Blue Collar Financial Coaching

From Chaos to Control: Mastering Grocery Budgeting with a Fun Twist

One of my fun life hacks that you may want to give a try is guessing how much money is in the shopping cart before you get to the checkout counter. You can even make a game out of it when shopping with your partner or your kids! 

Being able to estimate how much money you have in your cart is valuable for sticking to your grocery budget. Trust me, I learned the hard way when I was younger the importance of estimating how much money you have in your cart while grocery shopping with my mom.

Here’s the story: my dad was a budget-er, and my parents had agreed to only spend cash for a while as part of their budgeting strategy. 

When we went to the store, my mom told me when we got there that she needed me to figure out how much money was in the cart so that we did not go over how much cash we had brought to spend. 

The challenge was that I was nine years old — pretty young to be in control of that! I didn’t have a running total going, I only had a calculator, and I couldn’t keep up with everything that my mom was putting in the cart. We were two aisles into it before the calculator disappeared and we were trying to just keep a mental tally with our best guess of the total. 

Needless to say, when we got to the checkout counter, we were way over our budgeted amount. We had to start putting things back because we did not have enough cash to buy all of the items. 

When we got to the produce, we had to decide whether we wanted only half the apples or half the oranges. In the process of deciding how many apples and oranges we wanted, some of the fruit ended up rolling all over the place, and it was just chaos. Absolute chaos! 

Finally, the cashier looked at my mom and said, “lady, how much money do you actually have to spend?” She handed him the cash, he bagged up the items, and we walked out the door. We had made it through the ordeal, but we knew we didn’t have all the items on our list, or we had ended up with things that weren’t on our list, or we ended up with the wrong amount of items we needed. 

I really do feel sorry for the cashier…two weeks later when my mom was armed with both cash and her credit card just in case we went over budget again, the poor cashier looked at both of us, put up the closed sign and walked away. Apparently he was not interested in dealing with us again! 

Looking back now, I wish I would have brought a piece of paper with me so I could have kept track of each item, its price and added the total before getting to the checkout line. I didn’t know how to do that at the time, but I definitely learned how to do that after the experience we had! 

All this to say, this was one of those memories from childhood that really stuck with me when it comes to the topic of money and budgeting. 

This story proves how important it is to be able to approximately know how much money the items in your cart will cost you. Fortunately, we have better ways of keeping track of things than we did back in the ‘80s!

What I usually do to keep track of how much money I’m spending at the grocery store is organize my items into $10 or $20 groupings in the cart. That way, I can easily estimate the total in my cart by adding up the $10 and $20 groupings along the way.

If you’d like to make a game out of it, one of the things I used to do with my family is give the person with the closest estimate a prize – either getting to choose what to have for dinner that night, not having to help carry groceries into the house, choosing which dessert we’re having after dinner, or which ice cream flavor they get to open first. This is a great way to keep track of your spending, teach your kids about budgeting, and have a little fun while you’re at it! 

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Terina Bainter

With my knowledge and experience gained from managing money in both my personal and professional life for over 32 years, I have chosen to operate according to the Financial Coach Academy system.  Where I work alongside my clients to teach them the steps to create and maintain a budget, formulate a plan to pay off debt, and obtain financial confidence.

Ultimately, my goal is to help you improve your life and save you money by reducing the anxiety, time, and expenses that your finances are causing. Learning the skills to manage your finances and paperwork is the perfect place to begin your journey!

Together we will create and apply a personalized budget, uncover, and work through any underlying money thoughts and beliefs, create and implement a personalized plan that shows the changes (big and small) that you can make so that you get to where you want to be – Financial Security!