When budgeting for January, Dear Husband and I beefed up our electricity budget and squished some other categories because there had been a cold snap in December (which would be reflected in our January bill). We threw in 100 extra bucks for January; surely that would be enough. Then the bill came along. YIKES, it isn’t just 100 extra dollars more; it’s 236 dollars more! So we’re 136 dollars short.
What to do? Well, we have three grocery weeks left. Our allotted budget is 150 dollars per week. Food, toiletries, pet food, cleaning supplies, and any over-the-counter meds fall within that 150 dollars. If we spend only 104 dollars and change for three weeks, we can pay the electric bill without breaking our budget.
We will follow three rules:
1. Plan the week’s menu. When I was 29, my girlfriend taught me this rule (thanks, AJ!!), and I’ve never forgotten it. Planning saves us money by making sure we’re using up everything we buy. For example, if we have a recipe that calls for one-and-a-half bell peppers, what are we going to do with the last half? We’ll use it in another recipe (say, an omelet). That way we haven’t spent money on food that will not get eaten.
2. Relax the health food stranglehold. Oh, how I love my grass fed beef and hormone-free, antibiotic-free milk, not to mention the vitamin packed, organic tomatoes in our produce section. These more healthy alternatives are expensive! But if we’re reasonably healthy people to start with, it isn’t going to kill us to go a few weeks eating less-perfectly raised, less-healthfully grown foods.
3. Do the math. Sale items, store brands, and coupons usually give the best deal deals, but DH and I will pause to check the price before putting an item in the basket.
. . . Okay, the three weeks of grocery shopping have come and gone. Let’s see how we did.
Week One: We had to make those bars of soap in the bathroom last a bit longer. No alcohol purchases. Stretched the cat litter another week, and had four bean-based meals. Total: 87.55 (Yay!)
Week two: Rats, we didn’t do as well this week. We had to buy both soap and cat litter. We found that the bean-based meals didn’t satisfy our hunger, so this week we bought some ground beef on sale. Total: 132.67.
Week three: If we spent under 92 dollars, we had it made. Eggs, tuna, and on-sale produce made up the bulk of our menu this week. We spent 110.32, but DH bought himself double-sided tape for a project (from his own budget), and we returned 14 dollars’ worth of glass bottles to get our deposit back. In short, WE MADE IT; we paid our high electricity bill by trimming our groceries!
Make this day even better. Consider:
- Dig up your last grocery receipt. Are there areas where you can trim money?