After taxes, 30-year-old Christian takes home around $3,500 a month. But even though the New Yorker shares a three-bedroom apartment, contributing $1,300 toward rent and utilities, he can't quite make ends meet — because he's gotten in the habit of spending $1,100 a month on takeout food.
Christian, who for these purposes is going only by his first name, is the subject of CNBC Make It's new digital series "Saved," starring CNBC anchor Dom Chu and comedian Carly Ann Filbin. In an attempt to help rein in Christian's pricey takeout habit, we first had to figure out what exactly he was buying.
"I pretty much eat out every day, every meal," he reveals in an episode of "Saved."
Here's what Christian says he's spending on a daily basis.
For breakfast, he typically buys egg whites and turkey sausage with butter and jelly toast for $5.50. He likes iced coffee, which sets him back $10 for his daily two cups. That's $15.50, and it's not even 9:00 AM yet.
At lunch, Christian takes advantage of his building's cafeteria, which he notes is priced slightly lower than the average Manhattan lunch spot. He estimates that a rotating array of options like sushi, sandwiches and salads cost him $9 per meal.
"When it comes to dinner," Christian admits, "that's usually the sticking point." A favorite delivery meal of a chicken quinoa bowl with a side salad adds up to $15, maybe a little more with a tip and delivery costs.
That's $280 each week, $1,120 each month, and nearly $15,000 each year, a staggering number that doesn't even include bar tabs or meals out with friends.
According to Dom Chu, Christian could be saving himself thousands each year if he learned how to make some of the most basic meals himself. A chicken and quinoa bowl, which costs $15 for one serving from a local restaurant, could be made three or four times over for that price if he bought his own ingredients.
If he brewed his coffee at home, he could save even more.
In the fall of 2016, Holly Trantham of The Financial Diet realized she had mindlessly spent $400 on takeout food over the course of a year. Trantham was infuriated when she considered all of the ways she could have spent that money.
"I'm not going to delude myself with the idea that I would have put that money towards my retirement, if only I'd had some foresight," Trantham writes on TFD. "Instead, I'd rather think about the other things I could have put that money towards that would have improved my life — things that bring me a lot more joy or improve my standard of living much more than mediocre enchiladas, whose only perk is not having to leave my apartment to eat them. "
Trantham listed airplane tickets home to her family, haircuts, and fresh flowers as better alternatives for spending $400, especially since she says she often would order more food than she really wanted or needed just to make the delivery minimum.
Christian is hoping to cut back on his takeout habit so he can save money to move into his own place at last.