Housing, transportation and food. Three essential budgeting categories that eat away at everyone’s income.
Interestingly, for most of us, only one of these categories can fluctuate by $100s of dollars a month, simply based off our mood! Food.
Before someone signs a lease or purchases a house, they often spend countless hours counting the financial cost, running the numbers and getting second opinions. Though the price of vehicles vary, most focus upon the fixed monthly expense to discern if they should commit, but not food costs.
I have had several clients (single, couples and whole families) come to me and share that they eat out 7-10 times a week, spending more on their food budget than their mortgage and their car payment combined. Others have budgets that will shift over $500 a month simply because of busyness or emotional eating. Tragically, inconsistencies in budgeting and the unexpected weight fluctuations that follow spontaneous diet trends increase anxiety which descends one into poorer financial and physical health.
Three insights to help stabilize your food budget and build a healthier trajectory:
Strategically plan to eat out. Everything in moderation. How will the person who eats out 7 times a week, begin eating out 3 times a week? Plan when and where and why you are going to go out to eat that week. For example, Thursday is often a very full day for both my husband and I, which means I’m usually pretty tired come dinner time. It’s one thing to say the night of, “I’m too tired to cook” so in defeat you order in pizza. It’s an entirely different mood to know Thursday is busy and to plan to go eat together or to order in Chinese. These strategically paced ‘special meals’ can help to put a ceiling on your food budget.
Set a financial goal for the month and aim to meet it. When we were first married we had a weekly ‘blow money’ food budget of $7 apiece a week. It sounds crazy now, but we did it and had fun embracing the challenge and meeting goals. Our food budget has gone up substantially, but the principles remain. When you get toward the end of the month, if you’ve done well, schedule a special coffee or breakfast. If you are above your goal, turn to a simple meal at home (chicken, broccoli and rice).
Keep affordable appetizers on hand in your house. Most find that they are susceptible to ‘making a run for the border’ in the later hours of the night or to the local ice cream shop. To combat those urges, keep a pantry of healthier options on hand. From popcorn to nachos, simple budget and health friendly options.