Knowing how much I save each month really encourages me! It also gives me benchmarks to try and beat. While I’m not the world’s greatest mathmatician, I did work at a bank for nearly five years and learned a thing or two about formulas, calculations, and report creation. This has served me wonderfully in my new role as pro-couponer and I thought I’d share with you what I’m doing in case you’d like to do something similar.
How much did I save on my trip today?
To perform this simple calculation, grab your receipt. Then determine the shelf price. This should be your out-of-pocket expense + your savings. Your savings might include coupons, store sales, or a combination.
For example, let’s say I paid $25 at the grocery store, redeemed $10 in coupons, and saved an addtional $10 with store sales. The shelf price for this scenario is $45 ($25+$10+$10).
Next, you need to divide the dollar amount you saved into the total shelf cost to get your % saved. Taking the example from above it would look like this:
$20/$45 = 0.4444 (which is 44%)
How much did I save this month?
To track savings over a month, I prefer to use Excel. I have created a spreadsheet with a tab for every month of the year. (Then I have each month’s totals roll into a yearly summary page, but I won’t bog you down with the details.)
My column headers run like this:
Store Date Shelf Cost Coupons Savings My Cost Total Saved % Saved Comments
I personally like to break my savings down by coupons and everything else. It helps me determine exactly how much I’m saving using coupons as opposed to other methods (such as store sales).
I create formulas in Excel to automatically do the math for me.
How do you factor in rebates, gift cards, etc.?
You need to determine how to account for these in a way that makes sense for you and be consistent about it. For me, I account for them the month I receive and/or use them. For example, let’s say I buy a shampoo at Rite Aid that’s free after rebate in April. I will just enter whatever price I paid on my April worksheet. When the rebate comes in May, I will have it count then. This “cash basis” is what makes sense to me. However, I also tally my total rebates submitted each month just so I know what’s coming my way.
How do you create goals?
For the first few months, set a reasonable grocery budget. What’s reasonable? Track what you currently spend. If you are financially able to sustain that for a couple more months, consider spending the same amount of money with the goal of purchasing 2-3 times the amount of goods to stockpile. You also need to determine exactly what is included – and not – in your grocery budget. For instance: household items, health/beauty items, OTC medications, diapers, etc. Personally, I include ALL of these items into one dollar figure per month.
After you’ve worked at stockpiling for a few months and gotten a bit better at spotting those money-saving deals, create a goal that will inspire you to work towards. My personal goal is to get to $200 or less per month on our total grocery and household items bill. But I quickly learned I would just frustrate myself if I set out to achieve that goal right away. Instead, I have a “graduated goal plan” for the year. So in January, my goal was to spend $350 or less. Sadly, I didn’t make this marker, but I sure did spend a lot less than I would’ve a few months ago! The important thing is to not give up. In February, my goal was $250, and I overspent by about $65. So still not perfect, but for sure an improvement over January! And maybe what I should’ve done is kept that same $350 a month goal until I was successful at meeting it before lowering it. As you can see, I’m still figuring this stuff out, too.
Admittedly, I’m not always the best when it comes to following a budget, so this has stretched me in more way than one. One thing that helps is to think of it more like a game or challenge…instead of “I only have $X to spend,” say to yourself, “how much can I buy with $X this month?”
Give yourself some room to grow. Be patient. And don’t give up! Remember even if you are saving a little bit, it’s sure better than saving nothing at all!
I am pleased to announce I’ve worked up an Excel template for your tracking pleasure! You can download it by clicking here.