Americans Blowing Budgets on Food

A MarketWatch article cites a recent Principal Financial group survey of 1200 respondents and their food related budget woes. I don’t remember from Statistics why 1200 people makes a national trend, but the results are interesting anyway.

A huge group found eating related activities wreaked the most havoc on 2014 budgets. 40% to be exact. The largest breakdown (22%) found dining out to be the #1 cause of going off-budget this year.

Variable expenses are tricky. They require planning and discipline to manage effectively. Assuming you are already  creating a specific budget each month (or pay period), reigning in menu-based variable expenses is easier with the following approaches:

 

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  • Shop with cash. You can’t spend what you don’t have. You are also more likely to work within your list and the amount you’ve preplanned before entering the store. We think Oh So Old-School Envelops are very retro and should never go out of style!
  • Use coupons when appropriate. These days you have digital coupons, coupon apps, and store-based registration systems if paper cuts are not your thing. However you approach them, coupons save money. We have a great primer – How To Get Started With Coupons – for the coupon newbie.
  • Make meals at home. I’ve demonstrated that just 2 days of eating out costs the same as a week of groceries for my family of 3 table-food-eaters. Want to shave food dollars? Start with a tough, but insightful challenge – Make All Meals @ Home this Month Challenge
  • Save with menu planning. A few minutes before shopping adds up to big savings. Planning meals based on available ingredients and local sales sounds like a lot, but this great guest post breaks down how to make this happen. How to Menu Plan to Save Money
  • Keep it fast and healthy. Budget menus don’t have to be boring. Two ladies from Two Healthy Kitchens talk tips for bringing sexy (well…really healthy) back in Healthy Meals in a Hurry.
  • Check your grocery store snobbery. I’ve shaved 30% from my bill without doing anything else but acknowledging the Confessions of a Grocery Store Snob.

Other areas menacing our budgets include:

Dining out 22%
Food/groceries 18%
Entertainment 15%
Gas 13%
Travel 12%
Clothing/apparel/shoes 10%
Housing/home improvements 10%
Other consumer goods 9%
Coffee 3%
Other 11%
Source: Principal Financial Group 

 It’s also not surprising that going off-budget and off-diet are related if eating out is the most challenging area. The article also cites a survey from the Public Health Nutrition site that finds we eat an average of 200 more calories when on the town vs meals at home. Two big New Year’s Resolutions are always better finances and less weight. Looks like they are connected!

Dining out can blow your budget

 

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