How do you handle splitting up groceries?

There has always been one aspect of budgeting that trips me up. When I go to the grocery store, I have several categories of groceries:

Food

Medicine

Household (plastic wrap, garbage bags, etc.)

Items for house (For example, replacing an electric can opener or buying a pan)

 

When I come home from the store, it takes me far too long to divide the receipt up into these categories, and so I start avoiding and then quit. Is there an easier way to record grocery store purchases so I don't have to go over the receipt and categorize everything? Is this how you all do it, or do you just put everything under one blanket "Groceries" category?

 

Thanks for any advice.

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  • With your current system, you could ask for separate receipts, though 4 might be a bit much... 

    Oh, what about doing a separate receipt for groceries and one for everything else? Then have a general household category to just assign that receipt to (and budget all those categories' money there up front). Then, since you seem to want the data by not specific category, keep all those receipts until the end of the month and split them out, reassigning budgets money as needed.  You get data, catrgory guidance, and convenience!

    You could also try loading the conveyor belt by category so the receipts are in order, without splitting the receipts.

    You could also try to do "bulk" shopping of non perishables. I got that idea from a blog I can't remember about a decade ago. The idea was to work up to an annual "stock up" to minimize impulse purchases and maximize time, etc. 

    I was doing mine quarterly until covid hit. Now I can't rely on things to be available or allowed to be purchased in the needed quantities, so that plan is modified. 馃槙 Right now, monthly seems to work. 

    So, I hardly have to worry about splitting weekly groceries. When I do the general run, I know I have to do the split (it's usually 5-7 categories) and I budget time. It's easier without having to wade through grocery items and it's less frequent.

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  • It might be because I'm not in the US but I don't buy medicines and Items for the house during grocery shopping. Those I buy at other stores. So it's simpler. And I make it even simpler by lumping together what I buy at the same store in general in my budget. It's not true for a shop like Target but there I buy clothes, gifts or household goods. All are infrequent buys so it doesn't take long to split. I also tend to guestimate the split at the shop when entering the transaction rather than an exact split. But again, that's possible because there aren't that many items.

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  • I group Groceries with other household items (windex, garbage bags, etc.), but the others you mention are split into their own category. It's not much of an issue for me because most grocery trips rarely have medicine and home good items. Most of the times it's a split between the Groceries and Alcohol categories (started tracking Alcohol separate from Groceries because we've seen an unexplainable increase in alcohol consumption). Even then though, I use a ball park figure for non-Grocery items and don't go through the receipt by line item.

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  • We include consumables in our grocery category, which makes things easier.

    The most straightforward way to handle a split is to figure out the categories with the least line items and the rest goes into the main one.

    Medicine and Items for House should be easy enough to figure out as there should only be a small number of these in any given bill. Then I'd put the rest in groceries (including what you consider Household)

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  • I started out like you, splitting everything up into individual categories. It drove me nuts. I would be sitting in my car in the supermarket parking lot, looking at the receipt and trying to figure what went into what category. After a month or 2 of that, I changed it up. I added up everything from the different categories and came up with a monthly amount for it all and decided this was way easier and much more likely that I would enter transactions as I purchased them. Do I really care how much I spent on Windex? I do split my Grocery/Household category into 5 different line items though. 1 for each week of the month and then an extra one that I spend from if I'm feeding guests. (Guests? Haven't had any of those in months)This works well for me. If I don't split the weeks up, I tend to spend it all in the beginning of the month and than have to start wamming at the end in order to eat!

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  • I usually  just wipe it up with a paper towel... Oh, wait... "splitting up". Sorry, it didn't see that 'l'.

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  • The simple answer is - I don't. 

    My rule of thumb is to have a separate category when I either want to keep track of how much I'm spending on a particular item or if it's easier to budget separately. I probably have more categories than most and yet I still lump most things that are bought at the supermarket through our Groceries  category. The information I gathered just wasn't enough to justify the work involved and it didn't change spending decisions either.

    We have a pretty good handle on how much we spend across food and household consumables combined so that's fairly easy to budget for. I do separate out any clothing, books and your last category as it's only one or two items here and there so it's easy to do and it would make the groceries category more lumpy. Even then I only do it if the groceries budget is low or the value of the item is greater than 拢10. 

    Similarly, I have separate categories for medicines, vitamin D, etc but they're reserved for prescriptions or supplements ordered online. The medicines I buy at the supermarket are cheap and have just been included in our overall groceries budget.

    Nothing in my budget is set in stone and I like playing around with the budget. Sometimes we will separate out a category in the short-term if we want to get a better handle on it e.g. alcohol.

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  • I just call everything from the grocery store "Groceries".

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  • Everything from Walmart goes into groceries except for when I especially make a trip to buy something other than grocery. Had heartburn trying to breakdown everything and with auto transaction import on its difficult to split anyway.

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  • I lump prescriptions, copays, etc into a "Medical" category. If I buy it a a grocery store (including paper towels, vitamins, over the counter medications, pet food, etc.), it is under "Groceries". If I am Target, etc, it goes under a "Life" catchall category.  I fund "Medical" first, then "Groceries", then "Life". I also have a separate "Household" category, but that is more for home upkeep and big ticket items.

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  • Most of the cleaning supplies or paper towels and such go right into groceries if they come from the grocery store. If I'm at Target, or some other store, and most of the rest of the purchases might be other things for the house, then they might fall into the household category. I don't worry about it too much, to be honest. We don't have much in the way of medicines and things, so we don't split those out, either. If you do have purchases like that that you want to track, it might be easier to check out for those in the pharmacy department, and that way you do have a separate receipt that is easy to enter.

    Groceries are one of those really necessary things that are a pain to keep track of.

    Like 1
  • I keep separate categories, but I think I also shop differently than those who put it all in one category. I avoid marathon shopping and big gigantic stores because I find it stressful, time-consuming, and downright exhausting. I don't make wise spending choices when the cart is full, the ice cream is melting, it's hot and crowded, and I'm trying to find a replacement whats-it in the kitchenwares. That's when I'm at the mercy of subliminal marketing by the retailer and end up coming home with all sorts of impulse items. I prefer to do smaller category-specific shopping trips at smaller stores, at times convenient to me, with list in hand, and when the store may be significantly less crowded.

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  • It took us a few months to work out what would work best for us....I mean for my husband since he does almost all the shopping (although I do order some things online!!)

    Prescriptions go under Medical (prescriptions for our dogs go under prescriptions in category "Abby & Buddy")

    Anything like replacing dish/wash cloths, water filter, buying a meat thermometer or watering can etc, go under Home Misc" (which is NOT the same as Home Maintenance)

    Groceries ---anything food   and  Non-Grocery - toilet paper, paper towels, detergent, over-the-counter medicines, batteries, etc  

    Of course any money left over at the end of the month carries over to the next month!

    Don't give up.  Keep trying until you find what works best for you and your family!

    ~Donna

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  • HappyDance said:
    I don't make wise spending choices when the cart is full, the ice cream is melting, it's hot and crowded, and I'm trying to find a replacement whats-it in the kitchenwares. That's when I'm at the mercy of subliminal marketing by the retailer and end up coming home with all sorts of impulse items.

     I totally identify with this! I do smaller trips with list in hand also. Plus I'm single now, no kids at home any longer, so it's ridiculous for me to buy Costco sized cereal boxes--they would be stale long before I could go through them. 

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  • HappyDance said:
    I avoid marathon shopping and big gigantic stores because I find it stressful, time-consuming, and downright exhausting.

     Yes! I used to think I was saving time by getting groceries at a big store because I could walk the other aisles and get what I needed on the fly. Decision paralysis got me every time and I'd often end up there for 2-3 hours, spending over $100 per hour, and still forget things! 

    Now, I make a list for several months of things that aren't groceries, get enough to last (ideally...), and walk the aisles. It takes much less time, costs much less annually, and if I see something I think I might need, I put it in the list to think about later - not in the store!

    Like 1
  • Thanks, everyone. I'll experiment with some of these ideas.

    I don't know why I'm showing up as "Maroon Hail". I'm a 63 year old man and that isn't my name, nor is that my email address. Hmm.. strange that a company that specializes in databases has me mistaken for someone else in their database LOL!

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      • Brian C
      • steambc
      • 2 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      I changed my name but they have my email address wrong as Maroon Hail. Oh well, halfway there...

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    • Brian C It's an auto-generated username, supposed to help protect people's anonymity if they don't want their real name to be associated with their posts. 

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  • I found it interesting that almost every single person who answered this post said they combine groceries and household.  We have 2 different categories for that.  Groceries is food.  Household is all the other consumable stuff that's not food...  toiletries, cleaning supplies, OTC medication, etc.  We haven't found it to be too much of a trial, and it kinda keeps us from over-spending on the household stuff to the detriment of the food budget.

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      • monkeyhanger
      • No animals were harmed
      • monkeyhanger.1
      • 2 mths ago
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      Bruce  I did initially but I didn't gain anything from it and we'd usually just WAM between the two categories anyway so there didn't seem much point. Cleaning supplies are fairly standard fare for us and evenly spread over the year, basic toiletries the same and the only medicines we would buy at the supermarket are paracetamol, ibuprofen or antihistamines (all cheap as chips in the UK).  I figure most of those are necessary purchases - I have to wash my face with something and my clothes for that matter. We do separate out alcohol because that is more discretionary and 'bumpy'. We also maintain separate categories for medication (other than the supermarket regulars), more expensive skincare/make up and 'odds and sods' - i.e. typically the type of things that would make our spending bumpy.
       

      Like 1
  • You can always place items on the register belt (or self checkout them) by category. Then when adding up there won't be much looking, just adding in order until you hit the next category. Or I highlight as I go adding them up.

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      • Wes
      • Meticulous Money Monitor
      • wes7
      • 2 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Magenta Orca Yes! I came here to say this.

      Brian C Basically do the categorizing as you take items out of your shopping cart and place them on the conveyor belt. At most places, the items on the receipt will be in the order they are scanned.

      Use the math functions in the YNAB fields to add up totals! No need to break the calculator out. If your first 3 items are $2.99, $0.51, and $3.50, and if tax on these items is 9.5%, and if all three belong in the "Supplies" category, type exactly this in the Supplies outflow field:

      (2.99 + 0.51 + 3.50) * 1.095

      I usually don't total up the Groceries category manually, since tax is different on food items where I live (I have no idea if this is common). I tend to do all the other categories first, then whatever is leftover goes to "Groceries".

       

      The main reason I split categories with "grocery" trips, is so that I can compare the cost of dining out with the cost of food I can make myself. It's not an accurate comparison if my Groceries category contains things like window cleaner and toothpaste. Seeing that groceries cost less than dining out (which seems obvious), helps me cement it in my brain so that I exercise a bit more restraint when I constantly want to just go grab something to eat.

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      • Bruce
      • Software Engineer
      • Bruce
      • 2 mths ago
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      Wes 

      Wes said:
      Seeing that groceries cost less than dining out (which seems obvious),

       

       We all have our priorities.  Dining out is WAY less in my  budget than groceries.  Unless you mean per meal, then I agree 100% eating out is definitely more expensive than making your own food.  But that's the beauty of YNAB, it reflects your priorities, and your budget should reflect reality.

      Also, thanks for the tip on not needing to pull up a calculator (unless you're on the mobile app) to calculate what charges go in which categories.  seems like I'm always forgetting the calculator functionality of the budget fields!  :)

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      • Wes
      • Meticulous Money Monitor
      • wes7
      • 2 mths ago
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      Bruce Yeah, I should have clarified that groceries cost less than dining out for me. You're right - everyone has their own priorities and YNAB helps us to ensure our spending habits are in alignment with our priorities. Totally agree!

      You are welcome for the tip! I wish the mobile app had the math fields too. The main reason I do most of my budgeting on a computer (as opposed to mobile app) is so I can see more things at once. I may submit a feature request if, after searching, I can't find evidence of mobile app math fields having been suggested already.

      馃挼 Happy Budgeting! 馃挷

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      • Bruce
      • Software Engineer
      • Bruce
      • 2 mths ago
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      Wes 

      Wes said:
      I may submit a feature request if, after searching, I can't find evidence of mobile app math fields having been suggested already.

       I'd say submit one anyway.  If they see a request coming from multiple people, it gives them the idea that it's a more popular request than if only one person asks for it.  Just my $.02.

      Maybe I'll request it too.  Then it'll be even more popular!

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  • Just a followup on this topic...  My wife and I discussed it, and we're going to give it a try, combining household and groceries.  We've had them separate forever, even before we started YNAB, but we're going to try an experiment.  It will make grocery receipts easier if everything just goes into groceries and doesn't have to get split transactions.

    My wife is the one who will have to deal with it mostly, because she does most of the grocery shopping, but she's game to give it a try.  Considering we've already used up our household budget for the month, it won't affect us this month, but starting next month we'll add what we normally put into household into the groceries category, and see what happens.  I'm a little nervous about inflation of the household purchases if we don't have visibility but we'll see.  A little WAM never hurt anybody.

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  • We just budget it all to groceries as far as food, cleaning supplies, etc.  Basically if we get it at the grocery store, it's groceries.  The only exception would be medical related which we split out into a medical category.

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