Shelly Barnes: Small changes can add up to big savings for families

Shelly Barnes • Aug 7, 2018 at 4:20 PM

Christmas is in less than 150 days, and now is the perfect time to start saving and budgeting for the holidays. But for some Tennesseans, saving for the future is a dream, and living paycheck to paycheck is the reality. University of Tennessee Extension provides tips for stretching precious dollars and making the best financial decisions possible.

“A great way to cut costs and pinch pennies is to reduce costs that occur on a weekly or monthly basis. These are things like utility bills, grocery expenses, gas purchases and more,” said UT Extension economics expert Ann Berry. “Each of these areas provide an opportunity to reduce expenses, turn the savings into an emergency fund and then into long-term savings as it adds up.”

One area with the biggest potential for savings is grocery shopping. Berry said, “These days, most major grocery stores have apps with downloadable coupons and weekly ads that can be viewed ahead of time. Limit coupon usage to items that would normally be purchased, with or without the coupon, and compare the price of the item after the coupon with that of the store brand.” 

Viewing weekly ads ahead of time can also help shoppers remember to purchase seasonal fruits and vegetables, as these are more likely to be on sale.  

Berry said weekly sales are great for shopping for meats and other perishable items. Avoid impulse purchases by sticking with a shopping list and eating a healthy meal beforehand, so hunger does not lead to poor decision making.

Families can also plan meals one week at a time, to ensure food doesn’t go to waste. 

“Meal planning is a great way to utilize what is already in your cabinets, fridge, or pantry, and purchase only supplemental items. This not only lowers the grocery bill, but it helps avoid lost money in the form of food waste,” said Berry.

Berry said small choices like water instead of soda while eating out or packing a lunch for work several days a week are easy to incorporate into any lifestyle. 

“Small changes add up,” she said. “If a family saves $10 each week by purchasing groceries that are on sale, they have saved more than $500 in a year. This is a great way to build up savings, avoid using credit for emergencies and increase wealth in the long run.”

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides real life solutions. Visit ag.tennessee.edu. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.

For more information on this or other family and consumer sciences-related topics, contact Shelly Barnes, family and consumer sciences Extension agent for UT Extension in Wilson County. Barnes may be reached at [email protected] or 615-444-9584.


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