I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts on the way to work this morning about grocery shopping – The Lazy Genius. She was discussing the principle of defining what is most important to you with regards to grocery shopping. Is it saving money on price, convenience, or the experience?
I had to laugh because she made a specific comment about treating your grocery budget like a budget on House Hunters. You know the HGTV show where they come in with a $200,000 budget but want a six-bedroom, five-bath, 4000 square foot with an in-ground swimming pool, a backyard overlooking a golf course, and lots of room for entertaining, of course.
In the same vein, you can’t have a grocery budget that permits organic, farm-fresh, brand-labeled food at the most convenient grocery store while on a tight budget.
Making Choices and Defining Priorities
You have to choose what’s important to you. Spend your money accordingly, then save on all the other expenses. Said another way, pick your battles.
While young, in college, or in between jobs, cost may be your top priority – so you coupon, shop the flyers and buy whatever is the cheapest, regardless of the quality. However, as you become more financially stable, convenience may be the most important. You don’t want to spend time driving to multiple stores. In fact, you want your food delivered. Perhaps, quality is your most valuable commodity; you want the best produce and meat cuts that are grass-fed and locally grown- so you only shop at your local co-op, regardless of the cost.
For me, I want a combination of cost and convenience. However, I’m willing to forego savings in exchange for convenience. Time is my most valuable commodity. Money is a renewable resource, but time is not. I have held fast to the concept of opportunity cost ever since I learned it in Economics 101 as a high school student.
The Value Of Opportunity Cost Versus Saving Money
I know what I make on an hourly basis. Similarly, I know how little time I have to spend with my family. My time can be spent cutting coupons, meal planning around a grocery flyer, and comparing the items on the grocery shelf for the lowest price per unit, or I can choose to spend my time with family. I will always choose the latter.
I also splurge on pre-cut vegetables, bagged salads, and pre-made meals from the deli, which saves me from time in the kitchen after a long day at work.
Another example where I intentionally spend more instead of choosing to save is at the gym. When I joined Orange Theory Fitness, it was a 400% increase in monthly expenses. However, I rarely used my gym membership because it required a level of discipline to go to the gym with no accountability. Admittedly, I don’t possess that discipline. OTF charges $12 if you don’t show up for class. That is what I need to ensure my attendance. Furthermore, my motivation levels are much higher in a group setting than fighting the muscle men for the dumbbells in a typical gym setting.
Balancing Your Choices
Life is about choices, and budgets must be balanced. Because while money is a renewable resource, you only receive so much at a time. Because I spend a little more on groceries and eating out each month, I pull back on other areas – specifically cable, cell phone, clothing, and personal care.
Define your priorities. When it comes to your lifestyle and don’t feel guilty when it comes to spending money in line with your principles.
Spend where it matters and save where it doesn’t.
What are your gives and takes? Where do you save so you can spend without guilt? Let us know in the comments below.
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Kate Fox is a former CPA, with twenty years of experience in public accounting and corporate finance. Born and raised in Alaska, Kate is currently based out of southeastern North Carolina. She loves coaching others on personal finance and spends her free time traveling with her family or relaxing by the pool with a good book, probably about money.
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