Tag Archives: ValueTracker

Baby Stepping to the Holidays

Now that we had our Halloween revelry, I am downshifting straight into Christmas mode.  Our first family celebration is in six weeks.

One way to ease the Christmas budget strain is to spread the expenses around using cash instead of having a credit crunch in December.  So far I have:

  • Flower poinsettia D2

    (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Bought one packet of Christmas stamps

  • Made a layout of our Christmas card on the Walgreens website – waiting for a good discount and then I can pounce!
  • Bought a gift card for the mail carrier, and a number of smaller gifts that must remain secret!

I am planning to look for good deals on baking supplies as we near Thanksgiving, and stock up, budget permitting, when I see low prices.  I have been tracking low prices for grocery items in my ValueTracker app.  I would love to squeeze another gift card out of next week’s budget too.

If you could use a little inspiration on dealing with holiday expenses, check out this short but powerful clip from Flylady.  It’s not too late to jump in where you are and “Cruise Through the Holidays“!  Taking baby steps over many weeks helps prevent that frantic feeling when everything needs purchasing on December 22.  P.S. – let me know if you are “Cruising Through the Holidays” too!

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What I Did This Week to Save Money 9/21

Multi-Hued Zinnias from Our Garden

Multi-Hued Zinnias from Our Garden

One of the benefits to having a written budget is that at the end of the week when think you didn’t spend a lot of money, you can quantify that inkling.  This week it seemed like we would have unspent money, and indeed we did.  This week we:

  • Ate meals at home mainly using ingredients that we had on hand.
  • Had one nice meal out using a birthday coupon.  Glad we took advantage of that because we are still homebound with a sick child this weekend.
  • Husband took lunches to work and got creative when we ran out of prepared frozen meals – he took a hot dog and bun from the freezer one day, and loved it!
  • I received $ 3.00 from CVS Drugstore to use on anything and I used it to buy dishwasher detergent when I ran out.
  • I won an anniversary contest at our local non-chain sub shop and now have a $ 50.00 gift card!  Dinner’s on me this week.
  • Ran a report on grocery spending this month… we are averaging $ 80.00 per week, which is low for us.   I am planning meals based on what is on sale and stocking up when I see lowest prices based on the info I put into ValueTracker.   When I say “stock up” I don’t mean Campbell’s soup underneath the bed and pasta in the linen closet, I just mean buying a product to replace the current one I have.  Canola oil was one such purchase this week.
  • Asked our neighbor if they would mind passing their Sunday coupons on to me.  They really weren’t aware there were even coupons in the Sunday paper.  I regularly share our Wall Street Journal weekend sections with them so there was a precedent to my asking.
  • Free entertainment this week consisted of Daddy/Daughter on the couch watching old Leave it to Beaver episodes (“It’s so weird they let their kids roam around town like that, Dad”), library books, and a good deal of football on TV.

Some of the surplus budget money this week will be set aside for haircuts next week (school pictures are right around the corner).  We also put some money towards winter weather gear for child, and savings.

When to Buy Peanut Butter? There’s an App for that!

ValueTracker allows you to track grocery prices

ValueTracker allows you to track grocery prices

One area of saving money that I have been erratic about is keeping a grocery price book.   Over the years I have had a few spreadsheets where I tried to track low prices.  I didn’t really take the next step and use the information, however, because it was never on hand when I needed it.  I know that my attention (obsession?) with having a surplus at the end of each week sometimes causes me to not buy enough of an item when it may be at its lowest price.  This does make Mr. Saver crazy!

I wanted to see whether “there’s an App for that”, as they say, and found the .99 cent  ValueTracker app for the iPhone.

The app allows you to enter the stores you shop at, and within each store’s database, you can record the price for items you buy.   You can use the camera on the phone to take a picture of the item and it turns the item into an icon, which makes the app more visually pleasant to use. The app does not use bar code scans – you have to enter items manually.

The app maintains the prices of each item over time, allowing you to see trends

The app maintains the prices of each item over time, allowing you to see trends

The app maintains all the prices you enter over time for an item along with the date.  After using the app for a while you would be able to see price trends.  Is ketchup cheapest before the 4th of July?  Is butter cheaper before Thanksgiving or before Christmas?  What is the best price on peanut butter, and how often does it occur?

Mr. Saver will be happy that I noticed that our turkey sausage, which is usually $2.59 at one store, was on sale for $1.50 at a competing store this week.  I recognized the good price because of ValueTracker and picked up a box since we have grocery money still available.

If you are already working a written budget and are looking to make your make your money work even harder, maintaining a grocery price book can be a wise move.

Are you currently using some system to keep track of the lowest prices throughout the year?