Greetings, friends! I’m getting a jump on my March resolutions this week and dealing with my budget.
Let me tell you this: my husband pays me once a month. It’s a negotiated rate, and certainly not final; but as a one-income family, I find it highly comforting to work from the context of a budget. We’ve tweaked it here and there, but we’ve arrived at a figure that mostly works. The rest of our income is used for paying bills and socking away money into our emergency savings and the kids’ college funds.
J and I have a joint savings and separate checking accounts (I actually have a separate savings as well, at my previous credit union). Because checking transactions are private, we don’t nitpick over any day-to-day purchases. And if we are pining for a bigger ticket item, we discuss it. If I want to go to Banana Republic and buy a sweater, I try to make that work in the context of my monthly spending. If I want to buy eight pieces for a new, temporary (huzzah!) postpartum wardrobe, we discuss it. And of course, J extends me the same courtesy. We probably hem and haw over individual purchases to a fault (sometimes we seem to live as if we have no cushion; yet we do), but I think we are in a very good place, money-wise. We don’t argue about finances. We don’t hide purchases from each other. (That’s not to say I am not frequently annoyed that I don’t have a professional cleaning person. But you know what I mean.)
Here’s what I cover: GROCERIES (by far our largest monthly expense, after the mortgage), dry cleaning, my soon-to-be gym payment, gas for my ride, and KIDS. Kid classes; kid clothes; kid activities; kid doctor appointments. Those adorable little buggers are expensive. Oh, and Netflix. Because we watch a movie every six weeks.
I’ve worked out my budget to include a cushion (I call it “savings,” but honestly, it’s always spent by month’s end.) I have a few dollars for pampering as well, entertainment, and “miscellaneous,” which in our house is gifts for other people. Do you guys buy as many presents as we do? I feel like every month there is a gift (be it a new baby, a wedding, a shower, a holiday) that eats up most of my allocated cash there.
I also have a Banana Republic credit card which J thinks is a waste, but don’t listen to him. They send me $10 rewards so often we are swimming in Old Navy tees for Hendrik and the occasional blouse for mama. The most amazing thing about our CC situation? We have no debt. NONE. In college, I charged classes. I’ve come a long way, y’all.
ALL of that said (you’re welcome guys): I feel like I am hemorrhaging money each month for groceries. It’s expensive to eat well, plain and simple. So this month, I’ve vowed to get a hold of our supermarket spending. Here’s my plan:
- Shop once per week. I’m the QUEEN of running out to Target to pick up a lime for dinner and returning with $50 worth of Larabars and produce. So yesterday, I completed our shopping for Week 1 (2/26 – 3/4). My original goal was to keep it to $150 per week, but I amended that when I picked up what I thought we needed. Our new budget is $175 per week. March will be a long month (as I started it three days early), so our total grocery spending for this month will be $825.
- Shop smarter. I mainly frequent Target and Whole Foods. Yesterday I began the somewhat tedious process of comparing prices at the stores. For example, the same Horizon Organic Cheesesticks that are $4.99 at WF are $3.99 at Target, a cost savings of 20% that adds up to at least $50 annually, though we are usually up to our knees in cheesesticks here. I can also save $1 by buying the Horizon Organic gallon milk at Target, rather than purchasing two half-gallons at Whole Foods (they didn’t carry the gallon bottle). Freeing up this money seems awfully sensible.
- Use coupons and track savings. I’ll never be a huge couponer – we just don’t buy or need most of the products I come across. Target, however, offers coupons based on your historical purchases. Yesterday I saved $6.39 buying eggs, produce, coffee creamer, and baby food. The key is to be organized and equipped before I get to the store. Also, I use my Target red card to save 5% on everything I buy there. And that is mostly everything in my life, down to my fancy Merona wardrobe.
- Plan meals. In the margin on my weekly shopping list, I jot down dinners for the week, as well as ideas for lunches, snacks, and the occasional breakfast. Then I make sure I’ve put all of the necessary ingredients on my list.
- Get creative. I’m not naive; I realize we may be eating PB&J on night six when we’ve exhausted all of our other wares. But this month, we’re going to see it through.
By the way, we go out to dinner usually once per week, and the kids and I grab lunch out probably twice per month. That cash comes out of “entertainment.”
I shall keep you posted, gentle readers.
So, does anyone else keep close tabs on grocery spending? What methods do you use?