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Last week I received an email from a reader who wondered what she could do to get her husband more enthusiastic about saving on groceries and using coupons. It was a great question, and one that I hear quite a bit. It got me thinking about how important it is to be on the same page as your spouse & kids when it comes to money.
By now you’ve probably learned (or are still learning) that cutting your grocery bill in half takes consistency & persistence. Though your savings will be dramatic over time, those savings don’t happen overnight. It takes time to build up a plentiful stockpile that will allow your family to eat nice variety of food. It also takes time to get the “hang” of couponing, to figure out what is a good price for different items, and to build up a reserve of coupons.
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For some people, waiting is difficult.
It is especially difficult for family members who may not see the “big picture” when it comes to coupons & saving money on food.
From their perspective, the favorites that normally stocked the fridge and cupboard have been replaced with 30 boxes of noodles and 20 bottles of mustard, and more tubes of toothpaste than they’ve seen in their life. And frankly, it is hard to get excited about spending only pennies on the dollar when you’re hungry.
Perhaps your teenagers have gotten used to an ample supply of the snacks they love, or maybe your husband is a picky “meat and potatoes” man who balks at any variance from his normal menu. Perhaps your wife insists on buying nothing but organic produce, without even considering what’s in season, so she can cook a gourmet 5-star meal every night.
So what’s the solution? How can you please your family and still save money?
The truth is that there is no easy answer. Extreme savings on food, whether with coupons or without, does require making some changes in the way you shop. After all, if it was that easy and obvious, everyone would already do it automatically. And unless you live alone or you and your spouse have decided together to commit to extreme coupon shopping, you need to get your family on board if you want to succeed.
Start a conversation
Talk to your spouse and your kids about money. This is so hard, but so necessary. If times are tough and your family is struggling to make ends meet, then it is important to have a discussion about it. I’m not saying you need to scare your kids, and obviously there is a level of age-appropriateness, but it is okay for your kids–even younger kids–to understand that they might not be able to have certain things because you are trying to save money.
Living in denial and spending more money than you have to on food is not going to help the situation. The sooner you all face the reality of your own financial situation, the more willing everyone in the family will be to make sacrifices where needed.
Set a budget
Decide together how much you want or can afford to spend each month on groceries. This will determine how much wiggle room you will have for those items & brands your family is willing to give up. You may decide to put aside a certain amount each week for “impulse” or “special request” items. That way most of what you buy can be on sale priced items or with coupons, but no one needs to feel too deprived.
Make it fun
Try to satisfy that age old question, “what’s in it for me?” Perhaps you can decide, as a family, to collect whatever money is leftover from your grocery budget each month to save towards a fun reward, like a trip to an amusement park or the beach or a new big screen TV. Make it something fun, something that everyone in the family really wants but that you’ve been unable to afford. You may suddenly find you get a lot fewer complaints.
Involve your family in the process
Keep your family updated on how much money you’re saving, especially if you are all working towards a collective goal. Put up a chart that shows how much you’ve saved and how far you have to go. Talk about it frequently. Make it real. Stay enthusiastic.
If your kids are old enough, let them help! School-age kids can help clip and sort coupons (I’m so excited for mine to be old enough for that!), while teens and pre-teens can help look for deals & coupons online, help prepare shopping lists, or help organize your stockpile. Teaching your kids how to use coupons is not only a time-saver, it is a valuable lesson that will help them immensely when they leave the nest.
My own husband, though extremely supportive saving money on groceries, has always been overwhelmed by the reality of coupons and therefore reluctant to help. However, one evening I really needed to get my Qubie binder in order, so I asked Chuck if he would mind folding my printable coupons into thirds while we watched TV. It made the process go so much faster and he didn’t mind doing it and now he helps me automatically every time. It turns out he just needed to find a specific task.
Agree to Try New Things
One of the neat things about shopping the sales and using coupons is the frequent opportunity to try new products because very often the new items get promoted heavily by both stores and manufacturers. Decide as a family that you will all be willing to try anything once. If you really don’t like it, you don’t have to buy it again and you can go back to your old favorite brand.
Determine your priorities
How much you save each month will be largely dependent on how ardently you stick to buying and using only what is on sale. Keep in mind that I am not saying that buying only sale items is “right” and straying from the week’s matchups is “wrong.” Every family has to decide upon what you are willing to save on, and what things you can’t live without.
For instance, if you or your family loves meat and can’t imagine a meal without it, than you will probably experience lower savings than a family that is willing to eat meat-free meals several times a week. Likewise, if you can’t stand eating frozen vegetables and only want fresh veggies, even when they are out of season, you will end up paying more. But then again, what brand detergent or shampoo or toothpaste you use may not matter to you at all, so you can save money on those items.
Ultimately, your top priority should determine what you buy. Most of the time, my own family is pretty easygoing about what we eat. We eat from our plentiful stockpile and we don’t really have any “must buy” items beyond milk, eggs, butter, & bread. When I shopped exclusively with coupons, I normally saved around 75% every time I shopped. Now, with less time to coupon, I still shop the sales, meal plan, and stockpile, but I’m okay with saving around 40-50% instead.
And if after all this, your significant other still says “I don’t care about the money, I want what I want,” then honestly maybe groceries is not the right place to cut back. In that case you might just want to look for other areas in your life–ones that are negotiable–to start cutting back.
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How do you get your family excited about saving on food?