Author Topic: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month  (Read 9934 times)

MMMdude

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Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« on: April 01, 2012, 12:52:48 PM »
Inspired by the Grocery blog post from MMM it was interesting to note how diverse everyone's grocery bills were for the month.  Anywhere from I believe $200 to $1400.  For myself I tend to spend around $400 to $450 per month.  That is only for myself - I do live with my girlfriend and we split groceries/dinner so that tells me we are over $800 for two people.  Again this includes everything purchased at a grocery store, coffee house, dining out, etc - I wonder if the people on the low end of this range are including EVERYTHING. 

Anyways in order to try to bring my expenses in line with true Moustachian philosophy I am endeavoring to track my daily costs for one month.  This will either be interesting or boring to you and any of you are welcome to also keep track of this for the month of April in this thread.  I am hoping this doesn't turn into a nutritional derail as I know we both need to snack less and eat more veggies/fruit although neither of us are overweight.

Now - there are a couple ways to do this.  One would be to note any time I make an expenditure at a grocery store or dining establishment, or the other way is to track everything I put into my mouth for the month and estimate what it costs me.  I think the latter is more accurate because one could go on a big grocery run on April 30th and this food would not be consumed until the next month. 

I am only tracking my expenditures since I have no idea what my girlfriend eats when she is not around me - we do eat dinner together 99% of the time so if we have chicken for dinner I am only going to figure out my portion of the meal cost.  This does not include liquor purchases - that is a whole other discussion.  Also I will not include toiletries since my gf is a couponer and we have like a years worth of toiletries on hand  - but  definitely we must acknowledge there is a cost to all that stuff especially with women in the household :-).  Lastly, these are my best guesses for cost - I have no idea what a cup of rice really costs me ($15 bag lasts 4 to 5 months), but I will estimate it to the best of my ability

I'll start with today.  Day is not over, however I already know what I am eating/drinking for the full day:

April 1:
Breakfast - Tim Hortons coffee and donut 2.50
Lunch - nothing (usually don't have lunch on weekends)
Dinner - Costco bought pasta with spinach filling along with Kirkland tomato sauce - 3.25
Other - Chai tea lattee from coffee house - $5 (this is literally a once a month thing MAX i swear)

Running total (1 day) - $10.75
« Last Edit: April 01, 2012, 12:55:03 PM by MMMdude »

outsidethebox

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2012, 11:13:05 PM »
 I wish there was a simplified way to break down my receipts by category.  I track whole receipts to save time so my numbers are a little off.

windawake

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2012, 09:38:19 AM »
Kudos on trying to cut down on grocery spending.  I spend $200-$250 a month usually, and am trying to cut down to under $200.

From your first day list I have a couple of suggestions:

1. Buying donuts/coffee out is a very expensive way to have breakfast.  My morning breakfasts work out to less than $1, and they're very filling.  I have cereal and/or homemade granola with either milk or yogurt plus a banana and cup of tea.  Making things yourself (donuts and coffee) is a super good way to save money.  Make pancakes or muffins instead of donuts to get that same baked good tastiness but cheaper.

2.  Buying pre-packaged meals anywhere is going to cost you.  Buying stuffed pasta like tortellini or ravioli is tasty, but if you were just to get ordinary pasta and add your own spinach and cheese it would be fresher and cheaper.  Pasta sauce is really easy to make, all you need are some spices (that will last a long time) and tomatoes/tomato paste.  You can make up sauce in bigger batches and then save it in used pasta sauce jars.  Keep a couple in the fridge until you need them, especially if you eat a lot of pasta.

3. Buying chai tea from a coffee house is great, but not worth $5!  I love the coffee shop experience, but at coffee shops near my house you can get chai for about $5 or you can get regular tea for about $2.50.  If you get tea you can either get two coffee shop experiences for the price of one, or you can cut this expense in half.  Chai is tasty but expensive, so I make it at home.  I get chai tea in bags and boil water, then I fill a mug 1/3 the way with 2% milk and heat this in the microwave for 40 seconds.  Once water is boiling I add 1 or 2 chai tea bags to the milk and pour hot water over them, and add as much sugar as I want.  To me it tastes at least as good as coffee shop chai and sometimes better, plus one organic chai tea bag costs less than $0.20.  The chai in boxes is really expensive, and while delicious, I don't think it's worth it since for $5 you get two or three drinks.

catalana

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2012, 01:38:57 PM »
Brilliant idea - knowledge is power!  I'm sure there will be some surprises along the way - both high and low.

One way to avoid the month end cut off is to just use the totals, and look at averages over a number of months.  That is what I do - I use Excel to note every transaction and put it into one of 20 or so categories.

I can tell you that me and OH are averaging 255 for groceries (including a small amount of toiletries and household products), 58 for eating out / takeaways and 21 for household goods like cleaning products / DIY / cushions.  Oh, and I have a separate spend of 25 / month on lunches.

Before we lived together it was a big pot, and we seemed to spend a lot on food, so I deliberately split out the eating out / takeaways.  Having some closer scrutiny has actually probably cut the spend down.

mikednj

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2012, 03:22:22 PM »
I only found this site in late February but it's completely changed my buying behaviors.

According to Mint.com the wife and I spent about $15k in groceries last year. Unacceptable.

March cost us about $400 in groceries after cash back bonuses, and I intend to keep it that way. I hit BJ's (wholesale club) for eggs, frozen veggies etc, and the local Shop Rite for meat and other items. This only food, toiletries and other house hold items going into the house supplies list on mint.

The way I do it is when I get come from the store I plop down in Numbers (iwork for excel)  and list everything out.

Column A is date
Column B is food item
Column C is quantity
Column D is total price for food time(s)
Column E is notes, i.e. was it on sale, coupon, etc.

I sum everything at the top to get a running list. 

bananabread

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2012, 08:21:06 PM »
Just want to chip in and say, it might be a good idea to track your food/drink purchases as you buy them anyways.

Your method of track-what-i-eat doesn't include a huge area of $$ reduction, namely waste. Stuff we buy that collects dust in the corner of the pantry (I'm looking at you, fish sauce), veggies, bread, etc, that goes bad, or the truly awful throwing-away-leftovers move. In the end, bumps on bulk stuff like rice, oil, eggs, all evens out in the end, so I wouldn't worry about once-or-twice-a-year purchases throwing off your numbers too much.

Tracking what you eat tells you how much you NEED, but it won't tell you how much you're SPENDING. Both numbers seem handy to know, though.

Just my 2c =)

MMMdude

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2012, 10:34:17 PM »
Brilliant idea - knowledge is power!  I'm sure there will be some surprises along the way - both high and low.

One way to avoid the month end cut off is to just use the totals, and look at averages over a number of months.  That is what I do - I use Excel to note every transaction and put it into one of 20 or so categories.

I can tell you that me and OH are averaging 255 for groceries (including a small amount of toiletries and household products), 58 for eating out / takeaways and 21 for household goods like cleaning products / DIY / cushions.  Oh, and I have a separate spend of 25 / month on lunches.

Before we lived together it was a big pot, and we seemed to spend a lot on food, so I deliberately split out the eating out / takeaways.  Having some closer scrutiny has actually probably cut the spend down.

I have tracked 3.5 years of expenses in Excel so definitely no stranger to that.  I have a handle on all my expenses except for food, hence reason for this thread.  Hoping to see where we might be going wrong, create more awareness about my own eating habits that we need to change or perhaps it's just that much more expensive for groceries where we live (large city in central Alberta).

So for today

Breakfast: Costco Bagel with mango jam and home made coffee - 0.75
Lunch - Salmon (Saturday leftover) with Costco potstickers - 4.00
Dinner - Chicken thighs with risotto - 4.00

Total - $8.75  Running total - $19.50
« Last Edit: April 02, 2012, 10:41:47 PM by MMMdude »

MMMdude

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2012, 10:38:56 PM »
Kudos on trying to cut down on grocery spending.  I spend $200-$250 a month usually, and am trying to cut down to under $200.

From your first day list I have a couple of suggestions:

1. Buying donuts/coffee out is a very expensive way to have breakfast.  My morning breakfasts work out to less than $1, and they're very filling.  I have cereal and/or homemade granola with either milk or yogurt plus a banana and cup of tea.  Making things yourself (donuts and coffee) is a super good way to save money.  Make pancakes or muffins instead of donuts to get that same baked good tastiness but cheaper.

Agreed - rarely eat donuts, but we do like to get coffee from Tim Hortons 2+ times per week.  Can definitely make it at home just as good.  My breakfast is typically oatmeal, yogurt with granola, high fibre ceral, eggs on weekend or bagel/toast

2.  Buying pre-packaged meals anywhere is going to cost you.  Buying stuffed pasta like tortellini or ravioli is tasty, but if you were just to get ordinary pasta and add your own spinach and cheese it would be fresher and cheaper.  Pasta sauce is really easy to make, all you need are some spices (that will last a long time) and tomatoes/tomato paste.  You can make up sauce in bigger batches and then save it in used pasta sauce jars.  Keep a couple in the fridge until you need them, especially if you eat a lot of pasta.

True - there is a price to pay for convenience.  One of my hopes is that if I were to retire early as I aspire to, I would be able to spend more time cooking as I really enjoy it.  Sometimes after a long day at work, it's hard to spend the time required to make a fully home cooked meal.  Having said that, this was a Sunday so no excuses.

3. Buying chai tea from a coffee house is great, but not worth $5!  I love the coffee shop experience, but at coffee shops near my house you can get chai for about $5 or you can get regular tea for about $2.50.  If you get tea you can either get two coffee shop experiences for the price of one, or you can cut this expense in half.  Chai is tasty but expensive, so I make it at home.  I get chai tea in bags and boil water, then I fill a mug 1/3 the way with 2% milk and heat this in the microwave for 40 seconds.  Once water is boiling I add 1 or 2 chai tea bags to the milk and pour hot water over them, and add as much sugar as I want.  To me it tastes at least as good as coffee shop chai and sometimes better, plus one organic chai tea bag costs less than $0.20.  The chai in boxes is really expensive, and while delicious, I don't think it's worth it since for $5 you get two or three drinks.

Agreed - very rare expenditure for me and I feel extremely guilty when I make these purchases.  I have made it at home before and it's just not as good.  The place I go to has a recipe that apparently took six years to make and it's amazing.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2012, 10:44:27 PM by MMMdude »

MMMdude

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2012, 07:56:34 PM »
April 3 update

Breakfast - Home made coffee, yogurt with granola - 1.50
Lunch - Sandwich from grocery store and apple - 4.25
Dinner - Rib Eye steak with baked potato and asparagus - 9.00
Dessert - Bowl of ice cream - 0.50

April 4 update

Breakfast - Home made coffee, yogurt and granola - 1.50
Lunch - Potstickers - .50
Dinner - Hot dogs - 2.00

Running Total - 36.75   Daily average - 9.19

R62

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2012, 09:57:15 PM »
I'm another advocate of tracking what you spend, not what you consume. 

That said, I've found it takes a combination of approaches to get a grocery budget under control:

1.  shop wisely;
2.  cook from scratch
3.  manage your supplies for maximum utilization.

We track our expenses very closely.  For a household to two adults and three cats, our spending on consumables has been running:

2010 = $21.40/day
2011 = $21.94/day
2012 = $20.03/day *average, including budgeted

This includes all groceries, toiletries, pet foods, cleaning supplies, over-the-counter meds, and anything else you might purchase at a grocery store, drug store or big box store, with the exception of:

bar bill (mine - comes out of my "blow" money)
flea med (cats - DH shows no interest)

And we eat like Kings and Queens, all five of us.   

Edited to add:  as a general rule we do not eat in/from restaurants or buy prepared foods.
Edited to add:  location is inner-city/high-density.


« Last Edit: April 05, 2012, 07:17:25 PM by R62 »

Mrs MM

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2012, 10:20:37 AM »
Great idea!  I'm going to see how much we've spent so far by checking Mint.  :)

Update: so far we've spent $38 on groceries this month and I actually went out to eat with a friend (a very rare event!) and that was $17.  So, that's $55 so far.

Other spending in April:
- My ultra-expensive-and-luxurious crossfit membership: $120/month
- Our ultra-luxurious Neflix membership: $8/month

We didn't do either of the above until the last 2 years. 

It's funny that our April spending so far could easily have been just $38 for groceries, but it ended up being $145 more due to the extra easily-avoidable stuff.

Oh, I also looked up our March grocery spending and it was $289.67 for the month (family of 3).
« Last Edit: April 05, 2012, 10:31:59 AM by Mrs MM »

zoltani

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2012, 06:13:57 PM »
comes out of my "blow" money

Also known as your charlie sheen fund?

zoltani

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2012, 06:15:45 PM »
Last month we spent $480 on groceries, wow that seems high for two people.  Hopefully we can cut that down in the future.   


MMMdude

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2012, 08:36:16 PM »
Last month we spent $480 on groceries, wow that seems high for two people.  Hopefully we can cut that down in the future.

In a month there is 90 meals give or take per person so 180 meals.  This works out to $2.67 per meal per person.  Doesn't seem that unreasonable especially if it includes all the 'other' stuff besides food that people buy at the grocery store - batteries, toiletries, etc. 

Update for today

Bfast - yogurt and granola - 1.50
Lunch - 3 eggs and bagel - 1.50
Dinner - wings and beer with friend - 20.00

Running total - 59.75
« Last Edit: April 05, 2012, 08:40:10 PM by MMMdude »

Mactrader

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #14 on: April 05, 2012, 09:55:29 PM »
It's funny that our April spending so far could easily have been just $38 for groceries, but it ended up being $145 more due to the extra easily-avoidable stuff.

I say that every month about all of our spending. If only we didn't do all that stuff we really didn't need to do and have nothing to show for it!

I jest though, my wife has really come a long way and aside from a few 'must-have expenses' with our new twins and traditions she was brought up on, we're doing real well on the spending front. I view it as a slow gradual change, as she doesn't have the crazy insane motivation I have by reading MMM...

MMMdude

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #15 on: April 10, 2012, 08:36:19 PM »
So I was going to update for the first 10 days and then extrapolate for a full month, but to be honest I'm too lazy to do so :-),  For the most part the five days I recorded are fairly representative, so about $10 per day or $300 per month at this base level.  Then when I add in the occasional toiletry purchase, meal out someplace nice with my girlfriend or going out to watch the game with friends with some wings, this is how I end up in the $400+ range each month.  I mean there are some months where I am below $300 and then some months are over $500. 

My question for those spending less than $300 per month for a family is, don't you ever take your spouse out for dinner?  Where I live a nice dinner out with two drinks each + tip is $100.  Right there that is 1/3 the numbers you guys are throwing out there.  This doesn't happen every month, but I think it's important to have "date nights" or whatever you call them every once in awhile.  Just curious is all

I think I am going to try another approach.  Keep all my receipts for the month and then pore over them to see where there is any waste.  I will also post the price of some staples in my area such as milk, rice, yogurt, etc and ask you to do the same and compare if I am in a higher cost of living which is what I suspect is part of the reason for my higher numbers.

arebelspy

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #16 on: April 10, 2012, 10:30:31 PM »

My question for those spending less than $300 per month for a family is, don't you ever take your spouse out for dinner?  Where I live a nice dinner out with two drinks each + tip is $100.  Right there that is 1/3 the numbers you guys are throwing out there.  This doesn't happen every month, but I think it's important to have "date nights" or whatever you call them every once in awhile.  Just curious is all


Why does a date night have to be a $100 meal?
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sol

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #17 on: April 11, 2012, 02:25:07 PM »

Why does a date night have to be a $100 meal?

Because you can't show someone you love them without spending at least that much. Obviously.

AJ

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #18 on: April 11, 2012, 03:00:56 PM »
My question for those spending less than $300 per month for a family is, don't you ever take your spouse out for dinner?  Where I live a nice dinner out with two drinks each + tip is $100.  Right there that is 1/3 the numbers you guys are throwing out there.  This doesn't happen every month, but I think it's important to have "date nights" or whatever you call them every once in awhile.  Just curious is all

We have date nights *all*the*time* :) We love dating each other :)

Our new favorite is to eat something simple at home, catch a movie at the cheap seats, then hit the after 9PM happy hour for cheap beers, chips and salsa, and spinach dip. Total cost for the whole night: $20. Filling up on healthy/cheap food at home is kinda like pre-drinking but for food. We still get to enjoy the restaurant experience (overpriced drinks and all), but for a fraction of the price tag.

More common is taking a six-pack of microbrews to our good friends' house after their kids go down for bed. We just drink and chat and bitch about our respective jobs and families. Total cost: $8.

Best date ever: Early picnic dinner at the top of the mountain we just hiked, then cheap beers on the back porch at home while watching the sun go down. Total cost: $4 including gas to/from the mountain. Too bad there's only about 8 weeks a year that the weather is warm enough to enjoy this in my climate :(

Sometimes, it just pays to learn to enjoy the simpler pleasures in life rather than needing a fancy restaurant to bond with your SO. And let's just be honest: the best part of the date is the end of the night, at that is free ;)

wilk916

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #19 on: April 11, 2012, 03:39:25 PM »
I track our expenses religiously.

Over the last 12 months our family of 3 averaged $625 per month in groceries.  We also averaged $325 per month at restaurants.

We clearly have a lot of work to do.

I identify our biggest problems as the following:

1. Poor planning - Evening hits and we don't have a plan for dinner... let's go out
2. Laziness - We are both tired and don't want to cook/clean... let's go out
3. Bad habits - Dining used to equal entertainment during our 20s... let's go out
4. Buying out of season organic produce - Do you know what organic blueberries cost in January?
5. Buying prepared foods - Organic dairy free banana muffins @ $3 per package when it would cost $0.50 to make at home.

My wife is the kitchen manager in the house since she works 2 days per week.  She acknowledges the problem but hasn't seemed to change her buying patterns much.  I need to spend less time tracking expenses and more time planning/shopping/cooking food. :-\

MMMdude

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #20 on: April 11, 2012, 09:16:21 PM »

Why does a date night have to be a $100 meal?

Because you can't show someone you love them without spending at least that much. Obviously.

No, not at all - we do cheap/free stuff or gestures together all the time, just that once in awhile (not monthly) we will go for a nice dinner and it's hard to do that for much less than $100 as $20 of that is tax and tip where we live.  Going out to Applebee's or equivalent to celebrate an anniversary is just lame quite frankly.   I guess when we go to these nice places we see other couples there doing the same thing so it gets ingrained that this is what you are "supposed to do". 

MMMdude

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #21 on: April 11, 2012, 09:18:51 PM »
I track our expenses religiously.

Over the last 12 months our family of 3 averaged $625 per month in groceries.  We also averaged $325 per month at restaurants.

We clearly have a lot of work to do.

I identify our biggest problems as the following:

1. Poor planning - Evening hits and we don't have a plan for dinner... let's go out
2. Laziness - We are both tired and don't want to cook/clean... let's go out
3. Bad habits - Dining used to equal entertainment during our 20s... let's go out
4. Buying out of season organic produce - Do you know what organic blueberries cost in January?
5. Buying prepared foods - Organic dairy free banana muffins @ $3 per package when it would cost $0.50 to make at home.

My wife is the kitchen manager in the house since she works 2 days per week.  She acknowledges the problem but hasn't seemed to change her buying patterns much.  I need to spend less time tracking expenses and more time planning/shopping/cooking food. :-\

1,2,3 and 5 are our problems as well.  We both work 5 days per week however my live in gf is trying to also start a business so I do all the cooking/most of the cleaning and it's just easier to say screw it, let's go for cheap wings/pizza whatever.

We also eat too much junk food or other stuff.  Just came back from Costco and $140 bill included $15 in snacks/chips, $17 in San Pelligreno water (gf is addicted) and $10 in flowers.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2012, 09:23:39 PM by MMMdude »

arebelspy

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #22 on: April 12, 2012, 07:55:44 AM »

Why does a date night have to be a $100 meal?

Because you can't show someone you love them without spending at least that much. Obviously.

No, not at all - we do cheap/free stuff or gestures together all the time, just that once in awhile (not monthly) we will go for a nice dinner and it's hard to do that for much less than $100 as $20 of that is tax and tip where we live.  Going out to Applebee's or equivalent to celebrate an anniversary is just lame quite frankly.   I guess when we go to these nice places we see other couples there doing the same thing so it gets ingrained that this is what you are "supposed to do".

There is almost nothing you are "supposed to do.". Paying $100 for a meal for two certainly isn't one of them. And definitely not monthly. Maybe once or twice per year, but try to figure out how to do celebrations without that. :)
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with two kids.
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AJ

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Re: Tracking groceries, eating out, toiletries for one month
« Reply #23 on: April 12, 2012, 12:58:30 PM »
I guess when we go to these nice places we see other couples there doing the same thing so it gets ingrained that this is what you are "supposed to do".

Companies spend a lot of money to convince you that buying their overpriced products/services is what you are "supposed to do."