How I Can Spend $2,000/Year on Chipotle and Still Retire By 35

You don’t have to give up the things you love for your savings.

Miki Ding
Miki Ding
Jul 29 · 7 min read
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Photo by Justin Snyder Photo on Unsplash

I love Chipotle.

Ever since I used to work there in high school, I’ve found myself going there nearly every weekend for steak tacos with lemon, a cup of water, and a side of chips and pico de gallo salsa.

It’s my not-so-guilty pleasure.

While I could cut back and try to save that money, I don’t like to deny myself the greater things in life, especially their guac.

Because of that, you might think that I’m giving up my financial goals just to support my Chipotle habit.

However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

You see, I have a plan to retire by 35.

Now, you might think that retiring early means I’d have to cut out extra spending completely and simply live on rice and beans but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

So how is it that I can spend so much money on seemingly unnecessary things like Chipotle and still retire early?

Let me explain.

The $5 Latte Myth

Chances are you’ve heard about the latte factor.

It goes like this:

Think about the number of times you go to Starbucks and order a latte, or any drink for that matter.


Not a big deal in the moment.

But if you go to Starbucks every day, you can start to see it adding up. $5 a day, $150 a month, $1800 a year!

If you cut out your daily coffee, that $1800 could go to something substantial like your savings.

This is called the Latte Factor.

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Photo by Fahmi Fakhrudin on Unsplash

A lot of budgeters and personal finance gurus preach the latte factor as a good way to budget because the little things add up over time.

While that’s mathematically true, the main problem with it is that it teaches people to go about budgeting the wrong way.

More specifically, it teaches people to budget in the wrong areas.

This is because the latte factor is designed around cutting out what they consider to be “useless spending”. And for a lot of people, that means cutting out fun.

Unfortunately, when you cut out fun, it makes the budget hard and restrictive, and it’s nearly impossible to follow a budget that only serves as a reminder of what you can’t have.

With a budget like that, you’re likely to face an uphill battle every day.

It’s not easy to constantly say “no.” And if it’s not easy, it’s not sustainable.

You’ll probably manage to hold out for a few weeks, but you’ll quickly get tired of constantly depriving yourself and go back to the way you were before.

All that work for nothing.

If your budget isn’t long-term, it is unlikely to make any lasting impacts on your finances.

This is why traditional budgeting advice usually fails for most people.

The Secret To Guilt-Free Spending

Most people think budgeting is painful because we hear about the latte factor and think we can’t enjoy ourselves.

As a result, we learn to feel bad for “fun” things like our lattes, shoes, and happy hours and try to give them up for more “responsible” things like savings.

Inevitably, though, we slip up and then feel guilty about it afterward.

But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Turns out that you can spend money on fun without feeling bad and take care of your savings at the same time!

So how do you do both?

The trick is to just change the order in which you spend money. Put your money towards your savings or investments first, and then you can spend the rest of the money however you want, guilt-free.

Simply put: save first, spend second.

You can do this by setting up your bank account so that it automatically transfers money into your savings account or into your investments at the beginning of the month. Then, whatever amount you have left over, feel free to spend how you like!

Why does this work?

Well, most people feel guilty because they do the opposite: they spend first, save second. Because of that, they spend money on fun when they should be using that money for savings or investments.

If you’ve already saved, however, there’s no place else that money “needs” to be or where it “should” have been spent.

It’s the equivalent of a student who finished their homework by Friday night and can spend all weekend hanging out with their friends without feeling bad because they’ve already done everything they need to do!

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Photo by Adam Whitlock on Unsplash

Basically, you don’t have to feel guilty when you spend money on things you enjoy anymore because, now, you’re doing it with the leftovers AFTER you already took care of your responsibilities.

Your fun is no longer at the cost of your savings or your investments and is simply in conjunction with your savings or investments.

This also prevents the issue where you don’t even have enough money left over at the end of the month to put towards savings.

Like Warren Buffett says, “Don’t save what’s left over after you spend. Spend what’s left over after you save”.

Show Me Your Budget, And I’ll Show You What You Value

I personally follow this method to make sure I’m on track with my savings goals and can also spend money on the things I enjoy.

At the beginning of every month, I send money immediately to my investments.

  • I have my 401k automatically deduct money out of each paycheck.
  • I have my Roth IRA automatically deduct money out of my bank account every month.
  • I have my additional investments’ account automatically deduct money out of my bank account every month.

More than half of my money is already saved before I even see it so then I can spend the rest of the money however I want, guilt-free.

So how do I spend my leftover money?

Chipotle, Chipotle, and more Chipotle.

Now, I could cut back on eating out but I don’t.


Because I love getting Chipotle and just reading outside on the weekends. As an introvert, it recharges me to enjoy a good meal while relaxing by myself. This is something I’ve intentionally budgeted for as well.

Now, a lot of people will tell me that I’m spending too much money on food but who’s to decide what’s the right amount of money to spend on anything?

The sole purpose of a budget should be to help you spend more on what YOU think is important, not what other people think is important.

After all, it’s called personal finance for a reason.

It doesn’t matter whether other people agree with it, as long as you have thought about it.

You see, the biggest problem is not that people are spending too much money.

The biggest probably is that people don’t know what they’re spending too much money on.

Too many people look at their bill at the end of the month and say, “Guess I spent that much money”, without really knowing where their money is going.

As long as your budget actually reflects what you actually want, it’s served its purpose.

Spending More Money On Fun, Not Less

The most important rule with budgeting is that while you can afford anything you want, you can’t afford everything you want.

This is why you need to be intentional with your budget.

Along with figuring out what I care a lot about (living alone and eating Chipotle on weekends), I’ve also figured out what I care less about.

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

This is critical because the money that you cut from these categories will be rerouted from things you care less about to things you care more about.

In other words, the money from those categories will actually pay for the things you love.

So how do you find these categories?

Well, you have to ask yourself what your priorities are:

What are you willing to give up?

What do you like but don’t necessarily love?

What do you want but don’t necessarily need?

It’s different for everybody but you need to be intentional about what you choose to spend your leftover money on.

  • I don’t mind bringing my lunch or meal-prepping dinners so I don’t eat out on the weekdays.
  • I don’t live in a fun neighborhood so I can walk to work and spend nothing on transportation.
  • I don’t care about clothes or makeup so I don’t go shopping.
  • I don’t like drinking so I don’t go to happy hours or bars.

By ruthlessly cutting out the things I don’t care about, it frees up that money so that I can spend even more money on the things I do care about.

The Benefits of Reverse Budgeting

Whenever people think of budgeting, they always think of what they can’t buy.

They’re so used to constantly having to say “no” to everything that they can’t help but feel discouraged every time they try to budget.

However, it doesn’t have to be like this.

Money can be used to help enjoy your life, and you should be able to spend it without feeling ashamed.

In fact, you don’t have to choose between being responsible and having fun: you can have both!

By reversing the order of your spending and simply saving your money before you spend it, you can start spending the leftover money however you want, guilt-free.

And by being intentional with what you choose to spend that money on, you can say “yes” to more of the things you love.

You’ll be so much happier knowing that you can eat at your favorite restaurants and go out with your friends, but you’ll also be able to sleep well at night knowing that you’re taking care of your finances too.

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Miki Ding

Written by

Miki Ding

A 24 year old on track to retire by 35. I write about money and intentional living.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 119,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

Miki Ding

Written by

Miki Ding

A 24 year old on track to retire by 35. I write about money and intentional living.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 119,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

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