You can control your food and clothing costs
- 2000 2 May
Food and clothing take a big chunk out of your budget, but if you develop certain skills in purchasing, you can significantly reduce the amount you spend. In time those skills will become routine - second nature.
- Eat seasonally. For instance, strawberries and asparagus should be enjoyed during early summer months (or frozen for winter use); apples should be a staple of your diet in the fall.
- Stock up on seasonal bargains and loss leaders. Baking supplies are usually slashed in price during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Picnic supplies drop in price in June. Stores will offer special deals on hams at Easter, corned beef in March. Stock up when prices are attractive.
- Don't waste. No sense cutting a great deal on lettuce if it rots in the fridge. Try to store food wisely, and use it before it goes to waste.
- Use coupons - sometimes. No sense in buying something with a coupon if it is not something you would normally buy. But not using a coupon on something you need is like throwing change out the window. For extra savings, use a coupon when the item is on sale.
- Buy generic or store brands, unless you are really stuck on a particular name-brand product.
- Know your prices. If you do better at a warehouse store, shop there, always cautious of cost.
- Shop with a list, stick to the list. Leave two spaces blank for loss leaders or an occasional impulse item. Leave the kids at home and don't shop when you're hungry.
- Buy only what your family will eat.
- Use what you have. Use up what you have in your cupboards and freezer. Start cultivating the habit of making a meal of what's on hand rather than running to the store.
- Buy in bulk. Any time you pay a store to package or process something for you, you pay more. Buy in quantity and freeze part of it for a future meal.
- Learn how to cook. Stop relying on prepared foods and do it yourself.
What you should know about buying clothes:
- Learn about retail dateline. Nearly all stores must clear out inventory when the next season rolls around, offering drastically reduced prices. By buying late in the season you can take advantage of these savings.
- Prune your closet. Get rid of anything you do not wear. Someone else might need it. Keep styles that are attractive on you and sport the right color for your complexion. Then don't buy anything unless it will blend with what you have.
- Buy timeless - not dated - clothes. Purchase classic styles that will survive each new season's fashion industry assault.
- Always factor in your cleaning bills. Clothes that require special cleaning can cost up to three times as much, overall. Three fabrics that almost always need dry-cleaning: rayon, wool, and acetate.
From Money and Me, (c) 1999 by Cynthia Yates. Published by Servant Publications, P.O. Box 8617, Ann Arbor, MI 48107. Used with permission.
Cynthia Yates was named one of the top 10 "Frugal People in America" by Family Circle magazine. She hosts a weekly radio program in St. Louis, and is the author of 1001 Bright Ideas to Stretch Your Dollar and The Complete Guide to Creative Gift-Giving.