Use The 'Burrito Factor' To Discourage Overspending

It would be easy to stay on a budget if there weren’t so many tantalizing products out there to tempt you away from your hard-earned money. But great savers employ tricks of the trade to make sure their priorities stay in order.

The always entertaining Debt Ninja tells you what works for him: the ‘Burrito Factor.’ Whenever he’s confronted with a questionable purchase, he calculates how many burritos he could buy himself with the savings. For instance, a pricey $12.50 salad at a restaurant would cost him two and a half burritos. So that had better be a damn good salad.

Obviously, you don’t have to use burritos, but let’s face it: Who doesn’t love burritos?

Financial to a fault [Punch Debt In The Face]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Niphil says:

    As an hourly wage slave, I consider how long I would have to work to pay something off.

    • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

      That’s what I do as well.

    • wildhalcyon says:

      I do that too. Even now that I’m not a “wage slave” – I still nominally earn a certain amount of cash per hour of work. Its just a bit more incentive if you REALLY hate your job, because then the thought of working six hours for a video game discourages that purchase pretty quickly.

      • pahncrd says:

        How did you escape your slavery?

      • bigTrue says:

        Depends on the game. I do this too, but I also consider how much I get out of it. Going out to eat and spending more then 20-30 bucks, not worth it. Buying Halo:Reach on Friday and spending the entire weekend with my g/f playing it through and on multiplayer games means I’ve already gotten my money back when you consider how much we would have spent to have 2 days of entertainment anywhere else.

        Same will go with buying Fallout: New Vegas and Fable 3. We’re still playing through the original Fallout a year after buying the Xbox and that game.

    • smo0 says:

      Holy crap I do the same thing… in fact… my mother taught me that (and she makes pretty good money too.)

    • The_IT_Crone says:

      I do that… but I calculate using the lowest wage I’ve ever gotten.

  2. Kanjimari says:

    If you need a “Method” to decide whether or not a 12.50 salad is worth the money, you’ve got more money or less brains than you know what to do with, so what does it matter?

    Seriously? A 12.50 salad is “questionable” for this man?

  3. sn1per420 says:

    Where does this guy live? A burrito and a soda at Chipotle in Manhattan is like $12.50

    • zaku2s274 says:

      Chipotle is fake mexican food, if I wanted that I would look for the closest Taco Bell.

      • sn1per420 says:

        I’ll agree that Chipotle isn’t the most authentic Mexican food you can find, but Taco Bell is far farther from authentic than Chipotle. I really don’t see the two as substitutes for each other.

      • BATMAN!!!hAHA says:

        are you insane? chipotle is delicious delicious american burritos. Authentic is not defined as “better than anything those americans can come up with”, and american cheese does not doom all american food to crappiness.

      • wrjohnston91283 says:

        I won’t argue that Chipotle is “real” mexican food, cause its not. However, its much, much better than Taco Bell.

      • zaku2s274 says:

        Yeah, it is a game of quality over quantity.

      • gorby says:

        Chipotle serves Mission-style burritos, which originated in the Mission district of SF… that’d be American food, not Mexican.

        • HungryGal says:

          And opposed to Taco Bell, it’s actually FOOD. I don’t go to Chipotle or Q’Doba or even Anna’s for “authentic Mexican cuisine”- I go for tasty non fried reasonably priced food. The fact that some Q’Dobas have beer is an extra bonus.

        • Garbanzo says:

          Might not be authentic, but Chipotle is hands-down the favorite of my Mexican coworkers–not just favorite burrito joint, but possibly favorite lunch option all-around.

        • SugarMag says:

          wow, really? I discovered burritos (as an East Coast transplant) at Pancho Villa’s on 16th…explains why I think all burritos are like those burritos (and Chipolote’s are close enough when you do not live in CA anymore).

      • Jezz1226 says:

        Moe’s has always been my favorite alternative for fake mexican food, better then taco bell and chipotle imo, and cheap as well, $4 and change for a taco, chips and a side of queso

      • Skankingmike says:

        I’m pretty sure burrito’s are from the northern region of Mexico, considering those northern regions used to contain current states we now own I would argue that It is not just Mexican food. Further more we’re all in North America so lets just call it north American food, I’ll even let those damn Lumberjack Frenchy’s have some rites to it. :P

    • 99 1/2 Days says:

      We have lots of local burrito stands here in the Southwest. 2 bucks is typical. If you have to pay more, you are usually getting something that will easily feed two people.

    • ghostberry says:

      No pity for anyone who chooses to live in manhattan over a burrito price.

    • richcreamerybutter says:

      I’m also curious about his location. If he’s one of those CA transplants to NYC who constantly complains about the lack of quality burritos (you know who you are), then the “burrito unit” is completely subjective.

    • Preyfar says:

      Chipolte down in North Virgina runs me $6.50 for a big delicious ‘rito. I don’t get a drink or chips. One Chipotle burrito is big enough to fill me up.

      Sure, it may not be real Mexican, but it doesn’t make it any less tasty.

    • JF says:

      News Flash: There is life outside of Manhattan.

    • aloria says:

      You can get the same sized burrito at one of the Freshco Tortilla joints around Manhattan for about $4.

    • AwesomeJerkface says:

      1. He doesn’t live in Manhattan.
      2. He doesn’t get his burritos at Chipotle.

    • RxDude says:

      Taco Star, Monica’s, Taco Express here all have bigass, delicious burritos for less than $5.

  4. zaku2s274 says:

    Well it all depends where you get your burritos, each “burrito unit” would be worth $0.99 if you ordered yours from Taco Bell.

  5. dreamfish says:

    “Who doesn’t love burritos?”

    I don’t.

    • OnePumpChump says:

      If you do not live in California or western Arizona, chances are you cannot get a good burrito in your area. The closest you will find in most areas is Chipotle.

      That is probably why you do not like burritos.

      • ShadowFalls says:

        That and all burritos are nasty.

      • crazydavythe1st says:

        As a Texan, I laugh at your “Californian” burrito.

        ah, jk. But you Californians are well known for your Chipotle style burritos here in Texas.

        • absurdist says:

          Chipotle was founded in Denver. Calling it “California Style” is stretching geography a bit.

          BTW, show me anyplace in Texas where I can order a chile relleno burrito without being looked upon as if I’d spit on the flag and renounced Babtism. Because I lived in San Antonio for about four years and traveled all over that godforsaken state and couldn’t find a one.

        • Spider Jerusalem says:

          O.o Not to put too fine a point on it, but that’s incredibly stupid. Even for Texas.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        actually, north carolina has a pretty good selection. i can’t get decent cuban food here but there’s a very large population of first generation mexican transplants and many of them have opened tasty restaurants

      • Willnet says:

        Um. TEXAS?

        • OnePumpChump says:

          Been there. Wished I wasn’t, in part because of the pathetic burritos.

        • Arcaeris says:

          My dad lives in Dallas, and every time he comes to visit here in California we go get a real burrito. I only ever see garbage Tex-mex when I’m out there.

      • Brunette Bookworm says:

        Um, yeah, except for say, Chicago area which has a HUGE Mexican population and makes the Mexican foods for half the country…

      • Framling says:

        I disagree. Chances are you cannot get an authentic burrito in your area. But authenticity and tastiness are two very different things.

    • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

      Why not? It’s a great value that keeps on giving all day.

    • cromartie says:

      You don’t like Burritos? That’s unAmerican!

    • tbax929 says:

      I don’t like them, either, which is a shame since I live in Arizona, where they’d probably be pretty good.

    • runswithscissors says:

      Hey man, no worries! Takes all kinds!

      … communist.


  6. JulesNoctambule says:

    I do the ‘What is this in minimum wage hours?’ to give me perspective and ‘What is this in beer?’ to help me make decisions.

    • Pax says:

      Rather than minimum wage, you shoudl use yoru OWN wage. IOW, “How many hous will I have to work, to earn enough to pay this”.

      Bonus points if you know what your post-tax [i]net[/i] pay/hour is, and use THAT.

      • shangyle says:

        Yep. My hubby does that. Hence he won’t take me to the movies very often.

      • Conformist138 says:

        But the point is to stop yourself from making needless purchases. Using minimum wage shows you the worst-case scenario and primes your brain to reject the purchase more easily.

      • JulesNoctambule says:

        I make a lot more than minimum wage. Using that as a base instead of my own wage provides a better perspective on what a lot of people can and can’t afford, and gives me a moment to pause and reflect on whether or not I *really* need whatever it is. Being easily able to afford something is not the same as needing it.

  7. OnePumpChump says:

    That photo is not of a proper burrito.

  8. 99 1/2 Days says:

    Don’t tell the Texans and the New Mexicans. They think they are eating burritos too!

  9. bishophicks says:

    I do something similar, but I do it for larger items and think in terms of carts of groceries.

  10. the_didgers says:

    When I first started working with my dad, I made $1 an hour. Even though it was a long time ago I still look at a price and convert each dollar into an hour. As a result, I can easily pass up buying something I don’t need.

  11. mandy_Reeves says:

    For fast food…I go by how many meals will I get out of it. If say, I go to Subway…I eat twice off a five dollar foot long. whereas, If I spent that same 5 bucks at Mcdonalds, I couldn’t eat twice from it. PF Changs, is like 9-10 dollars a meal, depending on what you get…but you could eat maybe 3 times more if you factor in the side of rice.

    For clothing, since I am losing a TON of weight…I go by how long will I wear it before it gets too big. I go for more pricey tops and cheaper jeans…since with tops it takes awhile for something to look too big, but pants just fall down or look super baggy.

    For shoes…I go the Kat Williams route(this was on one of his stand up specials)…I can spend 95 for the Jordans or go to pay less and get the light up sneakers, the bat mans the robins and 3 other pair for the same price.

    • Alvis says:

      You’re buying the wrong stuff at McDonald’s, then.

      $1 menu McDoubles or McChickens will fill you up quick and cheap.

    • energynotsaved says:

      Congrats on the weight loss!

      I have a friend who is a complete fashion forward type who is also dropping weight. She is using the Consignment shop for both the sale of her lovely “too big” stuff and purchase of some temporary replacements. (It is a great source for certain looks.)

      I unl

  12. K-Bo says:

    When I really know I need to talk myself out of something, I think of it in terms of how many 10 cents cans of Diet Dr. Pepper it will buy me from the drink machine of work. Combining my love of Diet Dr. Pepper with that low of a price creates a hard not to say no situation for me.

  13. zegota says:

    Yes, let’s encourage people to eat more burritos, and less salad!

    • ChuckECheese says:

      There are burritos con verduras. I know a place that makes a great one with chiles, mushrooms, spinach and potatoes.

    • rpm773 says:

      “Hmm. If I sink my money into this expensive, unneeded merchandise, it will prevent from having to purchase and eat 6 salads.

      Salesperson, I’ll take 4.”

    • TasteyCat says:

      That really depends whether that’s a bad thing. A lot of times salads are among the worst things on the menu, depending on how much fat you load them with, and whether there is any protein in them.

  14. Gregg Araki Rocks My World says:

    I use the taco version of it. How many cheap, delicious tacos can I get out of the price of something. I see people buying $15 burgers and I have to laugh at them. That’s like 7 tacos for crying out loud. And I’m not talking taco bell, but taqueria stuff.

  15. tbax929 says:

    I find saving for something specific is a lot easier for me than just saving in general. When I was saving up for my house down payment, it was really easy to do because I knew I was saving for something I really wanted. It made it easy to pass up on those shoes I really wanted or that outfit that I would look good in.

  16. TehLlama says:

    Cheeseburgers. The moment I’m looking at over a decade worth of cheeseburgers, this stops working, but for practical things, comparing them in enjoyment to something relatively cheap and very enjoyable is always a good idea.

  17. veg-o-matic says:

    Oh hi, Opportunity Cost, I haven’t seen you since 9th grade.

  18. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    eh, i used to do this but i hate doing math in my head.
    so now i budget in advance for regular expenses/bills and know how much over that is my disposable income. if something fits in that disposable income amount i find myself thinking ‘is it an immediate use’ like if i know i need a new pair of work pants because i only have two that fit and one of them is wearing out. if it’s not an immediate use, i go away and think about it. if it’s important enough that i keep thinking about it and start doing price comparison shopping later, then i might get it.
    if it’s gone out of my head in a couple of hours, i obviously didn’t need it.
    this also works because i don’t dine out often and i don’t grocery shop hungry.

  19. eltonwheelock says:

    This story is dumb.

  20. Gulliver says:

    I use a much simpler system. I look at items in terms of how many dollars they cost me. Those are the only thing that matters to me.

  21. SGT. E. G. ROCK says:

    * I used the dollar menu at WENDY’s
    which at the time was either their double stack cheeseburger
    Or their dollar crispy chicken sandwich.
    I don’t only do this when comparing where else I might eat,
    but I also use it when purchasing those “non~essential items..

    “”hmmm? That $59.99 video game is almost 60 chicken sandwiches.! “”

    (( That’s my food budget for this month… Or until I get another job. ! ))

  22. frenchfriedpotaters says:

    Exactly. Budget solved.

  23. HungryGal says:

    Screw the “burrito factor”… I prefer to compare the cost of things to the price of a six pack.

  24. Mike says:

    I compare everything to the price of a hooker.

    • Meano says:

      Same price, Mike – unless you’re overpaying for hookers or buying cheap burritos.

      Where do you get spendy? Something you stick in yourself, or…

  25. Levk says:

    I do not like Burritos >>

  26. ablestmage says:

    I eat burritos every farking day, and mine cost about $3 for eight of them, 2-4 of which make a meal. Buying Halo Reach cost me $60, or 160 worth of burritos, or enough for 40-80 meals, or meals for between half to nearly a full month.

  27. Grogey says:

    I better be a damn good burrito…..

  28. CDub31 says:

    When I used to be hourly (retail) I would calculate how many hours it took me to earn that.

    Now I use jump tickets (for skydiving) – ‘Do I really need that shirt = 1 ticket or those pants = 2 tickets?”


  29. pahncrd says:

    I use tacos, counting 3 for 99 cent tacos from taco johns on taco tuesday.

  30. vinmega says:

    I already do this…I think to my self…’How many boxes of .45ACP ammo would this be?’
    One box of 100 is about $35 at walmart, so I use this as my baseline…

  31. LisRiba says:

    I used exactly that analogy the other day at the movies to talk myself out of popcorn. A medium popcorn cost $6, sodas $4. As much as I wanted something to munch during the show, it wasn’t worth the price of a meal…

  32. do-it-myself says:

    I use the Taco Bell Factor (but it’s getting harder since the Why Pay More Menu is continuously shrinking).

  33. Truthie says:

    But is he factoring in all the health costs that will come down the road if he always eats burritos instead of salad?

  34. harmony758 says:

    I use beer. In NYC a beer can run $6-$7. If something costs an extra $12-$15…heck, that could be a night out after work. I have to decide if whatever the item is is worth sitting at home watching TV for an entire night.

  35. Mish says:

    I love how every single comment is about burritos when the main point of this post was finance. But then again, this is The Consumerist.

  36. Jimmy37 says:

    I would use McDonald Happy Meals as a way of imparting value to my kids, especially when we went to more expensive fast food places or restaurants.