Every once in a while, one of the blogs I write for asks me to write a spending breakdown related to groceries.
For example, this post about how to Whole 30 on a budget.
I find them to be some of the toughest posts to write because, at the end of the day, budgets often revolve around your priorities.
Don’t get me wrong. If you’re legit broke or up to your ears in debt, your budget may be totally survival based, which is still your priority, but for a lot of folks, the way you spend your money is an endless balance.
I just wrote a post that drew up a bare bones grocery budget that you could survive on for less than $4 a day and an average grocery budget that comes in around $8.
When you’re trying to live on less than $4 of food a day, I think your prioritizing survival, but once you get up to around $8, there’s an awful lot of choices.
But there are also realities.
Here are some of mine:
- I’m probably going to go to Starbucks roughly 3 times this week.
- I’m probably going to eat takeout about 4 times this week.
- I’m probably going to get a last minute text from one of my roommates asking me to pick up something we all share on my way home from work this week (toilet paper, dishwasher tablets, etc.) and because I get home from work late at night and I’m usually totally fried, if I go into the Rite Aid to buy what I need, I’m almost certainly going to also walk out with something sweet and bad for me that I want
But they’re also not all bad:
- I’m probably going to wait forever for the A train without giving up and taking a cab.
- I’m not that likely to be tempted by clothes shopping unless I really need something, and then I’m probably only going to buy what I need.
- I’m very happy hunting down free activities like giant pistachios or movies in the park as spending money at bigger activities.
- I prefer drinking at home with friends to going to a bar.
The reason recognizing your spending realities is important is because if you ignore them, they’re going to eff up your budget.
Sure, I could save $60 a month cutting out those lattes at Starbucks.
But I’m not going to.
If I don’t account for that $60, I’m just going to wonder why I’m coming up short $60 at the end of the month.
Even better, since I do account for that $60, I hit up Raise.com and stock up my Starbucks Gold Card, which gets me free drinks after spending a certain amount, with discount gift cards.
I get the same amount of Starbucks I want for a little less.
The same with eating out. I could buy enough groceries to cover every meal of the week, but some of them are going to go to waste, because I’m going to be tired or in a lousy mood and I’m going to stop and get a chicken burrito on the way home once or twice this week.
Or I’m going to have to run an errand that’s going to go awry and mess up my morning before going into work, so I’m going to grab a sandwich or something on my way in, because working from 4 PM – 11 PM without eating is a real bad idea.
I’m also going to join the Rite Aid loyalty club because I stupidly didn’t for the first two weeks I lived here and literally just threw away about $20 in savings.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware it’s a privilege to have spending realities to face, but most of us do.
You might realize you have too many spending realities and need to cut one or two of those suckers loose – but if they fit in your budget and you’re just going to do them anyway, make a plan for them.
Do they bring you enough happiness to balance out the expense? If the answer is yes, don’t feel bad about making it work. If someone mutters “latte factor” at you, you can tell them where to shove it.
Or you can be a better person than I am sometimes and realize, they’ve probably got their own latte factor, it’s just not coffee. Because that is the reality for most folks.