I enjoy food and good eating. I like to cook a wide variety of good and tasty meals. Ethnic food is definitely a treat to me with all the variety of spice flavors and food combinations. It’s a never ending smorgasbord of food tasting opportunity. It’s also important to share meals together with family and friends. Sitting down together offers great conversations, better connection, and shared experiences.

I also enjoy a growing financial future. As much I would love to try a new restaurant every few days, my eating desires need to be balanced with financial well being. Thankfully I have choice in my financial practices. I can be intentional about how I choose my spending for dietary habits and find balance since I also want to continue towards financial independence.

Financial Intentions and Habits: Do Try This At Home

Is it really possible to combine those two and eat our way to financial independence? Let’s take a look at the impacts of our daily dietary intentions and habits on our financial practice and achieving financial independence.

This week track every single penny you spend on food and drink. Once you’ve gathered your week of expenses add an Opportunity column. Now go back item by item and write “yes” in the Opportunity column for situations where you could have taken a different approach. Total up the “yes” dollars. This is the opportunity for you to make a different choice for your spending habits for food and drink.

That might look like packing your own snacks and lunch for work most days of the week, fewer coffee shop stops and more office coffee, adventuring out to a hole in the wall restaurant versus the fancy restaurant, or deciding to have some cooking fun at home.

Example of tracking sheet:

Day Item Cost Opportunity
Sunday Groceries 87.45
Monday Coffee/snack bar 7.23 yes
Monday Lunch out at work 12.62 yes
Tuesday Happy hour and appetizer 20.00
Wednesday Lunch out 9.45 yes
Wednesday Family dinner 72.54 yes

Now the idea isn’t to sit at home eating rice and beans every day. There is value and benefit of positive spending for connecting with family and friends, those moments when you are super pinched on time, or just want to enjoy some tasty food. The opportunity is simply to be intentional about your dietary spending and look for choices to make a difference for your financial self.

Make Your New Behaviors Real and Rewarding

It’s an eye opening exercise to track everything and reflect on the opportunity to impact your financial well being. Let’s step that up to make your new choices for your food and drink spending real and rewarding! Money talks.

This week take the money you would have spent on coffee, fast food breakfast, lunch out, the fancy restaurant and pay yourself! Actually take the $4, $11, $76, etc. and put it in an envelope, jar, bag, or your favorite secure spot. Do NOT touch it! At the end of the week count it up. Run you hands through the pile of coins and bills. Get excited about it. Feel the start of new habits. Hit the repeat button for the next two months and see what happens.

I think there’s importance to this process. It makes your shift tangible and provides powerful emotional recognition to motivate you for more. Would you agree that it’s much more gratifying to see a pile at the end of the week/month as your reward for new behaviors? Now you have choices. You can intentionally choose where to put this growing pool of funds to your best financial interest.

As you can actually start to see daily intentions and decisions do matter in the long run.

How Much Difference Can That Really Make?

A lot.

Let’s quantify a lot. As a simple example, let’s say your opportunity was $60/week. Now that’s not going to zero. You are simply substituting lower cost options through intention. Let’s say you cut the weekly spend in half to a “saving” of $30/week. Your first temptation is to say so what! $30 isn’t going to make a difference to my financial future.

It will!

Let’s annualize that. Poof. Now it’s $1500. Does that make a difference now? Can you say…pay down debt, build an emergency fund, invest in retirement, take a vacation, a mix of everything. I can say yes to all of those.

What if you invested that $125/month (=$1500/year) for your financial long run?

Return / Years 20 Years 30 Year 40 Years
4% $45,847 $86,756 $147,745
6% $57,755 $125,564 $248,936
8% $73,628 $186,295 $436,376

Is $57,775 dollars in 20 years worth finding $30/week of savings in your food and drink spending? Yes to me. What if you stuffed that into a Roth for tax free distributions in retirement? What if you contributed more to take full advantage of the company 401k match? Even better! You get the idea.

Indeed. Be intentional with your dietary spend and you can pack a lunch for a pot of gold! Go have some fun!

Community Conversation Questions:

Please share some of your thoughts, stories, and perspectives around your dietary spending habits.

  • How does your busy life impact decisions you make for food and drink spending?
  • What makes it hard or easy to make a shift in your daily intentions and habits?
  • Which alternative ideas have you tried in the past? What worked well or didn’t pan out for you?
  • If you are making it real and rewarding, how does it feel seeing your savings pile up? What are your plans for this new found source of cash?

I help people like you who are living real lives with real financial challenges to breakthrough to new possibilities for their financial health.

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Doug Drenckpohl