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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4 thoughts on “How Do You Categorize Household Necessities in Your Budget?

  1. I face this dilemma too and tend to lump household items into the grocery budget as well. It saves me time, and let’s face it, time IS money. We buy generic EVERYTHING-especially paper products and I’ve spent a lot of time “on the front end” comparing prices per unit so I can feel confident I’m getting the most for money on things like paper towels, toilet paper, and tissues. (Why don’t they list the price per unit on EVERY tag?? This is a conspiracy)
    Not sure what budgeting tool you use, but YNAB (You Need a Budget) is a great tool for dividing up your budget into even smaller categories. You can split your purchases with a few easy clicks. Might be worth it if you really want to know how much money is going to these “little extras” in you grocery bill.

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    • We have just discovered the Boxed.com generic brand of trash bags works very well! I sometimes like the idea of using Amazon.com for bulk orders of paper goods, and I have done it a couple of times, but I’m never sure I’m getting the best deal. We live an hour away from Sam’s Club, and that adds a cost, too!

      I use Mint.com, but I have heard great things about YNAB – I have resisted it thus far because I’ve been doing okay on my own (with Mint) and YNAB costs money. I think they have gone to a month-to-month billing system now? (Or maybe it’s for a new version of the software?)

      I’m glad to know that other people just lump it all into one category in the budget! And I agree about the conspiracy. 😉

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  2. We lump it all together too. We do really try to limit our paper product use, aluminum foil, sandwich bags, etc… although with the addition of a baby here in a few weeks, I’m guessing our grocery bill will get much higher for a while with diapers/wipes. We also limit our meat and try to stick to cheaper cuts. I think grocery budgets are impacted so much by where you live… We are moving to Hawaii this summer and I know things like $4 bread and $6 milk is going to have our grocery budget at an unbelievable high. When we lived in WA state we had access to many different grocery stores, with lots of options we were able get great prices. Although, if you live in a small town and only have one or two choices of grocery stores, chances are you will spend more. So many factors determine what groceries cost.

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    • That is absolutely true about the limitations having a big impact on budgets. I’m glad to know that others lump it all together, too.

      I will be following your blog with interest when you move to see how things change, and of course they will change some with a little one! I hope you’re not terribly uncomfortable in this last month of pregnancy – sending you good wishes!

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