Monday, September 6, 2010

The High Cost of Eating Out

My wife recently walked into the living room where I enjoy sitting in my recliner and made the following statement pronounced as a question:

Wife:  Guess how much we've spent eating out this year through 8/31/10?

Me:  Too much.

Wife:  $3,100

Me:  I knew it was too much, but that is entirely too much.

I'll qualify this amount a little bit.  In 243 days we averaged $12.75 per day for food.  During the work week I eat out 99% of the time and the other 1% of the time I skip lunch completely.  My wife takes her lunch from home 99% of the time and she eats out for lunch on rare occasion.  We took a couple of driving vacations to Fort Myers/Sanibel and Miami/Delray Beach.  It's almost impossible not to eat out when your on a driving vacation.  But, I'm embarrassed we've spent that much eating out.  I need an action plan.

I was flipping through some magazines yesterday and ran across a nice suggestion about cutting back on spending by instituting "no spending" days. 

Example:  If you have $1,500 in the budget and the month is 30 days, spend no more than $50 a day or you'll be over budget. 

How to turn this exercise into an effective savings tool:

Designate 5 "no spending" days each month and you'll have $150 extra at the end of the month.  Designate 10 "no spending" days each month and you'll have $300 to save, put towards other purchases, or to pay down debt.

Some, including my wife, have suggested taking my lunch in a brown paper bag, but I can't do it.  I work hard and need some "away from desk" time during the day. Besides that, I dislike stale bread or bread that is soggy from mayonaise or mustard. 

I think I'll start by limiting my evening restaurant meals (generally more expensive) to once per week and my lunch time meals to restaurants that offer money savings coupons.  We're also heavy debit cards users and rarely carry cash.  I predict we will save a bundle by using cash more versus debit cards. I've got a long way to go, but it's a definite start. 

Care to share your own ideas?

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