Annual Grocery Expenditure

Am I right in assuming if I want to see my annual grocery bill it has to be in it's own category?  I currently have it under household expenses.
Btw I love reading all the Q&A's from others, I learn things I had never thought of before.
Plus YNAB has helped with the change in our money mindset.  (Amazon even published my book about that recently)

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  • Yes, it will need to be it's own independent category. I personally break out Groceries, eating out, and also eating at work (that's the BF's issue) so that I've got a handle on where the food budgets are going.

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    • farfromtheusual  thanks that's really helpful.  Never thought of eating out as a separate category, but can see how that would be helpful too.

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    • Violet Panther yeah, it's also super helpful to me to have them broken down so that I can look at averages across time and know how much to put aside for groceries. And I can see trends moving up or down and adjust accordingly. Very helpful information for me to have in it's own category.

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    • farfromtheusual 

      Do you have a lot of categories?  I've been trying to keep them down, but they seem to grow so easily!

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      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 2 mths ago
      • 3
      • Reported - view

      Violet Panther From past discussions, 75 is about the average quantity. If it's important enough that you want to ensure $X is available, a dedicated category is an easy way to do it. Sometimes that's creating a new one for the important stuff, other times it's creating a new category for the stuff that's "corrupting" the current/combined category. My Grocery category currently has lots of non-food/consumable stuff (soap, paper towels, etc.), so I'm considering breaking that out so Groceries really is food. FWIW, I have Fast Food (On the Go) and Restaurants separately.

      Like 3
    • dakinemaui 

      I think I need to do the same with groceries and 'other stuff' that comes from the grocery store but isn't  food.  But then I'll have to learn to do split transactions I think, and I haven't got there yet. lol.

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    • Violet Panther I do have quite a few, but I am a more detail as opposed to less detail person. I appreciate knowing where the money is going and finding the 'sinks' where it is disappearing that I haven't been conscious of. The 'Eating at work' and now an 'alcohol' category are both for the BF so that he can be more aware of how much he spends on average, and so that I can actually fund what he spends instead of having to move money around all the time.

      Splitting transactions is easy, and I actually like doing it. The nice thing is if there is only one or two things you need to split out, then it's easy to put the total in, grab those one or two things, then the balance that is left is for whatever the rest of the purchase is, so you don't have to do much math. I generally don't bother with tax and things like that, it's just not worth the few pennies.

      Sometimes you need categories for a while, and then sometimes you can close them down. I have had categories come and go, and you just have to do what makes sense.

      I have a few categories that cover a couple of reoccurring bills, and I use the notes section to make a list of what goes into them, and sometimes the due dates, and then the total amount that I need to add every month (which is also put into the category name as well, so I know easily how much to put into the category on a monthly basis).

      Honestly, I think it really depends on how complicated your budget is, and how many people are working under a single budget, how many categories you'll end up with. I have some that I rarely use, and others that I constantly use, and then others that I've had to separate, and then sometimes separate again. The beauty of it is that it's all flexible and you can keep changing it as much as you'd like to suit whatever needs you have!

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  • If you're looking for a basis to budget moving forward with a dedicated grocery category, you might ballpark it by searching for the most common grocery Payees and looking at the search totals.

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    • dakinemaui 

      It's really plain old curiosity and maybe trimming the fat a little where possible.  I find I add lots of things to groceries that should probably be somewhere else also.  

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    • Annieland
    • I was told there would be no math.
    • Annieland
    • 2 mths ago
    • 2
    • Reported - view

    It's basically anything that you want to have specific visibility of.  In over 10 years my "Food" category has expanded based on what I want to evaluate (I've still managed to leave out a Candy subcategory, but I do track Gum...).  I've always separated out household items like paper goods, light bulbs, batteries, etc.  In addition to Groceries, I have Restaurants, Vitamins & Supplements, Coffee, and "Diet" for protein drinks, bars, or anything I suddenly decide will make me fitter in the new year :).  

    But this is exactly why it helps most people to break it out.  Suddenly you're like, woah, how much are we spending on all this pizza??  And then the report is totally opaque.  Start itemizing bit by bit going forward, it really doesn't take a ton of time holding one Costco receipt.

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    • Annieland 

       

      Wow that's so incredibly useful.  Thank you.

      Like 1
  • Here's how I break down these kind of categories in case it gives anyone ideas...

    Grocery (Group)

    •     Baking Ingredients
    •     Snacks
    •     Groceries (Raw non-baking)

    Health and Well Being (Group)

    •     Personal Care (such as shampoo)
    •     Vitamins and Supplements

     

    There's a lot of baking in my house, and I wanted to see how much home baking costs vs spending on snacks.

    Raw groceries are unprepared items such as produce, meats, spices, milk etc.

    I put "Cleaning Supplies" and "Cookware Consumables" such as plastic wrap in my "Housing Expense" group which also includes rent. I just view them as things to run a home.

    So if I go to Walmart and spend across all these categories, which I always seem to, I do a "Split" transaction across multiple categories.

    Hopefully at the end of the year I'll be able to create a case to quit spending money on snacks. It's amazing how snacks sneak into the grocery bill. I quickly noticed how expensive vitamins and supplements are now too, so have already considered taking them every second day to reduce that expense.

    These are the categories that I needed to hunt for things where I might need a behavior change in my spending, yours will probably be different.

    Like 3
  • I've always had a Food Master category with only two sub categories: Groceries and Restaurants. Everything I buy at a grocery store or Costco (mostly) goes under Groceries. I prefer less work (splits) and more generality versus more categories which are more specific. I don't need the breakdown. Works for me.

    Like 1
    • Slate Blue Wildebeest 

      That's what I need to learn to do. Split transactions.  Haven't mastered it yet.

      Superbone 

       

      I get that too...it's just deciding what I want to be able to easily see  the annual spending.

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    • I keep mine simple, like Superbone does - anything from BJ's goes right into the grocery category, so that includes TP, Paper towels, laundry detergent, some cleaners, razors, and things like that. On the rare occasion that I have purchased slippers or a jacket or some other clothing item, I will split that out, but most of the time I just keep all that lumped in for simplicity. I don't have kids to worry about, so we don't buy most of those household items often enough to warrant a full category.

      Like 1
    • Annieland
    • I was told there would be no math.
    • Annieland
    • 2 mths ago
    • 1
    • Reported - view
    Violet Panther said:
    it's just deciding what I want to be able to easily see  the annual spending.

     That really is 100% it.  And as other posters said, how many people who are in the household might influence it.  Like, the reason I started separating "Diet Food" was because if I had to sit everyone down at the table to "talk about these crazy grocery bills" I don't want to harangue everyone else over my own stuff.

    And conversely, there can be things you just DON'T want to see... I think that's okay.  I have some potentially expensive hobbies, and impulse iTunes/gaming purchases that I really don't want to have to look at whenever I look at reports.  It's all dumped in my own rec category, and if I have to tighten it up, I tighten it up.  No need to constantly remind myself how much money I spent on Gems in a tap tap tap game :).

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    • Annieland 

      I had to laugh at your itunes/gaming purchases...I think I'd like to see what's what sometimes, but then 'rather not know' gets the better of me!

      Like 1
  • We used to break groceries and "household" supplies out into distinct categories.  Groceries being food purchased for consumption in the home, and household being cleaning supplies, vitamins/OTC medicine, cosmetics...  that sort of thing.  We also have an "Eating out" category, a "Snacks" category (which pretty  much doesn't get used,, so we'll probably get rid of that one.) and an "Ice Cream" category, for when the temp is hot and the kids are begging to go to Graeter's.  

    A few months ago, we decided to combine the Grocery and Household categories.  We also had a separate Costco category, and combined that into groceries also (except when we'd buy batteries, those went into split category for household)  

    Anyway, grocery category jumped significantly, and we lost some of the valuable (to us) visibility into what type of purchases they were, and my wife (who does most of the grocery/household shopping) started to lose track of how much was left, and if she'd be able to purchase "household" stuff, and still have money left over for groceries.

    Long story short, the experiment is ending this month, and starting in January, we're bringing back the household category, and funding it properly.  So we'll be able to see how much is left for food and how much we've got for household.

    Just one perspective.  I know some people don't care about splitting it, but for us it works better.

    Like 2
    • Slate Blue Wildebeest

      I think I'm getting the picture that for this to really work you have to have your bank account connected to YNAB and we don't do this.  Is this right?

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    • Violet Panther Ideally yes, it makes things easier. But it's not absolutely necessary. You can download your transactions from your bank periodically and import your bank's transactions to YNAB that way, without the automatic connection.

      In my situation, I have it connected (linked) for automatic transaction download, but because there is a few days delay, I enter my transactions manually in YNAB, as soon as get home from shopping. I do the split right on these transactions. When the bank transactions finally download, YNAB matches the ones I entered manually with the bank's ones.

      If you import your bank transactions manually, YNAB will also match them in exactly the same way.

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      • Bruce
      • Software Engineer
      • Bruce
      • 2 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Violet Panther Do you mean linked?  I don't have my account linked, and it works fine.  You do have to have an "account" set up in YNAB but it doesn't have to be attached to your actual bank's account.  You can do manual entry.  This is the preferred way that YNAB intends anyway, the direct import for the linked account is intended to only be a back up in case something was missed.

      Maybe I misunderstood your question, though.   You also can do manual importing from your bank, occasionally, to ensure you didn't forget a transaction here or there.

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      • Annieland
      • I was told there would be no math.
      • Annieland
      • 2 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Violet Panther Actually, in this specific topic of discussion, linking an account for direct download is irrelevant.  All you need is a receipt.  My husband often is the one who goes to Costco, and then I see some $400 transaction and flip my lid, but then I grab the receipt and break it all down.  It's only then I can see that throughout 5-6 categories we're still in the green.

      Without the receipt, the auto import of the transaction is only a reminder to go enter the receipt.  But in general, sure, direct downloading of transactions is helpful, but just not a cure-all.

      Like 2
  • Bruce said:
    started to lose track of how much was left, and if she'd be able to purchase "household" stuff, and still have money left over for groceries.

     yes, this is similar to what I was experiencing before using YNAB. The only way I could tell you how much food was costing us was by looking at our Walmart or Superstore bank transactions. But it was contaminated with other types of purchases since these are basically department stores with a grocery section. When I went to look up what the average household spends on groceries compared to us, the only number we had looked like we ate like royalty compared to everyone else. I kept wanting to reduce our grocery bill, but it never worked because I didn't have the data for insight.

    Doing the split turned me off (at first). It was extra work. I actually thought to myself I'd be paying for YNAB but have to sit here and be an accountant? But I found for each bit of split work you do, you get some good visibility into what you're really spending on. It only works if you use categories meaningful to your situation though. After doing it for a while now, I can split very quickly.

    Like 2
  • Slate Blue Wildebeest  As I just mentioned above, splitting can actually be a RELIEF, when a $400 Costco charge becomes all budgeted expenses.  Our supermarket has a system where all register receipts end up in an online portal, so I don't even have to chase anyone down anymore for them, or worry about losing them.  If I fall behind I just log in and download the last few.  

    FWIW, I had friends who just made categories like "Amazon" "Costco" "Target" and uh, their situation never improved...

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