MML Alex: The Cost of Eating

Written by
Alex Eaton
MML- Alex

If you know me well, you'll know I'm a huge proponent of food. No, I mean I really like food. I blame my mother. She just had to be a great cook and never make anything that tasted bad. Then I went to college. Since I lived in a dorm then fraternity, I didn't have to cook my own food on a regular basis until senior year. Thankfully fraternity food had dampened my standards enough by this time that my lack of cooking ability wasn't of too much consequence. But my health and wallet were much more in focus, and continue to be now.

Senior year truly introduced me to the battle between cooking for myself and eating out. I lived just two blocks from Kirkwood my final year at IU, which if you know anything about Bloomington is a very dangerous place for your wallet. It's a witches brew of spending. I was always faced with the decision to either make myself an extremely mediocre meal or walk 5 minutes and buy something better.

While I certainly wrestled with this in college, I didn't have a regular income to fuel a habit or the job that comes with it to make me even lazier at night. Why go home after a long day at work and spend time cooking when I can just grab something easy on the way? Or throw in a frozen pizza and eat that? Working right next door to a brewery and restaurants doesn't make lunch spending any easier either.

The issue is a double whammy. Not only is it easier to spend more, but it's also more difficult to eat healthy. It takes effort, focus, and a plan. Getting my budget set up has been probably the main factor in starting to get this under control. Having debt to pay off helps, but by tracking what I'm spending I can physically see what my limit is.

In general, we as humans are weak-willed when it comes to money. Our self-control is average at best most of the time. So I've found by automating my activity to a certain extent it helps take away some of my tendencies towards bad habits. Things like automatic 401k contributions, automatic student loan payments, and a set budget are examples of making it easier on yourself to make good decisions. By limiting my food and entertainment spending to around 10% of my take-home pay each month, I've won half the battle. I know exactly how much I can spend, which gives me a path for making the smaller decisions day to day.

It's not easy to set up a budget or to break a habit, but I'm finding now that making more effort in the beginning will make it much easier later on. Now I just need to figure out how to make more than just a stir-fry.

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