This Habit of Mine Costs Me $200 a Month -- but It's Still Worth It

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  • If you're self-employed, it sometimes pays to outsource tasks.
  • Although I like to cook, time constraints often leave me relying on takeout meals.

I don't see myself giving it up anytime soon.

At one point, my husband and I ordered takeout or delivery three or four times a week. When our kids were younger and less independent, we found that between caring for them during the week and managing our workloads, there just weren't enough hours to spend preparing meals.

Now that our kids are a little older and our work schedules have gotten a little more flexible (my husband used to report to an office full-time, but since the pandemic began, he's home a good chunk of the week), we can squeeze in more cooking and cut back on takeout significantly. And to be clear, cooking is something we actually like to do, individually and jointly.

But still, we inevitably fall back on takeout at least once a week, and sometimes twice. And all told, I'd say that costs us about $200 a month.

That isn't to say I only spend $200 a month on takeout. We're a family of five, so a single meal that isn't junky could easily cost $40, $50, or $60. When I say takeout costs me $200 a month, I'm also accounting for the difference between buying groceries and paying for takeout. Sure, a takeout meal might cost me $40, but if I was going to spend $20 to make something at home, in my mind, that only counts as $20 toward my takeout tab. (Still with me?)

All the same, sometimes the amount I spend on takeout bugs me. After all, it's not a small amount, and it's money I could easily use for other things, including padding my savings account. But I'm unlikely to give up takeout for one big reason, and it's not just my desire to enjoy yummy food.

The numbers actually add up

Technically, I could never order takeout and just carve out more time to cook every week -- but I'd lose out on working hours. Since I'm self-employed and get paid for every piece of content I produce, the more time I work, the more I can earn. And so, if I gave up a few extra hours a week to cook more, I'd lose income.

In fact, I've crunched the numbers, and ordering takeout once or twice a week actually saves me money when we account for the income I'm not giving up. And that alone makes it a habit I'm unlikely to kick anytime soon.

What's your time worth?

If you're self-employed, you may run into your share of scenarios that make you choose between paying for conveniences or giving up working hours. And ultimately, your best bet is to run the numbers to see what makes sense. For me, the amount of money I can earn in an hour exceeds what I'll lose if I spend on takeout. In that case, ordering meals makes sense.

In fact, if it weren't for the health factor, my family would probably eat more takeout. But I tend to cook vegetable-heavy meals, and often, the food we bring in is less healthy to some degree. That's a big part of why we've tried so hard to cut back.

But financially? It would probably make sense for us to order takeout every night. Whether that's good for our waistlines is a different story.

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