Our culture seems to be one that is centered around dining out. When you are younger, you meet friends at a restaurant for a night out and to chat. As you get older and have a family, you may go out to eat because time is short between working, raising a family, helping with homework, and doing housework, among other things. Some people are extreme and eat out for every meal because they do not like to cook or have not learned to cook. This is so commonplace in the American culture, that we don’t often question these expenses. Instead of just assuming that going out to eat or grabbing take out is a necessity, evaluate the cost of your restaurant purchase.
It has been a stressful day, and you would like nothing more than a night off from the kitchen. You decide to buy take out for your family of 4 and spend $25. True, you did buy yourself a night out of the kitchen by avoiding cooking and washing the dishes that you would use. Yet, ask yourself, would you have paid $25 to hire someone to come to your kitchen for an hour that night, make a meal and do the few dishes that you used? No? Well, that is essentially what you did by picking up take out.
I use this way of thinking frequently now to save myself from spending money eating out. My family ate out by habit until I started evaluating the true cost. I recently quit my job and have been doing freelance work from home. Several of my smaller jobs each pay $20 a month. Recently, I wanted to go out for sushi, which is a weakness not only of mine, but of my husband and kids. When our family of 5 goes out for sushi, it typically runs us $55 to $60. I asked myself if one meal of sushi was worth doing 3 additional small jobs to recoup the $60? Although the jobs do not take much time weekly, I would have to do the three jobs for a month to recoup the money spent on sushi. Was it worth it? No. We did not go out that night.
The idea of evaluating life energy for consumption is not new. It was the subject of the book, Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robins. The overall principal is to look at the amount of time and money it would take to recoup an expense. I try to use this in my life normally, but I find it especially effective when considering the often inflated price of dining out. Take the sushi dinner for $60—my family’s weekly grocery budget is $100. Is that one meal worth half a week’s groceries? Definitely not.
I am not saying we shouldn’t go out. My family still enjoys going out, but I am suggesting we should stop thinking of dining out as something routine and to be done daily or several times a week. Instead, think of dining out as a treat and something to be planned and enjoyed.
Melissa is a writer and virtual assistant. She earned her Master’s from Southern Illinois University, and her Bachelor’s in English from the University of Michigan. When she’s not working, you can find her homeschooling her kids, reading a good book, or cooking. She resides in New York, where she loves the natural beauty of the area.
Although we routinely go out for dinner every week, I never take it for granted. We pick from our favorite list of inexpensive restaurants and generally spend no more than $20-25 for two.
With our family of 6 dining out can be quite expensive. We go out very rarely and when we do, it’s a real treat since we don’t do it often!
Financial Excellence says
Growing up, eating out was a rare occurrence for our family. Looking back, I think part of it was because of what you just wrote in your post. The opportunity cost is certainly one of the reasons we don’t eat out very often.
Marie at Family Money Values says
We really have never eaten out with any regularity. We couldn’t afford it and now we don’t like to take the time.
However, judging by the number of restaurents around that seem to be flourishing, I agree with your conclusion that a lot of people default to eating out!
We have been eating out too much for convenience sake. We will have to work on cutting back and will be doing that in the upcoming months.
Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter says
We hardly ever eat out. In fact we have the opposite problem. We try to make it a point to go out 1-2 times a month to give ourselves a break from cooking and have some fun.
Homemade food is always cheaper and healthier. Restaurant food actually makes me sick, I am so un-used to the toxins in conventional food.
Andrea @MoneyMastered says
I’ve spent a lot of years battling an addiction to dining out – not the food, necessarily, but the convenience. I’m not a good cook, and I despise cooking/cleaning up afterward. It’s so nice to get a meal that I didn’t have to make. AND I can just throw the bag away when I’m done, or leave it for the restaurant staff to clean up.
That said, I’ve really tried to cut down on restaurant spending because I could use that money for so many other things. Last month I managed to spend only $53 (down from around $200 most months). I also lost 10 pounds! There really are benefits to giving up the restaurant addiction; I just hope I can keep it up.
Shawanda @ You Have More Than You Think says
Often, it doesn’t take that long to cook. By the time I get dressed, go to the restaurant, pick up my food, and come back home, I could’ve cooked myself a meal.
Barb Friedberg says
Good way to look at things. We usually eat out once per week on Friday nights. Rarely go to a pricey restaurant.
We are going to have to adjust our spending when the new baby comes. We have already started, but the eating out is probably going to be the first to go.