In the age of pandemics and stay-at-home orders, it is even more difficult to maintain your grocery budget. We’ve all been forced to raise our grocery budget by eating three meals a day, every day at home…plus a ton of snacks.
Even in normal times, you may have been struggling to keep your grocery budget where you’ve set it.
If it is a constant struggle, it may be time to bite the bullet. It may be time to actually raise the limit on your budget by $50 or $100—or more during this pandemic.
There are two main reasons why I want to encourage you to allow yourself to spend more on your grocery budget.
First, think about how frustrating it is to almost never meet your grocery budget. It takes a toll on you mentally.
It is similar to other goals as well. If you are consistently trying to meet a goal and you don’t see any progress, you will eventually give up on that goal.
We don’t want you to do that.
Raising your budget will cause some mental fatigue initially, but once you see you are actually hitting your new goal and budget, that fatigue will wear away. You’ll be left with a clear head to make better financial decisions.
Second, by raising your grocery budget, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be spending more money each month overall. In fact, that’s the goal.
The idea is to find other places within your budget to grab the money from so your total monthly budget doesn’t go up a dime.
No budget is perfect, especially the longer you go without refining it. So there are almost always places to find extra money.
Here are 6 ways that you can raise your grocery budget without spending more money than you already do.
1. Cancel Cable Outright
Cable is so expensive! That is unless you are on some sort of promotional rate. And even then it’s a hassle to try and call and get your rate reduced when the promo period is up.
You can also try switching providers to go with a competitor’s promo rate, but that can be even more of a hassle than calling to get a rate reduction. The solution? Cancel it!
When my wife and I first cut the cord, we saved almost $65 dollars a month. $65 a month would go a long way toward a grocery budget.
There are plenty of alternatives to cable as well. Netflix and Hulu Plus have pretty much every TV show we want to watch, and they are much cheaper.
Chances are you’re already subscribing to one of these along with your cable TV package already so it’s worth trying this one.
2. Use Money From Other Budgets
Along the same lines as cutting cable and reducing your budget, you can use excess money from other budgets as well.
A lot of us who can work from home aren’t spending any money on gas right now during the pandemic. And there are other categories in your budget that may not be used right now as well.
Categories like hair cuts, travel, and eating out may all be close to zero right now. Pulling the money that you usually spend on those for your grocery budget is a good idea for during the pandemic.
Even after the pandemic clears, gas prices are still pretty low compared to what it was a few years ago. You may not be using all of it.
I know we usually have $50 to $100 leftover each month in our gas budget right now because I budgeted for a higher price per gallon. That is prime money to put toward groceries.
You could cut your dining out budget and put that towards your food budget. Even doing something like finding cheaper places to go out, like Panera Bread instead of TGI Friday’s, will go a long way in reducing your budget.
That way you can still go out and enjoy a delicious meal if your budget allows, but you are still saving money. Again, this can save you anywhere from $25 up to $100 a month depending on where you are going out to eat and what you are cutting out.
3. Roll Over Your Grocery Budget Each Month
This one is simple enough but hardly done.
One of the benefits of keeping track of your finances is knowing exactly how much you are spending on groceries.
It could be that you are over your budget some months but going under on other months. If you keep track of that, you can roll that budget into the next month.
If you are $25 bucks under this month, it won’t matter if you are $25 over next month. You won’t need to sweat it.
That’s why I love using YNAB as my budgeting app.
It automatically rolls over the money I have leftover to the next month.
It reduces my stress to almost zero when I have to go grocery shopping because the money I need is “already taken out” and set aside for grocery shopping.
If I have money still from last month, I won’t feel bad needing some bigger ticket items like beef or other meats.
4. Fill the holes in your budget
In order to keep your water, you need to patch the hole in your bucket. In order to keep your money, you have to do the same to your budget.
A while back, one of the holes in my budget was having too many 0% interest loans with balances on them. In just six months, I added four interest-free credit cards, an interest-free car loan, and a loan to join the Disney Vacation Club.
My monthly budget went up over $839.00 a month.
Don’t be like me. There is no reason that should have happened.
I plugged the hole by paying off almost all of my cards and starting to use money I already had for everything.
And I stopped making big purchases I didn’t need as well.
5. Adjust Your Tax Withholdings
Paycheckcity.com has an excellent tool for calculating your earnings. It will tell you how much you are paying in taxes and everything.
What you can do to “give yourself a raise” is take your Federal Tax refund (keep it separate from State) and divide that by the number of times you get paid in a year. So for bi-weekly, it would be 26 times and semi-monthly 24 times.
After you’ve done that, you can go on paycheckcity.com and play around with your withholdings on there. Check out this article for step by step instructions on what to do.
When you are close to the number you have come up with by dividing by your number of paychecks, you know what you can claim for taxes (instead of 0).
What I did was I figured out the number I should be claiming and scaled it back one number. So if my calculations said I could claim 4, I would claim 3 instead, just in case. You can also do this with State withholdings.
Once you have done that, you can use all of that extra money to put toward groceries or split it up between budgets.
Now, keep in mind this will severely reduce or eliminate your tax return, but you’re just giving the IRS an interest-free loan anyway. I think it’s better to have that money on your paycheck.
6. Stop Putting So Much Money Toward Debt
Back in 2016, we took 11 months to pay off $26,000 in debt. Things were pretty tight for those 11 months.
We couldn’t buy anything extra, including for groceries. Sure, we set aside money for a couple of vacations during that time to help relieve the stress.
But there were some times I was stressed out because I wasn’t quite meeting our grocery budget, and the amount of money I wanted to put toward debt was lessened by that “annoyance” we like to call eating.
One of the months I calculated that it would only take an extra month to pay off our DVC (Disney Vacation Club) loan if I were to take $200 from the monthly total I was putting toward it.
$200 is a lot of money for breathing room each month, but I didn’t do anything with it beyond calculating it.
What I should have done was taken that $200, put some more toward groceries (even just $50), and lessen the stress in my life.
This may be your situation. I’ve been there before. You keep your eyes on the prize so much that you can’t really see anything else.
If you are struggling to keep your grocery bill in check and are really focused on paying debt, try taking a step back (or two) and looking at the big picture. It’s alright if it takes you an extra month or two in order to be clear-headed and grocery-budget-happy. Believe me on that one.
Finding extra money to put toward groceries is a simple (yet difficult) matter of just taking a hard look at your budget.
What can you cut out to enjoy a little more breathing room? Where are you not using the money you have set aside?
I try and look at the things I value to make the decisions on what to cut out of my budget. If it’s too valuable to me or my family, I won’t cut money from that category.
Sometimes you just have to raise your grocery budget instead of struggling to maintain your original dollar amount. But that doesn’t mean you actually have to spend more money overall.
Give some things above a try and see how it goes. You got this!