Sometimes your budget needs adjusting, whether it’s because you keep going over, your income situation changes, or you want to save or invest more. One budget item that often proves to be problematic is food.
Here are eight key signs that it’s time to review and redo your grocery budget.
You’re Throwing Away Food
We all make the mistake of shopping when hungry, or putting something in our basket that wasn’t on our list because it just looks too good to pass up. Unfortunately, this sometimes translates into having more food than you need, or food you don’t end up eating. If you find yourself throwing away food fairly often, it’s a good sign you need to redo your budget.
You’re Not Watching Spending Patterns
A budget may seem like a static thing you set once and forget about, but it should actually be a lot more fluid. One of the best ways to adjust a grocery budget is to look back over the past few months and see what you’ve spent on average. If you’re not paying attention to your spending trends, you may find that you’re way off per your budget. Your own past shopping habits are the best information you could get.
You Haven’t Accounted for Inflation
If you set your grocery budget a few years back, before record high inflation started affecting the prices of most groceries, then your budget may be woefully inadequate to what food actually costs right now. It may be time to take a snapshot of current prices at the grocery store and recalibrate.
You’re Not Satisfied by the Food You’re Buying
Maybe, to save money, you’re buying food based only on its price point and not on actual taste and nutrition. Or, you might be living on snacks and junk food to pinch pennies but it’s not helping you stay healthy. If possible, it might be time to increase your food budget to allow for some higher quality food and produce. Check your budget and adjust accordingly, especially if your body will thank you for it.
You’re Not Tracking Your Grocery Spending
Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be a mystery. If you’re shopping once a week and telling yourself it’s “close” to your budget, but not actually tracking what you spend, there’s a good chance you don’t even know if you’re on budget. By redoing your budget, you can force yourself back on track. There are numerous apps that can help you tally up your groceries as you shop; prepare shopping lists based on meal planning and more.
You’re Lumping Groceries and Dining Out Into One Budget Item
While it’s lovely to go out for a meal, especially if you’re the one who regularly does the cooking at home, if you’re calling dining out “groceries” in your budget — there’s a good chance you’re overspending on food. For example, according to Top Nutrition Coach, the average meal at home in a low cost-of-living state like Kentucky is around $3.88, while the average meal out is around $15. In a state with a high cost of living, like Connecticut, the average meal at home is $5.50 vs. $20 when eating out. So, if you eat out a lot, you need to revisit your budget or separate these line items into two different categories.
You’re Buying More Than Your Share
If you share a budget with other people in your household, and you find that you continually end up spending more than budgeted or agreed upon, it’s probably time to have a serious conversation with your budget sharers and redo it. While some households may agree to share these expenses unequally to reflect what is actually consumed or based on income levels, co-budgeting requires clear guidelines, open communication, and the flexibility to revise the budget as things change.
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