Now that we are finally getting settled in the new house and have distributed the profits from the move towards paying off some debt, its time to get started on reigning in the spending. Like most families, we have a rough budget in mind but I think that's the only place the budget really exists - in our minds! We are fortunate to have good incomes and therefore not have to live paycheck to paycheck, however we are spenders rather than savers and we've made some poor choices in the past. We'd like to change that.
Step one was signing up for a budgeting program online - I chose mint.com and so far, I really like it. Its linked to our accounts and does most of the work for me, which is good (I'm lazy and will find any excuse NOT to review our accounts and budget). Another benefit of this program is there's no lying, excuses or fudging - what you've spent is right there in front of you in black and white. And oh boy, there are some surprises to be found.
Groceries are an important part of our budget - we like to eat well, and we like to eat healthy. Couponing has never held much appeal for us as we don't seem to buy most of the products that have coupons. I don't mind spending a good chunk of money on quality food as I believe there are other costs to what you eat beyond your grocery bill - namely your health. However, I was shocked at the amount we spent this month on groceries - $1500. YIKES. My imaginary budget was about $650.
So how did this get away from me? Part of the problem is that we do our shopping in a few places, namely the farmers market, a typical grocery store, a butcher, Costco, a bulk food store and an organic food co-op. Without keeping track of how much of our weekly budget has been spent in each place, its easy for the costs to spiral out of control. I'm pretty good at sticking to a list but there are times where I"ll buy things on a whim. And, to be honest, I'm not one to look at prices - I buy the best quality I can find because I think its worth it.
So, how to stick to a budget while still eating the healthy foods that are important to us? I have some work ahead of me, so here's my plan:
1. Research prices - if one of us is unable to volunteer one week for the co-op (a condition of membership), I might end up purchasing the items at the bulk store or even the grocery store. To be honest, I'm unsure of how much the prices differ between these options and I need to have a better idea of how much I'm paying at each place.
2. Set a realistic budget - clearly, I'm way off base with my expectations. We are about to add another mouth to the mix, and if kid #1 is any indication, I may as well budget for a grown man right from the get-go.
3. Get creative - I've thought about making my own yogurt for awhile and I definitely need to start making my own chicken stock rather than buying cartons of pre-made stuff. I'm sure there are other ways I can save by not choosing the easiest route.
Ways we already save money?
1. Toiletries (ok these aren't really groceries, but many people buy them with their groceries) - I use apple cider vinegar for astringent, oatmeal soap from the bulk store, coconut oil for moisturizer and we get our toothpaste from the co-op.
2. No junk or processed food - we don't buy pop, chips, pre-made convenience foods and very little juice.
3. No pre-cut items - we don't buy broccoli florets, cubes of cheese, etc.
I have my work cut out for me, that's for sure. I'll report back when I've devised a new, more realistic budget and a plan for sticking to it!