Parents are huge decision-makers. Whether it’s big decisions such as housing and your children’s education, to mundane day-to-day things such as where to eat, you are constantly deciding. But don’t underestimate the importance of making smart decisions when it comes to daily life. Things like shopping for groceries and your kids’ necessities can add up to quite a bit. Here are some tips to help you get the most bang for your buck and inculcate smart shopping habits both online and in stores.
Rising Costs of Daily Necessities for Parents with Young Children
In recent times, the cost of living has been increasing significantly in Singapore. In November 2022, it was reported that Singapore’s core inflation rate reached 5.1%, close to the record high of 5.5% seen in November 20081. As a result, 1 in 3 Singaporeans is expecting their standard of living to fall to help them cope2. For example, some families have resorted to taking public transport more often to cut back on fuel costs while others are striking non-essential items off their grocery lists. In fact, inflation was cited as the “biggest economic challenge of 2022” and is not likely to blow over anytime soon1.
Dawn Sim, entrepreneur and mother of 4 children aged 17, 15, 11, and 7, shared that her family has definitely become more mindful of their expenditures and investments. Some steps they have taken to tighten their belts include cutting down on eating out and cooking at home instead and shopping for cheaper alternatives to household needs by purchasing them online in bulk from sites like Shopee or Taobao.
Image Source: @thatmomoffour Instagram
Parents, while this isn’t good news, you can weather the storm by following some of these handy tips:
How to Stretch Your Dollar
1. Do Your Research, Don’t Wing It
Parents are busy people and oftentimes you might do a quick grocery run for essentials like diapers, milk, and eggs on your home from work. Alternatively, you might be loading your online grocery cart in between meetings. Dawn’s pro tip is to source for options to compare prices before buying. You can compare online prices against retail store prices and go for the best deal instead of the most convenient option. The key is looking for the best value for money. In order to do this, you want to check the unit price of things. For example, take three of your favourite diaper brands and divide the price over how many diaper pieces are in the pack. Then you’d know the best value for money. You can do this for most things that you purchase. You can use platforms such as Price Kaki, your go-to price guide for groceries and hawker food, to compare the prices of thousands of products on RedMart by Lazada. These apples have a unit price display feature to help you. In this way, you can make better-informed purchasing decisions.
Image Source: @thatmomoffour Instagram
Dawn also mentioned that her military husband has taught her a few tips such as keeping a lookout for items that go on sale at particular times of the year or buying in bulk during a sale. Remember, every dollar saved adds up, especially with essentials like milk and diapers that you are purchasing on a regular basis! If you have slightly older children, you can introduce them to this idea as well, to create price comparison awareness from a young age. Being well-informed about your intended purchases can save you a significant amount of money in the long run. While you’re at it, keep your eyes peeled for the best deals and discounts. Look out for limited-time deals and keep track of online coupons, vouchers, or points that you can use to offset your costs. You can also tap on money-saving platforms to help you stretch your dollar for shopping, dining, and just about anything.
2. Set a Budget, Write a List, and Differentiate Between Wants and Needs
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How often have you gone into the supermarket, picked up a carton of milk, some yoghurt, and a loaf of bread, and ended up wondering how your bill added up to over a hundred dollars? To prevent this from happening, set a budget after comparing prices online, and then work out what you can get within this budget. Also, don’t forget to make a list of what you need to buy. This is a fail-proof way to prevent overspending. Dawn’s saving hack is to plan in advance. “I do meal planning in advance and only shop for groceries once a week so we don’t have to waste money making multiple trips to the supermarket or on delivery fees for online grocery shopping. This also prevents us from impulse shopping,” she explains.
As you are making this list, it’s good to think about whether the items on your list are needs or wants. Dawn stresses that it’s important to work on a budget with your spouse regularly. It’s important to keep to it to prevent overspending. “Create a list that shows the expenditure on the needs and the nice-to-haves, and be specific on how much you’re spending on each category. Then work towards cutting out several of those nice-to-haves,” she shares. Parents, you can even make this a fun bonding activity with your child. Sit them down as you write the list, and discuss some of the items with them. This will help your child to learn not to spend on impulse in the future! Speaking of children, Dawn’s children give her their savings to deposit into their bank accounts periodically. This creates the opportunity for her to speak to them about the importance of saving and budgeting for things they want to buy, such as birthday gifts for their friends. Parents, you can try this too!
3. Other Brand, House Brand, Also Can!
Everyone has preferences. Your children may love a specific yoghurt brand, you may swear by a specific sauce from a premium brand or your mum circle may insist that diaper brand X is worth its premium cost. But a lot of this may have to do with branding and advertising. There are always claims of brand superiority, premium labels, gourmet brands, and what not. A good way to put this to test is to actually give cheaper alternatives a try or to do a blind taste test to compare the similarity of a cheaper brand. In fact, there are current viral trends on TikTok whereby people are finding cheaper ‘dupes’ of their favourite high-end brands for everything from skincare to shampoo. You may be used to your preferences, but when the need comes to tighten your belt, it doesn’t hurt to try new things. Who knows, you may end up liking the house brand even more than your usual picks!
Keep Track and Form Good Spending Habits
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If you’re really serious about stretching your dollar, one way to go about it is to keep track of everything that you spend. Use an app, or even a simple excel sheet and write down everything that you purchase. From time to time, do a review to check if you are truly spending on essential items for your family. With many Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) options, it’s easy to lose track of exactly how much you are spending so it really helps to keep track. When you are reviewing your purchases, it’s also good to wants, needs and indulgences and prioritise your spending. In fact, Dawn herself was guilty of overspending due to the convenient of online shopping. “That shock at the credit card bill when it was due made me have to lower my credit limit and keep a very close watch on my budget. Safe to say it’s been under control since!” she shares.
Mums and dads, these are just some ways to keep your spending in check. Again, if you have slightly older children, you can include them in this too, so they are more aware of spending habits from a young age.
5. Sustainability Contributes to Cost Effectiveness
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Among other things, the cost of fuel and energy has been rising significantly. Being more green and sustainability efforts will not only stretch your dollar but also help in saving the planet. What better time than now to practice the 3Rs – reduce, reuse, and recycle? Perhaps you can stop to think of creative ways of recycling and reusing some common household items instead of throwing everything away. For example, egg cartons and toilet roll cardboards make great craftwork materials for the kids! Again, this can be a combined effort for the family, especially now that preschools and primary schools are emphasising recycling projects too! Other steps include changing to energy-saving bulbs, being more prudent in the use of air-conditioning, and ensuring that you turn off electricity when not in use! You can even design signs to put up around your household, or impose a ‘fine’ for those who do not turn off electricity when not in use!
So you see, parents, though we are living through some tough times, you can ease the burden by practicing some of these simple tips to stretch your dollar. Take this as an opportunity to inculcate good spending habits in your children, and to take them through the thought process of how to stretch your dollar and tighten your belts. For more information on how to stretch your dollar and safeguard your online purchases, you can visit the Case website or Facebook Page. Remember, make it a family effort to stretch your dollar. The inflation won’t last forever, but the lessons you teach your children will!