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21 May 2014

News Flash: I’m running to the grocery store way too many times.

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by Jesse Mecham

For those of you just joining us, I’m on a personal quest to lower my grocery bill.  I started a grocery project in April.  I did a mid month check in and a wrap up and decided to keep it going a bit longer.

Last night I ran two late classes and decided I needed a little coffee before class to keep me on my toes.  The coffee creamer was almost empty, but when I looked in the fridge I realized I still had another one.  This is part of my strategy for lowering the grocery bill:  Stock up and stay out of the store.

That got me thinking:  Are there different ways I could look at this?  For example, how many trips to the grocery store do I take each month? How much does it cost me to feed myself for one day?

Once I started thinking about this, it was awesome to realize that all this information was in YNAB.  I just had to go look.

January 2014 – $575.86 (still incredibly painful to type that number)

15 trips to the store (sometimes for other things too)

Average spent per trip: $38.39

Cost per day: $18.57

Seriously?  15 trips?  That means I was basically running to the store every other day.  There’s no need for that.

February 2014 – $403.75

Ugh. Again, with the 15 trips to the store.  My gluten free experiment was over, so at least the bill is lower.

Average spent per trip: $26.91

Cost per day: $14.42

March 2014 – $375.85

13 trips to the store

Average spent per trip: $28.90

Cost per day: $12.12

I had no idea I was running to the store this often.  Wow, just wow.

By the way, here’s how I pulled this data out of YNAB. I went to all accounts and searched for groceries.  Then I used the date filter to look at one month. Here’s the search results from March:

At the bottom you can see the search total shows 13 transactions, those are the trips to the store.  (Don’t worry about the working balance – this view includes all of my accounts and I recently added my mortgage to YNAB so I can focus on paying it off, so that affects that number.  🙂 )

My grocery project started in April and this is how that shook out.

April 2014 – $307.21

9 trips to the store

Average spent per trip: $34.13

Cost per day: $10.24

So the average per trip is back up, but there were less trips in April.  Assume a low average of $25 per trip overall.  We could say that four more trips to the store would have probably added $100 to the April bill.  That’s not a totally unreasonable assumption.

So here’s where May is so far:

May 2014 – $195.35

6 trips to the store

Average spent per trip (so far):  $32.56

Cost per day: $9.30

I know I’ll need one more trip to the store for fruit and creamer, but I’m very optimistic that this month will end up under $250.  At $250, my cost per day would be $8.06.  I’m becoming more and more encouraged that I could actually stay under $250 on a regular basis. If I could get it down to $200 a month, the cost per day would be under $7.00.  I would be very excited about that!

I looked in reports in YNAB to get some history and project some benefits. The average grocery spending from April 2013 to March 2014, the year before I started the grocery project, was $403.02 a month.  If I can get this down to an average of $250 a month, that’s $153.02 each month that can go toward something else.  Over the course of a year, that’s $1836.24.

Drop the grocery bill to $225 and it’s a savings of $178.02 a month and $2136.24 a year.

Drop the grocery bill to $200 and it’s a savings of  $203.02 a month and $2436.24 a year.

Folks, that’s real money.  That’s nothing to sneeze at for sure.  I can put that toward the mortgage and pay off my house even sooner.

Now a lot of people will say they don’t want to spend the time analyzing all this.  That’s a fair concern. Here’s how I like to think about it:

For the first few months, I’ve been spending more time analyzing this and keeping track of it.  Let’s say six hours a month (mostly because of the blog posts).  If I take $203.02 and divide by six hours I get an hourly “wage” of $33.83 for my efforts.  But I won’t spend six hours every month.  Eventually this will just become habit.

Was this worth my time?  You better believe it.

Plus, I’ll save time not running to the store! So my goal for June is four trips to the store.  That’s it.  I will go once a week and no more.  We’ll see how that affects my love of fresh fruit.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  I’d be really curious to hear from folks on how many trips you take to the store.  Am I the only one who was running to the store every other day?

Your Next Step

Remember, budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. You can do this! Today. Right now. What do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress. (Ok, so kind of a lot.)

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