How Do You Categorize Household Necessities in Your Budget?

As I look over other bloggers’ financial reports and budget recaps, I am painfully aware that almost any personal finance blogger worth his/her salt is spending less on food than we are per month. Sometimes we spend up to $700/month in our food category! (There are only three of us, and one of us is a six-year-old who only eats Goldfish and Ritz crackers – or would, if we let her.)

I am working on this – I’ve started following Budget Bytes and have made two recipes (one this week, one last week) that can be doubled and used for work lunches and leftovers. This isn’t new or anything – I used to follow the site a long time ago, but I stopped (probably because I wasn’t yet using Feedly and didn’t have a good way to monitor the site). I also made crockpot meals once a week for a number of months last year, but ended up falling off the wagon in the fall. And there are only so many crockpot recipes that don’t require some kind of huge chunk of meat (which we try to avoid, both for health, moral, and financial reasons). We order out food (we hardly ever actually go out to eat at a restaurant) or get take-out probably once or twice a month, but we make some simple staples for dinner and use them for leftovers and work lunches. (My husband even makes his own granola, which is a huge help financially.) Of course, we could still do much, much better. Probably if I stopped buying wine.

HA HA HA HA HA …. whew. Moving on….

But let’s talk about household necessities: paper towels (honestly, I am trying to use rags more than paper towels, but we still buy some), napkins, toilet paper, lightbulbs, tape, etc.

I lump our household necessities into our food budget, because we often buy those things along with food, though not at the grocery store. I sometimes use Boxed.com (if I can get a free shipping code, a sale price, or through Zulily*), and we used to go to Sam’s Club where you get everything under the sun at the same time, and sometimes we go to Walmart, and sometimes I use ePantry*…. in the end, all of the household necessities and food end up on the same receipts, and I don’t want to break it apart.

I am attempting to lower the amount of money we spend on food now, and I will continue to do so, but I do wonder if the amount of household supplies we buy skews our food budget. It seems like I could be comparing apples to oranges. Apples = what we spend on food plus household necessities; oranges = what other people spend on only food.

I’m curious: How do you arrange your budget categories? Do you consider food and household necessities to be closely related, financially-speaking?

*Any links with asterisks are referral links – but I enjoy all both of these sites and you might, too!

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We Pay $6 a Day in Student Loan Interest

This hearkens back to my post entitled “We Pay $9 a Day in Student Loan Interest,” which I happened upon while searching through old posts. I posted it almost exactly a year ago, and I wondered how much more progress we had made (naturally!).

Here’s what our average daily debt payment has been in the past:

  • January 2014: $12
  • January 2015: $9
  • January 2016: $6

Getting better, friends, getting better!

What do you use to motivate yourselves when it comes to those loooooong debt repayments?

January 2016 Snowflaking Report

A new thing I’m trying this year: a mid-month Snowflaking Report. A few reasons for this:

  1. We pay our minimum payment automatically around the 13th of every month, and I send our extra payment as soon as the payment posts to improve the likelihood that our Snowflaking payment will go entirely to the principal and not to interest.
  2. My monthly recaps are kind of long, so I’d like to take out some of the details to streamline them.
  3. Snowflaking will make or break the achievement of our 2016 Mintly Goal(s)!

Note: Beginning in March, we will be budgeting $1504 per month as additional payments to these loans, but as that money is budgeted as part of our strategy to meet our goal, I don’t consider it “snowflaking.”

What is Snowflaking?

“Snowflaking” can be defined as putting all of your extra income (often in small amounts) to your debt. For instance, if you do an odd job or have a side hustle, that money would go to your debt. If your mom sends you money for your birthday, you can send that money to your debt. If you get a refund on an item, that money can go to your debt. For more, see this.

Mintly Snowflaking 2016 by the numbers:

  • $239 – amount needed per month to pay off all of H’s loans by our target of February 2017 (for more information on our debt, including the amount, please see this)
  • $1091 – amount needed per month to pay off all four of our loans by our target of February 2017 (definitely our “stretch” goal!)

January 2016 Minimum Payment

I’m including this information because our snowflaking will continue to decrease the amount of interest we pay every time we make a payment, and tracking that decrease helps me see that we’re making a difference, even when it seems like we’re barely making a dent each month!

  • $391.83 – minimum payment we sent
  • $312.46 (80%) – amount that went to principal
  • $79.37 (20%) – amount that went to interest

January 2016 Snowflaking:

  • $281.99 – amount we sent
  • $281.99 (100%) – amount that went to principal
  • $0 (0%) – amount that went to interest

January 2016 Snowflaking Breakdown:

  • $33 – H’s side hustle
  • $25.31 – Pact (via Paypal)
  • $30 – Pact refund
  • $33 – H’s side hustle
  • $25 – H’s side hustle
  • $.37 – interest from checking account (Dec)
  • $50 – Swagbucks (<– referral link)
  • $75 – house services budget that was not needed

Reflection:

It was a stretch to reach our goal this month, and I ended up having to find money from our budget that I knew we weren’t going to use. This did really make me realize that setting a goal of getting at least $239 per month snowflaked will probably be something that will truly help me along this path to Debt Eradication! I don’t remember ever being this frantic about getting extra money sent to our loans – I always sort of felt like I was doing well if I was sending ANY extra, probably because the 2015 Mintly Snowflaking Goal was set pretty low (only $50 a month!).

I’m excited to see how far we get following this new method!

Does anyone else track the amount of their monthly payments that go to interest vs. principal?