The Counterintuitive Way My Family Saves $100 a Month on Our Monthly Bills

published Mar 10, 2020
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I’ll just get to the point: Life is busy. Add in a couple of toddlers and a job, and you have a recipe for chaos (along with a recipe for very few actual recipes). Since having our two boys, my husband and I have spent a lot less time in the kitchen and a lot more time wrangling our little ones. We love the experience and convenience of eating out, but when we’re not up for the potential chaos of keeping our kids confined to a booth, we order take-out. In our suburban Minneapolis neighborhood, Doordash and Postmates are the easiest way to bring our favorite tacos or pizza to the (very messy) comfort of our home. 

Even though we have historically prioritized convenience, we, like most families, also have plenty of expensive obligations—like daycare costs, a mortgage, a car payment, and student loan debt. We’ve tried month after month to minimize food delivery expenses, but it seemed like something would always come up to divert us. Our kids would get sick, we would have a long day, or we would just realize our grocery supplies were running low. So we would order food in a pinch, then feel guilty about the cost—not to mention that pesky $3.99 delivery fee tacked on to each and every order.

Credit: Sylvie Li

That cognitive dissonance ended up costing us a lot more money than it should have in the long run. It usually went something like this: We’d have the best intentions about dinner, but we’d be running behind to pick up the kids at school, then we’d realize it would be easier to order food than preparing (and cleaning up) a meal. Or, I’d just want my favorite Cajun chicken wings delivered to my dining room. 

But then, we’d look at our bank statement and resolve to spend less on food. One month, when we were trying to hunker down on our budget, we realized we had spent a few hundred dollars on Doordash and Postmates deliveries, which I’m not exactly proud of. But that wasn’t the worst part: We had spent close to $100 on delivery fees alone. (Usually, the delivery fee is around $3.99, but during times of higher demand, I’ve seen them spike as high as $9.99. Easy to justify if you’re craving wings, I guess.)

The solution to that problem? Accepting reality. Specifically, accepting that we are busy, hungry convenience-seekers. It sounds counter-productive, but once we accepted that frequently ordering food was going to be part of our lives for a while, we saved tons of money. We signed up for Postmates Unlimited and Doordash’s DashPass—each service collects a single monthly fee from you in exchange for waived delivery fees on each individual order. Adding that line item to our budget costs a measly $9.99 per month (per delivery service). (FYI, if you’re a Chase cardholder, you can get DashPass for free.)

The same “just be real here” idea carries over into other areas of our budget. For example, how many times have I bought several episodes of an individual show on HBO when I could have just paid for a streaming service? That approach might seem more expensive on the front end, but it’s a whole lot cheaper (and more honest) than living in denial about our lifestyle.