Tracking Expenses: A Month-long Experiment

I’m pretty organized when it comes to finances — I keep a spreadsheet with our budgeted monthly expenses, which includes columns for each month’s actual expenses, plus a column for how much money I’ve budgeted for each particular item.  The part where the organization falls apart is in tracking our food spending. 

 

Since we moved to Georgia, I’ve budgeted $600 per month for household, food (grocery AND eating out), gasoline, health, and baby expenses.  It’s supposed to break down to $125 per week (with the extra $100 covering the occasional fifth week), but three years and two children later, this number seems like it’s way off.  Part of the problem is that I’m not saving my receipts and keeping track of every penny I spend on these things.  As a result, I’m sure that the actual number is way above the budgeted amount.  I also realize that I’m very disorganized when it comes to finding ways to be frugal with the shopping, so this month I’m committing to tracking our spending in this category.

 

Well, four days into the month, I’ve already spent $250!  How does that happen?  $80 of it is the battery my car desperately needed, and $60 can be accounted for by a large purchase of Coca-Cola (for Husband), two boxes of diapers, a Costco-sized pack of toilet paper, and my daughter’s calcium and vitamin D supplement.  That leaves $110, which still seems like way too much money to spend for a week of groceries and gas.  Both of our cars are high MPG Japanese compacts, so we spend way less than other people we know on gas (maybe $40 per week?), so let’s just say that $70 is going to groceries.  I would like to get that number even lower, but without sacrificing highly nourishing foods or safe cleaning products. 

 

Is this possible?

 

I believe it is.  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to examine every meal, every household chore, and every purchase, taking notes on anything I can change.  I may not implement an immediate change, since some of it may require a larger investment of capital than I have on hand, but I’m hoping to put together some kind of timeline for these changes.  Along the way, if you have any ideas, please pass them along!  Any changes I make in spending have to follow these criteria:

 

1)  Food spending can ONLY move in the direction of being more local, seasonal, and whole, as opposed to searching out processed alternatives. 

 

I know people who STILL believe that processed foods are a better value, but I disagree on both the frugality and the nutritionality of that statement.  I think I can prove this as I move toward expelling even more of the processed foods out of our weekly shopping. 

 

2) Cheaper personal and household cleaning products can only be substituted if they are less toxic than the ones I use now.

 

This means I might have to experiment with making my own.  I have some friends who make their own cleaners, so I will be consulting them in this area!

 

That’s not an impressive list of criteria, but I’m sure it will become more specific as I delve into this experiment more.  More on this later!

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2 responses to “Tracking Expenses: A Month-long Experiment

  1. I’ve been reading along for a while now. I just wanted to drop you a comment to say keep up the good work.

  2. Hey, check out mint.com for tracking expenses. it’s free!

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