Friday, November 28, 2008

NYT: Failing home economics

Fuzzy math and wishful thinking make it hard to stick with budgets, even when there are compelling reasons we should, writes Penelope Green of The New York Times .
But I also noticed there are a lot of overlooked ways that the shoppers in her story, including the financial journalist with whom Green led the piece, can beat the dilemmas in which they find themselves.

One that works for us is something like make a list and make a loop. For example, we start with midweek grocery ads and plan roughly what we’ll be eating when during the next week, based on what the best advertised specials are in the ads. Plan how to use leftovers too, either for encore meals or ingredients in things like soup or hash. We especially look for advertised bargains for which we have coupons to knock a few more cents off the purchase. And we lucked out this week after when one store, a nearby Ball’s Price Chopper, sent coupons good for 15 percent of the total purchase.

That helped cut our tab for most of what we’ll eat Thanksgiving week to $28. That’s the making the list part. To make the loop, we simply grab our list for each of the stores we want to hit –usually about three – and hit them all on the same trip, which we’ve mapped out to save as much gas as we can too. Sometimes, we’ll fudge that last point a bit in order to pick up the most perishable stuff last. As we’ve gotten better at this, we’ve developed another bias too. We tend to hit stores that offer free samples more frequently.

Do that correctly and you’ve taken care of lunch too.

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