Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Sad State of My Grocery Budget

Good news! I was just able to complete a mystery shopping trip on my lunch hour! I love those. This trip paid $10 plus a $1 reimbursement. Now, $10 is only a drop in the "getting nine hundred" bucket, but as I like to say - from pennies, dollars are made.

It's a good thing too, because guess who just flew right over her grocery budget this month??? Yeah, me. Turns out I am not alone, the author of One Caveman's Financial Journey just wrote a post called "How to bust Your Budget in Two Weeks." It turns out, I fell into the exact same trap he did...

Usually I do one giant run to the store once a month and then sometime later in the month do a second much quicker stop for a few smaller staples like milk and yogurt. This month I made a series of smaller stops, and the $40 here and $30 there and $10 over here all added up quickly. Part of the problem was that I went to a couple of places that I didn't consider "grocery stores" in my mind when I was there, but when I sat down to put them in the budget, that was the only place they fit. For example, I spent $40 at the pharmacy picking up some much needed medications and other health items. I didn't think of it as "grocery shopping" at the time. However, when I got to my budget I knew that is usually how I categorize things like that, and I couldn't change it for one month just because I'd be going over. (Normally I wouldn't spend that much on pharmaceutical items all at once but I had some fabulous coupons and it was all for items that I need and use regularly.)

The other killer was going with an out of town friend of mine to a local gourmet grocery. In addition to picking up some items for dinner, we also bought sandwiches for lunch and few other treats. There was another $30 I hadn't been mentally thinking of as grocery shopping. All in all, I am over my grocery budget by about $50. Yuck. The good news is that I have only 11 days to go until the end of the month - the bad news is, is that there is a holiday in there and I am not prepared for it.

The real cause of me going over my budget wasn't just those places I mentioned, though. The real problem was that I didn't update my budget for over a week and those slipped in. Had I been doing my daily updates, I would have realized how close I was and perhaps made some different choices. There is no sense in beating myself up about it though, the point is that I really need to keep on track with this. It only takes me 3 or 4 minutes each day and it really makes a difference to my bottom line.

Photo by: ccarlstead


That One Caveman said...

It's easy to do it, isn't it? I was done in by two weekends worth of baking that I forgot to include in the grocery budget. Flour may not be expensive, but it adds up when you're buying multiple bags.

I break out "Personal Care", "Medical" and "Dining" instead of lumping them into "Grocery". I follow the rule that if it's ready-to-eat it's dining, if it's otherwise consumable it's grocery, and if it's not consumable it's personal care (or medical).

While I may buy my OTC allergy meds from the grocery store, that expense falls under medical. Likewise, my shaving cream goes to personal care. If you're a little more granular with your budget, it's easy to categories the purchases.

Dawn said...

It was indeed easy to do!!

I like your idea, but there is a reason why I haven't broken my budget out that way so far - I didn't want to have line items for things that I may or may not use each month. I don't always have Personal Care or Medical expenses, for example. If I were to add those, that money has to come from somewhere, and right now, the only spot is grocery. That means that I would have say $20 in personal care available to use - but then $20 less in groceries I could spend. Then what happens on months where I don't need shampoo or shave cream? Do I leave the money in my checking account? Can I use it for extra groceries? Since I am constantly operating at a deficit, the math starts getting fuzzy for me in situations like this. Usually it is easier for me to wrap shampoo in groceries and just know that I have a little less to spend on those things. The grocery budget almost always is maxed out. It works pretty well - except for this month, of course!!!

Kristy @ Master Your Card said...

I totally blew my grocery budget this month because my sister and nephew came into town and I didn't have a plan for that. $30 here, $40 adds up pretty quickly. My other problem was that I've gone grocery shopping every weekend this month thus far. I've been trying to eat healthier, which means more fruits and veggies - which is fine, but I eat them quickly so as not to spoil. And, on top of that, organic is not cheap. I don't eat everything organic, but I've found I enjoy tomatoes a lot more since switching to organic. But, those small produce purchases really add up.

I'm like you Dawn when it comes to budgeting. I just put personal care and medical under grocery, but what I do is allocate an amount towards those things under grocery. For example, I have pet care under groceries because I have cats - food and litter are not cheap, by the way. I know that every month I'll spend about $40 on pet stuff. So, I try to know that once I've reached my $40 within that category, the rest is for something else. I realize it sounds confusing, but my little system works for me.

But, like you said. It's almost the end of the month. We can try again next month! ;)

Dawn said...

Kristy - We all have our little systems, don't we? This month was a weird month because I bought a number of pharmacy items I wouldn't usually buy at once, but I had some terrific coupons and I know they were things I needed. I agree though that the little purchases add up faster than we think. I think if I start going more frequently but making smaller buys, I will need to be more on top of the budgeting portion.

Michelle said...

My little family spends a heckuva lot on "GROCERIES," but when I look at the receipts, we're spending 60% of that big number on true food items and about 40% on household supplies, otc & prescrip. drugs, pet supplies, personal care, etc. Like the month I ran out of EVERY cleaning product - bleach, windex, comet, laudry detergent all are pretty expensive! Not knowing which of these items I'm consistently overspending, I bit the bullet and broke out the categories. Yes, it takes more time, but I think I'll be able to achieve some savings if I pay attention for a few months. But I definitely see your point about NOT going granular - especially if you don't tweak the overall budget numbers month to month. We use YNAB/zero-based so every month, I re-allocate the numbers to match our income available, and hopefully, with the new categories, I'll be able to better define the true needs in those grocery, hba, supplies pools!