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essential or non-essential spending?
Old 12-01-2007, 10:38 AM   #1
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essential or non-essential spending?

I just got back from "grocery shopping" with DW. That was the price I had to pay to go out to breakfast. During the process, which took three stops, I got a sense that some of the purchases might not be considered essential. (I'm thinking ahead to when the paychecks stop.)

Yep, I was right. Turns out 54% we could easily live without. Not that we would want to, after all there was wine and Christmas bourbon on the non-essential list, but certainly not required for a wholesome and healthy lifestyle. Many of the items were things like pet treats, wrapping paper, etc.

I'm suddenly feeling a whole lot more secure about retirement expenses.

To this group: What percentage of your normal living expenses would you place in the essential/non-essential group in your weekly food shopping trips? (I realize this is highly subjective and that non-essential to some clearly fall into the other category for others, even in the same household, like mine. But let's see what number you come up with.
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Old 12-01-2007, 10:57 AM   #2
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A lot of my weekly grocery store expenses are non-essential. Although I don't buy any alcoholic beverages or wrapping paper, I do buy more expensive food than is necessary to sustain life and good nutrition. I usually buy steak, though it must be lean steak, for example. I buy fruits and vegetables out of season. Also I buy vitamins and calcium supplements that probably aren't necessary given that I eat basically nutritious (though also expensive) food.

I really don't cut corners with food. It's hard to estimate a percentage, but I think I could cut back to maybe 50% if I bought cheaper stuff. And that would be for cheaper food that is actually nutritious, not just Ramen noodles.

But what would I do without my Splenda?
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Old 12-01-2007, 11:57 AM   #3
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Food isn't that big of a % of my budget to really be concerned about. I figure spoiling myself with a couple nice dinners encourages me to eat home rather than out, which is generally healthier and cheaper. In fact I decided this year to make sure and not skimp on salad fixins and other veggies, even if I wasn't sure I'd eat them all, to try to eat more healthy.

I'll stock up on things that will stay good for a long time when they're on sale, that can easily save 10% or more on those type of things, with no sacrifice.

My weakness now on non-essentials is electronic toys and running gear. woot.com is dangerous, I got a Zune I didn't need at all and a flash mp3 player for running that I wanted. The running stuff I justify for health, running has kept me as the only sibling not on high blood pressure meds. I have a bunch of shoes in my closet, some for roads and some for trails, but wearing shoes after the cushioning wears down leads to injuries. I've definitely bought more clothes than I need now, but the sales were good and I'll wear them out eventually.
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Old 12-01-2007, 12:35 PM   #4
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tightasadrum, my numbers aren't far from yours. I just went over my receipts (the latest Target, latest Wal-mart and latest grocery receipt) and tag around 40% of the cost into the non-essential category. Some of it's junk food, some of it are toys, some of it is fancier food or prepared food where we could have purchased ingredients and gone cheaper.

There's a part of me that sees this clearly and says I could change and save $$, and then another part of me that feels the pain of being too cheap and too LBYM sometimes. An interesting exercise...

Charlotte
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Old 12-01-2007, 01:50 PM   #5
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I'm pretty good with food shopping but where I could cut back if needed would be clothes shopping .I'm a sucker for Liz Claiborne or JJill clothes . I do wait for sales but if I wanted to cut back that would be the area .
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Old 12-01-2007, 02:09 PM   #6
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I am trying to cut loose a little, I tend not to buy anything that I don't think I need. Grocery shopping is very cheap I don't buy overpriced things or things I don't need. I am a little wasteful on gifts for others. I save over half my pay and my investments are up equal to my salary plus I will get a bonus and profit sharing so I should loosen my budget. It is hard to spend money if you are used to living cheap.
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Old 12-01-2007, 02:11 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
Food isn't that big of a % of my budget to really be concerned about. I figure spoiling myself with a couple nice dinners encourages me to eat home rather than out, which is generally healthier and cheaper. In fact I decided this year to make sure and not skimp on salad fixins and other veggies, even if I wasn't sure I'd eat them all, to try to eat more healthy.

I'll stock up on things that will stay good for a long time when they're on sale, that can easily save 10% or more on those type of things, with no sacrifice.

My weakness now on non-essentials is electronic toys and running gear. woot.com is dangerous, I got a Zune I didn't need at all and a flash mp3 player for running that I wanted. The running stuff I justify for health, running has kept me as the only sibling not on high blood pressure meds. I have a bunch of shoes in my closet, some for roads and some for trails, but wearing shoes after the cushioning wears down leads to injuries. I've definitely bought more clothes than I need now, but the sales were good and I'll wear them out eventually.
I think you point out a very important idea that can be lost in the rush to pare things down. As we age, sometimes it's like the auto maintenance ad-"Pay me now, or pay me more later". You need to run for your health and you need to be free of injuries to do this. So shoes are actually health expenditures. I wear Birkenstoks most of the time for walking and just going around. I walk so much that my resole expenses are in the neighborhood of $100 each year. But no way will I stop wearing these; I view it as health manitenance.

Many so called extras even might be accurately viewed as mental health expenditures. If a really nice meal at home makes you feel good; if a night out with friends makes you grin ear to ear, even the biggest Puritan might be agree that this is an acceptable justfication.

Ha
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Old 12-01-2007, 02:15 PM   #8
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Grocery shopping is grocery shopping. We buy the essentials, but we buy quality essentials...we don't necessarily buy the cheapest. We might wear clothes from thrift shops, but we do splurge somewhat on food. And like RunningBum said, "I figure spoiling myself with a couple nice dinners encourages me to eat home rather than out, which is generally healthier and cheaper." We buy fresh fruits and veggies, and we buy fresh meat at the butcher's. That way we eat at home most of the time, and only eat out maybe once a week as a treat....plus it gives the cook a day off.

We never really spent much on 'non-essentials' and still don't. We do buy the occasional coffee cake or pastry from the bakery, or grab some fancy-schmancy salad from the deli, but usually make everything ourselves from scratch....because we think our stuff tastes better....not because of the cost.
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Old 12-01-2007, 02:53 PM   #9
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Grocery shopping costs me much more than it could, but it is a deliberate choice. Years ago I wanted to save as much as possible and found ways to live on cheap, cheap food. I know how to pare down to almost nothing spent on food, but now I prefer not to. In fact, I've deliberately decided that freedom to eat fresh high quality fruits and vegetables any time of year is worth the expense to me - even if I work a little longer to support that kind of expenditure. I'll buy bread from a good bakery instead of mass produced. I'll buy excellent ingredients instead of ready made frozen stuff. I could easily save 50% on groceries by limiting these tendencies, but it's a luxury I've decided is worth it to me. I could probably save 90% or more if I went completely frugal, but I'd rather live lavishly here and save money on not having the newest TV, music player or fancy car. I would expect this is a personal choice everyone may make differently.
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Old 12-01-2007, 02:58 PM   #10
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I think you point out a very important idea that can be lost in the rush to pare things down. As we age, sometimes it's like the auto maintenance ad-"Pay me now, or pay me more later". You need to run for your health and you need to be free of injuries to do this. So shoes are actually health expenditures. I wear Birkenstoks most of the time for walking and just going around. I walk so much that my resole expenses are in the neighborhood of $100 each year. But no way will I stop wearing these; I view it as health manitenance.

Many so called extras even might be accurately viewed as mental health expenditures. If a really nice meal at home makes you feel good; if a night out with friends makes you grin ear to ear, even the biggest Puritan might be agree that this is an acceptable justfication.

Ha
I agree, Ha. But where is the line between mental health and extravagance? DW and I see that line in distinctly two different places. You mentioned in another thread that AA is probably fixed in one's personality as a young child. I think the perception of extravagance is too. I suppose it really doesn't matter as long as your last rent check bounces.
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Old 12-01-2007, 03:16 PM   #11
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Grocery shopping costs me much more than it could, but it is a deliberate choice. Years ago I wanted to save as much as possible and found ways to live on cheap, cheap food. I know how to pare down to almost nothing spent on food, but now I prefer not to. In fact, I've deliberately decided that freedom to eat fresh high quality fruits and vegetables any time of year is worth the expense to me - even if I work a little longer to support that kind of expenditure. I'll buy bread from a good bakery instead of mass produced. I'll buy excellent ingredients instead of ready made frozen stuff. I could easily save 50% on groceries by limiting these tendencies, but it's a luxury I've decided is worth it to me. I could probably save 90% or more if I went completely frugal, but I'd rather live lavishly here and save money on not having the newest TV, music player or fancy car. I would expect this is a personal choice everyone may make differently.
I am much the same.

I don't go out to eat, and mainly cook from scratch; I don't skimp on quality ingredients. I pay extra for meat and vegetables from local farms.

I could get by on much less, but there's no need to; I'm still spending less than the pension.
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Old 12-01-2007, 03:17 PM   #12
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Pet treats as non-essential items? Man, think of how your dog would take care of you if he were in charge. You'd have all the bourbon you could drink and free medical care.

We buy our geriatric black lab her favorite treat even though they are expensive. She goes wild for lean treats:
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Old 12-01-2007, 03:32 PM   #13
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All of our spending is on essentials. If we don't want it, we don't buy it. If we want it, it's essential.
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Old 12-01-2007, 03:32 PM   #14
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All of our spending is on essentials. If we don't want it, we don't buy it. If we want it, it's essential.
I like that!
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Old 12-01-2007, 03:40 PM   #15
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Grocery shopping costs me much more than it could, but it is a deliberate choice.
The good news is that buying high quality fresh produce, meats and seafood and baked goods does not add much incremental cost in absolute dollars. Even in winter, the most I spend to have a generous supply of fresh fruits and vegetables on hand is, at most, $25/week for two of us.

Dining out, however, does jack up the cost of nourishment at our house! Just a quick weekday meal with cocktail beforehand, single glass of wine, and mid-priced entree's gets the bill to $60 - $70 with tip.

Bottom line..... buying first class at the market is a relatively small incremental expense compared to scrimping. Dining out is a relatively large incremental expense compared to dining at home, especially if booze is involved.
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Old 12-01-2007, 04:12 PM   #16
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The running stuff I justify for health, running has kept me as the only sibling not on high blood pressure meds. I have a bunch of shoes in my closet, some for roads and some for trails, but wearing shoes after the cushioning wears down leads to injuries. .
I'll spend $400-500/year on shoes and another $100-300/year on race entry fees but it is an investment because I can wear the t-shirts from the races and then I don't have to ever buy shirts

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Old 12-01-2007, 05:50 PM   #17
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All of our spending is on essentials. If we don't want it, we don't buy it. If we want it, it's essential.
I like that too. But I would modify it slightly cause I do give in to "needless" temptation from time to time on "junk". So I would say maybe 5 or 10% for nonessentials. Stuff I cave in to, but then later think, "it wasn't that great, I didn't really need it, I could have as well lived without it", or "that junk was a total waste".
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Old 12-02-2007, 01:01 AM   #18
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A lot depends on how wisely one spends money.

For example... I was in Target the other day and
at checkout there was an older couple who had
bought a wedding gift with all the trimmings including
a large gift bag... there are many dollar stores in
this area where one can buy a similar gift bag for $1.
I watched to see how much they paid for the Target
gift bag... it cost over $5 !

It pays to be a wise shopper.
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Old 12-02-2007, 06:31 AM   #19
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I like that too. But I would modify it slightly cause I do give in to "needless" temptation from time to time on "junk". So I would say maybe 5 or 10% for nonessentials. Stuff I cave in to, but then later think, "it wasn't that great, I didn't really need it, I could have as well lived without it", or "that junk was a total waste".

Don't get me wrong, we buy 'junk' too. BUT, at the time of purchase, it's essential.
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Old 12-02-2007, 11:38 PM   #20
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I agree with Khan and Goonie about spending extra at the grocery in lieu of eating out. Like a chef, we get what looks good then go home to fix whatever uses those fresh ingredients. That is not non-essential spending, that is eating well with relatively low expense and we control our salt and fat intake better.
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