Lance and I sit down to look at our budget every week. Mostly because one of us gets paid each week, but I think its a good idea anyway just to keep finances in check.
We’ve been traveling a lot and moved, so our budget sort of got thrown out. Its there, but I almost never look at it. I just keep buying what I need and hoping its going to be okay. And I mean that. What I think I need. Outside of bills, rent, groceries and gas, we truly don’t spend very much money. Our biggest purchases outside of that are eating out. And that happens about 1x/month. It isn’t often at all.
So when we sat down yesterday to look over our finances, I was simultaneously surprised, and not. I knew in the back of my mind we were spending more than I’d like to be. If we need it, we buy it. Thats it.
Probably not necessary.
I was also proud of us for saving up some money and finally paying a vehicle off.
That’s right. Our debt snow-ball just got bigger. Yes!!
BUT I also realized we need to be more careful now. We have an entire car payment worth of extra money each month. To get that snowball rolling, it is incredibly important to not spend that money, but to put it onto the next piece of debt we are tackling.
I just want that debt gone!
Looking at our budgets, we don’t have a lot of wiggle room.
I did a couple simple things like decrease our allowance for buying coffee and beer. However, I think the biggest impact will be getting our grocery budget under control.
Its obnoxious. Full-disclosure…the 2 of us have been spending between $700 and $800 each month.
Out of control.
The worst part is…we eat it. ALL of it. Thats the trouble with a Whole30 lifestyle. It involves a lot of meat. And I refuse to eat meat that is not well-handled. So it isn’t exactly cheap.
So where do I even start?
I have a few ideas and I am so excited to set my ideas into motion and see how it affects our budget.
1. Shop Around
I have never been much for driving to 3 or 4 different stores. I always felt the savings I would receive would be offset by the gas I used to get there. This may be true, but if I stop at stores in an organized fashion that makes sense for my gas tank, how bad can it really be?
So today I started a table for groceries. I wrote down all the common items we buy and I started pricing them out with stores we go to like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, QFC, Winco and Costco. I even included the online shopping I do from Vitacost and AmazonPrime.
I am not finished with it, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Whole Foods actually has some pretty great deals. I was also disappointed that bulk-purchasing sites like Vitacost aren’t always that cost-effective.
2. Be Frugal Where You Can
We all know about the Dirty Dozen and the Clean15.
If you don’t, you should look it up. I had it taped to our refrigerator for a long time and in the move, it lost its place. Today, I replace that list!
We have definitely gotten away from this list, and when in doubt, buy organic.
This is not good for my bank account.
There are certain things that I definitely won’t buy if they aren’t organic. In fact, there are 12 of those things. They are on the dirty dozen.
If its a great price, maybe. If not, maybe it doesn’t need to be organic after all.
3. Buy in Bulk
Navigate your way to the bulk-section of the grocery store. If I learned anything today, its that food is cheaper to buy in bulk. And unless you’re shopping at Costco, you only have to purchase what you will use. (less food waste!) More on Costco in the future. Maybe some of the deals I think I am getting aren’t really deals at all. We shall see.
4. Make a Grocery List
Seriously. Just make a list. Take an inventory every time you head out for groceries of what you already have. Try to work through the food in the pantry and freezer before buying more. We buy groceries every week because we have to. We only buy what we need for that week, with a small surplus of frozen goods.
Stick to your list! And bring a dang calculator. There is one on all of our phones, so no excuses. Know how much you have available to spend at each store, and stick to it. That might mean you can’t buy your favorite snack this week. Prioritize and make choices.
5. Look for Sales
Just take a gander at store ads before leaving. They may surprise you. QFC had a killer deal on olive oil today. It was like 40% off. Insane. And a few weeks ago, we stocked up on grass-fed ground beef at Whole Foods for $5.99/pound. And there was no limit. Too bad I don’t have a bigger freezer….
6. Get to Know a Local Farmer
Especially for beef. Well-raised, antibiotic and hormone free beef is at least $8.99/pound the grocery store. Upwards of that if its steak or roast. If you can locate a local farmer and grab a few friends, you can probably get the meat for somewhere between $5 and $6 per pound, including steak and roast cuts. It is expensive up front, but your budget thanks you for the $2/pound cost differential.
7. Try Homemade
We make our own mayo, kefir, kombucha and larabars. I also make all of our lotions and shaving cream. It takes a little more time, but if you shop deals and have the right equipment, it can really save some money!
This is my plan for the next couple of months. It would be amazing if we could get our grocery budget down to $500/month.
TIP: We use Mint.com for our budgeting. It has been wonderful for us. It updates as you spend money, so you always know exactly where your budgets are and where you are spending. You just have to remember to look at it and utilize it, like I do not!