Creating a Budget Shopping List: Tips to Live by

No matter if you're buying groceries or clothes, it's easy to go overboard. That's why it's so important that you create a budget shopping list.

Are you trying to cut costs around the house?

Whether you’re trying to save up for something, you know that you’re overspending, or you just want to challenge yourself to a good budget, learning how to create a budget that saves you money (without making you feel restricted) is key.

Do you know how to create a perfect budget shopping list? 

While we usually attribute shopping on a budget to grocery shopping, you can take several steps to create a shopping list that works for any kind of shopping trip. 

Keep reading to learn all about making (and sticking to) a shopping budget list. 

First: Track Spending and Set the Budget

How much are you trying to spend? Before you can make a budget shopping list, you need to know what that budget is. 

This is a multi-step process.

First, track your spending. You don’t want to start trying to make changes until you know what needs to change. It won’t be effective for very long and you’ll end up getting confused. 

For a month, track every single purchase. Don’t try to add any restrictions yet unless you absolutely have to. Jot everything down in a notebook or on an app and save receipts if it’s possible. 

At the end of the month, take a look at everything that you’ve bought. Is it more or less than you’d assumed? 

Now that you know what you’re working with, you can start making cuts. Give yourself a firm budget. This can either be all-encompassing (for everything including food, clothing, bills, and more) or for whatever category you’re shopping for.

Determine Wants and Needs

When you’re getting ready to create your new shopping list, make sure that you make a list of wants and needs. To make it easy, we’ll use foods as an example.

What kinds of things do you need when it comes to food? You need healthy and nutritious meals, so produce, grains, pasta, and proteins are necessary. You need seasonings and sauces.

You might need breakfast cereals, nutritional supplements, and baking basics (like milk, eggs, and sugar). If you’re like most people, you need coffee.

What kinds of things are wants?

While healthy snacks might fit into the “need” category, things like desserts, chips, and other salty or sugary snacks might not be quite as important. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have them, it just means that they’re not a priority. 

After you figure out your wants and needs, your budget has to go to the “needs” category first. After that, you can start taking care of your wants. 

When it comes to groceries, making meal plans before you shop is a great way to determine what your “wants” are. You don’t have to buy anything that won’t fit into one of your meal plans. 

Look for Cheapest Options First

Before you start planning your shopping trip, don’t be afraid to take a peek at some of the most affordable places to shop. You can check this list for dollar store finds that might surprise you, for example. 

When it comes to food, check bulk bins before anything else. While this isn’t always true, bulk bins are often the cheapest sources for beans, grains, baking supplies, and even some tasty snacks.

If you’re looking for clothing or other non-food objects, consider looking into secondhand shops or yardsales. While you might not find what you need, you can find unexpected treasures from time to time (and save a few dollars while you’re at it). 

Shop Around

It’s tempting to do all of your shopping in one place, but this isn’t always the best choice. Unless there’s a large difference in distance, going to several stores for the same shopping list is sometimes beneficial. 

It’s normal for different shops to have different prices, even for the same items. You may find that one thing you need is more affordable in one store while everything else is more expensive. 

Take time to look at prices online before visiting the store so you know that you’re getting the best deal. 

Use Coupons and Sales

Always take advantage of a good coupon or sale. 

If you’re shopping for groceries, make sure that you look at the local weekly ad and any digital coupons that you have available to you. This will help you determine what you’re going to put on your shopping list.

For example, if there’s a sale on pasta sauce, you can meal plan around spaghetti nights. 

When it comes to other non-food items, keep track of stores online. Sometimes, when you visit a store’s website and leave the site with things in your cart, they’ll send you a discount coupon so you can save a few extra dollars.

Try to be patient enough to wait for sales and coupons for items that are more expensive.

Don’t Be Afraid of Store Brands

When it comes to food and basic items, never be cautious of store brands. 

There are situations in which the store brand items will be of poorer quality than the name brand items, but this isn’t always true.

When it comes to clothing, for example, a plain t-shirt will be almost identical to any other plain t-shirt regardless of where it’s coming from.

When it comes to food, you should always look for store brands when it comes to things like dried pasta, canned goods, and more.

You can even try the store-brand cereal and sweets. While some people think that these “extra” items aren’t as good as their name-brand competitors, they’re sometimes even better than “the real thing.”

You’ll save a lot of money by switching to generic options.

What’s on Your Budget Shopping List?

Start assembling your budget shopping list for your next big shopping trip.

You don’t need to overspend on clothing, groceries, or household necessities. With some smart planning and a good shopping list, you’ll have all of the things that you need without burning a hole in your wallet.

Time to shop!

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