During the summer of 2016 I made better efforts to track my family finances. I have been using Mint and Personal Finance for a while but never dug deep into the spend categories. I had a gut feeling that food was a big part of our monthly spend, but never really addressed it.
In August 2016 I took a hard look at our expenses. I captured data from Mint and sorted it in a spreadsheet. I identified the mandatory monthly recurring cost (MRC) items like mortgage, insurance, utilities etc. This gave me a baseline of what our family expenses are to “live”. Most everything else was somewhat discretionary in my mind. My wife might debate this but, I’ll go along with her for now.
As I wrote in a previous post, it helps to align your significant other in your goals by showing them how it is also good for them. You need sympathy and empathy when you are trying to convince someone to change. It is not that my family overspends by comparison to the average American, but I don’t want to be average. I want to squeeze more money out of our income to help us retire earlier and better.
So how does all of this relate to food you might ask?
I realized that a good way to compromise in meeting my financial goals as well as my wife’s desire to dine out would be to cook better meals at home. I will add to my monthly grocery spend buying high quality meats and seafood from Whole Foods in exchange for drastically lower restaurant bills. If I can make a great broiled seafood dinner with fresh summer vegetables at home for $40 in lieu of a similar meal at $100 including tip I really feel like a winner.
We will never be the extremely frugal family pinching every penny to reach FIRE, but when compromises can be found that put us closer to that goal we will celebrate it!