I recently received a comment on my July 2011 Monthly Goals post, where I talked about wanting to slash my grocery budget in half for the month (from $200 to $100). I was originally going to respond to it in comments, but I think it’s important enough to talk about. Especially because for some reason, I’ve been getting a lot of traffic to that post from people who think I’m unrealistic and crazy. Here is what one person had to say:
Between your cell phone, internet and entertainment you’ve got $300/month budgeted and you want to cut your food bill down to $100? What are you going to live on, love? What a joke… LOL Sounds like a 20 something decision…
The fact that my cell phone/internet/entertainment budget comes to over $300/month (while I’m trying to get my food bill down to $100 for July) might come to a shock to some people who don’t really know me. And it might seem like a “20-something decision” to those looking in. I get that. But to me, it makes perfect sense.
In an emergency situation, it is so easy to get rid of my cell phone/internet/entertainment budget because they are all wants, not needs. You don’t need any of those things to survive a true emergency. It is incredibly difficult, however, to slash your grocery budget – because we all need food to survive. That is a HUGE difference, and the reason why I’ve challenged myself to cut my groceries this month. I want to prove to myself that, if I need to, I can feed myself comfortably on $100/month. Even with rising food costs.
There is no better time than in your 20′s to make sure that you’re prepared for any sort of emergency situation. We are all capable of calling our cell phone or internet provider to suspend, disconnect, or reduce service when money is tight. But the real challenge lies in the ability to be able to feed ourselves (with healthy, fresh food) for less money if we had to.
I save almost 50% of my net income these days – even with my mortgage. So the $100/month grocery challenge isn’t because I cannot afford to feed myself, or because I need to choose between paying my cell phone bill or eating. It isn’t even to save extra money, or to keep my savings rate hovering at 50%. It is a conscious decision I made to help ensure that I am on course to reach my goal of financial independence. And a huge part of that goal is the knowledge that I can successfully survive on a reduced budget – without compromising my health.
It’s like a fire drill; sometimes you have to practice and put yourself through an emergency-type situation to feel confident should (knock on wood) the real thing ever happen to you. Maybe it’s too extreme for some people, but it’s important to me.
I fully understand that slashing my grocery budget to $100/month isn’t sustainable for me. I consider myself to be extremely lucky that $100/month is an “emergency” situation, where there are some people and families that have to live on a lot less. I think, realistically, I can reduce my budget to $150/month and be comfortable. However, my current $200/month is a luxury that I know I can afford to keep right now, should I choose to.
I would encourage new readers to read a few of my posts and really get to know where I’m coming from, before jumping to conclusions and thinking I’m a 20-something with no real direction or plan in life. Or someone who values their iPhone more than putting food on the table. That’s just not the case. Almost every personal finance related thing that I do is a calculated decision, and comes from a practical need to protect my financial well-being now, and into the future.