I’m excited to update my progress in the 2019 Beat Last Year’s Budget! Each year my wife and I make financial goals for the year ahead. While a large number of these goals are personal, my financial goals often intertwine with my personal ones. My financial goal this year is Spend Less on Groceries!
For example, In 2018, “The year of change”, led to some pretty crazy goals becoming a reality. One of my goals was to make health and fitness a priority in my life. The end result included a transformation and being in the best shape of my life.
This didn’t come without sacrifice and in this case a hefty grocery budget. As you can see while health and fitness were a personal goal, my grocery budget and the money I spent ended up skyrocketing and had a major impact on my financials in 2018.
This all leads me to my 2019 financial goal to Beat Last Year’s Grocery Budget! Let’s get pumped about this, shall we?
One of my financial goals in 2019 is to spend less on my grocery bill.
The “Beat Last Year” budget challenge is one of my 2019 financial goals. I wrote this down on my 2019 Financial Goals spreadsheet and everything. This statement makes it extremely difficult to believe this statement is not true.
Beat Last Year Rules
Alright, let’s get straight to the rules. This is straight from the website so let’s follow the rules or at least a version of them.
Here are the rules for anyone who wants to try it:
Rule number one to pick a category is pretty easy, already done. Groceries, which I defined in the first part of the series and very well could lead you to fall asleep while reading, so reader caution.
What should revive you from the possibility of falling asleep is the powerful website and app that allows you to track your spending and manage your financial life.
I personally track all of my expenses through Personal Capital. By signing up via this link as an added bonus we will both earn a $20 Amazon gift card if you add at least one valid investment account (brokerage, 401k, IRA, etc) containing a balance of more than $1000 within 30 days of registering.
Commit to spending less in the next month, but really in the next year. So when I create a financial goal this isn’t a new year’s resolution where I will show up in January and never show up again. I set goals and figure out if they are attainable, adjust accordingly, and stick to it till I reach the goal. This will be no different, that’s just who I have become.
I think it’s important to share where my grocery spending was last year. I follow the quote from George Santayana “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Let’s not repeat last year’s grocery totals because if I do 2019 could turn out to be an unfortunate repeat of shameful overspending.
Spend less on groceries, spend less on groceries, spend less on groceries. I think that helped, let’s move on.
One of the things I work together with my clients is to track your spending and make sure it matches what you value the most. This is the beginning of the Brick by Brick Road to financial freedom and an important part of putting part of your financial plan.
In 2018 my priorities and values changed. I cared more about the food I put into my body than the actual cost, which totaled $785.69 each month. In some cases, I even cared more about the convenience factor in obtaining the food.
Most of the changes and costs began with my diet or added value placed into my health and fitness. I made a shift in the philosophy of the food I would consume. I began eating meat that is lean, grass-fed, and wild often found roaming in nature. For example, all of the fish I purchase needs to be fresh and caught in the wild, not farm raised. Not surprisingly this philosophy led to higher costs.
We also made a shift towards organic produce which makes up most of our fruit and vegetables. I ate mostly a Paleo diet throughout the year and really took hold to Crossfit’s founder Greg Glassman’s approach to fitness in 100 words.
“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.”
From shame to super is the motto I will be working with. I talk about this with my clients but I cannot stress this enough, none of this would be possible if I didn’t track my expenses. If you don’t know how much you were spending it’s difficult to change course on what you plan to spend.
Our grocery spending for 2018 was out of hand. We originally started with a $400 grocery budget and slowly increased it to $450. Soon $550 came and went as we were cruising past our grocery budget like we were driving on the autobahn.
If you look at the spending at Costco in 2018, the monthly averages are just a little over $200 per month, which is what we plan to use as a spending budget in 2019. Cutting $11.62 per month is entirely doable.
Through almost a full 4 months the monthly average spent at Costco is $251.62 and almost half of our total grocery spent each month. These totals are very close to in line with my 2019 expectations. $51.62 over the $200 monthly goal is still going over the budget, but I don’t feel this was a complete train wreck.
The data accumulated with 4 months of spending is a good prediction of our Costco expenditures moving forward. I expect this total to remain somewhat constant and stay in the $200-$250 range.
The strategy of visits every 6 weeks has been inaccurate as monthly visits appear to be more common. This could also be the reason for the increase in spending. This is something to monitor in the upcoming months since it was part of the initial strategy to decrease overall costs.
Overall Costco has been very close to the $200 monthly goal with some room left for improvement.
The original plan was to shift our day to day grocery needs to a low-cost provider like Aldi. This has already morphed into a combination of stores after my initial visit to Aldi’s.
So far through April, we have not purchased any groceries from Aldi. While this was not a big surprise based on my overall reaction to Aldi’s on my initial visit it should be noted.
We have been grocery shopping at Fresco y Mas, a grocery store marketed towards the large Hispanic population in South Florida. The totals have been relatively low thus far, but a total average spend of $37.31 and 6.9% of our groceries is something to keep track of.
Based on this spending and not having a specific goal to measure from, I want to create a goal based on the totals spent thus far. The monthly spend goal at Fresco y Mas is $40, which falls in line with what is currently being spent on average each month.
Recently my wife and I made our first venture to the local farmer’s market and came away with enough fruits and vegetables for the week while spending less than $30.
I don’t know the exact frequency we would purchase our items from the farmers market, but once a month certainly seems reasonable. As you can see switching to low-cost providers for almost half of our grocery spending budget should go a long way in stretching the dollar and keeping within our grocery budget.
When creating the grocery challenge, I didn’t do a great job of getting specific as it relates to the farmer’s market spending. While I mention spending less than $30 on a recent visit, I didn’t include a monthly goal.
The best I can see from my writing was a total of $200 for day to day items which includes items like fruit, vegetables, and specific recipe needs as part of this total. I even added a general estimate that this number would be lower, closer to $100-$150.
I want to create a clear goal moving forward. Spending $60 each month at the local farmer’s market is a good and reasonable goal. This goes in line with the $30 spent in my recent visit and lines up with visiting twice monthly.
Thus far I have even under spent on this totaling $41.47 per month or 7.6% of my overall grocery spend.
One of the reasons I knew change needed to occur was because of the large amounts of money we were spending when we moved from Chicago to Miami.
One of the biggest culprits of our $862.37 grocery bill in the months since moving to Miami in 2018 was shopping at Publix. Publix averaged $456.20 each month.
You read that right, we were spending over $450 just on one grocery store which was close to half of our spending. If we can reduce this spending, this will help in winning the grocery budget battle.
This amount and shift in spending have been reduced to a much smaller $50 monthly goal. This is intentionally very low, I want it to be really clear that the only items that we should purchase are last-minute recipe items and the few items we regularly eat.
The monthly goal of $50 each month purchasing items at Publix seems unrealistic and almost foolish at this point in the grocery challenge. On a positive, I chose to set a big goal with our Publix grocery shopping. The goal was to take our monthly spend of over $450 and decrease this total to a mear $50, that’ a $400 difference.
In that sense I am proud to report our current monthly spend at Publix is $167.67 or a little over 30% of our budget. Yes, it’s over $100 in our monthly Publix grocery spend, but it’s a clear step in the right direction.
It’s important to point out some of the miscellaneous grocery spend that I did not include in my goals and expected to spend for groceries. The monthly total each month of $41.25 has an impact on my overall grocery challenge.
Each dollar adds up. One item that I did not account for is a regular monthly coffee purchase from MadCap Coffee Company, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Each month my wife receives her favorite espresso coffee beans through their subscription and pays around $20.
All in all, $41.25 is not a large total but one that should be included in tracking, creating a goal, and updating the progress throughout the challenge.
Based on the results creating a $40 monthly budget goal on the miscellaneous grocery spending should be an attainable goal in the months ahead.
Last year each month we spent a total of $785.69. This year through almost 4 full months we have reduced the spending to $541.54 per month. A total decrease of $244.15, which is fantastic and well on our way to beating last year’s grocery budget.
Of course, I have bigger plans in store as my monthly goal is to get this number closer to $400-$450, essentially cutting our grocery spending in half.
The spending goals moving forward will look like this at each location on a monthly basis.
The goal is fairly simple. Beat last year’s grocery budget by limiting our exposure to the convenient but largely expensive Publix grocery store.
This strategy will mostly remain intact as Publix is still the kryptonite in my grocery spending. The main focus will be on the small shift to getting our groceries at low-cost grocery stores and farmer’s markets with the bulk of our grocery shopping done at Costco.
Eating healthy is one of my core values so this is where I am going to focus our spending. It’s important to remember that if you exceed your budget you will have to make a sacrifice in other areas. That’s why it’s important to reduce our spending.
As a money coach, I work with clients to get their grocery spending under control. Here are just a few ways I work to curb this spending.
It’s amazing to work together with a client and be able to help them to save $100 or $200 in a single month. This has such a domino effect on their financial lives. One might think it’s about saving money but really it’s about getting rid of the anxiety that debt causes. Making extra interest payments each month causes that burden to go away.
If you are interested in making a change in your money habits to build a life without financial stress, check out my Money Coach page. Change your financial life by working with me.
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