Increase Your Budget Accuracy by Breaking Down The Definition of Groceries
How much do you spend on groceries each week?
If you ten different people that question, they’ll most likely all spit back a number fairly quickly, but what each person defines as â€œgroceriesâ€ may be entirely different.
My family budgets $125 per week for groceries, but my definition of groceries is not just food. It includes the items needed for the meals planned, snacks, and drinks. It also includes any household items we need such as toilet paper, dishwasher detergent, laundry supplies, cat food, and personal hygiene products.
My wife and I have been taking a more strict approach to budgeting and tracking our spending. It’s not necessarily an attempt to spend less, although if we can identify things we could cut back on we certainly would. It’s more of an effort to make our budget more realistic.
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While we budget $125 per week for what we generically call groceries, we find ourselves occasionally going over. Sometimes it’s a conscious overage because we decide to make a special meal. However most times I believe it’s because we have several household items that require replacing at once.
If we need laundry detergent, toilet paper, cat food and garbage bags all in the same week, that can eat up a significant amount of our grocery budget.
The source of our budgeting challenge is that as we fine tune the upcoming week’s budget we always allocate a flat $125 for groceries. On weeks when we go over, we have to reactively adjust and decrease the next week’s overall budget to stay on course for the month. It would be much better to know ahead of time when our grocery budget needs to be higher.
We believe we can do just that by breaking down our unified grocery spending into more detailed categories, and keeping a log of when specific items were purchased. Here’s how we’re breaking down our grocery spending:
- Food : anything that goes in our faces
- Kitchen : paper towels, paper plates, dishwashing detergent
- Bathroom : shampoo, soap, toilet paper, shaving cream, feminine hygiene
- Laundry : laundry detergent, dryer sheets, bleach
- Pets: cat food, litter
I’ll also keep track of when each item is purchased. It will take some time to gather the information, but eventually we should be able to predict when we’ll need each item. We’ll know, for example, that maybe we buy toilet paper every third week, or cat litter every month, or paper towels every three weeks. We can then proactively and accurately increase our grocery budget on weeks when we project certain household items need to be purchased.
The goal here is to be more accurate with our grocery budget ahead of time in order to not have to react to overspending at the grocery store. Plus, I think it will just be interesting to see how much of our budget we actually spend on food, and how much we spend on other household items.
What does the term â€œgroceriesâ€ mean to you? How detailed is your budget with respect to food and different types of household items?
Brought to you courtesy of Brock
Brock is a software engineer by day and personal finance blogger at night. He is a fitness junkie and enjoys grilling and smoking meat. Married with two children, Brock strives to improve his skills as a husband and father, and is always on the lookout to stretch his family’s budget as far as he can.