I have a bad habit that cost me $8,064 in 2023. It took several deep breaths and a glass of wine before I could bring myself to log into my American Express account and tally up the total.
My big, lazy, expensive habit is that I order UberEats most nights. No, I’m not feeding a family of five. I live alone, but it turns out that the cost of ordering a sandwich, paying a smorgasbord of delivery app fees, and tipping 20% balloons quickly when you do it almost every single day.
I’m not planning to rid my life of UberEats in the new year, but I do intend to cut back substantially. Here’s how I plan to scale back my reliance on food delivery and add $3,575 to my emergency fund in 2024.
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Why am I only aiming to save $3,575?
Sometimes you need to kick a bad habit by giving it up cold turkey. Changing a food habit is a bit trickier than, say, giving up cigarettes or beer. After all, you still gotta eat. I could tell myself that 2024 will be the year I avoid food delivery altogether and commit to three wholesome home-cooked meals every day. But I’d be lying to myself.
I’m giving myself some leeway because I know I’m most likely to stick with a goal if I don’t demand perfection from myself. Plus, I don’t think ordering UberEats is always a waste of money for me. I often order dinner because I’m working late and I can earn more from an extra hour of work than I’d save if I spent that hour cooking and cleaning up afterward.
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Instead of aiming to give up UberEats entirely, my goal is to cut how much I spend by two-thirds. That would save me about $5,370 per year, or $448 per month. Since I’ll still need to eat, I’m increasing my grocery budget by $150 a month. That will pad my personal finances by an extra $3,575.
What I’ll need to do to curb my UberEats habit
There are a lot of bad habits I’ll have to break to cut my UberEats spending by two-thirds, including the following.
I’m a master at putting off work assignments and bill paying until the last minute, but it doesn’t stop there. I also tend to snack throughout the day instead of eating a real meal until I’m positively hangry, mostly because I don’t feel like cleaning up.
Having unrealistic goals
I know I don’t enjoy cooking, so why do I act like I’m going to morph into Julia Child whenever I walk into the grocery store? When I make my grocery list, I often scour Pinterest and wind up shopping for a bunch of recipes that take an hour or more and a dozen ingredients to put together. Then, all that food ends up withering away in my fridge.
So in 2024, I’m going to be realistic. I’ll start with recipes that require just a few ingredients and 10 to 15 minutes of time and purchase several frozen meals as a fallback.
Not keeping a real schedule
I’ve always been a night owl, but quitting my 9-to-5 job to become a full-time freelancer exacerbated my zombie tendencies. It’s a lot easier to get in the habit of preparing meals when you have a clear schedule. If I set a clear start time for my workday, I’m more likely to give myself a clear stopping point. Once making dinner becomes part of my daily routine, hopefully, it won’t prove so challenging.
How to actually stick to your New Year’s resolution
No matter what your New Year’s resolution, consider following the SMART goal format to set yourself up for success. Under this formula, your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Let’s break down what this looks like for the most common financial New Year’s resolution in 2024, which is to pay off debt.
That’s a laudable goal, but you’ll boost your odds of success if you focus a bit more. For example, using the SMART goal format, you may say, “I want to pay off $5,000 of credit card debt by the end of 2024 to save on interest and improve my credit.”
The goal is specific and measurable, so you have a clear picture of what success would look like. If you can free up $500 a month in your budget by cutting expenses or earning more, it’s realistic. It’s relevant in that you know the “why” behind what you’re doing. And it’s time-bound because you’re aiming to accomplish the goal by year’s end.
I’m honestly not sure whether I can accomplish my goal of cutting back my UberEats budget by two-thirds and saving an extra $3,575 in my bank account. But at least I’ve clearly defined my goal so I’ll know whether or not I’ve achieved it. Check back next year to see if I succeeded or flopped.
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