Grocery Shopping Once a Month – Can You Do It?

My husband and I recently bought a house, and we’d like to plump up our emergency fund just in case we have a large house expense.  (Because, of course, when you have little savings, expensive things start to break.  It’s the law of nature, right?)

To inspire myself, I reread America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money by Steve and Annette Economides.  One strategy of theirs that I latched onto is once a month shopping.  The Economides shop once a month for their family of seven and right after shopping day, they make 15 to 17 freezer meals to help them on nights when they’re too busy to cook.

Alright, I already regularly cook freezer meals, so how hard could it be to shop once a month for my family of five?

As it turns out, very tough, at least the first month.

Grocery Shopping once a monthBreaking Bad Habits

I have a bad habit of making a big shopping trip on the weekend and then running to the store for this or that several times a week.

Do you do this, too?  From all of the harried shoppers I see at the store at 5 p.m., I’m guessing I’m not alone.

The problem is that each time I run to the store, I buy more items than I initially went to the store to buy.  The Economides recommend once a month shopping to avoid this kind of impulse buying that blows up the grocery budget.

Making the Big Shopping Trip

This month, eager to change my bad shopping habit, I scouted the deals and made my big, once a month shopping trip.  I spent two days afterward cooking up meals to put in the freezer.  I was set, or so I thought.

Turns out, limiting the impulse to stop by the store is more difficult than I thought.

There are a number of reasons why we’re struggling:

  • My husband likes fresh fruit and veggies.  Our family wiped these out after a week, so back I went to the store to pick up some more.
  • I’m an impulse eater.  If something sounds good to me, I want to make the recipe and have it for dinner.  I don’t want to wait until my next monthly shopping trip to get the ingredients to make it.  (The whim would have passed by then, which is the point, I guess.)
  • Eating up odds and ends at the end of the month is not fun.  Sure, trying to make meals out of what food is left is fun, but the last few days, most of it doesn’t taste good.

Taking Baby Steps Moving Forward

While it would be easy to give up on the idea of once a month shopping, I haven’t yet because I know it can be a big money saver.  Instead, I’m going to back up and move to twice a month shopping.  This will allow me time to plan out our meals for two weeks, making sure we have all the ingredients we need.  Many fruits and veggies stay good for nearly two weeks, so my husband will have the fresh fruits and veggies that he wants.

I don’t know if I’ll ever fully implement once a month shopping, but if I am successful with twice a month shopping, I will still significantly reduce my impulse shopping trips and improve my grocery budget.

How often do you grocery shop?  Are you a multiple trip, impulse buyer like I am (was?), or are you a grocery store ninja?

Lending Club Is Now Offering Business Loans

You likely know Lending Club is a peer-to-peer lending site that offers personal loans to individuals as well as the chance for personal investors to invest by lending money to individuals.

Now, however, Lending Club is expanding their services and offering business loans.  This is of particular interest if you own a business.

If You’re Looking to Lend Money to a Business

If you’re already investing in Lending Club, you may want to lend money to a business as well.  However, ordinary investors cannot yet do that.  “For now. . .the program is limited to institutional investors such as hedge funds, insurance companies, and family offices that manage wealth for the very rich, but eventually the company plans to let anyone invest” (Bloomberg Businessweek).

How to Qualify for a Lending Club Business Loan

Business funding can often be very difficult to get, so Lending Club’s business loans offer businesses a nice alternative to traditional funding options.  In order to qualify for a loan, a business must meet these minimums:

  • At least $75k in annual sales,
  • a personal guarantor by at least one 20% or greater owner of the company, and
  • the guarantor’s personal credit must be at least “Fair”

What Are The Loan Details?

Businesses that apply for a loan can borrow up to $100,000 for 1 to 5 year terms.

The interest rate is fixed for the life of the loan and can be as low as 5.9% to as high as 29.9%.  The rate your business gets depends on a variety of factors including:

  • how long your business has been established,
  • how financially strong your business is, and
  • the credit worthiness of the business, among other factors.

“Lending Club Chief Executive Officer Renaud Laplanche says the average interest rate will be 12.5 percent” (Bloomberg Businessweek).

Lending Club offers a “check your rate” button on their website.  Simply enter how much you need and what you plan to use it for and then you’ll be taken to a form to fill out that will check your potential rate.  (Filling out this form does not affect your credit score in any way.)

One of the best perks of the Lending Club Business Loan is that you can pay it off early with no pre-payment penalties.

The Fine Details

When borrowing, checking the fine print is always best.  There are a few other fees attached to the loan.

Borrower Origination Fee

The origination fee can range from 1 to 6%.  That money will be taken off the top of the loan.  If you borrow $10,000, for instance, and your origination fee is 3%, you will receive $9,700 because the $300 origination fee is taken off immediately.

The borrower must pay the origination fee to cover the cost of issuing the loans as well as the screening process.

Unsuccessful Payment Fee

If your automatic payment fails, you’ll be charged $15.

Late Payment Fee

A borrower is given a 15 day grace period.  If your payment is later than that, you will be charged either $15 or 5% of the unpaid monthly payment, whichever is greater.

Check Processing Fee

If you opt to pay via check, you’ll be charged a $15 fee.  If you use direct debit, you are not charged a fee.

Funding your business can be difficult, especially if you go through traditional channels.  Lending Club is expanding their business to offer business loans, which is one more way you can potentially find money for your business, whether you’re using it for debt consolidation, marketing, or another purpose.

If you have a business, would you look at Lending Club as a potential lender?  If you invest in Lending Club, would you like to invest in their new business loans?

Is It Worthwhile To Still Use Credit Cards with So Many Data Breaches?

Just recently, PF Chang’s acknowledged that 33 of their restaurants had suffered a security breach over the last 8 months and that the credit card numbers as well as possibly the customers’ names and the expiration dates of the cards were compromised.  This news should be shocking or surprising.  Unfortunately, data breaches have become common place.  Just consider the recent security breaches at Target, Michael’s, and Neiman Marcus, to name a few.

If you’re diligent about shredding your personal information so that it can’t get into the wrong hands, you’re still not safe.  Consider all the recent security breaches.  It’s enough to make people start to think about not using credit cards just  to avoid this problem.

But even that is not a complete solution.  Yahoo! Finance just announced that a Russian gang has stolen billions of Internet passwords and millions of e-mail addresses.  “The records include confidential material gathered from 420,000 websites, ranging from household names to small Internet sites” (Yahoo! Finance).

The problem is so widespread.  If you want to live in the modern world, going without the Internet and credit cards to preserve your identity is very difficult.  Instead, consumers need to become even more diligent in their efforts to protect themselves and their identities.

Data Breaches Consider taking these steps:

1.  Change passwords frequently and make them difficult.

If you’re using “Sunshine” or “password123″ as your password, it’s time to step things up.  Choose passwords that have capital and lower case letters as well as symbols and numbers.  A password like “S&36ptrM$9″ will be much more difficult to crack than the passwords most people use.

Remember to also change your passwords frequently and avoid using the same password for all of your accounts.

2.  Protect your data.

When you shop online, you have the option to have the company save your credit information.  Do not opt to do this to protect yourself and your financial information.  Yes, entering your credit information every time you place an order online is a pain, but it’s much easier than trying to resolve identity theft.

3.  Order your credit report 3x year for free.

Each of us is entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the credit bureaus.  Make sure to order yours, but rather than ordering all three at once, stagger them.  Order one from Experian in January, one from Equifax in May, and one from TransUnion in September.  By staggering them, you can keep a close eye on your credit and notice fairly early if there is any unusual activity.

4.  Check your accounts regularly.

Especially if you have automatic payments set up, make sure to still take the time to look at your account to make sure there is no suspicious activity.

5.  Consider freezing your credit.

This is a radical step, but freezing your credit is the best way to protect your identity.  If your credit is frozen, no one can open a new account (including you) unless the credit is thawed using a special code you’re given when you freeze your credit.

Identity theft is an unfortunate consequence of our modern world.  You can’t avoid all technology to protect your financial information.  These strategies will help protect you while letting you use and enjoy modern financial conveniences like credit cards and ordering online.