Over the course of the last month, I set a challenge for my family. I wanted to see what we were really spending on food outside of the home, including sodas and candies. From December 20 to January 20, I kept my family on a short leash. We were not eating at a restaurant or bringing home fast food, at all. Instead of buying the food we wanted, we took the money out and placed it in a "no no" jar. This is how we managed to avoid giving into the cravings, and how much money was in the jar at the end of the month.
Avoiding the temptation
There are some things we enjoy as a family and in order to include them in our meals, I added them to the grocery list. Sodas were a huge expense, and chocolate candy bars were as well. If our son asked for something, we simply gave him a snack from the fridge. It was easy to keep our mind off of the fast food places and restaurants because we cooked at home each and every night. We did incredibly well and did not cheat once.
After the month was over, I counted what we had accumulated in the jar. I was shocked to see $75 dollars in there. That was $35 more than I budget for eating out in an entire month. It seems that we doubled what we would normally spend. Months prior to this experiment I was trying to tweak my budget and there would always be money misplaced, and this is probably where it went. Buying candy and soda from a gas station will nickel and dime you, and that is exactly what happened here.
From now on, we need to absolutely stick to our budget. I have broadened the amount we can spend from $40 a month to $50. We have paid off some bills and can afford a little wiggle room, and also because my husband will sometimes forget the lunch I packed for him and I can't expect him to starve. I am now writing down everything we spend the food money on, right down to the last trip to the gas station.
When money goes missing, it needs to be accounted for. If I had known how much we were really spending versus what I had in the budget, I could have nipped this problem sooner. Now we know where we stand, and I have rectified the on-going problem. The one-month no fast food challenge was worth it for us.
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