Household vs. Groceries

I’m curious to know how others handle these two categories: household items (toilet paper, cleaning supplies, deodorant, toothpaste, etc.) and groceries (food items). 
 

Right now, I have them as one category but I’m wondering if I should separate them. What do you do in your budget, and why?

 

Thanks!!😄

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  • we have them as one category but had found that every N months we would have a problem because everything would run out at once. We ended up making a groceries_overflow category that accrues on the side. We borrow from that when we end up going over. we make it our goal to try and minimize how often we hit that category. If we feel that the category had grown to large we move some funds out to anything else we might want to help out.

    Like 2
  • We have a Running the Household category that is funded monthly, separately from groceries. Until the pandemic hit, we were on a 3 month schedule to stock up on things like soap, toiletries, cleaning, and paper goods. 

    It has been rather frustrating having to go more frequently the last few months. 

    Like 1
  • We break it out.  Groceries is just the food items purchased, usually at a grocery store, sometimes at a convenience store, but it's just the food.

    Household is other stuff like cleaning supplies, toiletries, etc.  For us, it's just too easy to go a little crazy on the non food side, if it's all in one category.  then there's not enough left for the food.  It works for us to have it separated.

    Like 2
  • I tend to separate groceries (mainly food items) from house supplies (TP, toothpaste, lotions, etc.). I consider the groceries more essential and always budget a certain amount for them. I find that I easily go overboard buying redundant/fancy house supplies I don't need, so it's better if I only budget the minimum needed to replace something when it runs out.

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  • We keep all consumables except OTC medical items as groceries.

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  • I've been budgeting it separately for more than 10 years.  Initially, the separation helped me to get a sense of weekly pacing and what should be a priority for better decision-making, what I could spend on essential food vs what would have to wait until I had more money.  When short on funds, you can add water to the laundry soap container, go without aluminum foil and use dish soap as shower gel but you can't put off buying basic food.

    That's the time that I also implemented a separate fund, my pantry/freezer category, to have a few dollars on hand for sales on items I would have to buy at full price, and to always have a reserve for those expensive condiment items that all run out simultaneously, kind of a true expenses category for some foods.  Later, when paying off debt or building up the emergency fund, keeping it all separate gave me reliable guidance on pacing my deliberately tight food funds in order to hit those other goals.

    • Sundries - all the non-food consumables to keep me, my clothes, and my home clean/functioning
    • Groceries - all the fresh stuff
    • Pantry/Freezer - irregular purchasing, condiments, baking essentials, bulk foods (e.g. rice), by the case, preferably on sale,  share of a butchered animal farmgate.
    • Gracious Living - treats, luxuries, alcohol

    I did a fresh start in January of this year. That was the perfect time to implement some changes like combining it all in one category.  I tried that out for a couple of months, but I felt completely lost in my pacing and couldn't assess spending decisions in the first half of the month, if a particular purchase of a sale item was prudent or not, and I found that I was avoiding treat purchases out of a nervousness of going way over budget.  Basically, it was a nerve-wracking disaster. So I separated it out again.  I tend to try to calculate it all separately in my head anyway, so having it separate in YNAB  just saves time and energy spent in mental math.

    Like 10
    • HappyDance Love this breakdown, and the thought process.

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      • TerbaTron
      • my mom is an accountant. I think I love budgeting
      • Green_Boat.7
      • 5 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

       HappyDance My household category is now Household Sundries - I hope you don't mind. :)

      Like 1
  • nolesrule said:
    We keep all consumables except OTC medical items as groceries

    We do the same. We have a Household Goods that is for (relatively) non-consumables: lightbulbs, decorations, tools, kegerator (!), sheets, etc.

    As long as you're consistent with what you do, you can use averages (or even previous month's budget entries) to plan for a reasonable amount.

    The point of breaking things out is to control spending. Consider if they were separated, would you simply reallocate from Groceries in order to prevent overspending when buying TP? Or vice versa, would "Household Items" take a hit when Groceries runs short? If so, then you're just making things more difficult for yourself having them separate.

    Along these lines, we do break out liquor purchases, because we would rather do without than reallocate from Groceries for that.

    Like 2
  • We keep them separate with Groceries and Household Goods. Most of our household purchases are in bulk, and happen every few months—so it has worked well.

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  • We've tried it different ways over the years. I think the key issue is whether you think you'll get any benefit from budgeting or recording them separately. We found that we didn't so we bunched them together and pretty much anything we buy from a supermarket goes into groceries. If there's something bigger like a kettle or clothing, that does get put into the relevant category but the products you referred to in the OP are all in groceries.

    Alcohol interestingly has been the category we've messed around with most. That's currently a separate category because it was something we wanted to monitor.

    Like 1
  • Just recently separated them out, so now Groceries = food only, Supplies = "Non-food consumable items that keep us, our clothes, and our home clean and functioning". That definition of supplies is exactly what I have in my category notes. HappyDance  I must've seen a comment of yours elsewhere, thanks! Groceries was always one of our biggest expenses so we've had many discussions about how to trim it. The pressure was on me to find meat on sale, stretch casseroles, "shop the weekly" (like his mama) etc., but once we separated out the big bottles of Tide, the printer ink, the booze, it was clear food spending was not the problem. Also as a bonus, going through the receipts to separate out food from non-food has made me much more aware of how much everything costs.

    Recently shocked to discover a 9-pack of sponges from Costco costs $14. Robbery! Hubs guessed $4. Our 7 y/o guessed $50. The 10 y/o was closest at $9. 

    How do you keep track of whether you're getting a deal or getting ripped off? Do you memorize the cost of 99,000 commodities? Do you keep a price book? Do you just watch the total?

    Like 1
    • Owlette So, one of the benefits of my quarterly bulk shopping is that it's only 4 times a year that I sat down and entered my receipts into Excel with these columns: date, store, quantity, brand, size, unit of size (oz, ea, lb, etc), item, description, price, tax code, category (matches YNAB), sub-category (more specific, like cleaning/toiletries/etc), and then I have 4 calculated columns: tax, category impact, price per, unit. I started doing the category impact because then the YNAB split was calculated for me.

      Considering the infrequency, I don't mind the half hour or so, and I REALLY like the data. The trick is to sit among all the bags before you put things away (I mean, put the cold stuff up first) so it's easy to record the ounces. Also, I try to unbag as I record, because there will inevitably the the receipt line item that says "CS HR 24" or something else as useless. It's easier to figure which item applies from 2 instead of the whole haul.

      But the data has been nice. I turned my header filters on and with a couple clicks I can see how often, how much, and the cost for items and sub categories over time.  It turns out that about half of the Costco staples are more expensive by the ounce there than other places. Some are good deals. Also, sometimes the bulk package is more expensive than the smaller one (per unit).

      And sometimes the store's price per unit calculation is just wrong. For example, in comparing some doggie bags, the smaller package had 8 rolls, but 15 bags on each roll. The larger package had 24 rolls, with 20 bags on each roll. The large package was 3 times the price of the small. The store calculated by roll and said the small package was cheaper per roll, but they should have said the big package was cheaper per bag. 

      Anyways, I don't often do that for groceries because it takes a long time for every week, and the food needs to be put away! 

      Like 1
  • Owlette said:
    How do you keep track of whether you're getting a deal or getting ripped off? Do you memorize the cost of 99,000 commodities? Do you keep a price book? Do you just watch the total?

    Not memorize, no.  But you do start to notice prices when you restrict yourself to staying under budget and when you've set it at a challenging level. I'll bet you'll always be aware of sponge prices from this point forward. 🙂

    There is a repetitive flow  or natural cycle to the grocery store sales. After a while you start to notice pricing on a lot of your favourite staples, and that there is a predictable and repetitive cycle of sales by product category or by brand name.  If you make it a habit to glance through the weekly store flyers, you start to see the loss leaders, the items each store is selling at cost (or a loss) intended to lure you into the store to buy and where, it is hoped, you'll spend a lot more on items not on sale, except...mwa-ha-ha....you are shopping with a plan and a budget.

    The trick is figuring out how much to buy of whatever you use when it is on sale to last you until the next time that particular item is on sale, and understanding that if you buy a sufficient quantity when it's on sale (even if you don't need it now) you will never have to pay full price on it again, because you'll now be consuming and purchasing on the store's predictable sale cycle.

    check out the free Flipp app if you are in the US or Canada - https://flipp.com  (it will download all the flyers in your area based on your postal code or zip code.

    Then there all sorts of lists on the web for predictable grocery store seasonal sale cycles.

    Like 1
  • HappyDance said:
    mwa-ha-ha....you are shopping with a plan and a budget

    Love this! It is like a super power. YNABers become inoculated against marketers' mind games, develop x-ray vision to see through their trickery. Those stupid free promo period offers used to get me. Now the renewal gets entered as a scheduled transaction and I cancel before the promo expires. No fear of getting charged for what I don't want.

    Like 1
  • Have all household consumables and groceries under one category. Makes perfect sense to me  as I could not be bothered to split the monthly shop at the supermarket across two or more categories. There is little point imo anyway as the monthly budget is reasonably consistent. Other household stuff, like maintenance, improvements etc. have a separate category (that is they share in a separate  single category).

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      • Superbone
      • YNAB convert since 2008
      • Superbone
      • 5 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Colin_G Agreed. Anything I buy at a grocery store comes out of my Groceries category. I don't need to overcomplicate it.

      Like 1
      • WordTenor
      • I have the honor to be your obedient servant
      • WordTenor
      • 5 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Colin_G I'm in this category also. 

      The only thing I've done differently is separate Entertaining Groceries out from regular groceries. It is often the case when I go to hang out at a friends' (back in the before times, when we did such things), that I'll bring a six pack of good craft beer or fresh guacamole and chips, or something like that. Often it is both! I realized that this often resulted in the "cheap" option of "hanging out with friends" costing me more than it would cost to have two beers at the local pub, or dinner at a casual restaurant, etc. So I wanted to quantify those groceries as special. This is a "WAM to" category for me, though, which is for reporting. I don't budget to it; but I categorize to it and then move money from "groceries" to cover the spending. Someday I may budget for it as a separate line but I'm not there yet. 

      Like 2
      • Colin_G
      • Colin_G
      • 5 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      WordTenor  Sort of the same really. I do not budget for entertainment, it just comes out of what I call the Basic Spending category. If it happens that the "beer" is purchased during one of the Grocery expeditions I just do a transfer from Basic Spending to Groceries. I really do not drive my budget down to a really granular level. I am not trying to achieve any particular goals in terms of debt etc, I just like to keep a broad handle on my finances. YNAB does that well.

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  • I have two categories, however in practice, spending is mostly coded in groceries.  I think I have the category in case I buy something for the house outside of what I usually by at the grocery store with my groceries.  I try and stay out of the home stores (Home Depot, BB&B, HomeGoods)  since they are budget busters, and I have a nominal amount of cash sitting there for those incidentals. 

    Like 1
  • Bruce said:
    For us, it's just too easy to go a little crazy on the non food side, if it's all in one category.  then there's not enough left for the food.

     Just the opposite here. I do not enjoy being in the kitchen -At All- so I will spend every penny on convenience or quick to fix items and have nothing left over for the household portion if I do not split the categories.

    Mostly the household supplies come from Costco, Amazon, or Home Depot so splitting these out does not take much time, and because most come from Costco they are an infrequent expense.

    Splitting these items has really helped me to focus on the grocery budget. 

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  • Because theres only one of me, and I rent a room in a shared house, I dont feel like separating out those kind of household items from groceries is useful information for me. I simply dont buy enough of those products. 

     

    I do have a household category, but I use it for things like laundry baskets or irons - things that, individually, are one off purchases, but collectively theres always at least one of them per month.

    Like 1
  • I have four categories:

    Groceries - for anything I buy at the grocery store, including the occasional small household item that I don’t bother to separate out 

    Household Basics - anything I buy  that’s necessary and easy to track, eg lightbulbs, toilet paper, dog food, usually recurring stuff from Target, Walgreens, Amazon
     

    Household Niceties - extras like pretty new towels, kitchen gadgets, etc. (I used to put these all under “Household” but it was hard to separate needs from wants)

    Skincare & Haircare - I used to put these under “Household” or later “Household Niceties” but it was a big portion of spending and not something I consider optional, plus it’s every few months so it was hard not to empty the category on more fun items

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      • Tee Why
      • teewhy2
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Gold Pilot  Where do you now keep your Skincare & Haircare category?  I have mine under Spending Money but am wondering if there is a way others categorize it that would make more sense to me.

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    • Tee Why We have a Body Repair Shop category (my husband named it), for things like OTC meds, vitamins, lotions, bandaids, etc. Haircuts have gone into clothing for us, but that's because I grew up without paying for them (and still don't! His first one was a shock!). I figure fashion in the hair can go with fashion of apparel. But we have a minimal need there... If I wore makeup, maybe I'd have a non-apparel fashion/beauty category, but I don't.

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      • Tee Why
      • teewhy2
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Move Light Sound Life Very interesting!  Thank you

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      • Gold Pilot
      • Gold_Pilot.4
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Tee Why Mine are under:

      Gotta Buy It 🤷‍♀️ (along with Groceries and Household Basics)

      as opposed to:

       Gotta Pay It ✅  (for bills)

      The Finer Things 💁‍♀️ (for things like Dining Out or Household Niceties that I’m inclined to over-spend)

      Save or Scramble 🤷‍♀️ (things like Travel or Christmas that I’m inclined to raid and then have to scramble to pay for)

      I put Skincare & Haircare under Gotta Buy It 🤷‍♀️ because I want to underbudget or skimp on these, but have accepted that what I like and need is just not cheap.

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  • I separate out groceries (by the week) and also have a category for Groceries for Guests for when I have people over (or used to) or bring something to someone else's house (used to do that too) I also have a separate category for what I call Household Misc Expenses that includes everything from TP to detergent, paper towels, etc. 

    I like separating out groceries by the week, as it allows me to pace my monthly spending on groceries, which can easily get out of hand for me when I'm at the grocery store. 

    So it basically looks like this:

    Like 2
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      KnitPurlKnit For pacing, I used to do something very similar, but using a single Grocery category to yield a consistent place to look for spending guidance and better automatic categorization via Payee Rules

      I budget monthly, so I just put a month's worth of funds in Groceries. Then I had a series of monthly recurring split transactions to move funds to a Reserve category and then back to Groceries. Here's one set of recurring transactions, assuming $800 monthly budget.

      • July 1 -- Split 1: outflow $600 from Groceries; Split 2: inflow $600 to Grocery Reserve
      • July 8, 16, and 24 -- Split 2: outflow $200 from Grocery Reserve; Split 2: inflow $200 to Groceries
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    • dakinemaui I see what you're doing but that's too much movement for me! When I do go grocery shopping, I usually enter the transaction as soon as I get the bags into the car and I'm back in the drivers seat. If I do it that way, YNAB knows where I've shopped (I guess via GPS) and the payee and category are already entered when I start to enter a new transaction. It's pretty darn easy ☺️

      Like 1
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      KnitPurlKnit The category provided is the one previously used with that Payee. When your last trip to that payee was in a different week, the default category will be wrong if you're using multiple categories.

      My suggestion is actually less ongoing work. I budget to one category. I look at one category (not having to wonder if today is the 7th or the 8th). I spend in one category. That's it. Everything else is automatic. Anyway, just food for thought for you or anyone else. Cheers.

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      • Tan Lobster
      • Tan_Lobster.5
      • 4 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      KnitPurlKnit Interesting on the week, have you looking into changing your goal to the new weekly spending and making one groceries category instead of the weekly categories you have?

      Like 1
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Tan Lobster 

      @KnitPurlKnit doesn't seem to be paid weekly.

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    • dakinemaui Tan Lobster

      I'm not paid weekly but that doesn't really enter into it, as I'm fully buffered for the following month. I only use the weekly budgeting for groceries as a pacing method throughout the month, not because I'm paid on a weekly schedule.

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  • I leave it as one category, it's just too much of a pain for me to go through receipts to separate out those purchases.  In order to deal with inevitable variability, I chose a high number to fund groceries to as a monthly spending ($700) which was the highest month I have ever had in spending and then I merely top off the category every month.  So, if I spend $300 in June, I only need to budget $300 in July to be ready.  I suppose that is possible that I couldn't fund the $700 back if I spent it all, but I have some slack categories that I don't have to fund which I could use to replenish.

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  • I have my groups per bank account. Everything that's paid automatically is from the bank where I get my salary paid. I opened a new account when Apple pay came to Belgium, so everything I want to pay out of my pocket goes to that category and I can leave my wallet at home. I separated fruit and vegetables to get an idea of how much I spend on those. I budget some money but I'll take from general groceries if needed. I noticed the lockdown made me go wild on chocolate so I put a budget on that one too. I keep money available for non-food items, which I just fill up again on the first of the following month. Same for fun money, up to €100 a month. Other categories just get extra funding every month and I'll take it from something else if I overspend on new clothes for my children who grow too fast.

    Also I use the new feature of weekly goals for my groceries (not every month has 4 weeks), so that's very useful!

    Like 1
  • I find it interesting that a lot of you split the costs between basic household needs and groceries. 

    For us, we have just a Groceries category (well, technically, we have 5 - one for each week of the month.)  I budget $100 per week for a total of $500 per month for our family of 5.  That is all of our food, paper products, personal items, vitamins, OTC meds, etc.  I use coupons, store coupons, rebates, etc. to help stay within that budget.  We have a really good stockpile, so it's easy to maintain that budget amount.  (Ok, except when COVID hits and everyone is thrown for a loop with having to have things delivered, etc.)

    Because of how I shop, I think it would make me crazy to split the costs like that.  :)

    Like 3
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