Are you familiar with the 80/20 rule (also known as the Pareto Principle)? It states that 80% of the effects experienced comes from just 20% of the causes. Let me give you a simple example: most people wear only about 20% of the items in their closet 80% of the time. And remember group projects at school? In a group of 5 it was usually the case that just 1 person did about 80% of the work (that was always me, which is why I HATED group projects).
I absolutely LOVE this rule and find it to be very useful in so many situations. If company is coming over without much advanced notice, for example, I look around the house to determine what few measures will make the biggest difference in helping the house feel cleaner (the answer, by the way, is to put all dishes in the sink, vacuum the living room floor, open the blinds, and run the diffuser with some lemon and peppermint essential oils).
I’ve also learned that this same principle can apply to saving money at the grocery store. Before I had kids, I was really into couponing and I saved so much money on my groceries by being willing to spend HOURS each week searching for and clipping coupons, keeping them organized, matching coupons to different stores, and making many different trips to different locations. And I want to be clear: there is nothing in this world wrong with this strategy. If you can give the time, you can save A TON on your grocery and household expenses.
But what if you are really short on time? What I’ve found over the years is that the 80/20 principle can really work in your favor. I like to shop at Publix, a store known for higher prices, generally speaking, but fantastic Buy One Get One (BOGO) offerings each week. So for saving money, my focus is on those BOGO deals. I purchase items for half off that I know for sure my family will eat and save 50% without clipping a single coupon. I will check the coupon match ups on I Heart Publix just to see if there is a coupon that is easy to print that goes along with anything I need. That will usually save me a few more dollars, though that part does take 10 minutes, or so. I don’t worry about the coupons that come in Sunday papers, I don’t subscribe to a coupon clipping service, and I tossed the envelopes I made to organize paper coupons after remembering just how much time they took. 🙂 Will I save as much money as I possibly can on my grocery trips? Nope. But I will save a bunch with precious little effort. Works for me. 🙂
Now let’s talk about a few apps that can help you save a little more if you want to put a little bit more time into them. I currently use 2 apps, and I will tell you up front that I am not in the habit of consistently using them, and that’s because they fall outside of the 80/20 realm, in my opinion. None of these apps are difficult to use, but they require an extra step in order to save just a little bit of money, so for me, they are hit or miss.
- Ibotta. This app usually requires you to upload your grocery receipt after a trip in order to take advantage of some “instant” cash back offerings it has on hand. There are many coupon-like offerings that you can scan before you head out to the store just in case you want to pick anything up on the list. I think that’s useful if there’s something on the list that you would buy whether it’s on sale or not, but I wouldn’t use the Ibotta offerings as my shopping list, personally, as most of the items aren’t also on sale, which limits your overall savings. I do like that the app often has something very easy to earn, like .25 rebate on any brand of milk or on bananas or something like that. That’s mostly what I take advantage of, personally. But I don’t remember it all the time and even though I’ve had the app for about 4 months, I only have $2.25 in savings, so far, and $20 is needed to cash out. Ibotta shows you when people you care connected to use the app to save money, so I can tell you with certainty that many other people use the app more frequently and save more money. It’s completely free to use, so it’s certainly worth a try. Your results will depend on whether or not you make it a habit to use it, though.
- Receipt Hog. This app just asks you to upload a receipt each and every time you shop. You earn coins for those receipts and once you get 1,000 coins, you can cash out for a $5 Amazon gift card. I’m a little over halfway to 1,000 and I’m still pretty spotty about remembering to upload my receipts. It could be a really nice thing to hand off to an older child as a way for them to slowly but surely earn some spending money, but it’s not going to make it rain for you any time soon.
For online shopping, I am in the habit of using Ebates when I shop. I have earned back over $1,200 on my online purchases, so this is one habit I’m very glad to have formed. Ebates offers cash back to you when you shop, and they often also have coupons to use on sites to help you save even more. It’s free, it takes a few clicks, and that’s it. I love it.
For me, I simply find that focusing on a store’s half-priced offerings, coupled with trying to use up items in your pantry, fridge and freezer, will get you the biggest bang for the least amount of effort. Savings beyond that mark will take more effort for less impact.
I’d love to hear about what, if anything, you do to successfully chip away at your grocery bill.