So you decided to get your personal finances in order? You made a budget, tracked your expenses and even made steps towards saving and investing. Congratulations. Somehow though, you seem to still have trouble with keeping to the budget and find yourself overspending. If you’re like many this overspending occurs when you are innocently doing what you should be doing; buying groceries. This particular problem requires practical solutions and that’s what we are here to discuss today.

Don’t go shopping on an empty stomach

The first tip should be the most obvious and perhaps the most overlooked. The mind is a powerful thing and we may all create shopping lists with the best of intentions we can still fall prey to some of the basal human urges. I wish I could back this up with science but I can only back it up with experience. If you shop while you’re hungry you are likely to buy a lot of impulse and snack items. These items are conveniently more expensive than the stuff on your list. If you have a choice matter make sure to have a meal before you go shopping. This will help you to focus firmly on your ultimate goals rather than your feelings in the present moment.

Buy what you can online

We’ve witnessed a boom in online shopping. Partly thanks to advances in technology and convenience and partly thanks to Covid 19 and lockdowns. Either way, it’s here with us and we should definitely take advantage of it. Another great to help you keep within your budget when shopping online is buying what can buy online. I already made a point about avoiding the impulse buys that come with shopping on an empty stomach. Your supermarket is deliberately designed to entice impulse buys. The regular-sized soft drinks and confectionary are conveniently located at the tills. Snack and quick items are located closer to the tills. You will find that in most cases the ready to eat items will always occupy the shelves on eye level. So if you ever walk into a supermarket and walk away with a few impulse buys you should congratulate yourself for not buying every impulse item in the store.

Make a realistic list

I’m certainly going to ruffle some feathers with this one but it must be said. If your impulse buys happen to always contain potato chips then there’s a strong chance that you just really like potato chips. I’m yet to come across someone who consistently makes impulse purchases of something they don’t particularly like. The fact that you buy it consistently suggests that it may not in fact be an impulse purchase. So perhaps it’s just time you accept that you’re a potato chip lover and they belong on your shopping list. I’m all for aspirational shopping lists but to serve your personal financial planning best what you need is a realistic shopping list that approximates your desired behaviours most accurately.

Don’t go chasing waterfalls

I could have easily said don’t go chasing discounts but my love 1990s R&B music got the better of me. We all want to spend less on the things we need to buy and that is commendable when achieved. However, you really have to be careful with discount chasing, especially in the modern hypercompetitive market places. Sure you can get cooking oil for example cheaper at a certain shop but you might find it the only thing that is cheaper there. And now you have the unenviable quandary of deciding whether to just by cooking oil there and everything else where you normally shop or biting the bullet and paying more for other things at the place with the discounted cooking oil. You will either end up forking out more in monetary terms for the bulk of your groceries or the additional cost will come in the form of time and transportation costs because you will now have to make two or more shopping trips. When chasing discounts make sure that firstly it is a real discount and secondly that the cost isn’t just made up by the additional cost of accessing the discount.

I hope you have picked up that the tips herein are all practical behaviours rather than high sounding concepts. This is real advice that works when applied. Try it for yourself and see how it changes the bottom line.