I spend a lot of money at the grocery store. That’s because:
- We eat nearly all of our meals at home.
- My husband always takes his lunch and several snacks to work every day.
- My husband likes to eat and eat well.
- I feed other people frequently.
- My grocery budget includes household items like cleaners, pet food (for one large dog and a cat), diapers for the grandkids, makeup, etc.
I used to do a pretty good job at sticking to my budget but in the past several years, I haven’t tried as hard. However, I want to do better.
When I went to the grocery store this past week, I made a detailed list complete with price estimates and it added up to $183. I wanted to spend no more than $200 so that gave me a little leeway if I discovered that I forgot something. By the way, I don’t add in tax because I estimate high on individual items to cover the tax.
Anyway, when I got to the checkout, my bill was $223.30. Oops. I went over my estimate by $40 and over my budget by $23.
When I got home, I analyzed my grocery list to figure out where I went wrong. Here’s where I messed up:
1. My biggest problem resulted from the “leeway” I mentioned earlier. Leeway seems like a good thing because I always forget an item or two or there’s a great sale. But if leeway isn’t handled carefully, it can be very bad. When I think I can add a few things because I have a little room in my budget, unless I carefully keep track, that extra $15 will easily turn into $30. And when I grocery shopped this week, I added $36 worth of extra stuff.
2. Not being realistic. I always buy a 20 ounce coke at the checkout. It’s my reward for shopping. It costs about $1.60. Sometimes I buy a second one to share with other members of my family. Since I KNOW I’m going to buy one or two, I need to add that to my list. If I KNOW I’m going to buy something, I need to put it on the list!!!
3. Underestimating the cost of an item. Most of the time I’m pretty accurate with my estimates but once in a while I miss the mark. When that happens, rather than tossing the item in my cart anyway, if I’m really serious about staying on budget, I have to make a decision. If I add the overpriced item, something else has to go.
My granddaughter loves those packages of breadsticks with dipping cheese. Normally you can buy a pack of 5 for $1.15 but they were out of them. I didn’t want to disappoint her again (I didn’t get them last week) so I ended up buying a bigger box and more expensive brand for $5 instead of the $1.25 I budgeted. I also opted to buy a package of chicken cutlets instead of normal chicken breasts (for a recipe for chicken roll-ups that require thinner pieces of chicken) and it was $5 more than I budgeted. I should have purchased the normal package of chicken breasts and cut them myself. I just wasn’t thinking.
4. Not being careful when I make my list. When I made my list, I wasn’t as careful as I should have been. I was in a hurry and threw it together. As a result, I got to the store and realized there were several items I needed that weren’t on the list. If I had been more careful in my planning, those items would have been on the list.
5. Not being committed to staying on budget. Even though I wanted to stay on budget, I wasn’t truly committed to it. I went in with the attitude that it wasn’t a big deal if I went a little over. That attitude DOES NOT WORK – at least not for me. The only sure way I know to solve my attitude problem is to go to the store next week with the exact amount of cash I want to spend.
After analyzing my spending at the grocery store this week, I know what I need to do when I go shopping next week. If you have problems staying on budget, what are your problem areas?