I’ve been tracking our monthly expenses down to the penny since last September. At first the budget was just a way to see where our money was going. After a few months I tried to put realistic limits on each category of spending, and a few months after that I started trying to stick to those realistic limits. I balance my spreadsheet’s anticipated income with our anticipated expenses, and although we haven’t yet been able to make the real ins and outs balance in the same way, the discrepancy between the two has shrunk considerably.
This hasn’t been very easy, but at least now I can sign on to my bank account every morning without wanting to vomit. And I’m able to justify my purchases in advance, by planning them several months ahead, and by the above mentioned budget balancing.
There are two general categories to any budget- the fixed and the flexible. Fixed are those expenses that never change (duh) and that you have little control over like rent, car payment, insurance etc, while the flexible is everything else.
My average grocery budget over the past year has been 391€ per month- not too bad for two adults, two children who eat like adults, a large dog, and three cats. And that includes everything bought at the grocery store- cleaning supplies, batteries, everything. There were a few blowout months, because of parties mostly, but in general I was able to stick to my stated budget of 375-400€. Until August, where I spent a whopping 580.35€, 205.35€ over my 375€ budget. Why? Five weeks in the month? Too many trips to the expensive place? Not enough menu planning? Or all of the above.
So, my September grocery budget is 400€- a slight increase. I’m going to divide the month into 4 equal periods, and write down on my calendar when I can go grocery shopping. There’s an ATM at the grocery store, so I’m going to withdraw 100€ cash at each visit, and only spend that. Anything left over goes into the piggy bank, and at the end of the month I’ll do something nice with it- depending on how much we have left! I’m also going to track how much I spend in each category, so that I can see if there are any problem areas, and then I’m going to see what percentage of the total is from impulse buys. I know that part of my problem is that I haven’t been motivated to do menu planning, so we end up having a lot of stuff but nothing to eat. Today I’m going to sit down and get that organized as well.
Whatever system I put into place now, I’m also going to do for October and November. We’re going to be feeding an extra adult (Hi Mom!) and for some reason I don’t really think that I’m going to be up do doing any extra cooking/ budgeting/ shopping during that period. I wonder why?