This Is My Hardest Bad Financial Habit to Break, but Here's How I'm Working on It

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  • Many of us have expenses in our budget we could be spending less on.
  • There's one indulgence I can't seem to shake -- but I'm trying.

We all have things we spend money on that aren't essential. Here's one luxury I'm struggling to cut back on.

When my husband and I sat down at the start of the year to look at our budget, we knew we'd have some changes in store. After hanging onto our paid-off vehicle for 15 years, it's time to replace it with a newer car -- one that can actually fit our children comfortably and isn't plagued with random quirks and issues.

But because car prices are so expensive right now, we know there's a good chance we'll end up spending more than anticipated to replace our car. And we also don't really feel that we can wait too long to make that move.

As such, we're looking to cut back on our non-essential spending to compensate for what could soon be a pretty substantial car payment. While we could simply scale back our savings goals, we'd rather see what reasonable changes we can make first.

We aren't the sort of family that spends money frivolously, so it's been hard identifying expenses to cut. But one area we definitely tend to overdo it is takeout.

Some weeks, we'll order in two or three times if work keeps us busy and our kids' extracurricular activities have us running all over town. Also, I can admit that I just plain enjoy takeout, so even during periods when life isn't as hectic, I still tend to indulge in it.

Still, due to an increase in our bills, and also, the fact that just about everything is costing more these days thanks to inflation, I feel compelled to try to cut back. Here's how I'm making that adjustment.

1. I'm not going to extremes

Going from two or three takeout meals a week to none just isn't realistic for my family. And frankly, I think it would make me miserable. So instead, I'm going to cut back slowly. I'll start by limiting myself to two meals a week at most with the goal of getting down to one.

I happen to think that having takeout once a week is pretty reasonable from both a financial and health-related perspective. The meals I cook myself tend to be more wholesome, but I don't think it's terrible to eat something a little junkier if it's only once every seven days.

2. I'm getting better about meal planning

A big reason I rely so much on takeout is that I run out of time to cook. But by making a schedule of meals, I'm hoping to mitigate that issue.

Normally, what I'll do is drop my kids off at school and then stop at the supermarket afterward since it's on my way home and pick up ingredients to cook with later that day. I'll do that several times a week. But I could definitely get more organized about buying groceries and cooking in larger batches, so working on that should make cutting back on takeout easier.

3. I'm rewarding myself for extra earnings

As a freelance writer, my income can vary. I usually have a specific earnings figure I target on a weekly basis, but some weeks, I manage to exceed that by picking up extra work and putting in extra time.

Normally, when I get a boost in earnings, I send that money into my savings account or brokerage account, where I invest it. But since we're planning to cut back on takeout this year, I've decided that for every extra $100 I earn per week, I'm allowed to put $10 into what I'm calling my bonus takeout fund. That way, I get a little reward for working harder.

We all have things that make us happy in life, and for me, takeout is one of them. While it won't be easy to break my habit of ordering in several nights a week, I know it's the right move -- I'm pledging to do my best to make that happen.

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