Guilty Pleasures: What’s Your Budget Buster?

Guilty Pleasures - top view of farmer carrying basket of vegetables

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I just spent the last hour going over our spending from May, and- Holy Shartit’s slightly scary.  We didn’t do that bad for the most part but, as usual, our grocery spending bled over into our gas/misc category.  I hate it when that happens.  In the past, I’ve written about how I feed our family of four for around $500 per month and it’s totally true.  However, it isn’t always easy.  In fact, our spending occasionally creeps up to $550 or even $600.

Let’s face it.  Our family budget buster is- and always has been-food.  One of my guilty pleasures is buying organic fruits and vegetables, and that ain’t cheap, folks.  We are growing our first vegetable garden this year, and I am super hopeful that it will help us save on food towards the end of the summer.  Fingers crossed!  I have been really good about feeding my kids fruits and vegetables since they were babies, so I am thrilled that they eat them willingly.  However, they can eat $5 of fresh fruit in one sitting, and they often do. It makes me proud as a mother, but the financial aspect of it makes me cringe!

It seems like summertime hits us especially hard because our $500 monthly grocery budget has to stretch to include things like cookouts, social events, and booze.  Am I the only one who spends more on alcohol during summertime?  I never notice our alcohol spending during spring, winter, or fall, but summertime is almost always awful for our pocketbook.  I think it’s because we’re more likely to go to cookouts where we bring alcohol to share with other people. In other words, our friends are total lushes.  We also seem to drink more often when it’s warm and beautiful outside.  Wintertime is when we typically spend our miscellaneous funds on movie rentals and entertainment.  Oh, and vacations.

Squashing Our Budget Buster….Kind’ve

This is where I would typically tell you how I am going to cut our grocery spending to stay within our monthly budget.  However, I decided to do something else that would take the stress off of us without ruining all the fun.  For the rest of the summer, I’m going to bump our grocery budget up to $600 per month.  That way we can go to cookouts, indulge a little, and have some fun without me constantly feeling like a budget failure.  That’s no fun. 

After summer is over, I’ll reassess.  Exciting stuff, huh?

What Are Your Guilty Pleasures?

What is your family’s guilty pleasure?  Most of our friends like sporting events and attend them regularly, and I have to assume that hobby is expensive.  Not only do you have to buy tickets for each event, but you have to pay for gas to get there, splurge for parking, and do ridiculous things like pay $8 for a beer and $6 for a hot dog.  No thank you.

Oh, and people in my new neighborhood drop some seriously fat cash on their yards.  I’m talking custom landscaping, fancy potted plants all over, weekly lawn treatments, and coy ponds.  My next door neighbor’s backyard seriously looks like something you would find in a magazine.  I think it’s beautiful and I’m sure they can afford it, but I know that kind of upkeep isn’t cheap!

We all have budget-busters, and my family’s guilty pleasure is definitely food and drink. I don’t think it’s the end of the world, but I also want to make sure we don’t let it get out of hand.  After all, we shouldn’t let guilty pleasures get in the way of our long-term goals, am I right?

What is your family’s guilty pleasure?  Which of your budget categories sometimes get out of hand?

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  1. Like you, our budget buster is food and alcohol. We tend to go to more BBQ’s so take along nice food and alcohol and I do often find myself sitting out in the garden with a lovely cold glass of beer/cider when its nice outside which only happens in the summer.

    If you generally have good control of your money, sometimes I think its OK to relax the budget a little. After all, there is no point having all this money but feeling miserable.

  2. Our spending increases during the summer as well with vacations and other activities. I would say our big budget buster is eating out. Our lives get so busy sometimes it’s just the relaxing, easy way out instead of cooking. We also recently signed up for cable TV again, which we are all very excited about.

    1. Eating out is included in our grocery budget, but it isn’t as much of a problem during summer. We’re more likely to cook at home when it’s nice outside- we just happen to spend more!

  3. My guilty pleasure is definitely my hair! I pay about $100 every 6 weeks to get it highlighted / cut. It seems crazy, so I try to side hustle to pay for it so I don’t feel so guilty!

    1. Yikes! That sounds expensive! Beauty can be expensive =)

  4. I would say during the summer it’s entertainment. As soon as the weather turns a couple of my friends go wakeboarding once a week. It’s nice because I don’t own the boat or have to worry about the costs associated with it, but we split the fuel and that adds up over a months time. I wouldn’t trade it for the world though. I think the key to personal finance is finding the things you really enjoy and aligning your spending towards those things while cutting the stuff that means nothing.

    Have a great summer!!

    1. Having a friend with a boat is a lot like having a friend with a pool. I wouldn’t want to take care of either but it’s nice to have access to one =)

  5. I make a lot of money so I don’t *have* to feel guilty about buying whatever I want at the grocery store. Or keeping the a/c on. Or watering the damn lawn (that’s not a pleasure though, that’s something that keeps the HOA from complaining). Or sending our oldest to private school. Or be insured up the wazoo. DH makes money so we can have someone else mow the lawn.

    1. I have been mowing the lawn as a way to force myself into exercise. Is that sad?

      1. DH had been doing that before the Bermuda grass took over and he had to switch to the gas mower. (The push mower is a good work out, but it won’t mow down Bermuda seedlings.)

        1. Glad to hear I’m not the only one! =)

          Mowing is probably the only time I can convince myself to keep my heart rate up for 45 mins straight. It works my legs and arms too since my mower is big and hard to handle.

  6. We are soul sisters…mine is definitely food. I love to buy organic too & that gets expensive. Oh, and Starbucks! *hangs head in shame*
    I did buy some gardening supplies with the hopes that I can cut back as well. Feeding the “beast” (my 13 yr old) is crazy expensive! He NEVER stops eating…like where does it all go? 🙂

    1. I feel lucky that I don’t like Starbucks coffee. I have gotten used to the cheap gas station stuff you can make at home!

      1. Oh I definitely drink that too but MAN…those Green Tea Lattes are hard to copy. Lol…think I’ll head to the internet and try to figure it out.

  7. Food. Food. Food.

    My wife and I are the skinniest couple around, but we spend an ungodly amount on food. We have gotten better over the years, but we still spend more than you do on food. My only excuse is that we buy almost exclusively organic, and eat a lot of pricey fruits and veggies. Also, my wife is 8 months pregnant, and we are spending a lot on ice cream – deserves it’s own line item on the budget. Hopefully that habit ends when the baby is born.

    1. Ha! Well, my kids actually eat very little since they are 3 and 5.

  8. Our biggest budget buster has got to be eating out. We both work stressful jobs and on days when the stress levels are high, neither of us particularly feels like cooking.

  9. Food cost is always the first place I look when we need to cut some expenses, but it’s also the first thing I try to increase when we can. Buying great food to make at home reduces the chances that we pay even more by going out to eat. Once we finished our debt management program we did the same thing you mentioned – we increased our grocery budget. I honestly think that proper meal planning and preparation, along with having great food to make at home saves us money over the long run.

    1. I agree. I feel slightly guilty about all the get-togethers and cookouts we have planned, but it’s still so much cheaper than going out. I suppose summertime is worth the additional expense!

  10. We did the same thing with food. It just didn’t make sense to me to feel bad about going over it regularly when I saw we could handle bumping it up some. I hear you on the spending more on booze in the summer. Not that I drink a ton, but I was just noticing a few weeks ago that we’ve spent more this past month or so on it then the rest of the year altogether and I’m trying to cut back on it. 😉

    1. Yeah, we really don’t drink that much either. I guess we’re just more likely to drink socially when it’s nice outside.

  11. May seems to have been the month for blowing your budget. We blew our food budget out of the water too, and yes, food seems to be the area where we go over often! Hopefully June will be better. 🙂

  12. It’s food for us too, especially in the summer because we love to grill and shop at the fancy meat market. And yes, we spend more on booze in the summer too!

  13. I’m the exact same way. I tend to stick with really healthy food choices, and I always go way over. It’s sad (for me) that you guys are spending less on a family of four than I am on myself. Geez Tonya! 🙂

    1. Haha! Well, my kids don’t eat that much! That’s probably part of the reason =)

  14. Fruit used to be a major budget buster for me, but I started getting into cheaper alternatives. For example, frozen strawberries are crazy delicious and significantly cheaper than their fresh counterparts. I’m also getting super into pineapples. Just don’t buy the pre cut.

  15. Fruit can be a huge budget buster, but usually is something I’m OK with. We do try to eat whatever is on sale, but I did buy fresh cherries this week for $5.99/lb…….

    I think our biggest budget buster in the summer is our small trips. We will use points for bigger ones, but I’m not going to use my rewards for a camping trip. However, you still have extra gas, campground fees, if we go to the hot springs, etc. We also eat out sometimes on the road. It’s worth it, but does add up. To offset, I’m having a big yard sale in a couple of weeks and we are trying not to use our air conditioner unless it gets above 95. In Colorado, if you open the windows and get the fans going at the right time of day, you really don’t need it unless it’s super hot!

    1. Yeah, that might be why our summers are more expensive too. We’re just doing more in general. During winter, we’re much more likely to sit home and watch a movie on Netflix.

  16. Yankeegal says:

    My budget buster is definitely my grandchildren. Books, toys, clothes-I just can’t help myself! I do try to shop second hand as much as possible but it still adds up.

  17. For me, it is the surprise things like appliance breakdowns. Last month, our clothes dryer needed repair. The other buster is travel! We usually plan overseas trips every 2 years and it is tough to pass up things when you are away. It is a good thing I add 10% contingency to my travel budget.

    1. Yep! I don’t let my travel budget bother me because it’s usually separate from everything else. But I do hate it when things break and need fixed!

  18. Lately, my budget buster has been eating out. I traveled or had visitors every single weekend in May. I was barely at home for more than four days in a row, so I didn’t want to keep grocery shopping to have food go bad. I did the bare necessities and then did way more eating out than normal. Not great for my wallet or my waistline!

    P.S. My alcohol consumption also skyrockets in the summer time. It certainly isn’t just you.

    1. I always feel like our grocery budget should go down whenever we have a vacation planned. However, the opposite happens! We don’t want to buy anything fresh before we go, so we end up eating Subway or something instead. Sigh.

  19. Food, specifically seafood!!!! It’s worth it!

  20. Our guilty pleasure is definitely eating and drinking. We used to eat out a lot more than we do now, so now we just challenge ourselves to create the great meals that we enjoyed out, but at home and for less. It’s not only fun, but cost effective.

    1. Same here! I guess that’s why I don’t feel so bad about it. We do eat really great at home, and it’s still far less expensive than eating out!

  21. My guilty pleasure is going out to eat. We usually will set aside some spending money so this is possible because it something that my husband and I like to do together.

    1. We do too occasionally. I love certain types of ethnic food that I have trouble making myself.

  22. We definitely give ourselves plenty to spend on eating – both in and out! But the irregular expenses are things like race registrations for a last minute race I hadn’t planned on doing since those can easily top $100!

    1. I hate it when those things come out of nowhere! Greg just signed Lydia up for swimming lessons and it put us $50 over budget. Oh well.

  23. Hey Holly, first off, you’re not the only one that spends more on booze in the summer time, I’m right there with ya! By the way, I have a coy pond, they’re really not all that expensive. Well, we didn’t pay for it, we rent a house with it and take care of it. Fish are cheap to feed and the right filter can do amazing things for keeping it clean. Hmmm, my guilty pleasure. I don’t think I have one where I consistently go over budget. I might go over here and there in different areas, but I just don’t think I have a guilty pleasure.

  24. I think it’s great that feeding your family nutritious organic food is your splurge. I think your little ones will be very thankful for that someday. I guess our splurge is vacations. We do eat out sometimes but I would say we are definitely willing to drop the big bucks on vacation. Experiences are priceless in my opinion. Hopefully things are a little less spendy this year as we’ve signed up for the Barclay’s credit card!

    1. Nice. Credit card rewards will definitely help!

  25. My guilty pleasure is T-Shirts and sneakers. I can go a week without spending anything, but if I see a nice pair of sneakers I want them. Granted I do not get them all the time, I pass on alot of maybes, but when I do it feels good. Food is not bad as you are consuming it. Good Luck with the lushes.

  26. Our student loans definitely are our budget-buster, but we have no control over that now so to give you an answer that works with this post, I would say that our budget buster is food as well. We spend quite a bit on groceries, but keep it down by using coupons. I would say our home is also a big budget-buster because we have so much we could spend money on – and likely will spend money on – in the future.

    1. Yep, homes can be a money pit. I’ve spent plenty on mine for sure!

  27. Honestly, I think it’s pretty common for people’s spending to creep up during the summer. It’s nice out, pretty much everywhere, so we’re always going places and doing things. I think you’re smart to just increase the budget for the summer. You can afford it and you enjoy cookouts, etc – so enjoy it. And then, like you said, reassess in the Fall whether to go back to $500. Travel is a big temptation for me, so I definitely have to keep myself in check, otherwise I’d be boarding planes almost every weekend! And my other guilty pleasure is nice dresses for the girls. I don’t spend a fortune on their wardrobe because kids grow so fast but I have a weakness for dresses and Taylor, in particular, shares my weakness. Thankfully, the girls do wear the heck out of those dresses!

    1. Ugh, I am not looking forward to those days. My kids don’t care what they wear yet but I know they will someday!

  28. My guilty pleasure is food! I think I tell myself it’s ok because I’m not spending money on clothes. I go to town in the sweets and desserts aisle. I really need to practise reigning it in.

  29. Our guilty pleasure is rock climbing. We both love and do it regularly, but it can get expensive. There are places where we can climb for free but that’s only when the weather is nice. I live in the Northeast so I have to go to a rock climbing gym during winter (and spring this year).

    1. Ahhh….well that’s not such a bad hobby. It cunts as exercise too!

  30. I have been indulging in damn fast food as of late. I used to never eat it, but since the move is taking longer than expected, I just keep buying it and I can’t get enough. It has really destroyed my budget.

  31. My guilty pleasure is eating out for lunch. That’s stopped in June, but I could easily go through a few hundred a month at $5-$6/day! We also have a tendency to buy wine – doesn’t matter what time of year! We like sitting on the deck drinking a glass of wine just as much as sitting on the couch in front of the fire drinking wine!

    1. Hey, at least it’s much cheaper to drink wine at home. That’s the way to do it!

  32. Groceries for sure, and I’ve just been complaining about this! My budget is $800 for three people and sometimes we exceed this. Mind you it includes household and pet products, but still. We’re going to try to figure out ways to reduce this. I already had the talk with hubby on Friday.

    I have a separate booze budget and yes, we always spend more in the summer, which is why I need to track it so closely, even in the winter months to make sure we are underspending! I did a whole post on this topic and I think it’s been my most popular so far. It is $70 / month but before you go all ape $hit on me, remember booze is a lot more expensive in Canada. We’re doing make your own wine at the wine store now, just got one batch made and another in the hopper so we’re all set for summer. White wine sangria, here we come!

    1. Ha! I would never go ape shit on you. Never!

      Yeah, I drink Gin-n-tonics and have yet to find a frugal homemade recipe for them. Maybe one day…..

  33. My newest budget buster is stuff for the babes. It seems I can’t really say no when it comes to them. I’m sure I’ll get better at it though!

  34. Groceries are the easiest thing we go over every month. I think it’s a good idea to adjust your budget and reassess after a certain period. Since we moved, we found grocery prices to be a bit higher than we are used to, and while I’ve tried my best to keep us in line, we have to face the prices. They’re not the same! And summer = booze weather.

  35. Food is our budget buster too, just not grocery-wise. We ate out so much in May that my biggest goal for June was not to eat out at all. And so far I’ve managed to do it!! I’m feeling good too. Nine days in a row of not eating out may not sound like a lot but for me it is definitely progress!!

  36. holly,

    Right there with you……food KILLS us every month! However, I wish I could be in the $500’s….we are usually north of 800 for a family of 4 (not including eating out!) I need help!

  37. $500? That’s it? How do you get away with so little? We spend over $1000 per month for our family of 4 on food and household stuff. I swear we can’t go anywhere without spending at least $100 …

  38. I have to agree with you that in the Summer the food and drink budget is harder to control. People will stop by and you have a few drinks and then you go over to a friends house and bring a few drinks and so on. Summer is short so everyone wants to enjoy it. The landscaping thing can get expensive. We’re just trying to work with what we got. We’ll seed a few bald spots in our yard but I don’t plan on dropping thousands to have a perfect lawn.

  39. We spend a lot on food outside the home but that’s mainly due to travelling for work, especially for my DH. Most of it is a business expense and/or we get per diem which is not bad. Our other big expense is travel and now gas.

  40. My budget buster is eating out, specifically at Carrabba’s restaurant. We love it! It’s not cheap, but totally worth it. Oh, and travel, of course! I have no regrets about spending a ton on travel, but will obsess about saving a few bucks on clothes and shoes.

  41. Like you guys, my budget buster is food. Good, organic, locally sourced food. Also, eating out which goes into the food category. We love being able to just go out instead of cook. Another one for me is travel. Even just weekend trips within North America – they sure eat up a lot of my discretionary budget.

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  43. Food and alcohol are my budget busters too! With a lack of time for cooking, I’m constantly grabbing things on the run or having dinner out with my boyfriend. I definitely have a profound appreciation for quality food, though – fresh, locally sourced produce and meats, etc.

  44. Food is definately our budget buster too! Glad someone else is with us. My husband is naturally a big guy at 6’5, so he tends to eat our entire kitchen. 😉 Our budget stays within about $400 for the two of us, not counting eating out. Finding good sales at local markets is definately one of the ways we try and keep it within budget, but I would LOVE for a chance to knock it down. Maybe a little veggie garden and some chickens is in our future!

  45. Going out to eat is my guilty pleasure/budget buster. I also spend more on drinks in the summer. It is SO nice in Portland and the sun is only out for three months, so it’s perfect for some nice happy hours. I also like taking trips, but don’t do that nearly as often.

  46. Grocery shopping isn’t really my problem – I’m usually pretty good at that. My problem is going out to eat. I think I’m getting something cheap and being responsible, but at the end of the month, somehow it always turns to be more than I thought. I like your approach of increasing the budget for a while 🙂

  47. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel says:

    Traveling and food are my big budget busters. We don’t drink alcohol or even soda really, but we like to have quality food and lots of produce, so we end up going over our food budget just about every month

  48. MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

    According to the USDA’s food cost index for April 2014 you are way below average. They show for a family of 4 with kids aged 2-5 the average for a low cost plan is $717.30, moderate is $885.30 and liberal is $1098.20!

    We do separate funds for our eating out, so considering yours includes that you guys are doing well! We do $600 for food and $100 for toiletries (that’s our average always seems we have to do to big stock up all at the same time!). Some months we don’t spend as much and I use the extra to stock up on good quality meat in bulk. For the fact that you are feeding your family so healthfully and cleanly, you ROCK!

    1. MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

      And wow! Just check for the same averages in 1994, just 20 years ago, and those averages were HALF! Inflation is a bitch!

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