We’re mid-way through August so it only makes sense for me to update you on how our grocery and eating out spending went in June and July.
Just to refresh your memory, my plan (which is in this post) for spending is –
- Groceries – $400/month
- Eating out – $225/month
Coffee – $50/month
In June, I actually upped the grocery budget to $434 because I had $34 extra in our budget.
So, how did June end up? Let’s look at groceries first –
I blew our budget out of the water in June by spending $508.26. Oops. That’s the most I’ve ever gone over-budget on groceries in the history of my tracking! And I can tell you what is at fault (apart from myself, of course) – coupons. Yes, you read that correctly. Coupons! June is when I started really getting into coupons and I definitely was encouraged to buy things I wouldn’t normally buy (and in multiple quantities since a lot of the time a coupon requires you to buy two of something). I was printing coupons off, clipping them from inserts, adding them to my iPhone…I was on a coupon high!
Unfortunately, June was also rough for eating out. Our budget was $225, but we ended up spending $306.36. Again, really bad. We went over by $81.36.
While I’m used to a little overage here and there, June was really shocking to me. Clearly, something wasn’t working. So, I sat down and looked at our system and had a laugh at myself.
This has been our “system” the last few months –
- Setup a budget at the start of the month.
- Pay every bill for the month the first week of the month.
- Keep the rest of the budget generally in mind.
- Spend money.
Yeah, not a good system. Well, apart from paying every bill up front. I do like not having to worry about any bills for the whole rest of the month.
Anyway, I’ve been out of the habit of writing down every dollar we spend for awhile now, but when I was doing that regularly we were way more in check so I knew I had to start with a system that involved daily accountability.
Because let’s be honest. I’m a spender.
Of the two of us, I’m the one who shops. It’s my debit card that makes up the bulk of our monthly spending, and that’s mostly because I’m the one who is primarily home and making sure our home stays stocked with groceries and fun things for a toddler to do. But that also means it can be hard for me to be honest with myself about how I’m spending, because in my mind it’s all justifiable when I look at it week-by-week. Not to mention, I know Alex is busy, and that means I’m not getting as much accountability from him.
It can be a really bad slippery slope of misspending if you don’t stay on top of things and clearly that’s what happened when it came to eating out in June.
So, my new system involves post-its and lists. Because I love both of those things separately, so why not combine them together.
I took one post-it note and wrote “JULY EATING OUT” (and you’ll notice I was being really optimistic, thinking we would only spend $200 eating out) on the top, and on another I wrote “JULY GROCERY SPENDING” (I kept the $434 budget for groceries for July, too). On a third, I wrote “JULY BILLS”. I think these post-its are pretty self-explanatory, so I’ll just jump straight to describing how they worked for us.
Short version: They worked like a charm.
Long version: I took the three post-its and stuck them in our kitchen, above our monthly calendar so they would be very visible and we would see them multiple times a day.
On the July bills post-it, I itemized each bill for the month. Even though I take care of the bills early on, it was really handy to have a daily reminder of the basic living costs for our house. Particularly the mortgage payment. It’s a big number, so when you look at it every day it kind of motivates you to not frivolously spend because it may be taken care of for July, but there’s August to consider, and September, and so on.
I wrote the budget we’d established for the grocery and eating out categories on the post-its and treated them like general ledgers. With each restaurant and grocery visit, I wrote down where we went and how much we spent and subtracted the amount spent from the budget. As we watched our budget decrease over the days and weeks, it became less fun to spend money eating out and it became more fun to challenge myself to really work my coupons in order to save as much money as possible at the grocery store. And here’s how our spending shook out –
July groceries: $441.34
July eating out: $218.91
Okay, so we still went over budget on groceries, but only by $7.34! And…I can’t believe it…we were under budget on eating out by $6.09! And that tells me my post-it system is a keeper so it’s sticking around for August.
If you’re wondering why there is a 0.00 spending for the week ending July 12th, it’s because that huge grocery trip ($155.14) was for about two weeks worth of groceries. I saved a ton that week, too. I added the Remke spending that’s listed on the post-it to my $120.57 spending at the end of the month. But you can also see that in July I was still kind of figuring out the couponing thing. My totals are so high throughout June and July because I’ve actually been stockpiling things like detergent, toothbrushes, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.
Anyway, for August, I’m moving the grocery budget down slightly to $420 and the eating out budget to $210. Could be crazy talk, but these post-its are magic. We’ll see what happens. Already this month I’ve had my best savings to date so I’m excited to see how the rest of it goes. I’ll keep you posted!