I Think I'm Ready For A Grocery/HBA Budget.

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Old 07-11-2011, 07:53 AM
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I think I'm ready for a grocery/HBA budget.

Prior to couponing, I didn't even really look at prices! **GASP** I've only been serious couponing since March, but have managed to start small stalkpiles of HBA and essential grocery items like rice, noodles, cereal, etc. We have a deep freezer so I have lot's of room for frozen stuff.

I told my hubby last night that I wanted to try a budget of $300/month starting in August. He thought that seemed low, but I like the idea of a challenge. I also want to stop using my debit/credit cards for these items and start using cash. Would it be better to start with the full $300 cash or split it $75 per week?

We are a family of 4 (kids 8 & 4). My shopping will mostly consist of meat, diary, fruit/veggies and other fresh foods.
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  #2  
Old 07-11-2011, 09:43 AM

RE: I think I'm ready for a grocery/HBA budget.

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I am a big proponent of cash. Plastic is just too easy for to overspend with (DH, cough cough).

We do have a debit card for online purchases, and we have a gas card because it saves us 8c per gallon of gas, and at $4/gallon, every little bit helps. (We also get 10% off other purchases and they send us "member coupons" for freebies, but the real reason we got it was for the gas discount.) But the gas card has an intentionally low limit, so we are forced to pay it off every month if we want to keep using it and getting that discount. I have toyed with the idea of a Target card for the 5% off, but I just don't go to Target enough to justify it. I went to Target on June 16, and I spent $5.53 (because I cherry pick). I went there again last night and spent $7.93. If I had a Target card, I would have 67c this month. But I'm afraid if I had a Target card, I would be more inclined to go shop there, and it's 15 miles away, so that 5% savings would be consumed x10 in gas expense.

I went last night because they had some unbeatable deals. I got 2 Sharpies and peroxide for free, and I paid 58c per box for cartoon bandaids, which are a treat for my two littles, I got them each a box. And I got witch hazel for 74c and a 9 oz. container of Deep Woods Off for $5.24, which was my big splash out (but it's normally $10, and we did need it). I am a weirdo, though, which is important to note. I don't buy laundry detergent, fabric softener, stain pretreat, dishwasher detergent, toothpaste, feminine care items, deodorant, sunblock, lotion, kitty litter (we have 2 cats) soap, kleenex, lip balm, razors, shave cream/gel, face wash, shampoo/conditioner/hair styling products, cleaning products- except for Magic Erasers (yes we are clean people) -we have durable good or homemade replacements for all these items. There are a lot of other things that I only buy at certain places, like online, SHARE, direct from a farm, or thru some friends of ours who own a restaurant.

So my shopping list is pretty short. In a typical week, when I look through circulars, there are are about 5 items that apply to me per store. 10 items is a great week. I coupon-style shop for first aid supplies, office/art supplies, pet food, ziplocs, Magic Erasers, vitamins, coffee, tea, various sugars, a small handful of condiments, a few types of cheese, a very small handful of seasonings, canning supplies, Wisk (goes in homemade stain spray), ammonia, bleach, oxyclean and Kool Aid (to make dishwasher detergent), Qtips, toilet paper & paper napkins (we have greatly reduced though not eliminated the need for these), toothbrushes & floss, rubber gloves, scrubbies/sponges, over the counter medicines, gum, fruit and vegetable juices, and fresh food that can't be grown in our climate (like avocados, citrus, bananas, avocados). I also buy "car food"- things like juice boxes/pouches, fruit snacks, PopTarts, that I keep in an insulated bag and grab whenever we go somewhere. Yeah, it's junk food, but it keeps us out of the drive thru.

I am a stay at home mom with three kids and a food obsessed, intensely quality focused chef husband. I am also pretty crunchy- I try to avoid all commercial detergents, we garden intensively, etc. These are MY priorities and preferences. Your mileage will vary, I'm sure.

So, with all these caveats out of the way, this is what I do:

We get two checks per month (two months out of the year, we get three, but those go toward car and house insurance and property taxes). The second check goes to bills- last month's utilities, next month's mortgage and car payments, internet service/TV/home and cell phones (which is only $32, but that's another story), and next month's SHARE order, which is usually about $50, two weeks of our herd share, which is $20-$30, depending on season, and I do my (optional) run to the restaurant supply store, cafe that we order food from, and co-op. Then, whatever is left over is our produce/egg money for the next two weeks. There usually isn't much left, $100 is an especially good second paycheck. This is the time in the month when we get WIC, too, so we can buy some food with that. (We drink and make cheese with the herd share milk. I make yogurt with the WIC milk, and we also get cheese, a bit of produce, and some cereal/bread with WIC.)

Then, with the first check of the month, we pay off our monthly gas card balance, which is about $250, and the rest is left for shopping, savings, and whatever else we have going on. Like ripping out and putting in a new driveway, or buying the kids a trampoline- these are "first paycheck" type expenses. This is when I do our household shopping, be it for clothes, non-food consumables, durable goods, non-perishable foods, what have you.

We adhered to this system before I started couponing. This was an exceptionally lean first paycheck two weeks for us, because not only did we pay for our new driveway, we also got unexpectedly hit with our full car insurance bill (in May, our van caught on fire, and we are still dealing with the fallout of buying another van and switching insurance policies, etc.). So these past two weeks, I've stayed within walking distance, and spent $24 at the farmer's market, $18 at Family Dollar, and bought sale priced cheese and expensive local eggs at our local grocery store with bottle returns (so $0 out of pocket). Last night, I did the "drive shopping", and went to another grocery, where I spent $61.49, and to Target, where I spent $7.93. I think it's important to note that $53.05 of my $61.49 was on stock up stuff. Juice pouches, red salmon, green olives and black olives were all on sale for stock up prices. $4.25 of my $18 Family Dollar total was stocking up on green scrubbies. The entire Target trip was a stock up trip (though we will use the Off sooner rather than later). We'll buy more produce before DH gets paid again, and I'm going to spend $4 on PopTarts today, but right now, we've spent $112 for groceries (food + nonfood) for five people. We'll probably spend another $15 on produce, $3 on eggs, and $4 on PopTarts, so our two week total will be $134. Keep in mind, this is the major shopping for the month- the next two weeks will be under $100 because it will have to be.

This works for me because it's flexible- I don't have to take my $300 and go, "Oh, gosh, I need to buy produce and milk and eggs for the entire month!" But I know that if I'm going to do a stock up shop, it needs to be during the first check. The nice part about this is that if I do good stock ups two or three months in a row, I can skip a month, and spend $100 on shopping that month.
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Old 07-11-2011, 10:02 AM

RE: I think I'm ready for a grocery/HBA budget.

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Originally Posted by LetaB View Post
This works for me because it's flexible- I don't have to take my $300 and go, "Oh, gosh, I need to buy produce and milk and eggs for the entire month!" But I know that if I'm going to do a stock up shop, it needs to be during the first check. The nice part about this is that if I do good stock ups two or three months in a row, I can skip a month, and spend $100 on shopping that month.
I'm not as crunchy as you, but I did cloth diaper my daughter, we use cloth paper towels, cloth napkins, and I use cloth feminine products most of the time.

I think I'll give this food budget thing a try. And like you said if I need to use the $300 for stock ups and spend less the following month, that would be great. I don't really need to budget. My hubby makes good money and I work part-time, but why waste? I might even be able to do less for a couple of months, because I have a stockpile to last that long, except for perishables.

Thanks for all the info!
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Old 07-11-2011, 10:40 AM

RE: I think I'm ready for a grocery/HBA budget.

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First of all, welcome to the world of cash budgeting! Like you, we make enough money that we don't need a budget, but having control over your money and spending is ALWAYS a good thing, no matter how much you make. In response to you original question, I would say definitely take out the full $300, and then, if your goal is $75 a week, then put that in another little section of your wallet to spend. I've found that if I don't take the full amt out at the beginning of the month, then I end up using my debit card until I can get to the bank to withdraw more cash (which is obviously counterproductive).

I am 100% not a fan of credit OR debit cards for daily purchases. They work for some people, but they don't work for us, and the "rewards" are so minuscule that it's not worth it for us. Most people tend to overspend when using any type of plastic... When you have cash coming out of your wallet, your much more mindful. I used to think it was a joke when people would say that about debit cards, because I thought "seriously? The money comes straight out of your bank account like cash, how are you more inclined to overspend on the debit card?" I started using cash only, and realized what people were talking about But anyway, that's just my minor little plug for cash-only budgeting. good luck!
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Old 07-11-2011, 11:30 AM

RE: I think I'm ready for a grocery/HBA budget.

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Before setting a specific budget amount, I would suggest tracking 2-3 month's expenses. That way you know exactly what number you would be comfortable with. Its okay if its on the higher side initially because once you build a decent stockpile your spending will reduce.
A weekly goal works for me without which I would spend 75% of my budget before the 10th of the month.
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Old 07-11-2011, 11:54 AM

RE: I think I'm ready for a grocery/HBA budget.

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Before setting a specific budget amount, I would suggest tracking 2-3 month's expenses. That way you know exactly what number you would be comfortable with. Its okay if its on the higher side initially because once you build a decent stockpile your spending will reduce.
We set a budget without tracking before and it was really off. I definitely suggest tracking too.

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Originally Posted by junewonder View Post
A weekly goal works for me without which I would spend 75% of my budget before the 10th of the month. :tongue2
That is what I do...spend almost everything before the month is even half over. I think a weekly budget sounds like a good plan. How do you factor in unplanned expenses (car trouble, home repair, etc?) Is that a separate budget in your household?
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Old 07-11-2011, 11:56 AM

RE: I think I'm ready for a grocery/HBA budget.

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We use a credit card for EVERYTHING. It is linked to my son's college fund and earns rewards. It isn't much but he is 8 months old so we have some time. We did have a Shell card for gas rewards but they just changed the program so now its just the college fund card. Maybe he will be able to afford a book by the time he is 5.
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Old 07-11-2011, 12:19 PM

RE: I think I'm ready for a grocery/HBA budget.

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We go by week as well. This allows for me to get stock up stuff that may actually be on sale that week. There have been several weeks where I haven't shopped. After looking at the ads, I just decide that there is nothing I wish to purchase and we live off the stockpile for that week.

I have found a great way to reduce meat cost is to have a price that you WILL buy at. Mine is 1.79/lbs on whatever meat. When it hits this price I will spend most of my budget on that alone. I take it home and divide it into meals for the two of us, then we can just pull one bag out of the freezer and viola there is dinner! Also if you store has a fresh meat dept. you can buy the (sometimes) cheaper cuts of meat and have them cut it down for you.

An example was some pork loin that was 1.79/lbs (my stock up price) and I simply took a loin to the meat dept and they cut it into porkchops for me. Granted at that time pork chops already cut were 3.78/lbs! I was able to get 14 chops out of it... so 7 meals. Combine that with chicken and other meat... we were good for a month!

Before couponing we were probably spending 500 on food and hba stuff + 500 on going out to eat at various locations. Alot of the food that was bought for the house would go bad because we would opt to eat out instead of cooking the food that was already here.

When I started couponing I gave myself a $400 budget for food at home as well as HBA items. Divided into $100 a week. DH kept $200 in the out to eat budget, which as of now we have gone away with. I have just recently lowered my budget to $300 for food and HBA including what we spend for going out to eat.

As you stockpile grows and becomes more diverse, challenge yourself! Get that budget lower! This week all I spent was $24. I was able to ONLY go after things I didn't have in the pile yet and we would use/need. Being able to plan ahead is also helping. Seeing that I only have so many of "this" left and need to be on the lookout for a good deal is helping in NOT having to go to the store when we run out.

I am honestly thinking next month of putting us on a $200 budget, $50 a week to include all food, hba, and eating out expenses. Come really far compared to spending almost $1000 a month on staying alive!
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Old 07-11-2011, 01:49 PM

RE: I think I'm ready for a grocery/HBA budget.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by CLKingsley View Post
We set a budget without tracking before and it was really off. I definitely suggest tracking too.
That is what I do...spend almost everything before the month is even half over. I think a weekly budget sounds like a good plan. How do you factor in unplanned expenses (car trouble, home repair, etc?) Is that a separate budget in your household?
We have a separate budget for Unplanned expenses(like car/home repairs, travel emergencies,etc) and we set it at the begining of the Year. (yes, we have a yearly budget and a monthly budget).
Every month we put some amount into each category listed. Of course, the amounts are an assumption and sometimes 'Unplanned expenses' go beyond what we assume.
Below are the some categories(on paper) in our budget. We separated them so that Unplanned expenses dont eat up our EF and eventually nibble our Savings away...
-Unplanned expenses
-EF
-Savings for goals,etc
hth
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Old 07-11-2011, 05:34 PM

RE: I think I'm ready for a grocery/HBA budget.

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Thanks everyone for all the support and tips!
My hubby actually pays the bills in our house. But I'm the shopper for food, HBA, household supplies, kid stuff, pretty much anything that doesn't involve mechanical or electrical stuff, aka "manly things". That being said, this budget is only going to be for food/HBA. I really like the idea of using cash for these items, because I currently use a credit card for everything. It is hard to see total spending with a credit card. It'll be easier for me to see how much I'm spending if I use cash. What actually got me thinking about this was I've been doing a lot of shopping at CVS and using hubby's spare change to make many of the purchases.
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