The money spent for food, clothing and the house - under the two headings of Rent and Care of House - takes the bulk of the money of any but a very unusual budget. The item of Service is very heavy in some families, but these are comparatively few, since the overwhelming majority of families have no regular employee in the household. Those who do, and especially those who have two or more, find the Service item ranking near that of Rent, and also increasing the budget for Food, except where household service has been put on the industrial basis as described in the next chapter under the heading Service.
Rent. The family choice of a home is to be determined first by the conditions that make for health, next by its convenience for the members of the family who work outside the home, for the school-children, or for both, and last by the social values. If carfare must be paid to get to school or work, that is really part of the cost of rent, although in household accounting it is satisfactory to charge the expenditure to Transportation-Carfare. The expense must, however, be kept in mind in considering the real cost of the family quarters.
If the house is owned, the charges here are for taxes, insurance, assessments and repairs. Strictly speaking, there should be charged here and on the income card (balancing each other) the interest on the investment. This may be done at the end of the year in one sum. Since the value of the house appears among Assets, it is well to show that there is a real income from it, although no money is handled. It is also well to realize afresh from time to time the real cost of the use of the house. If the house is rented the matter of charging is simple. The terms of the lease must be carefully studied to see what money obligations may arise, as well as for other reasons. Besides the regular house charges this heading may include hotel rooms, though in many cases these are chargeable to Recreation, Business or Professional Obligations or Vacation.
Those who are boarding often think it sufficient to have a single heading for Rent and Food, but this is unwise, as even in the same house one can increase or decrease the cost of the room by changing from one to another, while the food charge remains stationary.
Food. There is a minimum of money cost to the food that will keep any given family adequately nourished, but it is an imaginary family that could be fed at this minimum cost. Likes and dislikes in food must be regarded. No normal human being wants to eat
"calories" or "food values." He wants to eat food and food that he enjoys. Food that is "good for you" nevertheless does not afford you nourishment unless you eat it. The wise homemaker studies ways of getting the members of her family to like both food that is "good for them" and food that offers as much nutrition for the same cost as some more costly food already liked. There are many books to help her. But the experienced homemaker who studies the problem has little difficulty in deciding as to the sum she must have to provide food that will meet both the family needs and the family approval. As she studies her small but important problems of cost accounting she learns how that sum can be lessened, and offers the family such choices as the chicken-and-ice-cream one referred to elsewhere.
In the list of headings there are provided for the accounts a number of subheads under Food. These are of course not considered for the budget and in many a family they may not be needed at all. But usually it is helpful to keep at least a few of them for a year, since thus one can study the relation of expense to nutrition. In a family with several growing boys and one or two men the Meat, Poultry, Fish heading may profit by further division, since the meat cost is apt to rise appallingly high. Where there are a number of young children, Dairy Products must surely get its full share. Ice is often ignored in food costs, but may, especially for a family that lives in a city for the greater part of the summer, be no mean addition to food expenditure. "Food Outside Home" is especially worth while in a large city, where lunches or tea away from home seem a simple matter until one sees their cost in a year. Candy and soft drinks are well classed here. Sometimes they are put under Recreation, but it seems wiser to classify all foods together, since all represent nourishment, even if some are not eaten with that in mind. Cigars, cigarettes, tobacco, on the other hand, have no nutritive value, and should certainly be paid for by Recreation.
The Vegetable Garden often justifies a separate heading. It is not always easy to keep account of what comes from it, but a daily jotting down in a special note book or on sheets will enable the housekeeper at the end of the season to get a general idea whether the garden paid in money as well as in the freshness of the product. Putting the cost of plowing or other paid work in the garden under the general heading Service is bad accounting. If none of the family work in the garden, it may well be that the cost of labor sends the cost of the vegetables above the regular market price. Even so this may be advisable, since the vegetables are better, but the family should know what they are paying for.
The whole question of canning and preserving at home needs the same careful study. The housewife need not reckon the labor cost at so much per hour, but if she finds that the total cost - materials, cans and rubbers, canning equipment, fuel, storage, loss and breakage - is greater than the money cost of the commercial product of equal weight, then she must consider carefully whether the quality of her own product is enough better to warrant the extra money plus her labor. It is not necessarily economy to do home canning and preserving. The market conditions and the home conditions both affect the question. The study of such a problem involves budgeting time and energy as well as money.