Years ago I learned that keeping track of my grocery total in my head was near impossible if I had kids along for the trip with me.
“Thirty . . . thirty-three . . . thirty-seven . . . honey, please stop, thank you, thirty—what was I on?”
My brain doesn’t like numbers, I lost a few brain cells during childbirth (I’m sure of it,) and trying to keep a running total in my head while parenting is not something I am able to do simultaneously.
Or at least, not very well.
It’s for this reason that I would try to overestimate my expenses and undershoot my budget, in hopes that I wouldn’t have to ask the cashier to remove any items from my purchase. Unfortunately, all too frequently, that was what I found myself needing to do.
Really–apologizing and asking the cashier to remove a few items is something I could totally live without.
Using the calculator on my phone is not more reliable because I seem to have a habit of accidentally clearing my total while I’m shopping. I’m a klutz like that. It seems I work best with an old-fashioned, infallible, pen and piece of paper.
So here it is . . . the best thing I’ve ever done to keep myself inside of my cash budget while grocery shopping.
I use tally marks.
That’s right–tally marks . . . just like third grade.
After I make my grocery list, I make a chart on the side of my list, counting by tens all the way to five dollars under my cash budget. As I add items to my cart, I make tally marks on my chart. No matter how much my kids may distract me, the pen doesn’t lie.
It’s incredibly freeing! I don’t have to keep the running total in my head. I am much calmer and less stressed out, being able to pay attention to the kids when I need to and not worrying they might make me lose count.
I know it’s incredibly simple. It doesn’t seem like a breakthrough kind of tip, I understand. But for me, this simple trick has kept me under budget almost without fail and allowed me to avoid embarrassment and frustration. I shared my easy trick with a frustrated friend and she says this has saved her the embarrassment of ending up over-budget as well. So maybe it’s not rocket science, but it definitely works if you have trouble keeping track while shopping.
Do you take cash to the store? What tricks do you use to stay in your budget?
Image Source Credit: Public Domain by Anna Langova