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  • Shopping & Cash Experiment Update – 3/20/2012

    I’m doing a modified all-cash experiment for my grocery and drugstore spending in March. After setting some parameters, my total stood at $291.30 when I gave my last update, 13 days into the month.

    What I’m seeing now is just how much my commitment to organic dairy products for the kids, and hormone- and antibiotic-free meat for our family, impacts my spending. Almost 20% of my $500 monthly budget is committed to organic milk for the boys. (I’ve been buying a lot of single serve cartons since my youngest won’t drink milk at preschool, and I’m loathe to give juice to my older son every day – plus he needs something disposable for one of his two meals at school, and won’t drink water).

    I could also easily spend another 30-40% of my budget on meat and seafood at Whole Foods. (I occasionally find organic chicken on clearance at Vons, and then I buy what’s left. But that happens pretty rarely.) I haven’t bought that much so far this month, but based on what I have bought, I can see how it adds up quickly.

    I don’t plan on changing my commitment to buying these types of food for my family, but as obvious as it seems, I never really thought about just how much it costs since I knew we could afford it. Now I’m wondering if $500 is an unrealistically low budget for my family, in light of how we eat (and so I appreciate this guest post at Money Saving Mom, and this discussion at Good Cheap Eats, on setting a grocery budget that’s appropriate to your family).

    The bulk of my spending this past week was on cereal at Ralphs, fruit sauce pouches at Ecomom (thanks to the Plum District voucher), and dairy and produce at Trader Joe’s. My total spent so far this month is $402.16.

    I suspect I’m going to go over my $500 budget for the month before all is said and done, but we’ll see!

    Shopping & Cash Experiment Update

    I had a rough shopping day today, as stores were out of the items I wanted, and prices were higher than I expected (for example, Soft Lips were $3.99 instead of $1.99 at Rite Aid). The kicker was at Pavilions, where I was told they no longer accept printable coupons with a face value of more than $1. I came home and checked the coupon policy, which of course didn’t say anything about this, so I emailed them and we’ll see what they say.

    Thanks to these problems, I ended up buying very little while I was out, but that’s because I did the bulk of my weekly grocery shopping yesterday at Trader Joe’s. With one weekend of shopping under my belt this month, my cash spending for groceries and at the drugstores totals $132.16 – just over $70 of that was at Trader Joe’s, $20 online at Abe’s Market, and $20 at Whole Foods on meat. That total also includes a fair amount of stockpiling, especially of cereal and toothpaste. I normally would have bought a few more things at Trader Joe’s just to “have on hand,” but I think it’s about what I usually spend in a week.

    One thing that I see coming from my efforts to spend less and save more is that I am trying to cook more “homey” Japanese food, rather than just buy expensive sashimi or eat out because I’m craving it. It’s still on the pricey side because I buy a lot of organic and high-quality ingredients, but it’s still cheaper overall. ^_^

    Setting The Rules for The Modified Cash Experiment

    I’m experimenting by going all cash this month when it comes to my grocery and drugstore spending.

    But on Day One, I ran into a wrinkle when I bought a Plum District voucher to Abe’s Market and then spent it. I had to pay $19.19 on my American Express, and all I bought was groceries – Plush Puffs (which are the best marshmallows ever), some fair trade cocoa, and some lunchbox items for the boys. It seems like that money should come out of my grocery spending so I pulled $20 out of my cash envelope.

    I also realized that I have a Vons gift card  – it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend cash when I have the gift card. But I think that’s what I’m going to do anyway. If I get to the end of the month without any money left in my envelope, I can use the gift card to buy our milk and produce to make it to April 1. đŸ˜‰

    Also, I will keep using my credit card at Ralphs (our Kroger affiliate) to buy gift cards – as I’ve mentioned before, I like to maximize my credit card rewards to get discounts that I wouldn’t otherwise get at stores like Target and Amazon. {As a side note, I do realize I’m giving up some credit card rewards by going all cash – but the purpose of this experiment is to save money, so hopefully I’ll save more than I would have earned via rewards.}

    I can’t foresee any other issues that might come up, but it’ll be interesting to see if there are any!

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    Modified Cash Spending Experiment: March 2012

    As I mentioned last month, I’ve been thinking about a modified “all-cash” spending experiment, and contemplating ways to implement one.

    My husband and I are both pretty disciplined when it comes to spending. We rarely spend frivolously, and we save a good amount every month. So the only areas where we could realistically tighten spending without becoming miserable about our living conditions is my domain: grocery and drugstore spending.

    While I cook regularly, meal-plan weekly, and don’t spend frivolously, I’m not as disciplined in restricting how much I spend on groceries and toiletries as I could be. But I have good reasons:

    I buy organic dairy for the kids, and RBST-free dairy for my husband and me. {Thank goodness for Trader Joe’s and their low everyday prices!} I buy most of my meat at Whole Foods, because even their non-organic meat is hormone- and antibiotic-free. I keep a close eye on the “Dirty Dozen” list of produce that retains the most pesticides, and buy those in organic varieties.

    Thanks to food allergies, I’ve become an obsessive label-reader, and that in turn has caused me to notice ingredients in foods that don’t seem necessary. So when I don’t have time to cook or bake, and when my kids prefer store-bought items like crackers, I’ll pay extra for the brand that has the most “natural” ingredient list.

    These are health choices that I’m content with and have no intention of changing. Still, I think I could reduce our spending somewhat. I took a look at the charges on my credit card and discovered that I spent $594.15 and $558.29 in the last two months. That’s actually quite a bit less than I was thought it would be, but it makes me think that I could get our spending down to $500 per month.

    So I’m going to try something new in March, and switch to cash for my groceries and drugstore expenses. I’m taking $500 cash and making it last the whole month. I may not be a happy camper by the end of the month, but then again, I might be thrilled.

    I’ll let you know how it’s going once I get into it!

    Contemplating All-Cash Spending Experiment v.2

    A lot of people claim that you spend less when you only use cash, including bloggers I admire like Crystal of Money Saving Mom. Four years ago, my husband and I attempted the shortest-lived all-cash experiment ever, and I gave up on an all-cash system for us. After all, we do just fine without it – we are still very conscientious about our spending, save money every month, and maximize our credit card rewards.

    But yesterday, Josie at Southern Cali Saver wrote about how the envelope system works for her. With the envelope system, each envelope holds the cash for a category in your budget.

    It got me thinking about trying a modified “some-cash” spending experiment – maybe just for the categories where I could use a little more discipline, like the groceries and stockpiling. I tend to just grab the good deals when I see them, without worrying about whether I’m overspending for the month (on the theory that it all evens out). But maybe if I were more conscious of exactly how much I’m spending, I could save enough money to make the effort worthwhile.

    I’m going to have to put some thought into this – I don’t really know which categories I would switch to cash, and it’s been so long since I’ve had a formal budget that I’m not sure how much to budget pet category. But it’s definitely something I’m going to think about and revisit in the next few weeks.

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