A Simple Way to Cut Down on Impulse Purchases at the Grocery Store ...

Or, in Other Words, “Check Your Food Category <br />Before You Wreck Your Food Category.”

What if I told you that a great budgeting strategy might just include buying more stuff online?

Say what?! That’s right. Three words: online grocery shopping.

OK, maybe buying groceries doesn’t sound as fun as “buying more stuff online”, but it got your attention, right? And now that you’re here, know that it is fun. Fun because you’ll get groceries in less time, with less hassle and (if you’re strategic) you’ll save some cash. Wins all over!

Now, I know that grocery pick-up and delivery services aren’t available to everyone, so if you live smack-dab in the middle of Wyoming, for example, you might have to lug a giant cooler two hours to your nearest town and roam the aisles to stock up on essentials—like chicken thighs, toilet paper and Red Vines (Mmm.). If that’s you, please enjoy some peaceful, wide-open space on my behalf.

For the rest of us, we’ll just have to settle for more convenience. Cool? Let’s get into it.

Will Online Grocery Shopping Work for You?

So, with your budget in mind (preferably in hand, I mean, do you even mobile app?), take a look at your options. Whether you arrange to pick up your groceries at the store, or choose to have them delivered to your home, consider the cost.

Some stores offer free pick-up or delivery services if you spend over a certain amount. The cost of gas (and babysitters?) might negate a small surcharge. We’re all budgeters here, so just keep an eye on those categories! If it’s “spend a little to save a lot”, then bingo!

And then there’s the less obvious impact to your budget: the introduction of automation. While this can be a time-and-therefore-money-saver, you want to keep an eye on your pantry so that you’re only buying what you really need. I mean, I wouldn’t complain about a surprise stockpile of my favorite, surprisingly sweet, preservative-free red licorice twists … but I’d probably rather put those funds in my Bali yoga retreat category. Know what I mean?

The Sweet Taste of Success (and Food) …

So there’s the obvious savings in gas (which costs money) and time (which is money), but how else will online grocery purchases affect your bottom line?

Rule 1, you guys!

How many of us have given our dollars jobs, only to be derailed from the budget when a slick grocery-store display lures us in? Or you find yourself shopping when you’re hungry—the worst! Or your kid (or husband) can’t resist the colorful box with the characters on the package?

Shopping ahead of time, from the comfort of your sofa, means that you’re focused on exactly what you need. No children to herd. No crowds to fight. And, if you need a snack, it’s already paid for (you bought it with grocery dollars from your last paycheck).

It’s just you, your laptop and your shopping list. Ahh.

Roll With the Punches

One of the really cool benefits of shopping online? As you add things to your virtual cart, you can instantly see your running total—real carts just don’t do that.

With a quick scan of the items in your cart, you can see whether or not you’re on budget. Running over? Maybe delete the Red Vines. A few strategic “click to deletes” puts you back on plan (no retracing your steps to put something back; no stink-eye from the cashier). Easy.

Under budget? Awesome. Move that cash to the vacation category!

And if you truly need everything in your cart, but don’t have enough in the grocery category, it’s so much easier to think through your true priorities when you’re not standing in the middle of a grocery store aisle. Maybe Bali can wait an extra month so there’s more wiggle room for meal options?

Budgeting Side Effect: A Shrinking Waistline?

No, I don’t mean buying less food.

I’m saying, as long as you’re buying groceries and cooking at home, why not pick some nutritious meal options? Hint: it’s not just because healthy foods tend to be cheaper. Real ingredients save you cash, but they make you healthier, too! Two birds, one stone. Boom. (Is this only exciting to me?)

And, once you’ve filled the fridge, it locks in your choices until you shop again. You don’t have to constantly summon the willpower to stay in budget (or on plan). It’s set.

Pro-tip: the grocery store employees that gather up your order are, in my experience, experts at selecting phenomenal produce. Forget the trick about popping the stem off of the avocado to see if it’s ripe, or whatever. Those people know their produce!

Yep, It Just Keeps Getting Easier

The best part? When you order your groceries online, the website remembers your order. If you really loved your meal plan last week? Reorder with the click of your mouse. (Until you get super-sick of scrambled eggs … and then maybe brainstorm a few new meal options.)

You Don’t Even Have to Load the Car!

So there you have it! What seems like a luxury—ordering groceries online—might just be a good tool in a savvy budgeter’s toolbox. If people accuse you of being lazy or indulgent, tell them about all the cash you’ve saved! Or smile knowingly. You pick.

As one anonymous YNABer said, “I recommend it to anyone, unless they hate saving money.”