In my last column I profiled Stacey and Brandon Steinmetz of Prairie Du Sac, Wis., because they won Summit Credit Union’s “Project Money” contest, decreasing their debts by $29,982 and increasing their savings by $14,402! I already described how they opened 10 different savings accounts in order to set aside money for 10 different priorities.
Now I want to talk about how they fixed their “grocery problem.” Brandon and Stacey’s grocery bills were eating them alive —when it’s supposed to be the other way around, right? “We were great at making a list, but when we went to the store, extra items magically appeared in the cart,” Stacey said.
“When I started to work with Stacey and Brandon," explained Chris Bethke, their financial coach, “we tracked their expenses and their ‘aha moment’ came when they added up their food costs. They were shocked.”
What to do? First the couple set a grocery budget of $75 a week for their 2-person household. That had to cover breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, because they also resolved not to eat out until 2015! They learned it’s one thing to name a number and another to stick to it. In order to keep from blowing through their $75, the Steinmetzes then took several common-sense steps:
*Helpful hint from me: Check unit prices even WITHIN the same store. Why? Contrary to popular belief, sometimes it’s actually cheaper to buy multiple smaller packages than one huge one.
I often say that groceries are the gateway to even bigger, better savings. If you can save a little money on your groceries, you can then use that money to do things like put extra money toward your mortgage principal, which can save you tens of thousands over the life of the loan, thanks to reverse compounding.
Summit Credit Union’s Project Money is proof that learning how to save has a snowball effect. In five years, the credit union has helped contestants save more than $150,000 and decrease their debts by more than $220,000. “Project Money was developed as a way to … [inspire] thousands of others to follow along and make changes in their own lives,” said Kim Sponem, CEO of Summit Credit Union. “This high-impact public learning opportunity provides real-life tips for people and is at the heart of what we do every day.” You can learn more “Project Money” tips and tricks here.
Any opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.
Elisabeth Leamy is a 20-year consumer advocate for programs including "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show." She is the author of Save BIG and The Savvy Consumer. Elisabeth is also a professional speaker, delivering talks nationwide on saving money, media relations, and career success. Elisabeth receives her best story tips from readers, so please connect with her via Facebook, Twitter or her website, to share your ideas.