Ever since a year or so after I moved here, when my personal economy had recovered to where my buffer was getting comfortable, I've pretty much just bought what I wanted to eat. After a while I barely even glanced at the prices.
Now that I'm trying to adjust to the idea of having far less disposable income, the grocery bill is the one thing that seems unreasonably high. I could eat cheaper, I'm sure. Especially if I'm willing to cook more often. I like beans and lentils and that sort of thing.
So now I'm looking at the cost of food again and it's all so expensive. Fresh produce is incredibly overpriced here. It feels like food prices have doubled while I was busy not paying attention. So I revert to the old pattern of buying what's on sale and foregoing a few of the things I want because they are too expensive, and I resent this feeling of not being in control anymore. I still choose what to buy, but my decision is strongly influenced by whoever sets the prices.
Looking at my spending for the last three months has helped a lot in working out a budget, but I think I need to look at the last three years to get a more accurate picture. I tend to have one huge tea shopping trip a year. I hope I'll be able to buy a new mattress this summer (I have the money; transportation is the problem). I want to have a dentist check me out. Those huge, infrequent expenses are so hard to take into account. It's been 1 ⅓ year since I had my hair done (I would have gone while still in Madison if it wasn't so ridiculously cold outside).
I am confident that I can handle loan payments while still maintaining a decent standard of living, but I'm going to have to make sacrifices and I can't be as carefree as I've been for the pasts few years. How much do I spend on yarn per year? No idea - I actually succeeded in my yarn diet and didn't buy any last year. Books? Heck if I know. Then there's always some Kickstarter project I want to get in on. Those are not as easy to classify, since they tend to be part charity, part paying for a product.
I've been getting into YNAB over the past month. I think I'm starting to get the hang of it, but there are still things I don't understand. Would be nice if I could just budget a sum towards a broad group - say, "entertainment" - and then not care how that splits up into sub-categories of books, music, games, other. It doesn't really matter if I overspend within one of those sub-categories as long as I'm within spending for the entire entertainment category.