What’s the skinny on your monthly food budget?

Find out the full scoop on your food spending.

While we all know that food is a necessity, how do we know if we are spending more than we should in this area? For many, the answer could be, “I don’t know”. To help answer this question, we need to look at our current spending and then create a monthly plan.

According to Gallup Poll, in 2013, one in three Americans reported preparing a detailed household budget that compared their monthly income and expenses. Based on this survey, it appears that many consumers are not balancing their monthly budgets. So, what is the first step? Plain and simple, track your spending. It is hard to make any changes with your current spending behavior, if you don’t know where your money is going. Tracking can help with this, and remember it doesn’t have to be hard, you just need to be consistent for 30 days. Options for tracking could include writing every purchase down or saving every receipt. At the end of 30 days, sit down and add up your spending. This technique will let you know “on average” what your spending looks like and areas that you may be over spending (e.g. fast food, recreation, clothing, beverages, vending machines, etc.).

The second step is creating a spending plan. This will help you review and compare your monthly income, expenses, spending and saving. There are many ways to create a spending plan, including paper and pencil, templates, computer programs or apps. Choose whichever works best for you.

Tip: Pay yourself first! Try to save 10 percent out of every paycheck, and have it directly deposited into a savings account. Can’t save that much? Then commit to saving all of your loose change.

Lastly, consider the following resources from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels offers potential weekly or monthly food plans based upon family size in the following categories: Thrifty Plan, Low-Cost Plan, Moderate-Cost Plan, or Liberal Plan. Also, the SNAP program provides nutrition assistance to income eligible individuals and families.

For additional money management resources visit Michigan State University Extension. Michigan State University Extension offers financial literacy and homeownership workshops throughout the year to help you become financially healthy. For more information of classes in your area, please visit either the MSU Extension events page or MI Money Health website. Additionally, you can take the Financial Health Survey at MI Money Health to access if you’re financially healthy and discover more ways you can improve your financial health. 

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