Using Cash to Pay for Food

by Jim Hughes   November 15, 2018

Request fast money and learn how to stretch your dollars farther with these tips on how to buy groceries.

Get cash to pay for food.

When you use cash to purchase food, you learn about your spending habits. It helps inspire you to find food for less.

There are many ways for shoppers to save money on groceries. Store deals, coupons, and food assistance can help when trying to manage a cash budget. Regardless of what the event or social situation is, a cash budget can work with some creative planning.

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Buying Food with Cash vs. Credit Card

Buying food with cash helps people stick to a budget and is a great way to start good purchasing habits. A balanced budget is easier to obtain with cash because there is less impulse spending, and money tends to be more important when there is a possibility for it to run out.

If there is not enough cash for food purchases, some items may have to be put back. Eventually, this will cause the purchaser to reassess what they need and disregard items that they don't need.  

Using cash can also help people avoid identity theft as digital money is always vulnerable to hackers. While lost or stolen cash can put a strain on monthly expenses, identity theft can take longer to resolve and be more devastating to one's financial situation.

Interest on a credit card is usually high. If you do not pay off your entire balance every month, you will have to pay interest on your debt. Everything you buy is more expensive if you have to pay interest on it as well.

One should stick to cash to keep future charges from accruing on credit cards.

Planning is important to keep a balanced budget. Writing a list for a shopping trip results in fewer trips to get all the food needed.

Purchasing Food With EBT

Some will find that food is hard to budget with cash. State assistance is an option for those who need help purchasing food and are out of resources. An EBT card is generally loaded with benefits for food on a monthly basis.

To apply for an EBT card, one must meet financial guidelines based on income and household size. Applications for benefits are available through state agencies. Some agencies may provide assistance with filling out the application.

After the processing the application, there is a waiting period and sometimes an interview to verify or collect additional information.

Saving Money on Food

Use coupons to save on grocery store purchases.

There are many ways to save money on food items. Clipping coupons will allow one to save money on an individual item or a whole shopping trip, depending on the coupon. With careful planning, a minimal food budget can go further than many people think is possible.

Coupons are sometimes offered as digital savings that one can use through their phone when checking out. Many grocery stores will have their own coupons and weekly savings. If a grocery store allows you to clip coupons online and add them to a virtual wallet, it is easy to do this on your smartphone as you are waiting in line or taking a break from work.

A grocery store may also offer weekly deals for food items. If one is planning to use coupons to save money, it is a good idea to set aside a few minutes every week to look for coupons, clip them, and organize a menu based on what savings are available.

Grocery store sales and meal planning are two ways to keep a budget balanced and save a little money for other things. Planning a menu around available sales at the local grocery stores keeps meals unique and allows for one to enjoy seasonal items more often.

Some stores will have marked-down items for sale in certain areas of the store. These items are usually not published, rather they are marked cheaper because they are close to an expiration date or not selling fast enough.

A shared meal with others can decrease a weekly food budget. A group of people that eats together can also plan meals together. It is usually cheaper to prepare a large dish instead of several small dishes for a meal. A good social atmosphere and shared meals are a good combination for a lower budget.

Different stores have different sales and selections of food. Sometimes, it is cheaper to travel to a few stores to get the best deal. A shopping list for each store is a great way to stay on track with a budget and save time.

Cash Purchases: What to Avoid?

Shopping while hungry is the first thing to avoid. Little items here and there end up in the shopping cart because they look appetizing. It is ideal to shop after a meal. The crowds during these times are usually smaller, which is an added benefit for those in a hurry.

Purchase alcohol last or separate from food items. Costly items, like alcohol, can throw off a whole list of groceries.

Quick trips to the store are a trap for those who forget a list or can't remember what they budgeted. Planning emergency cash for food is the key to keeping quick trips from wrecking a budget. Cash left in an envelope for emergency trips to the grocery store can solve this, and it will keep a budget balanced.

Hot items and items purchased by the pound are quick ways for one to overspend at the grocery store. Setting aside time to cook will help a shopper avoid these tempting items.

If there is a clerk available, it is a good idea to ask for the dollar amount of an item that is usually sold by weight. This will keep costs closer to the amount of cash that is on hand.

Luxury grocery stores are stores that look like they sell higher quality items and have an atmosphere where shoppers may even meet for social events. These stores draw people into the lifestyle of high-end shopping trips. While they may offer a few sale items, the cost is usually higher for the same amount of food. It is best to meet for events in these stores, but do any food shopping at the regular grocery markets.

Stay Vigilant During Your Social Life

It is easy to forget about a budget when socializing. You can pay with cash when eating dinner with friends or going out for drinks. There are great ways to save money with friends, and most of them will never notice.

Eating out is costly for people on a tight budget. Instead of canceling plans, eat prior to the event. Purchasing a small plate or dessert will help curve spending for the night. Be the event planner, so you will have the opportunity to choose a place to meet that offers cheap ways to socialize. Desert, coffee, and lunch events are all cheaper than dinner.

Many city restaurants have lunch specials that offer cheaper high-quality meals because it is a smaller portion. Meeting for a late lunch is an option to socialize and still be on time for the less expensive menus.

If a budget won't allow for a social life that requires money, inviting friends to do something that is free is always an option. These things consist of outdoor activities, an art night at home, playing cards, watching movies at home, window shopping, or participating in a book club. There are many ways to stay connected with friends and family that don't require cash.

Special Events

Special events and holidays are best budgeted ahead of time. Little amounts of cash set aside have less impact than one large sum. Grocery stores may offer deals for holiday or event food items. The stores usually publish special offers in a weekly advertisement or on their website.

Compiling a list of everything needed for a special event can help with costs. Purchasing items on the list over time can also help one save money when spending cash on food. A holiday grocery list posted on a refrigerator can help when it is time to go shopping or clip coupons. Sales for listed items or savings on other items may allow one to purchase nonperishable foods in advance.

Homemade meals are cheaper than precooked holiday or event items. While time-consuming, the meal is usually healthier, and there is more food left over for the same price. Freezing leftover items for dinners or using them for lunches during the week are alternatives to extra shopping.

If there is a special event that requires a big expense, a potluck can lessen the expense for one person. Dividing the holiday meals into categories and assigning a dish for each participant to prepare will even out the obligation and allow the host to offer the same amount of hospitality.

Here are some suggestions for what guests should bring: main dishes, salads, dessert items, beverages, side dishes, and appetizers. Ask the guests to bring items to keep the food hot can save some extra effort prior to serving time. Everyone can also bring food storage items to pack meals for the next day, saving everyone time and money.

Purchasing food with cash is the best way to stay on target with a budget while refining good spending habits. A social life, special events, holidays, and healthy meals are all possible on a tight budget. Some may have to work harder to get the best value for their dollar, but eventually, they will see that the hard work and effort to keep a balanced budget are great skills to have for the future.

Jim Hughes   OpenCashAdvance Marketing Manager
Personal Finance
Jim Hughes remembers checking his first email on the original BlackBerry 850 nearly 20 years ago. It was spam, and he fell for it. Even so, he’s been on the beat every day since, following the ebbs and flows of financial technology. Look to Jim for insider exclusives on shorter-duration loans, installment loans, and other popular products in fintech today.