Shop Local! Shop Often! Go Broke!


Your friendly neighbourhood Canuck here (that’s me, Alex).

So when Erin posted her great series about how much she’s been spending at the grocery store, I read along and thought it was really neat how she’s breaking out all of her money into small grocery sub-categories. And while I haven’t done that, I sat up with interest when she started examining how often she goes to the store. I think she went nine times or something in April, after hammering down on her habits for a few months and reining spending in by a good $250. (Hats off, E.)

So I ran a search in YNAB to see how many trips I made in April. Imagine my pants-peeing shock when I counted up all the visits to the five or six stores that I typically frequent for my groceries. Twenty-nine. Twenty-nine!! That’s just shy of A GROCERY TRIP PER DAY, people!

Now, hang on. Before we all go running to punch the freakout button, let me have a look to see whether my actual spending was in line with what I had budgeted. Because I haven’t done that yet.

Okay, yeah, press that sucker. YNAB says I spent $600.81 in April. Guess how much I’m supposed to be spending? $450.

Now, even though groceries cost a little more in the Great White North than they do in the Lower 48, it’s obvious that there’s something wrong here. I think there are a few things to blame.

  1. Apparently, I am a lazy lady who likes to throw things together on impulse instead of planning a menu in advance. I used to be really good at menu planning. I would shop on flyer, and buy only items on sale. I need to get back into doing that.
  2. I have an apartment-sized fridge, so I can’t store extra milk, cream, apples, broccoli, cheese, bread, berries and meats like I used to when I lived in a single-family home. I can’t truly stock up when I do my once-a-month super shop at Superstore. I am forced to run to the store in between big grocery trips. This is something for which I have no workaround.
  3. I work alone all day, and so by the time 2:30 hits, I feel a little lonely and don’t mind stopping at Peppers for a bit of human contact before I fetch the boys from school. The only problem is, I never just buy the bananas and kale that I set out for…I grab rice crackers, sausages, coffee, tomatoes and goat cheese. And maybe some nice gerbera daisies for my window.
  4. Shopping for groceries feeds my inner provider. I get a pleasant buzz when holding a basket over one arm at the local fruit and veggie market. Same kind of buzz I get when I’m barefoot and baking cranberry-white-chocolate scones on a Saturday afternoon. I like to see a full fridge and cupboards, and so I tend to keep them that way. (I am, however, rabidly averse to waste, so I usually manage to use everything up before it goes bad.)
  5. All independent Vancouver Island grocers, with their gorgeous lighting and brilliant produce/fresh-baked pies/clover honey displays issue an irresistible siren song of their products having been procured at one of hundreds of local, free-range, family-run enterprises within a fifty kilometre radius. It’s hard to resist the “shop local” vibe. And all that clever merchandising.

Do these sound like excuses to you? Right. Because they are. You’ll notice that all of the aforementioned items, with the exception of #2, are psychologically-linked.

Here’s what I need to do to find my way around this budget-busting behaviour:

  1. Shop less. I can still shop local, but jeez, I don’t have to do it every day.
  2. Stick to the budget.
  3. Make do when the money runs out.
  4. Realize when my emotions are leading my pocketbook – and refuse to engage.

Simple, really.

I think June is going to be a whole new adventure!