Cutting Edge: Check Yourself with Self-Checkout

How paying more attention can save you dollars

If I had my way, I’d be able to stick to a $50-a-month grocery budget and have all my hunger needs met. Alas, that is impossible in New York City, as $50 will probably get you a roll of toilet paper, frozen waffles, ground beef, and maybe a case of water. Well, the other day, equipped with my mental list, no coupons (this was an impromptu shopping trip), I was ready to commence the drudgery of maneuvering through the grocery store and sifting through overpriced goods for lower cost store brand items. My goal was to pick up enough groceries to last at least two weeks.

Surprisingly, I managed to spend just $37 for about three weeks worth of groceries. And I bought the usual meal staples: ground turkey, frozen chicken thighs, and other goods to make lunch and dinner.

How? By using the self-checkout.

Aside from the killer sales at this particular store, I ended up at the self-checkout line since it was the shortest on that busy Sunday afternoon. Self-checkout is nothing new as those with fewer groceries often avoid the annoyingly longer lines and opt for the quicker moving DIY lines. As I was checking out my items, I noticed that the discounted sale price did not ring up for some. Since I was acting as my own cashier, I was more vigilant than I might have been otherwise. I got an employee’s attention and avoided paying about $3.79 for toothpaste that had been marked down to $1.99, and $7 for razors that were marked down to about $3, and then 50% off of that price.

Sure, it’s easy to just pay attention when someone else is ringing you up, but between fumbling for your money, bagging your groceries, and the pressure of a growing line of impatient customers behind you, sometimes you’re not as aware. And having someone take the time to go back to an aisle and check a price or call for a manager to void an overpriced item that was already scanned can seem like more trouble than it’s worth.

When it comes to budgeting your dollars, paying attention to every detail—from the coupons you use to the on-sale items you purchase—is crucial. I’ve decided that no matter how full my cart, I will continue to use the self-checkout line if the option is available. Not only did it help me save time and aggravation but it helped me stick to an already tight budget!

Aside from clipping coupons or taking a calculator with you, what are the ways you manage to stick to your grocery budget?