Are You Really Saving Money at the Grocery Store? Let’s Find Out!

Last week I was visiting southern California and I stopped by a grocery store. As the cashier finished ringing up the sales she took the receipt out with a flourish, circled an item at the bottom and said to me, “You’ve saved $12.16 with us today!” I answered, “Yes, but I spent $25.63.” She looked at me with her smile fading and rebutted, “But you saved almost half that amount.” I thanked her for her time and took my groceries out to the car.

As I fumbled for keys, balanced milk jugs, and corralled children into car seats, I realized why I was so vexed. I didn’t save anything at that grocery store. I spent money. Not a penny was “saved.” I don’t care what the cashier has been told to say by her management. It is a lie to say I “saved” money.

No wonder so many of my clients have a hard time understanding the concept of savings and what to do with it. All around them businesses, friends and family are using the term “savings” and it has nothing to do with money that is conserved. It mostly states how much money wasn’t spent that could have been spent. This is not savings. This is spending. As I was ruminating over this latest incident my son pipes up from the back seat, “Mom, did we really save money back there?” I started laughing. A ten minute discussion ensued where I pointed out what savings meant to me versus what savings meant to the cashier. Stay with me, I know some of this is rather basic, but I figure if my children and that sweet cashier were getting conflicting messages on savings, I’m sure other people are too. This is what it means to save.

1- If you spend money, that isn’t saving! Forgive me for stating the obvious. But with the latest marketing techniques you may end up confusing what it means to save. If you have money leaving your bank account instead of earning interest, then you can rest assured you are not saving. I don’t care how pleasant the person behind the counter is when he/she circles a figure at the bottom of your receipt.

2- If you resist the urge to buy something and walk away, that is saving money. Many times we buy things that we simply don’t need. We want to treat ourselves after a hard day at the office or an argument with our spouse. If we are emotionally upset, many people spend money to feel better. To resist this urge means you are saving money. Find an activity that is free and stop the spending spree.

3- If you maintain a piece of equipment over the years so you don’t have to purchase a new one, this is saving resources. My husband and I take our vehicles in every time they are in need of an oil change. With the amount of driving we do, this is a frequent event! However, by maintaining our vehicles we can usually get 10-15 years of service out of them before we start to have major issues. That is saving money!

4- If you get your bank statement in the mail and you see that your savings account has increased rather then decreased, guess what? You’re saving money! You actually are in the habit of putting money aside and conserving your resources. You are a member of a minority by doing this. Only 1% of Americans save. By having a savings account where you consistently put money aside you are in the top echelon of our society. Cool, no?

I realize this is basic stuff. However, I also know how many folks are using language that says they “saved” money on a sale today when they actually SPENT money on an item! You either wanted that item or not. Don’t justify yourself using the marketing babble that you’ve heard. That ends up amplifying the problem. Be part of the solution and when you say you are saving money, make sure you mean that it is money in your account!

Thank you so much for letting me get that out of my system. I had no idea how much that trip to the grocery store riled me up!!!