How-to books on budgeting not always the best guide

All right let’s discuss a question that came in to me. Basically the question was how come in a lot of the budgeting books that are out there they say how they can get a month’s worth of groceries for such little dollar amounts.

All right let’s discuss a question that came in to me. Basically the question was how come in a lot of the budgeting books that are out there they say how they can get a month’s worth of groceries for such little dollar amounts.

Yet the person who was reading the books could not reduce her budgeted amount to such a small number and manage to feed her family.

The short and quick answer is the amounts are based on pricing from the United States. Unfortunately the books out there do not bother to mention if they are written in the States or in Canada.

Most of the information found in budgeting books can cross borders with no problems.

The trouble comes in when amounts are mentioned. It is all well and good to say the writer spends this much on a power bill and this much on food.

But products have higher prices here in Canada. They can vary from province to province as well. Fuel may cost so much per litre in Alberta and be 10 cents higher or lower in say Nova Scotia.

So do not panic when you read a book and see a really small amount budgeted for a certain category. If the book was not written in Canada you will never get your grocery amount or your power bill down to the amount you see. Instead base your amounts on your life.

What you have to do is keep track of what you spend for a period of three months or more and take your average amount and use that as your starting point for your budget.

Remember these amounts can change over time. You may find you need a little less or you may find you always need more to cover each month.

A budget is a work in progress when you first start out. The longer you go the more the amounts will be corrected after you have gone through the first year as an adjustment period.

After a year you know what you spent and can use that average amount.

If you have extra just leave it in there as you know you will probably need it later in the year.

When the year ends if you have a large amount sitting there that you did not use you can reduce your monthly budgeted amount by that amount averaged out over the year and take the left over and move it to where you need it. Since we mentioned groceries, another place to watch out is coupons.

Coupons are a great thing to use.

You can save money and sometimes get a second item for half price or even free. But again be realistic. The show Extreme couponing shows people going in and getting eight carts of food worth hundreds of dollars and when they check out with the use of coupons and discount cards gets all that food for pennies. Again this is a show based in the States our coupons do not work the same way. So do not expect to get the same results.

Sandra Nolan is a freelance writer from Rocky Mountain House. Her column appears every other week in LIFE. Contact her at slnolan@xplornet.com

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