At the beginning of April, I gave my husband Vin and myself a mighty challenge. Track every food and drink purchase to get a better idea of what we’re spending in an average month. To say I’ve been blindsided by the results is an understatement. For two people who don’t eat large portions, dine out rarely and hardly drink alcohol, we collectively spend a lot of money on food and drink. In April, that grand total was a shuddering $1,041.57.
Here’s how that broke down:
Meals Out: $318.87
Drinks (all non-alcoholic): $124.12
My Total Spending: $566.32
Vin’s Total Spending: $475.85
Grand Total: $1,041.57
(Sidenote: I didn’t tally all purchases in this breakdown).
So what have I learned from this?
* Well, we live in an expensive area, first of all. This is obviously not news to me, but when I took photographs of all the food I purchased at the grocery for $40, $50, and $60 it just didn’t really look like that much food. Bummer.
* There are some things we’re willing to spend money on, simply because they make our lives better. I’m never going to stop buying organic chicken, milk or eggs to save money. That was a conscious switch I made years ago, and it’s staying put for a multitude of reasons. We’re never going to stop going out to dinner on Saturday nights or having brunch with friends on Sunday. Life’s too short.
* Some battles aren’t worth fighting. When I began to see $3+ hot chocolates from Dunkin’ Donuts pop up on Vin’s side of the spreadsheet nearly every single workday, it admittedly seemed like an easy cut to make. I make coffee at home, and I was thinking maybe he could make hot chocolate at his work with an electric kettle he has there. But Vin is a hard-working man who leaves his office very rarely throughout the day, and grabbing a hot chocolate down the street at Dunkin’ is often his only break. I get it.
* I need to look at grocery shopping as a weekly whole, rather than a series of individual meals. Meaning, because I love to cook and find a lot of joy in it, I often over-complicate things and feel like every dinner has to be some big ordeal. This leads to multiple trips to the grocery store for various ingredients, when I should be buying stuff that can be used multiple times weekly for a variety of meals. Also, it wouldn’t kill us to have just a simple meal comprised of 3-4 ingredients from time to time.
* If I prepare lunches for us daily, our overall spending will go down quite a bit. Both of our spending during the day is proportionally much higher on days when I don’t pack us lunches. This is a no-brainer which unfortunately requires more effort on my part, cause Vin sure ain’t waking up early to make turkey sandwiches.
Vin and I have had the same method for divvying up costs for the five years we’ve lived together. I pay for all groceries; he pays for all meals out. We also have very concrete ways of splitting up our other monthly bills. However, this is the first time Vin and I have ever tracked our budgets together as a financial team, and it’s opened up a floodgate of conversations about money, savings and our financial future. All good things. We’re now talking about other ways to bring in extra income, and investments we might consider making. Not all aspects of married or coupled life are terribly romantic though, are they? Not sure if I can convince him to keep tracking purchases for May, but it makes sense to me to see if we’re able to get our spending down.
I tip my hat to anyone who managed to continue with this challenge through the whole month. Did anyone else follow through? What lessons did you learn about your spending?