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.