Monthly Archives: August 2013

Save Big On Your Grocery Bill

groceries

Here are a couple of sobering statistics about Americans and food: The USDA reports that the average American family of 4 spends between $633 and $1252 monthly on groceries. It also reports that the same family throws out an average of 25% of that food every month.

As average Americans, the staff at Sage Personal Finance asked ourselves the question: How can we shop smarter?

We talk a lot in our course about using coupons, stocking up during sales, switching to cheaper “store” brands, and buying in bulk (at stores like Costco). Those are great tips but there are other, less common strategies that an average consumer can use to pare down weekly spending on groceries even more. 

Here’s our “to-do” list of things to consider before heading out to the grocery store. Using just a couple of these strategies will help reduce weekly grocery expenses.

Check your kitchen before you go anywhere. That tiresome refrain we hear from our families about there being “nothing to eat” is usually just that. Check your fridge and pantry daily – and try and plan every meal around what perishables you need to use up first. Eating what’s on hand is not only thrifty; it reduces the amount of food waste we send to our landfills. 

Have a budget for groceries. Our course recommends using a budget for all expenses – and groceries are no exception.

Never shop when you’re hungry. It’s easy to fall prey to impulse buying – and impulse buys can put a big ding in a consumer’s grocery budget. 

Make a list – and stick to it. Being ruthlessly disciplined while at the grocery store can be one of the biggest ways an average shopper can save money. Don’t stray from what’s on your list. As an example, one of our customer representatives gathers up the weekly grocery store flyers in her area, picks the sale items she needs, makes up her list – and then heads to her nearest Wal-Mart, which matches local competitor prices. With this “one-stop-shopping” strategy, our rep reports that she saves quite a bit! 

Shop the perimeter for the best buys. No matter which grocery chain a shopper frequents, all stores are set up the same way with produce, meat and dairy items along the back and sides of the store. Avoiding the aisles as much as possible will help save money.

Shop above (and below) eye-level. Shopping strictly from the perimeter is a worthy goal…but it isn’t always practical. Do realize however that grocery stores typically place the most expensive (and often, least nutritious) items at eye level. You can save money by stooping or reaching for cheaper and healthier versions of the same stuff you see in front of you.

Skip prepared and “convenience” foods. One of our staff noticed that a 12-slice package of fully cooked bacon, priced at $3.99 actually contained only 2.5 oz. of actual bacon. In our local store, 16 ounces of store brand bacon costs the same – but yields at least 6-8 slices more. Pre-sliced greens from the produce aisle can often be as much as 10 times the price when compared to whole fruits and vegetables. Cooking your own bacon and slicing your own veggies are just two instances where you can save big. 

Use the “unit price” of an item to determine if you’re getting a good deal. All grocers are required to post not only the price of an item but its unit price as well. The bacon’s unit price is a whopping $24.94/lb. compared to $3.99/lb. for the uncooked store brand bacon we compared. One could argue that the cooked bacon renders more meat – but in reality a shopper would be paying another $20 for the privilege of easy reheating in the microwave. 

These are a sampling of the many tips our staff offered up to help cut grocery costs and reduce waste.

 

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The Short Sale – What You Need to Know

short sale, selling your home

The basic definition of a short sale is the selling of a property for less than the amount owed on the mortgage.  This can involve a property that: 1) has a higher mortgage than the market value of the home, 2) has an accepted sales price that would cover the mortgage but not closing costs and/or commissions, or 3) has a second or third mortgage and the selling price will not cover the full balance due.

What You Need to Know

1)    It is up to the bank to decide whether or not to allow a short sale on a property.  However, many banks will approve a short sale in favor of foreclosure, as it earns more money for the bank.

2)    In order to short sale your home, a homeowner usually must have an “underwater” home, a willing buyer and an approval from the bank, as well as a financial or other hardship such as a military move that forces the homeowner out of the house.

3)    If you think you may be in the position to short sale your home, be sure to choose a real estate agent with experience in short sales.  An experienced short sale real estate agent will put the home on the market, negotiate pricing with the bank, and submit all offers of purchase to you, as the homeowner.

4)    There are many legal and tax ramifications with a short sale.  Be sure to consult with your attorney and tax professional before taking any steps.

Short Sale and Bankruptcy

Individuals considering bankruptcy often consider a short sale on their home as well, or in place of the bankruptcy, especially if they are facing foreclosure.  It can be a tough decision whether to short sale the home before or after bankruptcy.

Often, it’s recommended to file for bankruptcy after a short sale.  The short sale will avoid foreclosure and allow a homeowner to actually start fresh with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, without incurring new debts from continued home ownership. 

Once again, it is always best to consult with an attorney to evaluate each individual situation and determine a course of action.

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