival is coming to the Somerville, TN town square. This a wonderful local event that’s great for the whole  family. There will be a children’s art contest that will be open to children in grades K-6 enrolled in Fayette county schools (public or private, or homeschooled students living in Fayette county). On August 18, there will be the Ms. Fayette County Cotton Festival Beauty Pageant held at First Baptist Church in Oakland. There will also be the annual Cotton Pickin 5K (my very first 5K I ever completed!), benefitting Fayette Cares, held at 8:30am on September 8 at First United Methodist Church. Follow any of the links to get more information for any of these events or to register online. Registration is also open for vendors, sponsors and volunteers. Everyone come out and have fun at the Cotton Festival!

Tax Free Weekend

Every year, Tennessee offers a tax holiday beginning the first Friday of August and ending Sunday night. This year, tax free weekend will begin on Friday, August 3 at12:01am and end on Sunday, August 5 at 11:59pm. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • All clothing with a price of $100 or less per item is tax free. This includes jackets, school uniforms, jeans, and all other clothing. It does not include accessories such as jewelry and bags.
  • All school supplies with a price of $100 or less per item is tax free. This includes art supplies, backpacks, lunch boxes, and any other supplies. It does not include instructional materials, such as textbooks.
  • All computers with a price tag of less $1500 are tax free. This includes laptops, desktops and tablets and their included equipment. It does not include additional software, storage devices, e-readers, printers, etc.

Make sure to take advantage of this weekend! I’m sure stores will be packed, so plan to go early. For more information on what is exempt and what is not, click here.

Celebrating the 4th of July

I hope that you are all staying cool in this heat! Triple digit temps must mean that the 4th is right around the corner! The 4th is a great holiday to reflect on the huge blessing it is to live in a country like ours. May we never forget that! It’s also a great time to take some time off with you family and get out of town. We are usually on vacation the week of the 4th, but I wanted to get a list together of some local events that you can take advantage of. If your town is offering a fireworks display or any other public event, please let me know so I can add them to our list. Here ya go!

– Oakland- fireworks tomorrow night at West Junior High
– Memphis area- click here for a post from the I Love Memphis blog that includes all the Memphis area 4th activities (including Collierville)

Please be mindful of your town’s laws on noise and fireworks while enjoying the holiday. Have a wonderful and safe 4th of July!

Local Farmers’ Markets

We are privileged to live in an area abundant in locally grown foods. The easiest way to support these local farmers is to shop at any of our many area farmers’ markets. Farmers’ markets are not exclusive to food, they also provide handmade crafts and family activities, depending on your location. Visiting a local market is a great way to support your community and spend time with your family (and get a little grocery shopping done while you’re at it!). Here is a list of some of our local farmers’ markets:

  • Fayette County Farmers’ Market- This market is open Tuesday and Friday mornings in the parking lot across the street from the Methodist church in Somerville. They offer organic foods, crafts and locally grown produce.
  • The Agricenter’s Farmers’ Market- This market is the only one in the area open six days a week, May-October. It’s probably also the largest.
  • Arlington Open Air Market- This market is open on Fridays and Saturdays all day at 12015 Walker Street in Arlington.
  • Bolivar’s Farmers’ Market- This market is located at the corner or Lafayette and Washington and is open from 7am until sell-out on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
  • Selmer Farmers’ Market- This market is available everyday for any farmers that would like to come. Located at 100 Front Street near the park.

Let’s try to get out this weekend and support our local farmers!

Local Libraries

Going to the library is one of our favorite things to do. Libraries are free and they cater to any age. We are privileged to have many local libraries that offer numerous services for free. Most libraries have summer reading programs, book clubs and story-times for children, as well as activities for adults. My kids love to hear a very animated librarian read them a story. Their love of books is contagious! Libraries aren’t just for books, they also have magazines, movies, audiobooks and many other types of media available for check out. Most libraries also have several e-books available to “check out” on your e-reader (Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc.). Here is a list of some of the libraries close by:

  • Fayette County Library, 216 W. Market Street, Somerville
  • Jack McConnico Memorial Library, 225 Oakgrove Road, Selmer
  • Bolivar-Hardeman County Library, 213 N. Washington Street, Bolivar
  • Lucius and Elsie Burch Library, 501 Poplar View Parkway, Collierville
  • Benjamin L Hooks Central Library, 3030 Poplar Avenue, Memphis

*If you have never been to the Benjamin Hooks Central Library, you are missing a treat! Their children’s section is a child’s dream!