YOU Magazine - June 2008 - Food and Fuel Dealing with the Rising Cost of Everyday Necessities
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Lyn Bankowski     Lyn Bankowski
AVP/SR. Mortgage Loan Originator
Alaska USA Mortgage Company
Phone: 360-679-5633 / 360-969-5550
Fax: 360-279-1198
License: NMLS#304060 / CL-157293
Alaska USA Mortgage Company
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Food and Fuel
Dealing with the Rising Cost of Everyday Necessities

Food and Fuel - Dealing with the Rising Cost of Everyday Necessities

It seems like not a day goes by that we don't hear about the rising price of either groceries or gasoline. This might not be such a difficult pill to swallow if we were talking about luxury items, but food and fuel are hardly that. They are everyday necessities that we cannot live without. In the spirit of making your life easier, the following are our tips for saving at the checkout stand and at the pump. And be sure to watch the Kiplinger video above to see if shopping at the big box stores can really help trim your food bill.

Saving money on groceries comes down to the diligent practice of two virtues, self-control and organization. Let's start with self-control.

It is very important to understand that grocery stores are designed to entice the consumer into buying products. Everything from displays to promotions is geared to increase sales. If you're looking to save money on your weekly groceries, it is imperative that you combat these temptations. The following are some great tips that are sure to help.

Don't shop on an empty stomach
Your pocketbook will benefit if you eat before you go grocery shopping. Stores are filled with beautiful displays and enticing aromas. Subjecting yourself to these on an empty stomach can be pure torture. Bringing along of bottle of water is good for fighting the cravings that are may hit after you pass by any number of temptations.

Shop alone
Tag-alongs like children or friends will only increase the time you spend in the store. They can also be enablers when it comes to making purchases.

Coupons are a point
There's no arguing that coupons cans save you money. But here's the problem: many of the coupons that are issued are for new products. This is a way for companies to promote their products, and to entice consumers into trying them. If you blindly buy into this, you will quickly find your grocery bill growing instead of shrinking.

We suggest going through the Sunday paper and cutting out only the coupons for items you already buy. The rest of the coupons can either go in the recycling bin or can be traded with friends who use those particular products. If that's not an option, there are countless online message boards and forums that deal solely with coupon trading. There's a good chance there are also private groups in your area who get together for the sole purpose of trading coupons. Do a Google™ search and see what you find.

Make a shopping list
It may seem that making a shopping list would fall under the category of keeping yourself organized, but it really has more to do with maintaining your self-control. Items on the list represent the things you need, or what you are budgeted to buy. By sticking to your list, you have a much better chance of not falling victim to impulse purchases. It also gets you out of the store much quicker than shopping without a list. Moving through the store quickly has been shown to limit spur-of-the-moment buying.

So now that we've addressed a few components to maintaining your self-control, let's talk organization.

Much of your organizational success depends on how well you understand your family's needs. Every family is different, so there is no way we can set forth a plan that is perfect for all. What we can do, however, is give you some really great tips to get you started.

Know your schedule
There are families who eat dinner together at the same time every night. Then there are families that never manage to eat together. Where does your family fit in? The reason we ask this question is that the answer has a lot to do with how you should shop.

If your family eats dinner together regularly, we suggest planning out meals a week in advance and then shopping accordingly. This is a great for taking advantage of sales and for utilizing ingredients in several other meals throughout the week. It also cuts down on trips to the market. Simply put, it's a great way to get a lot of bang for your buck.

However, if dinner is inconsistent in your home, then it makes no sense to buy a week's worth of fresh food. There's a good chance that a lot of it will go to waste. At this point, you are better off making more trips to the store and buying lesser amounts. The key here is to figure out your eating schedule, and create a shopping schedule to match it.

Comparison shop
Multi-stop shopping for the purposes of buying a product at the lowest price is not always great for saving money. If you consider the extra time and gasoline used, it can often be far more expensive. Generally speaking, the best deals for average-sized families will be found at a local grocery store, so do the majority of your shopping there.

Warehouse stores can be big money savers if you use them correctly. Remember, you are buying in bulk, so unless you have a big family and a lot of cold storage, they may not be the best place to purchase groceries. However, when it comes to non-perishable items like paper goods, household cleaners and bottled water, warehouse stores cannot be beat. Word to the wise: shopping lists are even more important at warehouse stores. Get in, buy what's on the list, and get out. Otherwise, your cart can quickly be filled with many things you don't need.

Navigate your grocery store
Here are some great tips you may not have known about:

  • Companies pay huge stocking fees so that their products can be stocked at an adult's eye level. These will always be the most expensive products. Look at the top shelves and the bottom shelves before you decide which product to buy.
  • Store brands are great money savers. Many times they are produced by the same companies as the name brands and contain the exact same ingredients. The only difference is the label and the fact that they are not advertised. This savings is then passed on to the consumer.
  • Many stores have a bargain bin for meat and produce. It may sound unappetizing but the truth is they are merely the products that need to be sold and consumed that day, or shortly thereafter. They make a great first stop for people who shop the day of for their food.

There are two ways to save when it comes to the amount of money you spend on gas. The first way is to buy less expensive gas. Believe it or not, this does exist. The second way is to use less gas. Let's start with the former.
If you have never logged on to, you should make it a point to do so. Operating since June of 2000, is a network of 181 local gas price websites. Its unique value is that it allows consumers to share information regarding the prices at gas stations throughout the United States and Canada.

Consumers throughout North America can log on to the site on a daily basis to report prices at their local gas stations. The website then sorts through the information and lists the stations that sell the cheapest, as well as the most expensive gas.

As you can imagine, the information provided by is not only helpful on an everyday basis, but it can also be used to help plan out driving trips. The website will even text or email price updates to your phone, allowing you to keep current with the best deals.

So, now that we know where to purchase gas at the lowest prices, let's take a look at how we can use less of it.

This is one of the best methods for using less fuel, reducing the amount of traffic, and helping the environment all in one shot. The easiest way to start a carpool is by talking to co-workers who also live in your neighborhood. If this situation doesn't exit, the Internet is a great resource for regional carpool sites that can set up matches. Many of these websites also have carpool calculators to help you determine the amount of money you can save.

Care for your car
It's a concept that is very easy to understand. The harder your car has to work, the more fuel it will use. Start by honoring all scheduled maintenance as recommended in your owner's manual. If your car isn't running right, don't put off a visit to your mechanic. Postponing a repair may actually be costing you money.

Don't neglect the tires
Keeping your tires properly inflated will do wonders for your vehicle's mileage per gallon. A good rule is to check your tire pressure at least once a month. The best time to do this is in the morning when the air inside the tires is cold, as it will give you the most accurate reading. Tire pressure gauges can be found at any automotive store for just a couple bucks and the recommended PSI (pounds per square inch) should be printed on the side of your tires.

Keep your mind on the pedal
What you do with your gas pedal will have a direct effect on how often you refill your tank. The first thing you should know is that it is always better to stop and restart your car than to allow it to idle for a long period of time. Think of it this way. Do you use more electricity by keeping the lights off and turning them on when necessary, or by leaving them on even when they're not in use?

The next bad habit when it comes to the gas pedal is what's known as "jackrabbit driving." If you are unfamiliar, it is the constant pressing and releasing of the gas pedal. It not only makes for an uncomfortable ride, it also wastes gas. When driving on the freeway, it is recommended to do so in cruise control. It controls your speed and saves on gas.

Easy on the A/C
Using your car's air conditioner causes the vehicle to use more gas, so our recommendation is to use it only when necessary. Keeping your car garaged, parking it in the shade, the use of window shades and slightly cracking the windows are all good methods for controlling the temperature inside your car.

Lighten your load
It's a good idea to remove anything from your vehicle that doesn't need to be there. The heavier the payload, the more gas your vehicle will burn. Simply put, get the junk out of the trunk.

Buy gas in the morning
The colder the outside air, the denser the gas. Denser gas equates to more energy for your dollar. It may be a small difference, but it will add up over time.

We hope these tips help. Remember, just because gasoline and food are necessities, it doesn't mean we have to be held hostage by high prices. Good luck being a smart consumer.

License AK# 157293 Washington Consumer Loan Company license# CL-157293 California Residential Mortgage Lending Act, License# 4131067

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