Sponsorship Disclosure: A huge thanks to Kaiku and Visa Clear Prepaid for working with us to bring you this content.
Red wine manchego cheese. Dark chocolate açai blueberries. Sea salt caramel gelato. Every time I go grocery shopping, these delicacies beg me to bring them home.
More often than not, I toss these off-the-list items into my cart. I’ll admit a twisted rationale is at play. I’m already saving money by cooking at home. So I convince myself that buying just a few of these little fancy-pants treats is a-ok.
Problem: These little treats add up and can make a big dent in my grocery budget. Plus, when I feast on fancy cheese, chocolate and ice cream all week, all the good-for-me fresh produce will go uneaten. By the week’s end, I’m literally throwing away money.
When asked if I would be interested to try out the Kaiku® Visa® Prepaid Card for one part of my life for 21 days, I excitedly accepted the challenge. My grocery budget desperately needed an overhaul, and this was the perfect nudge I needed to get back on track.
Why the Kaiku® Visa® Prepaid Card?
While I could try the envelope method to set aside a certain amount of cash for my grocery budget each week, I don’t like carrying paper and receipts. I don’t find envelope budgeting a convenient way to keep tabs on how much I spend. I’m used to banking online, where I can see all my transactions listed.
The Kaiku Card is a prepaid debit card that has much of the same functionality as my bank debit card. I could log into the Kaiku website or app at any time to see my transactions and check my balance. I could even deposit checks by snapping a photo or transfer funds from PayPal, just like I do with my bank.
But the prepaid Kaiku Card offered something my debit card didn’t: I could set aside a specific amount to dedicate to grocery spending. I loaded $150 onto my card for my 21-day grocery budget challenge. And when I spent it, that was it. I’d be cut off. No more spending more than I had budgeted.
The only cost to me was the $3 monthly fee, since I chose a fee-free load option. But if I could stick to my $50-a-week budget for groceries, that $3 would be nothing compared to what I had previously spent on dressed-up junk food.
Getting Your Card and Loading It With Funds
It’s free to get the card. Just go to the Kaiku website, fill out some personal contact info, and sit tight for seven to 10 days until it arrives in your mailbox. Go online or call to activate it. Then there are a few ways to add money to your card.
- Take cash to a Visa Readylink location. This is the fastest option because you’ll be able to use the card instantly, but vendors will charge a fee of $2.95 to $4.95 to load your card.
- Deposit a check onto your card by snapping a picture with the Kaiku app. If you’re not in a hurry, wait up to 10 days for the deposit to go through and you won’t have to pay a fee. Or, if you want instant access to your funds, you can opt to pay between 1% and 4% of the value of the check, with a minimum fee of $5 (it varies by check type).
- Sync your bank account and transfer funds straight onto your card. These transfers take two to four business days. Kaiku won’t charge you a fee, but be sure to check in with your bank for potential fees.
I chose to transfer funds from my PayPal account. If you go this route, be sure to add your Kaiku card as a bank account, not as a debit or credit card. Once you activate your card, you’ll get all the details PayPal will need so you can add your Kaiku card as a bank account, including the bank name, routing number, account number and account type.
PayPal will need to confirm the Kaiku account, which takes two to three days. They’ll send two small deposits (each between $0.01 and $0.99) to your Kaiku card. Then you log into your PayPal account and confirm the exact deposit amounts to verify you’re the owner of the account.
When all was said and done, it took me a couple of weeks to receive my card and add funds. Then I was ready to get serious about stripping down my grocery spending!
Saving More Than I Thought Possible
For these 21 days, I knew I’d be under the radar. I couldn’t mess this up. I had to write a blog post about my progress on the challenge, so I was determined to succeed.
I could have gone mad crazy with the coupons to keep my grocery spending low, but I didn’t want to derail my eating habits and buy processed food. So I looked for other ways to save on fresh, healthy food.
First, I downloaded a rebate app, which gave me coupons on grocery store staples like milk, bread and eggs. I instantly saved $0.20 on bananas and got a $0.50 bonus for redeeming my first offer.
Second, for these 21 days I bought all my produce from a fruit and vegetable market in my area. The prices are dirt cheap because the produce is just at its peak. I used to buy all my fruits and vegetables there, but the market is a bit out of the way, is always crowded and means a separate trip since they don’t sell other groceries. For this challenge, I decided those inconveniences were worth it to stay under budget.
Last, I stuck to my shopping list. To spend just $50 a week for all my groceries, I couldn’t splurge on those extra just-for-fun treats. It’s called grocery shopping, not treat shopping.
I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep my spending low enough to complete the challenge under budget, but exactly 21 days after I started, I was surprised to see I still had $15.54 leftover. Maybe I had some wiggle room for a couple pints of gelato after all!
How the Kaiku Card Helped Me Stick to My Grocery Budget
When I’ve used prepaid debit cards in the past, I would only have a general idea of the remaining balance. Not the case with Kaiku, especially with the simple and straightforward app.
The ability to track my spending on my phone was huge. My phone is my lifeline, so it was a huge plus that I could use the app to stay on track. Since I was using my card exclusively for groceries, I could see exactly how much I spent throughout the 21 days.
I also appreciated a few of the other features that the card provided:
- No overdrafts permitted, so I couldn’t spend more than the $150 I had budgeted
- Deposit or share insurance to protect my funds, e.g. FDIC/NCUSIF
- Visa’s Zero Liability fraud protection*, which provided added security if I lost my card or it was stolen.
What I Learned About Budgeting
Throughout my 21 days, I learned a “secret to success” that many already know: Tracking helps you hit your goals. Want to improve your diet? Keep a food journal. Want to meditate, write or exercise more often? Make note of every time you do it. And to stay on budget? Track what you’re spending.
My Kaiku Card provided me a log of transactions dedicated to my grocery spending, so I was much more aware of exactly how much I spent. My spending naturally decreased because I kept much closer tabs on how much I spent every shopping trip.
That’s not to say I’ll never toss a hunk of delicious fancy cheese or a bag of dark chocolate-covered almonds into my cart ever again. But now I hope those small splurges will be more infrequent and mindful — making each and every bite that much more delicious.
Your Turn: Have you tried out the Kaiku® Visa® Prepaid Card yet?
* Visa’s Zero Liability Policy covers U.S.-issued cards and does not apply to certain commercial card transactions, or any transactions not processed by Visa. You must notify your financial institution immediately of any unauthorized use. For specific restrictions, limitations and other details, please consult your issuer.
Betsy Mikel is a Chicago-based freelance copywriter. She loves biking all over every city she visits to find its best taqueria.