One of my goals for 2013 was to manage our finances more closely and get a better grasp on where our money is going. A couple of weeks ago, I sat down and plugged in all of our regular expenses into a budgeting tool. Putting in our monthly expenses like our house payment, car payments and utilities was easy, but what seemed to be challenging me was all of our "other" expenses like money spent on groceries, shopping, and all other miscellaneous things- hence my need to comprehend our finances. I don't necessarily want to live by a strict budget or go to the extremes of the Dave Ramsey envelope method (yuck!) but I want a better understanding of how we are spending our money and what's a reasonable amount to put away into our savings.
I decided to start by looking at the money we spend on groceries. Food is a constant, we obviously have to eat and like utilities and our house payment, groceries are a routine monthly expense. I'm not a regular shopper or a regular meal planner so grocery store trips can run me anywhere from $25-125. Sometimes I take big shopping trips and I buy food to last us a week or two but mostly I stop at the store a few times a week and pick up the necessities. Needless to say, I had no idea how much I was spending.
I used my Mint account to help me out. Mint tracks and categorizes spending habits, so I updated my account and looked at my spending for February. $350 in groceries- probably not 100% accurate but good enough. At first I was in shock. Then I started asking my co-workers & friends how much they spend in groceries per month and I realized Cardy and I are on the lower to average end of things. Only one person I asked knew exactly how much she spends per week but she shops once a week and plans every meal. In the end, I was relieved that we aren't extravagant spenders at the store but I know I also need to take into account our meals outside the home which adds another huge expense to our monthly finances.
I'm happy to have a baseline to gauge my spending at the store. What I'm hoping to come away with in all of this is being more conscious. My end goal is to understand how we are spending our money and to put more money away in our savings account and other investments- this task is much more difficult if you don't know where all of your extra money is going.