How can i stay on a budget when shopping?

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Answered by: Mara A, An Expert in the Personal Finance Category
If you're like me, going to Target for paper towels or bread turns into a $100 shopping spree. You motivate yourself to only spend money on the items you need, but something distracts you and you quickly find yourself with 10 shopping bags leaving the store. We all do it, but we all also want to have more money at the end of the day. What is the easiest way to stay on a budget when shopping? These 5 easy budgeting tips will help do just that!

Tip 1- The money envelope system, but better. The money envelope system is nothing new. This system has you put a certain amount of money into various envelopes. For example, your food budget goes into one envelope, shopping in another, coffee in another etc. Once the money is gone, that's it! This system can be a bit tricky if you are first starting out, so another way around this is to use a budget software like Mint, Clarity Money or Every Dollar. Another trick is to use pre-paid cards instead of straight cash.

Tip 2- Parking lot planning. Planning your whole trip can seem overwhelming, and really who has the time? Try taking 5 minutes in the parking lot before your trip to think about what categories you need. Skipping areas of the store where you may be tempted can save a ton of money, without creating the stress or work of a strict shopping list. Stick to areas like grocery and health or laundry and cleaning supplies to see your bill total go down and help you stay on a budget.

Tip 3- Get low. Did you know the items that make stores the most tend to be on the middle shelves or at eye level? Check the whole area for deals on other brands but also check the volume of what you are getting. Some packages may cost less but be a worse deal because its more per ounce. Take time to look at the bottom shelves or higher up so you don’t miss a better deal.

Tip 4- Grab a hand basket rather than a shopping cart. The bigger the area you have to put stuff, the more likely we are to fill it! Grabbing a hand basket can get heavy so you may think twice before loading too much on. Every item you add increases the weight you have to carry. Being aware of what you are buying helps keep the budget top of mind.

Tip 5- Treat yourself! This seems wrong but seriously, don’t worry about a small treat here and there. Splurging is one thing, but grabbing your favorite La Croix pack or a new pair of sunglasses is not a big deal. Just make sure it isn’t more than $10 or 10% of your budget. You may think twice about these treats too, but it is important to reward yourself for sticking to the budget or saving a bit extra. Soon, you will care less and less about the physical treats because the dollar savings will be reward enough.

What are your favorite tips on how you stay on budget? Submit your comments!

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