Let’s Take Out the Take Out: A Financial Challenge to Eat At Home

September 27, 2019

Starbucks cup

It’s not often that you can see me ever talking about finances here on the blog. Why? Because I really just haven’t felt super qualified to talk about it. I am the literal worst at math (I can barely do basic math without a calculator and forget doing any sort of division with more than a single digit). I’m in my second-to-last week of my college algebra class and I’ve darn near had a mental breakdown from trying to figure out some of the work problems. I’ve spent so many years being 100% focused on business that the idea of having some sort of financial challenge to eat at home was not even on my radar. Not to mention – I have basically spent my entire adult life paying stuff off. It’s a super crappy feeling, always being indebted to some bank or credit card.

Can anyone else relate to that? Bueller? BUELLER?

There was a time, when we lived in Okinawa about 10 years ago, that we were gloriously debt free. We even managed to save up a few thousand dollars in our savings account, mostly because we were getting paid a beaucoup amount of money from our cost-of-living allowance (and yes, I totally had to google how to spell that word; FYI, it’s not spelled “bookoo.”). Once we returned stateside in 2010, we lost that additional income, splurged our savings on a newish car (that hey, at least we paid in full for with cash), and have literally been playing financial catch-up since 2010.

Starbucks cup

Randy and I have always had this idea of “oh yeah, we’ll just pay it off” whenever we’ve purchased something big – whether that’s three (soon to be four) kids in braces, a water softener system, a new car, an RV or whatever. We always thought, “oh, an extra couple hundred bucks a month here or there or here again isn’t going to kill us.”

Boy were we wrong.

A little bit here, a little bit there – it all adds up.

And before we knew it, we had not only dug ourselves back into the same hole we had dug ourselves out of in the early 2000s when we were living overseas, but this hole is even deeper because now I have a heavy financial load of student loan debt lingering in the not-to-distant future. Yay for graduating college in December, after 18 years as a student … and I’m not even a brain surgeon.

Let’s Take Out the Take Out

Our Financial Challenge to Eat At Home

A few months ago, we sat down and got super real about our finances and we realized that while ends were meeting each month, we weren’t actually getting anywhere. We figured out last December we spent over $3,000 alone in food and take-out and household ‘stuff’ that we needed. THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS. Can you even fathom that? I honestly and truly had no idea that our spending had gotten that bad. That didn’t even include Christmas gifts!

It’s kind of gross, if you think about it long and hard. Dave Ramsey would be shaking his head at us, while Suzy Orman would be in absolute shock. Actually, if they really took a look at my spending habits and math skills, they’d probably keel over from a stroke.

When we moved to Georgia this summer, we really started cracking down on our spending, and while we were no longer regularly spending five-figures a month (!!) on bills and food and our lives like we were in Colorado, it still hadn’t gotten to where we need for it to be. Especially since I retired as a wedding photographer, and no longer see my six-figure annual paycheck coming in. I’ll be quite frank with you – it’s been a bit rough adjusting to a much lower income, even though the cost of living here in the south is ridiculously less than Colorado or especially California.

A few weeks ago, Randy and I finally decided we needed to crack down on our spending even more and we decided to stop eating out unless we are traveling. It took us a few days (ahem, weeks) to actually dive in and knock it off, but now that we are officially a couple of weeks into this lifestyle, let me tell you – it’s actually sort of nice and there’s been some really odd (but awesome) side effects.

DAVE RAMSEY QUOTE about lifestyle and debt

A Few Benefits of Our Financial Challenge to Eat At Home More Often:

Since we started this challenge, there’s been a few things we weren’t anticipating to happen but did.

  • Our trash cans aren’t overflowing. For the first time since moving here, our trashcans aren’t absolutely overflowing with trash come pick-up day. There’s been weeks where I have literally prayed that the trash people would pick up our stuff, even though it was stacked on top of our trash can like some sort of Whoville Seussian Trash Pile. Cutting back on waste has been something I can physically see, and that’s been pretty cool. Plus, we didn’t have to end up paying for a second trash can like I thought we were going to have to do – so that’s a double win, if you ask me!
  • Katelyn’s braces are already almost paid off already. What the what!? We were scheduled to be paying those for another 7-8 months! Next month we should be able to start tackling Sierra’s braces at our snowball rate.
  • The kids aren’t asking to go out so much. I’m sure they don’t like hearing, “it’s not in our budget” and they don’t like not having that instant gratification – but I I honestly don’t care. It’s okay to feel a little hungry, it’s okay to wait until we get home, and it’s absolutely okay to tell them no.
  • It’s forcing me to be more present with my time. That means I have to plan out what I’m making for dinner, it means I have to set aside time to meal prep, it means I have to spend a little less time doing things that don’t require so much of my time (cough cough, that would be social media). Like yesterday, we had a football game up in Woodbine (which is an hour roundtrip drive) late at night, and instead of picking up burgers or whatever on the way home – I spent some time while the kids were getting ready to go pre-making dinner. When we got home? Dinner was ready for us to sit down together and eat.
  • Grabbing a cup of coffee at Starbucks actually feels more like a treat now than a necessity. Look, mommas, I get it – coffee is life and it is my life’s blood; I joke and say that in the mornings I have more coffee running through my veins than I do blood. But when we go to grab a couple coffees and something to eat, it regularly costs us $15 give or take. I’ve been a gold-card carrying Starbucks member for years – I would be scared to look at my lifetime history of Starbucks spending.
  • I got physically ill eating out while visiting Colorado last month. I was busy traveling all over Colorado and honestly, I didn’t have much time to stop and shop and cook; plus, I was staying with friends and absolutely didn’t expect them to feed me. So, I was on my own and let me tell you – my digestive system was angry with me for not eating home-cooked meals. As soon as I got home? Things settled down a bit. Coincidence? I think not!

And really guys – these are only a few added benefits that I’ve noticed since we started this whole “Take Out the Take Out” financial challenge to eat at home. We’re just getting started, so I know that more benefits are coming our way – but these are the immediate benefits of intuitive eating.

I plan to talk more about the taboo of subject of finances and budgeting for life events more, because I feel like if I can’t be honest with y’all, how can I even possibly be honest with myself? How can I teach my children not to make the same fiscal mistakes that I have, if I can’t even admit that yes, we’re in debt and yes, we’re choosing to “live like no one else, so we can live like no one else” (thanks Dave for that quote, it’s one of my favorites). If that means me working 3 jobs, I’ll do it. If that means not eating out and telling myself no for non-essential things, then that’s what I will do.

I’ll keep you guys posted about this challenge and other ways we’re lessening our financial output. If you have any tips for me, post it in the comments!



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I'm Ashley! Family and wedding photographer in Phoenix, but I travel all over the desert southwest to hang out with the most incredible people. I am obsessed with puppies, extra hot coffee, incredible light and firmly believe that love conquers all.

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