How Take-Out Almost Took Out My Budget

With so many options for ordering meals via delivery, it’s becoming increasingly hard to resist the convenience of take-out and maintaining the discipline to stick to your meal prepping schedule. Let’s look at a real-life example of how creating and sticking to a budget can save your bank account from landing in the trash with your leftover to-go containers. 


Step One is Admitting the Problem

Hello, my name is Mason and I’m a recovering take-out-aholic.

I used to eat out an embarrassing amount. If I were to get married tomorrow, my Uber Eats driver would be the best man at my wedding. Okay, maybe not – but for a couple of years, unless I had access to a free meal, I was likely getting food delivered to my home or picking it up at lunch time. It’s a dangerous habit that I would justify by saying “I’m saving so much time not having to worry about buying groceries, cooking and doing the dishes after”. The number one question I would get was “How do you even afford this?” Good question. Back then, I had a tenant that was basically paying for my mortgage payments and as a single guy who doesn’t really travel or shop a ton (exciting life hey?), this seemed manageable at the time.

One blessed day, my addiction hit rock bottom. Let’s just say that you’ve never really experienced shame until you’ve had the same Skip the Dishes driver twice in the same day. This was the epiphany I needed to take a hard look at how much I was spending per meal and think about all of the other places where that money could be allocated. The problem was that I didn’t even know how much money I was letting drain from my bank account. I was blindly swiping my card two-three times a day without any idea of the impact this would have on my monthly expenses. So where do you even begin to get things under control? It all starts with a budget.

Basic Budgeting Facts

We throw the term “budget” around quite loosely as a noun and a verb, but budgeting is simply taking the time to identify how much money your household can afford to save each month. In essence, it is the process of mapping out whether you have enough income to cover your monthly expenses and how you plan on allocating the remaining money left over. For you, it may mean making sure you have enough to pay for your kids’ piano lessons or education. For me, it means making sure I can afford to pay for a cable bill to support my fantasy football obsession. 

According to this study, just over 60% of Canadians use a budget, though, 32% of Canadians said their income does not always cover their living expenses and 13% said they’ve borrowed to make ends meet. I was one of the 40% who did not use a budget and was not tracking where my money was being spent without any guidelines around where my money should be going. I did a little bit of digging and this same study broke down recommended percentages of spending:

Recommended percentages of spending:

  • Housing – 30-40%
  • Transportation – 10-20% 
  • Living Expenses – 20-30% 
  • Debt Repayment – 10-20% 
  • Savings – 10%+ 

After tracking a month of my spending, I realized that my percentages were all out of whack. Outside of paying a small amount towards pension, the entire recommended 10% of Savings were inflating my Living Expenses and I was up to 60% thanks to my dependence on delivery. I knew something had to change and after a few months of being really intentional in my spending and eating habits, I shrunk my monthly spending on meals by over 40% and $600! Here’s some tips I learned along the way:

Weekly Meal Prepping Pays Off

Part of the reason I was eating out so much was to save myself from the time it takes to buy the groceries, prepare the meal and then do the dishes. It can also be expensive to cook for one person (check out our Cost of Being Single blog) because of grocery sizes and a lot of recipes are for more than one person. One of the best purchases I ever made was an Instant Pot that allows me to create easy recipes with large portions in a short amount of time. This allows me to do all of my meal prepping on Sunday and I don’t have to spend any time during the week preparing or cleaning up after meals. Think about it: if you are spending $20 on a portion where you can get 3-4 meals out of it instead of spending $20 on one take-out meal, you are saving up to $60! No wonder my living expenses were so high!

Ask For The Receipt

I get it. When the cashier asked “Do you need a receipt?” it’s so much easier to say “No thanks” and watch them crumple it up on your way out the door. I’ve learned that holding onto the receipt and making sure it’s added to your budget spreadsheet not only holds you accountable to your spending, but also saves you in the long run. Tracking your spending throughout the month and comparing it to your budget will help show you where you’re on track, may be under budget and where you may need to refrain from spending due to almost reaching your budget. When your mind tries to trick you into ordering out on a Sunday night, you’ll have the budget numbers to rationalize staying on budget.

If you have a significant other that you share expenses with, be sure to create your budget together. This ensures you’re on the same page when it comes to the money you’re generating and spending. It’s not a bad thing to have the other person holding you accountable either! 

Leave Room for Buffer, Not Guilt

If you are dramatically changing your habits, it’s not going to happen over night. Whether you have a busy week or a night where you need to recharge, you may have no choice but to order delivery. Leave a buffer in your budget for those unexpected expenses to make sure you have a realistic picture of how much you’ll spend in a month and so you aren’t feeling guilty that your saving progress has all been lost. 

You know what the say, “Old habits die hard” and it’s true. However, it’s hard not to be motivated when a budget shows you just how much money you are saving. Sometimes all it takes to make a major life change is to just start with a budget.


Do you have any tips to keep your budget numbers low?! Share them below!

Cracking open the books and not the piggy bank

School is officially back in session – where did summer go?! For some of us ‘older folks’, our university days are a distant memory (some good and some maybe not so good) and like every life moment, they provided us lessons along the way. If you were to ask me “What do you wish you would’ve known back then?”, the answer is simple – pay more attention to your money. So here’s what I wish I would’ve known back in my glory days – four clever ways post-secondary students can save. 


Whether you’re attending post-secondary as a first year, or returning to finish off your education, here are a few tips to consider that will help you manage your money and reduce financial stress.

Budgets do work

Let’s face it, adulting is hard and brings on a whole new set of responsibilities – many of which have a financial component. A budget can help you manage these financial responsibilities by allocating a certain amount of your income to your different expenses such as rent, food, education and entertainment.

As you focus time to spend on your studies, a budget also requires time from you in order to be successful. This includes taking time each month to set your budget and then track your spending to ensure you’re not spending more than you said you would. There are many tools to help you including our Budget Calculator.

Interested, but not sure where to start? Check out our blogs How much should I spend on… and Creating a budget.

Entertainment in moderation

Now I’m not going to be the #NoFunPolice and say don’t go out because that’s not realistic. Going out with friends is fun and can positively impact your well-being. My advice – in your budget, create a category for entertainment/nights out with friends and then do so in moderation as the costs can add up quite quickly. Once you’ve hit your budget for the month, reconsider a night out and see if your friends would prefer to do a night in instead.

When going out for the night with friends, here are a few ways to save and stretch the budget you’ve set:

  • Many restaurants and local bars/pubs have happy hours and different daily specials, helping you to save a few dollars on that fancy drink or food item. Take advantage of these specials because who really doesn’t love a discount such as 1/2 off appies… mmmm nachos (minus the olives – yuck).
  • For each drink you have, drink a glass of water in between and don’t order another drink until your water is done. This will help reduce the number of drinks you purchase, and better yet, help your head from hurting a bit the next morning!
  • Skip the shots! Ordering a round of shots can be quite expensive, especially if ordering multiple rounds. Yes, it may seem like a great idea at the time but once you receive your bill, you may regret that decision. Save your money and just don’t do it – again, your body will thank you the next day.
  • Be the Designated Driver (DD) for the night! If going out is a weekly thing with the same group of friends, create a rotating DD schedule. Not only will this save you money when it’s your turn, but also helps you save money on a ride home each week.

Whatever you choose to do, always remember to plan for a safe ride home – and don’t forget to include this transportation cost into your budget! #MomAdvice #BestAdvice

Take advantage of student discounts

It’s no secret, gas is expensive and parking is even worse. There are a few ways to reduce your transportation expenses including:

  1. Walking or biking, depending on how far you are away from campus;
  2. Public transportation, which several post-secondary institutions include as part of your student fees; or
  3. Carpool with your classmates, allowing you to cost share gas and parking with others. Double-win if they have the same taste in music as you do, as it can make for some great carpool karaoke sessions. ♫Everybody…. Yeah…. Rock your body…. Yeah…. ….Backstreet’s Back Alright

Use credit wisely

It may be exciting if the Saskatchewan Roughriders rack up 35 points in the first half of a game, but maybe not so much if you’re racking up your credit card. Credit cards are a great tool, if used responsibly. They should not be used as a tool to spend money you don’t have, but instead used to make purchases within your budget and help you gain credit.

It may also be tempting to apply for every credit card that comes your way, but this can do a lot of harm to your credit. Check out our Building Blocks of Credit blog to learn more – including good credit behaviours.


These are just a few tips in helping you save and manage your money while attending post-secondary school. Want more? Check out our blog, It doesn’t just need to be ramen noodles, where one of our members shares his experience and advice on managing money will being a full-time post-secondary student.

Are you, or were you, a post-secondary student? I’d love to hear other advice you have or lessons you learned – either the good way or bad way – during this life milestone. Share your experiences and advice in the comments below.