Category: Budgeting

Paying Cash to Grocery Shopping – Final Report

We had so many changes happened within a short timeframe. Before the move, our grocery budget was $400. Few days before the move, our parents landed. And few weeks after we moved to the new place in a new city, our refrigerator died.

With all the changes, I had no idea how much to budget for grocery shopping. To give a little perspective, we buy good quality ingredients/organic products and eat at home majority of the time. Even though we enjoy eating out, we eat at home for health reasons more than saving money. However, spending $1000 a month on groceries are not ok with me.

To recreate a budget to accommodate the changes in our life, one of the steps I took is to go all cash-in for grocery shopping. We use credit cards for all our shopping (FYI – we pay the credit card bill at the end of the months before it’s due).

Paying Cash To Grocery Shopping:

The concept is, you pay cash for all your grocery shopping rather than using credit/debit cards. Before February started, I withdrew $500 cash from the ATM, carried it in an envelope and paid only from that amount for all my February grocery shopping.

Until the last week of February, I spend around $419 (here is mid-month update). so, I had $81 left when the last week of Feb started. Since I started work during the last week of February, we did some major shopping at the Indian grocery store (the one closer to us is 15 minutes away. So, we stock up the grocery and only visit there once a month).

In that trip, I spent $144.87 for Indian groceries. So, the total spending for the month of February was, $564. My budget was $500 + $50 flex budget.

$564 is for 4 adults and 1 toddler. Even if we consider just the adults, that’s like $5 per adult per day. Even though, I went over the set budget, I’m happy.

My Opinion About the Concept:

It’s quite a different experience than swiping the card. To be honest, I could have reduced the bulk purchase and stayed within the budget. After all, I had $81 left for Indian grocery shopping. With me going back to work, we didn’t want to take a chance as we know time is more precious at this phase of our life.

If you’re struggling to stay within the budget or if you’re someone who wants to put together a grocery budget, I strongly suggest you try this method at least for a month.

When I started this challenge, I thought I’ll be spending too much time counting $$ at the checkout counter. To my surprise, it’s not the case. I probably spent few more seconds than before.

My New Grocery Budget:

This past month, I didn’t splurge much and I was doing more couponing than before. Even then I spent $564 on groceries. Groceries include food, toiletries, diapers etc. This clearly shows, we need at least $564 per month. So, I’m increasing the budget to $600 per month.

Continuing Paying Cash to Grocery Shopping:

The primary intention of this challenge was finding out grocery budget for our family. Now that I know our set budget, I’m going to go back to using credit cards. Why leave the rewards points that we get from credit cards.

But I’m definitely open to trying to challenge more often. After my parents leave, I’ll try this concept again for our family of 2 adults + 2 kids (toddler + newborn).

I’d suggest you give it a try at least once. You’ll be surprised how it affects your shopping mindset.

Financial Goals Planning For The New Year

December is about to be over and we are going to enter into a whole new year. How exciting is that? Year end is a great time to plan the upcoming year’s financial goals even if you don’t believe in new year resolutions. It’s a good time to sit with your family and talk about your current income, savings, and debt and how you want to proceed in the next year.

If you are not sure how to approach the financial planning, here are some pointers for you:

Categorize Your Current Finances:

Open an excel file, create categories such as income, debt, and savings and sub categories under each category. Let’s take savings as an example. List down where your money is saved including how much money is in each bank account, investment accounts etc. This excel file becomes an one page portfolio of information once you enter all the details. Once you are done inputting all the information, this excel file can show you your savings % vs Income. This is an essential starting point.

Now that you know your savings %, you should be able to see the areas where you need to tighten up your finances vs where you continue to maintain.

Plan Your Upcoming Year:

Now is the time to discuss upcoming year and life events you are expecting in the coming year. It can be buying a house, planning for kid, moving to a new job, or even putting your kid to daycare/school.

Each of these events will have an impact on your finances both positively and negatively. Also talk about the expected income in the coming year vs expenses. Again, calculate potential savings % based on the numbers.

List Your Priorities & Set Specific Goals:

It’s a no brainer that savings is more important than investment. But without investing, your savings will not grow. So, discussion on how you are going to invest the money is important as well.

For example,

Once you identify the areas you want to focus next year, create a list of things you want to do under each area.

Below are some of the examples:

Action Items and Responsibilities:

Once you identified the areas you want to focus as well as the list of action items you want to complete next year, decide on who is going to do what. Have a timeline within which each of you need to come up with a “plan of action” to achieve your goals. For example, if you want to reduce the grocery spending by 15%, create a plan on how you’re going to do it and share it with your family.

The beauty of this financial planning is, you, as a family, decided on the list of action items and when one of you come up with a “plan of action”, others need to contribute and support you.

Good luck and Happy New Year!!



Apps That Provide Cashback For Existing Grocery Purchases

ibottaHow nice is it to get some cash back for your existing grocery purchases? All you need to do is download these apps in your smartphone and start getting cashbacks for your existing grocery purchases.

I’ve been using these cashback apps for years and they legitimately provide you free rebates. IBOTTA (Use this link or my referral code gjheew to earn $10), Checkout 51, and BerryCart are some of the apps I use for cash backs.

For example, so far I earned $59.25 lifetime earnings just from Ibotta. If you’re in USA, I highly recommend giving these apps a try.


All the 3 apps work alike. So I’m going to take Ibotta as an example and show you how to use it.

  • Download Ibotta app in your smartphone and when you sign up, use the referral code above for your first $10
  • After each visit to the grocery store grocery store, open the Ibotta app and select the store in which you purchased groceries {For example, if you purchased in Costco, select “Costco” before unlocking your cashbacks}
  • Go through the cashbacks listed under your store and see if they have any cashbacks for any of your purchases (most of the time they will have at least one of your purchases item listed for cashback)
  • For example, the above picture shows you can get cashback for MILK (any brand). So it doesn’t matter what brand of milk you bought, as long as it’s one gallon milk, you can get cashback for Milk purchase
  • “Unlock” the purchased products and click “verify purchase”
  • Verify meaning, scan the product you bought and upload receipt
  • You’ll receive cashback within 24 hours (I typically get within an hour)
  • As soon as you reach $25, you can redeem it for paypal or gift cards. They offer multiple options to redeem
  • It’s the same with other cashbacks apps as well

Two things to note:

  • I don’t check these cashback apps before my purchase. I don’t want them to influence my shopping in any way
  • I check these cashback apps as soon as I come home from the grocery store to not to forget to do it

RELATED: How To Plan Your Monthly Grocery Budget

Family Financial Planning – Where To Start?


Let me start by saying Financial Planning is such a broad term that most of the time we wonder where to really start. When I got married, we realized my husband and I are completely different when it comes to family financial planning. He was someone who saved what’s left on the income and I was someone who tried to reduce the spending to the penny but was not clear on how to invest/save money. I kept our budget  and I couldn’t even buy my favorite drink in Starbucks without feeling guilty the whole day. Crazy, right? It drove my husband nuts and he just couldn’t understand why we need to discuss so much for some simple things he wanted to buy.

It took us years to find a balance and even figure out how to plan the finances without compromising on the quality of life. Trust me, I changed so much that I have my splurge areas (read: beauty products) where I spend $$$ without feeling guilty.

Now, financial planning or personal finance is such a broad term that’s about savings, spending, budgeting, debt management, retirement etc. We all want to enjoy life without worrying about finances. But where to start?

Family Income:

The basic understanding any person should have is the income of the family. Once you figure out how much you’re earning every month, the obvious next step is to understand the outflow of money, which means Spending.

How To Map Out Expenses:

You might already know some of the major expenses such as rent/mortgage, utility/electricity bills, education, healthcare, grocery spending etc. What about the rest? I’d suggest you use family budget trackers if you’re not already doing so. It’s much better than asking your spouse how much he/she spent on that day.

Even if you don’t want to use any budget tracker, just check your bank statement on how much money you had in your account at the starting of the month and how much is left at the end of the month (+ if you have any money transferred for investments). That’s your total savings.


How To Plan Your Monthly Grocery Budget {Part 3}

monthly-grocery-budgeting-centsible-indianHere are part 1 and part 2 of how to plan your monthly grocery budget if you’ve missed.

Now that you have both your budget and grocery list ready, let’s look at how to stick to the budget when we are in the store.

Limit Your Grocery Store Visits:

For those of you living in India, a majority of the shops carry all the grocery items in one store. If so, try to shop all your items in one store. For NRIs, unfortunately, multiple store visits are required. For Indian groceries, Indian grocery stores; AND for other items, local grocery stores and bulk merchandise stores such as Costco.

Below is what I follow (This is just to give you an example. There are no hard rules here. Do what works for your family):

  • Indian grocery store visit – once every 2-3 weeks. I buy the vegetables in bulk, cut, and freeze them for later use
  • Local grocery store – once a week as we consume a fair amount of milk and fruits
  • Bulk merchandise store (Costco) – once every 3-4 weeks

The more stores you visit, the more you spend AND the more time you visits, the more you spend as well.

Things To Consider When Grocery Shopping:

  • Before going to the store, write down how much money is left on your grocery budget. I open my budgeting app and check the $ left in grocery budget
  • Print out the grocery list or open your list on the phone before you start shopping
  • Strike the items on your list as soon as you put them in the cart
  • Make sure your grocery list is thorough so that you don’t have to buy anything that’s not in the grocery list
  • Always have wiggle room for 1-2 extra items in the budget. Sometimes we come across a product in clearance section that we would anyway need to buy at full price
  • Once you’re done with shopping and ready to bill the items, recheck the items in the cart and see if you have anything that’s not needed
  • When you have only 20% of the budget left at the end of the month, put an emergency brake and buy ONLY the necessary items. For example, when I hit the last $50, I’ll go on HOLD mode. We will buy only the necessary items such as banana, milk until the end of the month and I alone go for all grocery shopping because I don’t believe that my husband would come out of grocery store without picking an extra item 🙂


Never Take Your Kids to Shopping If You Want To Stick To The Budget

How To Save Money In Grocery Shopping Without Printing Coupons

  • Buy all the bulk foods such as rice bags, wheat flour etc at the starting of the month. That way if your budget gets smaller at the end of the month, you don’t have to worry about bulk expenses.
  • Buying everything in bulk-merchandise stores such as Costco doesn’t always save money. I do this mistake more often than I should. For example, I bought 3 cantaloupe pack for ~$6 couple of weeks back and they started going bad in a couple of days. I ended up throwing one that went bad.
  • Stick a notepad in the fridge and write down the cost of your wasted products. In my above Cantaloupe example, I wasted ~$2 by buying them in bulk. I noted that $2 on the notepad and keep noting down the $$ of items I wasted that month. This gives a picture of our total waste in that month and how much money we should have saved by avoiding the waste.
  • Last but not least, if you’re in the US, make use of cash back apps to get some cash backs for your recent purchases. These are free apps that pay you money for everyday purchases. All you need to do it check if any of your purchased items are eligible for cash back, scan the item, scan the receipt and you’re good to go. It takes me hardly 5 minutes to do it.

IBOTTA (Use this link or my referral code gjheew to earn extra $10), Checkout 51, and BerryCart are some of the apps I use for cash backs.

**Ending September Grocery Shopping – Look How Much Is Left In The Budget.