The Time I Blew My Grocery Budget, and What I Did About It

Hello, Run The Money fans.  I have a very interesting guest post from Lauren Rilling this week.  She blew my grocery budgethas such amazing insight that I asked her back two weeks in a row!  Lauren discusses “that time I blew my grocery budget” as she was trying to eat healthier to decrease inflammation in her body. I could’ve pushed this post until next month, but it has such great information and advice that I really wanted to get it to you right away.

Lauren is a personal finance blogger herself and a Dave Ramsey-trained coach.  You can check out my interview with her and visit her blog at SaveGiveandSpend.comTake it away, Lauren!

(This article contains affiliate links).

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How I Blew My Grocery Budget

Last month, I realized that my diet needed a serious overhaul. Not just an eat-less-junk-food health kick, mind you, but a total change to my approach to food.

I’m only 30 years old was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my knees two years ago. It prevents me from doing a lot of what I enjoy and significantly limits my workout options (not that I make a ton of consistent effort in the exercise department… just being real with you guys). But anyway, arthritis? At age 30? Are you KIDDING?! (Spoiler alert: the new diet has already helped a lot!)

The doctor suggested cortisol shots, which are A) expensive B) they hurt C) the effect is temporary. So no thanks to that.

Then I started reading about chronic inflammation and put two and two together: cutting out sugar and refined flour might help reverse these symptoms. Plus, it’s a lot better for you and reduces your risk for a lot of diseases that happen to run in my family. (I’m not a doctor so don’t consider this medical advice.)

Guys, this was NOT what I wanted to read. I’m a sugar addict, for real. Plus, I’ve gotten into baking bread recently and have been super intentional about reducing the grocery budget over the last year. I was FINALLY happy with my shopping system and meal planning, so this threw a wrench in my system, to say the least!

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How the fact that I blew my grocery budget became a gift to better serve my clients

Something else about me: I’m a financial coach. I get to work with clients on achieving their financial goals (it’s seriously the BEST job in the world!). And part of that is sharing tips on decreasing spending on food, since that tends to be the largest budget category other than housing. So thinking about spending MORE on groceries was really disheartening at first.

One thing that I’m now thankful for is that this experience has helped me relate to several of my clients on a more personal level, since so many people have health concerns or dietary restrictions that make the food budget a challenge.

This is exactly the kind of challenge I love and right now I’m focused on finding strategies that will allow us to both stay within a reasonable grocery budget AND give our bodies the nutrition they need.

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It’s your budget.  You CAN (and should) make adjustments to it.

I’ll be the first to admit, it’s NOT easy! In fact, I completely blew my grocery budget in June by $160! That’s hard for a financial coach to admit. But I’m going to share with you my favorite thing about having a budget.

Ready?

It’s YOUR budget. You can EDIT the budget to meet your needs. It’s not carved in stone. It is there to serve your needs, not the other way around!

I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions about budgeting: that the budget is like having a mean boss who micromanages you and is all too happy to give a harsh scolding when you fail to follow directions to a T.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, it’s also easy to treat the budget flippantly or even let it sit on the desk collecting dust. It’s just a plan, after all, and no one can force you to follow it.

Yes, I blew my grocery budget.  But, here’s what you can learn from my experience.

There are two important keys to finding that perfect balance and making your budget work. The first key is to spend your money theoretically in the budget BEFORE you spend in real life. The budget is all about planning what’s going to happen, not simply accounting for what’s already been spent. If you need to edit the budget in the middle of the month, that’s totally okay. In fact, I’d be surprised if you never did!

The second key is making sure your budget is balanced. You want to make sure the numbers work so that you aren’t spending too much overall.  If you need more grocery money, for example, you’ll need to look at what you can reduce in other discretionary categories like restaurants and fun money.

For June, I had overestimated child care costs and only spent half of my pocket money, so I was able to make up for the difference there. This is another beautiful benefit of the budget—there will be times you overestimate an expense and then you have an opportunity to choose what to do with the extra.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying it’s totally okay to overspend on your categories all the time! But it IS okay to change a priority (in this case, it was my diet) and to make your budget reflect that change.

Even though I blew my grocery budget this time, it’s how I adjust going forward that matters.

So what’s next? My goal is to revamp the meal plan so that I can get as close to my original budget as possible. That’s something I plan to document and share on the blog.  Disclaimer: I’m not a food blogger with gorgeous food photos, just a coach and a mom with a hungry family! Plus, my tips for cutting the grocery bill in half are still applicable, it’s just that I have to get used to a new list of approved ingredients and make those dollars stretch a little more.

It’s not easy to eat healthfully on a modest food budget, but it’s not impossible, either, and one of my goals is to make that challenge easier. If you feel like it’s impossible to balance maintaining your physical health and financial well being, it’s encouraging to know that achieving balance is a process.  Plus, remember that the budget is there to help you discern YOUR priorities and help you achieve your goals.

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Dave’s take on “How I blew my grocery budget”

What do you think about Lauren’s confession as personal finance blogger and coach?  I know I’m not perfect, so I can certainly see how the budget gets out of hand.  I think when us bloggers share our own failures and shortcomings with you it makes it more real.  Instead of pontificating, we show you how we make adjustments when we blow the budget or miss a savings goal.

Do you have a “how I blew my grocery budget” story to share with us?  Please share with us below.

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