Winning the Battle at the Grocery Store

family-2923690_640My (Tim) wife and I have been married for over 30 years.  And despite all her great strengths (which are many by the way) she struggles in the area of staying on budget in our household budget- or so it would seem.  A few years ago, she returned from the grocery store and I could tell as she walked in the house that she was overbudget yet again.  For 20 years we have had the same issue- she buys groceries, she overspends, I get frustrated, she feels bad, I look at that pretty girl who serves our family so faithfully and I overlook the overspending and we move on.  Until that fateful Saturday.

For some reason, I had had enough.  So, in typical Howington fashion I hurt her feelings and made her cry and I didn’t even feel bad about it.  I brazenly told her, “that’s it, I am going to start buying groceries.”  She was surprised and a little hurt.  “Do you think I am doing a bad job?”.  I almost caved but regathered myself, “I don’t know if you are doing a bad job or not.  I just can’t figure out why you can’t figure it out so I need to buy groceries to see if I can help us.” So for the next month, I did all the menu planning and shopping.

In a previous life, I led a catering company so I was confident that I could get to the bottom of it.  And I did!  In fact, it only took me a couple of weeks to figure out the mystery.  She didn’t have enough money.  Never has had enough money.  We were grossly under-budgeting in the area of groceries.  My family of 3 needs about $650 a month on average to take care of our needs and she had been trying to pull it off with $450.

After meeting with hundreds of families we have seen that families average from $150 to $250 per person per month in this area.

As budget coaches, we see this all the time.  Families don’t do a great job of getting the right target in our household account (this includes food eaten in the house, toiletries and cleaning supplies).  After meeting with hundreds of families we have seen that families average from $150 to $250 per person per month in this area. So, a family of four would need between $600 to $1000 in the budget.  The easiest math is to start with $200 per person and then see if you need to move up or down.

So, back to my wife.  I didn’t tell her for a month and just changed the budget.  Her curiosity was peaked as I kept bringing stuff in house and was still “on budget”.  So finally, she said, “How are you doing this?”.  And I apologetically told her that we had been under-budgeting this area for years and changed the budget to something that works.  My penance for putting her through the stress over the years was to buy groceries for the next 6 months.  She forgave me and we lived happily ever after.

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