Happy Money Monday. Do you know how much you spend on food for the month? If you would like to work with me on organizing your finances, the first thing I’d like you to do is to estimate how much you spend on food each month. Include everything – eating out, groceries, and especially cash you take from the ATM that you use on food. Take that estimate, and put it aside for a moment. Then, take your last month’s bank statement, credit card statement(s), and any other statements where you spend money. Add up all of the expenditures that are food related, and compare your actual figure with your estimate. Don’t forget ATM withdrawals. (I include my ATM withdrawals in the food category because almost all of my cash use is for food. If I use cash for other purposes, I make sure to reclass that out to the proper category.) How close was your actual spending to your estimate?
The reason I choose food to first analyze is because that is one category that is most in your control, it is often a source of huge money problems, and it is the easiest problem to solve. Are you eating out a lot more than you realized, or are the dining out times much more money than you realized once you add them up for the month?
So many of us think we should keep track of our finances, but we often don’t know why or how tracking our finances will help. Food spending can also point to other problems. Dining out in general usually means much greater food portions than we would eat at home, and a little preparation of handy grab-and-go healthy snacks means less impulsive fast food decisions. Do you find yourself buying lots of groceries and then having to throw out lots of unused food? Maybe our fantasy self who thinks we will cook elaborate meals and our real self should meet and come to some negotiation terms. Try buying foods at the grocery store that you really like, that are on the healthier side, and that make you HAPPY! If you have foods that are easier for you to prepare, that are healthy, and that make you excited to eat, you are less likely to eat out. Another tip is to take what you like about dining out and try to re-create those elements at home. Dining out forces you to talk together while eating (especially if you have a rule of no phones). How about you play a game at the dinner table or have a group of fun questions to ask while eating at home? It is funny how addressing one issue – spending less money on food – can solve other problems too.