If it is a constant struggle to maintain your grocery budget, it may be time to bite the bullet. It may be time to actually raise the limit on your budget by $50 or $100. Now I know that you don’t want to hear that from a finance nerd who wants more than anything to help you save money, but hear me out.
First off, 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 and you’ll be left with a clear head to make better financial decisions.
Secondly, by raising your grocery budget, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be spending more money each month overall. 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.
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, however, 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 (link to post), we save almost $65 dollars a month. $65 a month would go a long way put toward groceries. 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 only $8-$10 a month each! Definitely something to consider.
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. Gas prices are still very low so you may not be using all of your gas budget. 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. In my last post, I gave 4 ways to keep from eating out and eat at home instead (link). You can use those tips to cut back on eating out. 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.
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 started the Electronic Budgeting System. 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 chicken.
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. Between my 0% credit cards and 0% car loan, My monthly budget went up over $600 a month. This was all in the span of 6 months as well.
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 cash for everything. And I stopped making big purchases I didn’t need as well.
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 kind of “give yourself a raise” so to speak is take your Federal Tax return (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. 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.
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.
Stop Putting So Much Money Toward Debt
We’ve worked really hard since October to pay off our Disney Vacation Club (DVC) loan. I’m excited that we got just under $10,000 completely paid off in February. Five months! But things were really tight for those five months. We couldn’t buy anything extra, including for groceries. 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 loan if I were to take $200 from the monthly total I was putting toward it. $200 is a lot of money, 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 or two back 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 budgets. What can you cut out to enjoy a little more breathing room? Unfortunately, sometimes you just have to raise your grocery budget if it is a constant struggle 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 let me know how it goes. Also, if you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them!