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How much do you spend dining out each month?
If you don’t track it with a budget, chances are it’s a lot more than you think. In 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average American household spent $3,008 a year dining out.
Where do you stack up? If you’re not sure how much you spend, now is a great time to start tracking it. Try it for a month or two to get an accurate picture of how much you actually dine out.
In 2013, my wife and I decided to stop going out to eat altogether. It was a big change, but it completely transformed our finances and enhanced our ability to get out of debt.
One Decision Change Our Lives
A few years ago, Jenna revealed to me that she felt Jesus telling her that she would be debt free in five years.
I don’t remember if I laughed out loud or if it was only in my head, but I had a lot of questions at how that would happen.
At the time, we were practically on a shared budget (even though we weren’t even engaged yet) so we knew exactly how much debt we had between us, and as I’ve shared before, it was nearly $90,000.
I’m not great at math, but that is nearly $20,000 every year and we didn’t exactly have money shooting out of our ears!
We were both paraprofessionals bringing home just under $20,000 a year after taxes, not to mention our student loan repayment plans were ten years at minimum.
Where in the world would the extra money come from?!?! How would we accelerate our repayment plans that drastically?!!?
That is when Jenna dropped the next bombshell on me.
In addition, God was asking her to stop going out to eat. 100% home cooked meals. We couldn’t even get a crappy gas station coffee!
We Decided Not to Get Caught Up in the Details
Not eating out was a big change. We were in our mid twenties and often went out for drinks and food with friends and coworkers.
We place a high value on community and a great way to invest in community is around a table of food, whether it’s your own or at a restaurant. If we didn’t go out to eat, how would this affect our community? If we chose to stop eating out, we would have to face difficult realities related to our community.
Also, it’s such an easy way to get together and you get to eat great food with no preparation or clean up. We probably ate out with friends 2-3 times a week. I was quickly trying to process all of this in my head, but I was anxious to hear more.
Crunching Numbers: How Much Do You Spend Dining Out?
Let’s pause the conversation for a minute and think for a moment how often you go out to eat and how much it costs.
It can be a shocking reality check. Our quick math went something like this. One of our favorite places was a little Mexican restaurant that had cheap drinks, free chips and salsa, and wonderfully cheesy food.
I got the same thing nearly every time. A cheap beer for about four bucks and a ten dollar meal, complemented by free chips and salsa.
After taxes and a tip, it came down to about $20, $15 if I didn’t get a drink. Not too bad. But if I spend $15 (at minimum) every time I go out to eat, that’s going to start adding up.
Going back to our conversation, we crunched numbers in the same way estimating that we each went out to eat a minimum of 5 times a month. Now adding it all together, each of us was spending at least $75 a month. The reality was that we often went out more than 5 times a month.
Combining our finances brings us to a total of $150 a month to eat out, even if we are getting cheap food and drinks! If we did that every month, that is $1,800 for the year!!
Now if you add in normal grocery costs, trips to the coffee shop, or random gas station snacks, you are all of a sudden spending loads of money on food every month.
What Does it Actually Look Like to Stop Dining Out?
We were shocked after breaking down the numbers! Being new to budgeting we saw massive potential to influence our debt free journey and a chance to climb out of the hole faster than we thought possible!
Reality #1: People would still ask us to grab drinks or food with them. How would we respond?
Reality #2: We would need to be more intentional about planning our meals.
Welcome to Meal Prepping!
The Final Numbers
Let’s use some basic numbers to create a visual. If I spend $150 to eat out, a conservative $300 on normal groceries, and $50 on trips to the coffee shop and gas stations snacks, my total monthly budget for food comes to $500, and $6,000 yearly.
However, by cutting out going out to eat, coffee shops, and gas station snacks, I’m only spending $300. Then to be extra frugal, I can trim my grocery bill down to $250 by meal prepping. It’s hard work, but I cut my expenses in half!
That gives me an extra $250 a month, and $3,000 a year. All of that is extra I can put towards paying off my student loans. How would an extra $3,000 a year change your financial goals?
Now again, I think these are conservative numbers for going out to eat and each person or family is different. All you can do is analyze and crunch your own numbers to see your potential savings!
We’re Still Going Strong
Four years after our initial conversation, Jenna and I are still saying yes to Jesus. We don’t spend money going out to eat (unless it is specifically budgeted). The best news is we are still on track to be debt free by the end of next summer (2017), right on the five year target.
We have experienced both joy and frustration in this journey, but saying yes to Jesus in our finances has been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
He has transformed our outlook on money, changed our spending habits, and blessed us beyond anything we could’ve imagined!
Let Me Know in the Comments
How much do you spend eating out each month? Where would you invest that money if you decided to stop eating out?