Grocery Budget

Why It’s OK to Blow Your Grocery Budget Sometimes

Written by Erin Lowell  |  on


This one’s for anyone who thinks budgeting is all about restriction… 

I just don’t care about my food budget right now. I just DO NOT CARE. I’m not even trying to stay within my budget limit. I am actually consciously overspending on food. The best part? I’m not the least bit upset. 

In fact, I feel relieved.

My Usual Grocery Budget

For context, I’m single, and I typically spend around $300 a month on food. And that’s all food: eating in and eating out. I mostly cook at home and buy lots of fruits and veggies. When I eat out, it’s typically a nice meal or a sandwich from my favorite local shop. I’m just feeding me, a charming dog, and a small collection of cats, (but they have their own food category in YNAB).

This Month’s Grocery Budget

It’s been one of those crazy months where everything has been happening at once. I don’t have any time, energy, or interest in cooking. Don’t get me wrong—I love to cook. I’ll have you know, that my homemade pizza has been called life-changing. Just not this month. This month cooking is at the bottom of the list in terms of priorities. 

For the past week, (the third week of the month) I’ve been fighting and fighting it. As a long-time YNAB teacher, I, of course, have been rolling with the punches: moving money to cover the perpetual overspending. 

I know Rule 3 is part of the system. I know it’s OK to move money, but I’ve been feeling guilty, knowing I can do better. Until I sat back for a second and realized, “You know what? I am ultra responsible with my budget like…all the time. I’m going to give myself a break.”

Take out pizza? YES. A sub sandwich for lunch… again? PLEASE. The fried haddock basket at the awesome seafood place? TWIST. MY. ARM. Ok, I’ll do it.

Instead of my usual $300 for food, this month I spent $400. A full 133% month-over-month increase.

And oh my, it feels glorious. 

I won’t do this forever, it’s not how I’m wired. And financially, I have other things for those hundred dollars to do on a regular basis. But right now—in this season—I’m going to enjoy it.

I Can Do This Because I Budget 

Because I budget, I have money in other categories and I’ve shuffled things around to give myself a little more wiggle room for food. $25 from clothing, a little from vacation (It’s kind of a vacation from the grocery budget, right?), a tweak here, a tweak there…Boom. Done.

Because I budget, I was able to still stay in control of this out-of-control moment. I’m making an intentional choice. Right now, the time I’m saving not cooking is more important to me. I know, long-term, long-term I have bigger and better plans for that extra $100/month, but right now, I love the margin a little extra eating out provides. 

I was talking to Ben, our community manager, about this, and he said he’s in the same boat right now. He and his wife just had a baby. They aren’t worrying too much about overspending on food. They are dealing with a bigger priority, and a super cute one at that, and it feels right for now. 

Remember, your budget is always—at the end of every day—about priorities. Priorities change. You can change and should adapt with them. 

This month one of my priorities was giving myself a little grace, and you can’t put a price on that.

Erin leads our Education Team at You Need a Budget. She lives in rural Maine with her dog Charlie and a small collection of cats. She started using YNAB when it was just a (very fancy) Excel spreadsheet. In 2007, she asked Jesse if she could teach YNAB through a local adult education program in her area. He showed up to take the class and the rest is history. Check out one of the many free, live workshops her team hosts every single day! 


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Budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. So what do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress?