There was an article in the paper this morning on how to try to save some money at the grocery store, given the rise in prices of everything from milk to rice. After I saw the term "Hamburger Helper" I kind of lost focus, but I did note that they recommended not shopping hungry, angry, or with toddlers Hmm. So, on that plan I could go get us groceries maybe every other fifth Tuesday? Better stock up.
But seriously, though the grocery store is still a weekly necessity around here, I have stumbled upon a good technique for cutting back on those 80 dollar budget busting not-quite-as-necessary shopping expeditions. So, here's what you do when you find yourself needing to stroll the aisles of Tarjay so you don't lose your mind to Noggin at home.
First, hit up the dollar aisle, because where else can you pick up things for A DOLLAR? Oh, the dollar store, I guess. But, these are high quality, surely lead free toys, right? And you NEED that pink and green headband as a treat to yourself. It's cheaper than a Starbucks coffee, even.
Go ahead and browse the clearance racks in the clothes department. 30 percent off, don't you know? You'll be able to fit back in a medium t-shirt sometime soon. And you'll only probably end up with one or two extra things in your cart grabbed by your baby. About this time, you'll have to recover your three year old from the inside of a clothes rounder and haul him into the cart, leaving less room for merchandise.
When you get to the cleaning aisle, you won't be able to remember whether or not you need Windex, but you might as well get some, as it's on sale, and haven't you always heard that buying in bulk is cost effective?
When you have cruised all the aisles, taken advantage of all the seasonal clearance sales, and avoided all but a couple of the toy aisles, you'll be ready to check out, proud that you've kept your total under 50 dollars, surely. After all, you didn't REALLY need anything. You'll be surprised to find that you've hit that magic eighty dollar mark again, but no worries. This time, you've planned ahead with your secret savings plan technique.
The night before, you must be sure to leave your diaper bag on the floor in the kitchen within the baby's reach, so that she throws your wallet UNDER the kitchen table out of sight when you gather up all the necessaries on your frantic dash out the door. Therefore, when you hear the clerk give you that magic total, you'll be pawing frantically through your bag for much longer than it takes you to realize the wallet isn't there, as if you might be able to talk her into letting you have it all for free because you look like such a nice person, with such gorgeous children. No? Okay, make the appropriate 'silly me' protestations, and get out of there. Savings: eighty dollars!
Here is an alternative plan when you find you must brave another very dangerous spending zone: THE MALL. Here, go straight to the children's shoe store, do NOT stop in at the Gap or Ann Taylor Loft on your way, no matter the tempting sale offers in the windows. Feel free to look at all the cute girl shoes that you've been waiting and waiting to buy for your female child after having only two choices for your son, but go ahead and buy the only one in the entire store that will fit her extra wide foot.
You could go ahead and leave now, but you're not going to make it home in time for lunch anyway, so you might as well go get that baby gift and save on shipping charges. Browse for a bit, choose something super cute, talk yourself into a zip-up hooded sweatshirt for your boy -- it's ON SALE, for goodness sake. Go to the check out, and reach for the wallet but it will NOT BE THERE. The shoe bag dangling from your stroller will be a taunt you that you have not planned ahead for the diaper bag rifling technique this time.
Never fear however, as you are now getting an extra bonus: the Small World Panic Induced Baby Weight Loss Plan. You'll have dial your phone while lifting a three year old as warm-up, then begin jogging behind your umbrella stroller while giving your husband weepy instructions for finding the credit card company phone numbers. Enter the sprint phase to catch the elevator before the newborn/new mom duo, with grandma accompaniment, tries to maneuver their over packed gear-laden tank stroller into it ahead of you.
You may breathe again when you find that the nice lady at shoe store on the other side of the mall has kept your wallet behind the cash register for you when you put a sippy cup back into your bag instead. You'll be far too winded and ashamed to go back to the other store. Savings/Calorie Burnoff: Around forty dollars and oh, at least 100: minus the six dollars and 600 calories you spend on soft pretzels to calm you down.
There are a few other problems with a savings plan fueled largely by momnesia. Namely, items you will lose/misplace/ruin along the way will need to be replaced, thus cancelling out much of your savings. From my own shopping list of needed replacements: one pink croc, size 3, left foot; one snack dispenser cup, filled with puffs; three mary-jane socks, assorted colors, none the same; one orange striped towel; one waterproof mattress pad, shredded after being loaded into a too full washing machine; a small plastic rhinoceros. Luckily, two of the above were lost in the aisles of Tar-jay, perhaps we'll recover them on our next cost-saving expedition!