(Photo: Nancy Gonzalez/TueNight)
I am giving up takeout.
This is not about health. This is not about calories. This is not about honing my kitchen skills (they are great, thankyouverymuch). This is not about family time. This is not about putting a pause on my all-out consumerism.
This is about money.
According to my AmEx statement, last month my husband, Gabriel, and I spent $590.88 on restaurants. Since we didn’t go out for a date night in November — too much holiday and work travel, plus the cost of a babysitter, plus really, cozying up at home when the kid is asleep is a pretty blissful date — I know that that $590.88 is pure takeout.
Wait a minute. The great sushi place on the corner doesn’t take AmEx. Neither does my neighborhood Thai, or burrito joint.
My Visa takeout bill: $351.56.
So, last month, we spent $942.44 on takeout. This is not included the random cash spent for a coffee or bodega snack here or there. Let’s just pretend that money wasn’t spent. Does cash even count? Okay, we’ll call it around $60. So that’s roughly $1,000 a month.
Mind you, this is not my family’s food bill. We spend about $200 a week on groceries, mostly organic, healthy foods that I prepare at home.
The math per month: $800 + $942.44 = $1,742.44 on food.
This seems unreasonable.
I am actually really great at budgeting and saving money.
When we were in our late 20s, Gabriel and I managed to save enough to pay for our own destination wedding and pay for an almost two-year sabbatical in which we traveled the world. We had a relatively uncomplicated system: I paid the bills, he put his income into savings. We brown bagged lunch every day, had a strict food budget, and our clothes were last season. I cut out mani/pedis and started getting a $50 haircut instead of a $125 haircut. We budgeted a couple hundred bucks a week for miscellaneous expenses, which included entertainment and dining out. Brown-bagging lunch alone nearly paid for our tickets: $10 for lunch, $5 for coffee, times 2 people, times 52 weeks = $7800 that we saved in a year.
Newly married and backpacking, we did so well on our budget that we were able to extend our round the world trip a couple extra months, add an additional continent to our itinerary, and even come back to the U.S. with some savings.
That was in 2011. Since then, we’ve had a baby, started businesses, and generally become those frantically busy people that don’t know where the time went. But things really went downhill as far as the takeout when I went back to work full-time after my maternity leave, in January 2014. I still cook a ton, and I do still enjoy it (there are few satisfactions in life greater than watching people you love enjoying food you have cooked for them). But the days on which we just can’t bear to turn on the stove, or we don’t have a taste for the soup that I cooked so lovingly on the weekend to feed us all week, or it was one of those days where only a chirashi bowl ($18) and deluxe seaweed salad ($7.50) will make me happy at the end of the day … well, they add up to the tune of $1,000 a month.
I don’t have a system yet for how we’ll cook and prepare all these meals. Maybe it will be a better stocked pantry, so more cravings can be sated. Maybe we’ll have to eat less complex food. Maybe we’ll have to buy only perishables, so our guilt of food going bad overrides our impulse to ignore what’s in the fridge and ordering out. Maybe I will have to buy some really adorable thermoses and travel cups so I don’t pick up coffee on the road.
Gabriel is afraid that this exercise will stress me out more than help. He has a good point — we work a ton and have a full family and social life. When it’s late and nobody wants to cook, takeout is a balm, and feels well-deserved.
My guess is that it will just be awful to give this up, like quitting smoking, but we just have to do it for our financial health. I mean, I still miss cigarettes and it’s been 15 years since I smoked. But I don’t do it. I waaaaant to do it. I don’t.
Here’s to being $1000 richer at the end of January.