Dear 100 Hour Board,
I don't know if this is too private of information to ask - but could you share the cold hard numbers (not estimates) on what your average food expenditures were over the last 6 months (or even better, a full, rounded 12 months, if you've got the time). If you have and use Mint, you could find the total for food, restaurants, groceries, etc, over the last year and divide it by 12. Or if your credit/debit card service has some sort of categorizing feature on their website. Or if you've got the time, just breeze through your last 12 months of online bank/credit card statements (and perhaps CougarCash account summary) and tally up the total of money spent at Smith's, Macey's, Guru's, Red Robin, CougarEat, BYU Creamery, etc. (I know it could be tough if you're buying shampoo and bread at the same time - do your best, I guess?)
If you bought someone food, or hosted a party where your grocery receipt was substantial, feel free to reduce those to your share. (And vice versa, if you remember getting a full meal from anywhere)
Again, please no guesstimating (where possible) - this is kinda like having your tax returns publicized. Just be honest, and use hard numbers from your bank/credit card account statements.
This question stems from this commercial (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ry9Ugw0S4aA), and my concern that there's very little connecting-the-dots going on between millennial financial pressure and millennial dietary habits. Feel free to invite friends/peers to do the same and share theirs, if you feel like it resolves my concern and proves me wrong; or if it confirms my concern, but makes you look better by comparison ;)
I'm happy to share mine - I averaged about $320/month (with not a lot of fluctuation) over the last few years - eating out at sit-down restaurants a couple times a month, sticking to the dollar menu at McDonald's and Taco Bell, and trying to shop sales at Macey's.
- Ol' G.B. Hinckles
I'm disappointed you didn't separate your two averages of grocery shopping and eating out. I thought since you were asking for our cold, hard numbers, you were going to do the same.
Our couple monthly budget includes a grocery and eating out / entertainment category so this was easily done. But Anathema advised us not to post our private financial information (that honestly you have no business in knowing) so I took it out. But I can guarantee you, it's quite impressive and we have no problem budgeting our groceries versus eating out. Our highest month for both categories didn't even amount to $300 for two people, and our average was less than $200.
Carl and I received counsel that we should never stop dating each other. We tend to do that by going out to dinner so we can talk and pay attention to one another without distraction. I like to think that eating out with Carl is investing back into our marriage and not throwing away money. If we're smart with budgeting, we can choose which luxuries we would like to partake in without feeling guilty. We've set aside "fun money" (also known as pocket money or blow cash) each month that we can spend guilt-free to make sure that we're sticking to the rest of our budget. Many other couples do this as well (ever heard of Dave Ramsey?) and can choose traveling, movies, clothes, entertainment, going out to eat, etc if they save up their fun money month to month for a bigger purchase. How can you be sure that's not what most young adults do?
I didn't respond to your last question, but we put 40% of our after-tax income into savings each month. I graduated last April and Carl graduated in April '18, so we're no longer students. He has a really good job and worked full time while going to school. Since he's been working full time for over four years, we never had any debt to pay off. Due to his hard work, we're able to save a lot for a house down payment. Let's not forget to mention all of the investment funds that Carl's Dad (a financial adviser) started for Carl when he was little and encouraged him to put money in as he grew older. So don't worry about us, we're nothing like the couple in the Youtube video.
I was going to try and give you a range of how much I've spent, but I have switched budgeting apps in the last six months, and I really don't have the time to go back through each and figure out how it has all added up. Not to mention, my circumstances have changed dramatically several times in the past year, so there were periods when I spent quite a bit on food, and periods when I spent nothing at all. Like the other writers, I'm not sure that any numbers are meaningful unless you have a lot of context about my life (if that's the case, email me, O magic one. I've got some questions for you).
To address your main concern: honestly, I do spend more money than I should eating out. That's because right now, the time it takes me to buy/prepare/pack/reheat food is often (literally) more expensive than just buying food. Between the monetary value currently tied to my grades (I am attending school on a scholarship) and the hourly rate that companies have decided I am worth, spending a few dollars to eat out is easily justified when compared to the time I save doing it. My time is not perfectly productive, so that's not a perfect reason, but sometimes I have 16 hours worth of work to get done and I just need to eat something without spending a lot of time. Sue me.
In order to reduce the amount I spend eating out, I need to lower the time cost of bringing my own food. I am actively working on that. Until I am successful, it will continue to make sense for me to buy food a little more often. I realize that it takes an enormous amount of privilege to even say that; I'm very lucky to have the means to buy food and keep working instead of needing to stop and go home to eat. And my current habits are not great for my wallet, trust me. I am perfectly aware of how eating out is affecting my finances, and I have a budget that compensates for it. But ya girl has commitments and a scholarship to (attempt to) keep, so those things take priority and I will allocate whatever time I can toward them.
At the end of the day, your concern is valid. But it’s probably better that each person applies it to themselves than to other people.
I'm not going to answer your question because I have better things to do with my time (like work at my job where I make money) than comb through a bunch of bank statements to figure out how much my husband and I spent on food in the last year, but I would like to say that just knowing the dollar amount that people spend on food doesn't give you any idea of their "millennial financial pressure." Someone may spend more dollars than you do on food, but maybe that's because they're buying food for two people instead of just one, or maybe it's because they have a well-paying job and can afford it, or maybe it's because they spend less money on other things but they prioritize good food. Maybe their dollar amount of money spent on food is a smaller percentage of their overall income than the amount of money you spend on food, even if it's a higher raw number. The point is, without knowing tons of extra financial information about a person, there's no way to know if they're spending proportionately too much on food.
You make a valid point that people (myself included) could definitely spend less on food because those nickels and dimes add up, but the number one rule of statistics is that although broad statements may apply to large groups of people, you can't apply them to individuals. If you think that millennials are spending too much on food, asking a random group of individuals to share their bank statement information is not the way to verify that hypothesis.
I think that is too much information to ask.
Also, I am more than incredulous that "Ol' G.B. Hinckles" is using ghostly powers to criticize the food budgets of young adults.
Yeah, I'm not combing through my bank statements for the past 6 months to satiate your desire to showcase bad millennial spending habits. I will say that I've saved over a third of my monthly take home income every month since graduating in April, though. And regardless of how much I spend on food, that says more about my financial habits than a raw number of monthly grocery costs.
Finally, publishing exact numbers relating financial information on the internet is never a good idea, even with aliases involved.
For my own security, I won't provide exact numbers. In 2019, my monthly food spending has fluctuated between $300-500. By your standards, that's probably astronomical and an example of how millennials are irresponsible. But I'm pretty secure in the fact that I'm using my money in the manner that's best for me, a full time employee and grad student.
I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you aren't asking me for this information just to use it as a "Look how irresponsible and stupid millennials are with their money!" taunt. However, I do think it's unsafe for us to reveal exact information about our expenditures. So, like Luciana, I will give you a range.
When I was living in my own apartment, I spent ~ $80 - $150 every month on groceries, eating out, and CougarCash for 'I'm starving and still have 3 hours before I go home' bagels. I feel that's very reasonable, and I kept good track of it and when I shopped I bought smart foods like canned goods, lots of beans and rice, soup, and sale items. I price match at Walmart and do foods that make lots of leftovers for cheap. I would make sure to eat with my family on Sundays for dinners (yay free food!)
I appreciate that you seem to care so much, but I think you should consider broader social reasons for some of these "generation-specific" phenomena you seem to care so much about. Many millennials were growing up during the 2001 financial crisis and the 2008 recession. Millennials have notably low trust in financial systems and the housing market... and for good reason. A lot of our parents got laid off and we saw the consequences of horrible and unethical business practices. Why would we want to participate in a system that is so unreliable and evil like that? So, before you go assuming that we 'don't feel financial pressure' and judging "us youngsters" for our financial decisions, consider some of the factors that might lead people to think in a different way than you. Try to exercise a sociological imagination to understand the needs, thoughts, feelings, and circumstances of others. I think it's fair to say that most of us do feel intense financial pressure and do try to act accordingly. Why food budgets are what you are focused on is beyond me. It might make more sense to look into inflating housing costs and stagnating wages.
Up until recently, the job I was working at provided food and housing. So I only bought food when I ate out, maybe $30ish a month.
Do I win? Was 'nothing' the correct answer?
But seriously, I don't think "cold hard numbers" can tell you anything about a person's financial habits and how financially secure they are. $320/month, like you gave as an example, looks very different depending on where people are in their lives, what their income is, how many mouths they are feeding, where they live, what stores they are shopping at, etc.