i have mentioned the idea of trading down before but it really requires some deeper consideration, especially if you’re trying to cut costs.
i use this phrase in reference to a book i read several years ago. if you’re into leadership books (or you have worked for Limitedbrands in the past 10 years) you probably have heard of and/or read Trading Up by Michael Silverstein & Neil Fiske. if not, click here for the amazon link for reference.
in 100 words or less, trading up refers to the growing amount of disposable income that families have and what “new luxury” goods & brands they choose to spend those dollars on. as i type this, i decide to go check the publish date on the book… the phrase “growing amount of disposable income” is not sitting well with me. of course, 2003! based on the economic downturn of the past 12-18 months, this seems to be an outdated concept.
in my house, it’s now all about trading down and it’s open season on food & groceries. i used to buy primarily name brand and rarely the store brands – not for any particular reason other than we liked the taste and it was a habit. as i have mentioned before, we eat pretty well in our house. however, even on a budget, i am not willing to sacrifice taste and quality. yet, for the sake of uncovering additional savings, i am exploring different categories of food to see what we might be willing to trade down on.
we’ve had a mixed bag of results:
first up, bread. we always used to buy brownberry bread. YUM! however, we go through at least a loaf a week and on sale it’s usually $2 a loaf. this was a product worth investigating since we spent +$10 a month here! i decided to try out meijer bread one week when it was $.98 and i can report that the wheat is actually pretty good… we could do that again. soon after, aunt millie’s bread went on sale for $1.19 at meijer. i had a $.35 coupon that doubled, making the bread $.49. i had to try it and i am here to say that my entire family thinks it tastes like dirt. the only way anyone in the house could choke it down was by toasting and layering it up with peanut butter. i am back to meijer brand if i can’t get brownberry bread for around $1 (and i actually got it for free this week at target!)
next up, yogurt. having previously lived the weight watchers lifestyle, i had grown quite fond of the yogurt. but for $.50 per 6oz cup this was adding up. we tried a few different brands over the past few months. i was struggling because $3 a week from the budget was going to this yogurt – not the kids’ yogurt, just mine. yesterday i found a replacement: kroger brand. it has similar nutritional value in all categories and tastes really good! they are also on sale this week at 3 for $1. however, i took the savings to another level – the sweet spot! i had a $.55 coupon off of 5 that doubled. oh yeah, baby. final cost for 5 yogurts was $1.66 less $1.10 coupon savings = $.56. i will restrain myself and not calculate the cost per 6oz cup for you, but i can tell you that i will save at least $8 this month on yogurt. i am thrilled.
finally, frozen waffles. my son eats these daily (usually cold – he has funny eating habits). in my past life, we purchased Eggo brand and they average $2.50 a box. with the high level of consumption, we were spending +$5 for these a week! he is worth every penny, but we knew there had to be another way. we stumbled on kroger brand and at $1.32 a box, it was a great deal. surprisingly, we liked the taste much better! the cinnamon flavored ones fill the kitchen with the sweetest smell and then you get to eat them – even better! now my husband wants extra boxes for his breakfast too which is fine… it cuts back on his breakfast food costs as well!
there are a few things i am not willing to trade down on: tide laundry detergent, kleenex tissues, cottonelle toilet paper, and skippy natural peanut butter to name a few. i tend to be a brand loyalist when necessary. however, i have found ways to obtain these items as inexpensively as possible. i have gone so far as to determine the cost per oz/cost per unit that i am willing to purchase and possibly stockpile for. i watch the ads, i hunt for coupons… anything is possible!
the savings realized from trading down has greatly contributed to our successful transition to one income. if you’re looking to cut a few pennies from the budget, i would challenge you to closely look at what you purchase for household & food needs and determine a handful of products that could use some cost reduction… and for which you’re willing to explore store brands. a little tidbit for you: store brands are often made by the same factories as the name brands and contain almost identical ingredients and nutritional value. try it, you might like it!
keep in mind that everyone needs to be happy with the changes you make. if you’re saving money but your spouse hates you or your kids stop eating, it’s not worth it. saving money has to be fun – and it can be if you let everyone weigh in on products, celebrate the winners (and the savings) and laugh off the losers.
if you’ve tried trading down, post a comment and tell me about it. i am open-minded on the subject and would love to hear the successes. oh, i like the failures too… i can’t resist a good train wreck story. my husband thanks you in advance for any product he does not have to choke down for the sake of research.