I was talking with a friend of mine about how expensive food is and was pretty relieved when she admitted that food was her biggest monthly expense. Food is my biggest monthly expense, too, but I’ve read so many places about what percentage of your income you should spend on food, housing, and other things that I felt a little squeamish about “food” being my biggest budget category. My budget works for me, but at times I’ve still felt a bit, for lack of a better word, abnormal about how my money is spent.
Of course since I find it difficult to have a conversation about money without bringing in the word “budget”, I asked my friend if she budgeted. She said that she did but that she “always blows the food part of it”.
I used to have that problem, too. I tried, I really tried, but I just couldn’t stay within the amount I allotted for food. I hated seeing that I was $100 (or more) over-budget in my food category. It made me want to quit budgeting all together. I’d still spend money, but without a budget, I wouldn’t have to stare failure in the face every month.
Spending, however, wasn’t really my problem. My problem was that I was too strict with myself. I was trying to cut too much to fast. I wanted to not spend so much on food, so I budgeted much less than I actually spent. I didn’t give myself a chance to slowly adjust to spending less. Instead, I jumped right in to an unrealistic budget.
Eventually, I gave in to my food spending and just raised the amount I budgeted for food every month. In doing so, I did cut back on the money I budgeted for other categories, but something needed to be done. I spent less money on unnecessary purchases, like toys, and was able to finally have a balanced budget.
Food is still my biggest monthly expense, but with my more realistic monthly allotment, I manage to not over-spend anymore.
I wish that was something that other people would better understand. There is no one-size-fits-all budget that can tell you exactly what percentage of your income to put toward each specific expense. Your budget is up to you. It doesn’t matter if you spend $800 per month on food while your neighbor spends only $400. Do what works for you. Don’t compare your budget to anyone else’s. For all you know, your neighbor who spends $400 a month on food may be eating oatmeal for dinner 3 nights a week so she can spend the other $400 to pay off credit card debt, buy a vacation home, or take care of an elderly parent.
Your budget should only be about what works for you. If it’s not working for you, adjust it until it does. If you need help, ask for help. But whatever you do, don’t quit trying. Your efforts will pay off. Trust me. I’ve struggled, too, but it gets easier, especially when you give up unrealistic expectations.
Article by Randi Millward