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Old 02-04-2013, 04:55 PM   #61
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I am always surprised that these things (quite commonly, in fact) get lumped into a mutual bin. Don't get me wrong (please) because I have no problem with someone doing it this way but I am merely trying to understand the thought process involved. For instance, how do "cleaning supplies" relate to "food"? (And [please] don't tell me that cleaning the toilet is the direct result of what took place at the dining room table.)
I have kept detailed spending records for about 25 years and I've gone back and forth on it.

I am currently at sort of a hybrid on it. Basically I lump Groceries and supplies in one category, but other things that I occasionally buy at the grocery store I do split out when I record the receipt.

So toilet paper, paper towels, batteries - all go in Groceries and Supplies.

On the other hand, if I were to buy a pair of reading glasses or cat litter at the grocery store those items get characterized separately.

Why do it this way?

For several years I actually split out the toilet paper, paper towels, batteries, etc. into a separate category for household supplies. I found that this was basically more trouble than it was worth. For example, in my state this is a PITA to do because these things are taxable while most food isn't (some food is taxable) so to split this out I had to split out all the little amounts for these items and then figure the tax on them.

Having spent the time to do it I found that it didn't really help me much on budgeting because these amounts spent over the course of a year were very stable and weren't something that was easily varied. That is - you need the toilet paper you need and I bought the same brand almost all the time so there wasn't much variation in this expense. So the variation in expenditure each month was pretty much all variation in the food part not the supplies part so it didn't really do much to split it out.

The reason I split out non-supplies is that these are things that are very variable and crucially are not things I typically buy at the grocery store. I usually get reading glasses at the pharmacy and those are very occasional. I usually get cat litter at Petsmart. I might rarely buy a magazine at the grocery store but I buy reading material from a lot of other sources.

I do think it is slightly more accurate to split the supplies out from the groceries but I also think that to actually do it is a little OCD and not worth the time.
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Old 02-04-2013, 05:18 PM   #62
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When I was w*rking, I wasted money on food by eating out and throwing out food that had gone bad. I always hated the waste, but I felt it was a consequence of having so little free time.

Since retiring, it's been a game of mine to reduce all costs. I spent just $163 in January for food for one person. Dining out is tracked seperately, but it was just $10.

I have a price book so I know the prices of all my typical items. That helps me to know when a sale is a really good deal. I buy most food at Aldis--staples and produce. Some items like meat are cheaper elsewhere.

I've priced out typical meals and that has made me less interested in dining out since it makes it very clear to me how much more I pay to eat out. For example, I make a Spinach quiche that tastes great and costs $.32 for a small piece.

I pay attention to expiration dates so I can keep buy extra when I find good sales. I do whatever I can to not have any food waste, so that has driven me to be more creative with cooking.
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Old 02-04-2013, 06:21 PM   #63
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Here's my price per serving info so far. I list the main ingredients, the number of servings it makes (or made in the past), and the cost of each ingredient in the following cells. I sometimes forget to see what an individual zucchini or what two white potatoes costs, so some costs are guesstimated until I can find them on my receipt. I also buy organic chicken/meats or sustainable tuna in case people wondered the high prices for the meats. Anyways, it's just a start.
Wow! Fantastic exercise. I did a similar thing many years ago and now I wonder why I stopped... maybe, like other behavior, after awhile it becomes a habit and... Oh! wait. Life happened. In any event, I still practice (most) everything I learned from the experience.

For those thinking this is a "waste of time" need only visit the Link in your post:

Quote:
It might take you a total of five hours to make up a price book for comparison shopping, but after several years of supermarket excursions, you may discover that your hourly “pay” for those five hours was over $1,000.
In any event, it would be nice if you update us once in awhile.
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Old 02-04-2013, 10:28 PM   #64
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For those thinking this is a "waste of time" need only visit the Link in your post:



In any event, it would be nice if you update us once in awhile.
Sounds all too stressful to me.
In any case if one has to resort to such a level of minutae when managing expenses, then I question whether you are really FI. Perhaps you RTE'd (retired too early)
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Old 02-05-2013, 03:25 AM   #65
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Sounds all too stressful to me.
In any case if one has to resort to such a level of minutae when managing expenses, then I question whether you are really FI. Perhaps you RTE'd (retired too early)
Perhaps. However, it has been almost twenty years now and I am still pretty independent... in all kinds of ways. I didn't get here without a detailed understanding of my surroundings. Besides, if you're not going to do something properly, why do it at all. (You know, the ol "If you're going to be a bear, be a grizzly.") The alternative, of course, is to pay someone else to do it for you -- in this case, by paying extra to the Merchant.

Again, to each his own. I am merely seeking understanding. (Possibly in much more detail than you'd prefer but that's just me.)
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Old 02-05-2013, 08:10 AM   #66
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I needed to read this thread!

I've tracked my food expenditures for years, and it is only recently (6/10 FIRE'd, 5/11 began to live a single life) that I felt obliged to stick to a limit. Prior to that I just got too frustrated with trying to convince the spouse that his daily "strong pot" of coffee was a huge food expense, along with other bad food habits.

My expectations have been pleasantly met. My (1 person) food budget is about $200 (not including meals out). I raise chickens so I use eggs for a large portion of my protein consumption (the cost of raising the ladies is embedded in my food budget, which is about $10 a month), and buy very little meat (when I do, it's organic free range, which is pricey.
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Old 02-05-2013, 09:00 AM   #67
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Again, to each his own. I am merely seeking understanding.
Yes, I'm also having trouble understanding just what comes from this.

The engineering side of me wants to track everything, graph it, group it in different ways, look for correlations, etc. The manager side of me says 'so what action will be taken on this data you collect?'.

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...I just got too frustrated with trying to convince the spouse that his daily "strong pot" of coffee was a huge food expense, along with other bad food habits. ...
But that doesn't take detailed tracking. A can/bag of coffee cost $X and provides Y pots of coffee. Cost per pot is easy to calculate.

But isn't the larger question, for ALL discretionary spending: 'Is this expenditure of value to me?'. Maybe that 'strong pot' is worth every penny and more to him. Why cut it out? Based on what?

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Old 02-05-2013, 10:54 AM   #68
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Perhaps. However, it has been almost twenty years now and I am still pretty independent... in all kinds of ways. I didn't get here without a detailed understanding of my surroundings. Besides, if you're not going to do something properly, why do it at all. (You know, the ol "If you're going to be a bear, be a grizzly.") The alternative, of course, is to pay someone else to do it for you -- in this case, by paying extra to the Merchant.

Again, to each his own. I am merely seeking understanding. (Possibly in much more detail than you'd prefer but that's just me.)
My budget would probably drive you crazy too.

I have "groceries", "supplies", and "household". Groceries are pretty much whatever I buy at a grocery store/supermarket. I don't bother to split out paper products or laundry soap because IMO it's not worth the bother. The "supplies" category doesn't get used that often and it is small. I only use it with a purchase that is ONLY a cleaning supply run to Walmart or something like ink cartridges and paper for printers, etc., things bought at a office supply store. "household*" covers small appliances, various items bought at hardware stores, kitchen utensils, dishes, sheets & towels, gardening tools, etc.

After a few years I created a "wine" subcategory for groceries because we were building up a wine collection.

These work for me. The tracking granularity is good enough. If something that could be categorized as "supplies" ends up in "groceries" or "household" it simply doesn't matter because the amount overall is small and the randomness is relatively consistent .

*I should probably rename that category "household goods". Fortunately, Quicken lets you do stuff like that without breaking the data.
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Old 02-05-2013, 10:56 AM   #69
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Maybe that 'strong pot' is worth every penny and more to him. Why cut it out? Based on what?

-ERD50
I used the coffee simply as an example. Out of context, it sounds like I am a nit (which I am, sort of)! The ex was a huge spendthrift (well beyond food), and I was not.

The 'strong pot" was about 1/3 lb. of (high end) coffee per pot, which I felt was wasteful. He didn't enjoy the stuff (loaded it with creamer and 3 sugars), just wanted the buzz, and it seemed silly to me to use that as a means to get the caffeine. I suggested he cut back on strength or try a cheaper brand (since he drowned it in sugar anyhoo), and swallow a caffeine tablet, which is super-cheap.

My ex had no desire to look at a budget, and I found myself trying to make suggestions (I would never demand) to help him learn to live within his means. After our separation (which was not driven by our money differences!) he began to realize the impact of his spendthrifty ways (he kept the house, and suddenly had a 50% increase in his mortgage pmt). I retired at 48, but he won't be able to retire until 65, and has admitted he is inCREDibly envious of my freedom these days.

PS: The ex and I are best of friends, we go on double dates with our new loves, and do chores for each other. He gets my organic produce, I get his handyman skills.

sorry for the tangent...I felt like I needed to explain...
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Old 02-05-2013, 11:02 AM   #70
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The tracking granularity is good enough. If something that could be categorized as "supplies" ends up in "groceries" or "household" it simply doesn't matter because the amount overall is small and the randomness is relatively consistent .

My sentiments exactly, and SO very well said!

I will split out an item if it is exceptionally expensive (ie; a generator purchased at Kroger goes under misc, not food).
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Old 02-05-2013, 12:29 PM   #71
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My sentiments exactly, and SO very well said!

I will split out an item if it is exceptionally expensive (ie; a generator purchased at Kroger goes under misc, not food).
I do the same. For me anyways, no reason to track it any closer, because I am buying them out of necessity anyways. Knowing how much toilet tissue I use isn't going to change how much I buy as nature controls that. Some things I could downgrade, but the satisfaction of it outstrips any meaningful savings. For example, the coffee reference. I buy the $8 dollar package of Dunkin Donuts variety. Buying the $3 Folgers would save me maybe $10 a month, but ruin the start of every day for me. I am probably a tad lazy on the budgeting side, but if I had to track groceries in a serious manner, it's time for me to get a full time job. Groceries are not a big percentage of my income, so extracting savings from it would be of minimal value and less enjoyment. Although my Father would disagree based on how high he can stack cans in his pantry when he sees something on sale.
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Old 02-05-2013, 03:21 PM   #72
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Perhaps. However, it has been almost twenty years now and I am still pretty independent... in all kinds of ways. I didn't get here without a detailed understanding of my surroundings. Besides, if you're not going to do something properly, why do it at all. (You know, the ol "If you're going to be a bear, be a grizzly.") The alternative, of course, is to pay someone else to do it for you -- in this case, by paying extra to the Merchant.

Again, to each his own. I am merely seeking understanding. (Possibly in much more detail than you'd prefer but that's just me.)
My apologies RonBoyd. Didnt mean to sound critical or offend. Was merely vocalising my insecurities. I am FI and can live a comfortable life based on current expenditure, but have still not RE'd because I'm unusure whether my current income will keep pace with future Cost of Living increases.
Perhaps I too should delve into some level of detail and make some future projections based on different income and expense scenarios
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Old 02-05-2013, 06:29 PM   #73
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My apologies RonBoyd. Didnt mean to sound critical or offend.
Oh! There is no need to apologize. I didn't take it personally nor did I find what you said offensive. I was, BTW, playing the "Devil's Advocate."

In any event, I can relate to your lack of confidence in the future. In fact, I am pretty sure we all share that trait to some extent. All I can say is the future will be whatever it will be. There is nothing you can do to protect yourself from it.

I kind of like the current slang: YOLO (you only live once). I will have few regrets when my race has been run.
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Old 02-05-2013, 06:35 PM   #74
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I used the coffee simply as an example. Out of context, it sounds like I am a nit (which I am, sort of)! The ex was a huge spendthrift (well beyond food), and I was not.

The 'strong pot" was about 1/3 lb. of (high end) coffee per pot, which I felt was wasteful. He didn't enjoy the stuff (loaded it with creamer and 3 sugars), just wanted the buzz, and it seemed silly to me to use that as a means to get the caffeine...
That makes perfect sense. It really gets back to the 'value' thing I mentioned. Buying high end coffee, and smothering it in 'creamer' and sugar, when mostly you just want a buzz is likely a poor value.

I still don't see how a micro-analyzed budget helps here. We are always thinking about whether this thing or that is a good value. We don't have to scrub a month's worth of receipts to do that. And that wouldn't help anyway, it would just be a number.

I dunno, maybe I'll try it for one month - that would not be too much effort. But it's hard to get motivated for even that, when I'm having trouble seeing what it would tell me.

As a parallel, another thread was discussing energy conservation, and I calculated our heating/cooling costs for the year. Pretty easy, the bills are all on auto-pay, so a single download for the year, a little sorting in a spreadsheet, some estimates/calcs based on the non-heat/cool months, and I had a pretty accurate number in a few minutes.

But now what? I'm not going to change the thermostat setting based on this - I set it for a balance comfort and energy savings now (what I perceive as 'value'). What I did learn (again), is that any additional efficiency improvements would have marginal payback at best.

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Old 02-05-2013, 06:56 PM   #75
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I still don't see how a micro-analyzed budget helps here. We are always thinking about whether this thing or that is a good value. We don't have to scrub a month's worth of receipts to do that. And that wouldn't help anyway, it would just be a number.

I dunno, maybe I'll try it for one month - that would not be too much effort. But it's hard to get motivated for even that, when I'm having trouble seeing what it would tell me.
TBH, I have tracked every single Penney for so many years (~40) that it is only a habit... even an "addiction." I don't really do anything with the data because I, too, have found that, at a certain point in life, frugality loses it charm and "creature comfort" take precedence.

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As a parallel, another thread was discussing energy conservation, and I calculated our heating/cooling costs for the year. Pretty easy, the bills are all on auto-pay, so a single download for the year, a little sorting in a spreadsheet, some estimates/calcs based on the non-heat/cool months, and I had a pretty accurate number in a few minutes.

But now what? I'm not going to change the thermostat setting based on this - I set it for a balance comfort and energy savings now (what I perceive as 'value'). What I did learn (again), is that any additional efficiency improvements would have marginal payback at best.
This is a good example of my "frugality" taking the hind quarter. I have in one hand a letter from Xcel Energy (our Utility company) telling me that I "used 56% MORE energy than your neighbors." In the other hand is a letter from Century Link (Our telephone? company) telling me "that you've been using your connection a lot more than the average person." And than goes on to call me an "Extreme Techie."

Yes, we have, for instance, five computers running 24/7 and about 25 TB external storage. All of which, I am sure, take considerable energy. Do I think about correcting this? Yes... but not very often -- and not for a lengthy period.

I prefer to cut back in other areas that are less important.
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Old 02-05-2013, 07:29 PM   #76
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I track our electricity usage in a spreadsheet and I know how many kilowatt-hours we use each month/day and what our average daily $ is spent per day each month and for the whole year. I don't do a whole lot with the data, but it is still useful. For example, I know that if we leave the house for an extended time (like a month or more) our energy use drops to half/third the usual. I know that if we are keeping our motorhome at a "comfortable" temperature because we are living in it, our daily electricity use will go up quite a bit, whereas if we have the slides in, windows covered with insulation and the thermostat turned up into the mid-80s, the energy use is a lot lower. I know that if we go through a cold spell (we are in the semi-tropics), our electric heat will almost pull as much electricity as the AC in summer. I know that spring and fall and a mild winter tend to have very low electricity usage. I find all this information quite useful, and I expect that if there was an unexpected change in the data, I would notice and investigate.
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Old 02-05-2013, 07:35 PM   #77
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I find all this information quite useful, and I expect that if there was an unexpected change in the data, I would notice and investigate.
He He... I don't suppose you were a bean counter in your previous life
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Old 02-05-2013, 08:25 PM   #78
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He He... I don't suppose you were a bean counter in your previous life
Nope - engineer! I like to understand and verify how any machine/system works - or at least have an approximate model .
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Old 02-07-2013, 11:14 AM   #79
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Old 03-11-2013, 04:57 PM   #80
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Update--last month $508. So happy to have learned that dry beans can cook in slow cooker without soaking.
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