October 18, 2023

Budgets and values

I started listening to Ultra Processed People and found the early discussion of how much we spend on food particularly interesting.  I had never really considered how much "value" drives our spending when it comes to food, but apparently the UK and the US are particularly bad about this.  I can't remember the figures, but people spend on average between 9 and 12 percent of their salary on Food.  I was curious where we fell in this as good quality food is something I really value, and I have noticed that our food budget has increased significantly in the last few years (I think it may have doubled since 2019... but so has the size of our family...)

We keep a budget of expenses broken down into category, so I was able to check our actual monthly spends per category as compared with our total take home.  Pension is pre-tax so not included in the breakdown below, but everything else is captured:

We apparently don't spend much on clothes or entertainment.  Gifts will probably be more substantial after christmas (the above is based on current monthly average spend in 2023... not the budget forecast).  Bills are currently lower than forecast and childcare recently reduced from 35% of take home to 19% which is nice. 

In case the chart isn't super easy to read, here are the percentage breakdowns:

Andy & Rachel Hobbies5%
Dining Out2%

Someday it will be interesting to see the shift throughout the years - we have certainly not been able to save 9% of take home with 2 kids in nursery, but it's nice to have a glimpse of what our spends could look like when we aren't paying for nursery at all anymore.  

Also, although I combined our hobbies budgets here, Andy actually gets 3% and I get 2%, because I don't spend as much on my own hobbies.  Or maybe it's because some of my hobbies (like baking and home organization) fall into other categories.  

We also have some rules about how certain things are classified - Alcohol has its own budget but only used for when Andy and I are getting a drink together (since I've been pregnant most of this year we haven't spent anything).  If we buy wine or beer just for one of us then that falls under the hobbies budget.  Same with dining out - that budget is for dinners together or cafes with the family.  If we go out alone or with friends (not partners) that also falls under our individual hobbies budgets.  Kids clothes tend to either go on "Kids" or "Clothes" - we will need to definitively decide where this goes when we do our budget for next year.

Do you keep a budget? Have you ever calculated your food spend (or other spend) as compared to your take-home pay?


  1. Percentages are arbitrary as it really depends on how many other spending categories there are ... you'll be shocked to hear that we spent about 20% on groceries alone (not including dining out)... but we also don't have childcare expenses and I didn't factor in savings, so that will make the grocery percentages higher by default. Monetarily, it's insane to me what we spend on food for two people. (And the thing is, I meal plan and we have almost zero food waste, so I feel there is not much more we can do to cut expenses other than eating rice and beans every day.)

    1. It is true that percentages are a bit arbitrary... but I am not shocked to hear 20%. I know food prices in the US area lot higher than here, especially for quality/heathy food. I wonder how it compares to Germany?

      For our family we chose to spend money on food - I would much rather lower other budgets or forgo other things than reduce the quality or variety of food we consume. I know we could buy "cheaper" processed products but I like consuming whole grains and making my own food - which sadly is more expensive than pre-bought things.

  2. We don't budget other than to make sure that we spend less than we earn and to make sure that we're hitting our savings goals - I say "we" because my husband and I have a similar approach to money but our finances are separate in a lot of areas. We throw enough to cover household expenses plus a buffer into a joint checking account each month, and the rest is "his" and "mine". Over the summer I started taking a look at what I'm spending to make sure that I had a good grasp on it since I'm hoping that my future plans will include not working.

    What San said...I would love to spend less on food BUT with two teenagers it's just not going to happen right now.

    1. We do the same - our budget is actually less than what we make too - we start by putting in all of our budget categories. We didn't have any budget for savings for the last two years with two in nearly fulltime nursery, but as the cost of nursery reduced we increased our savings. I know we are lucky to be able to budget this way and not have to think of our incomings... but for us it's about spending what we need to spend for the life we want and then making sure that's not above our salary. I don't actually track our incoming money - just the outgoings - because as long as we stay in budget (within reason) we will have enough money to afford everything we want/need (again, want within reason)

      I am dreading the teenage phase... and I'll have four of them. maybe instead of building savings I'll just start building "teenage food shopping" budget....