How to Spend Less on Eating Out

Spend less eating out

It’s one of those things we tell ourselves we can dramatically reduce. Unfortunately, the truth is that cutting out all the things you enjoy to save money doesn’t exactly lead to a fulfilling life. It’s important to spend time with the people you care about, it’s important to indulge occasionally in activities that we find satisfying. Saying “I’m never going to eat out” is unrealistic.

You can, however, say: “I will eat out only once or twice a month.” You can also decide to make it worthwhile when you do eat out. Most of all, you can make sure that when you go out, you get the best bang for your buck.

You should have an entertainment budget set aside each month. If you don’t, you’ll still spend money on things like drinks in the pub, the occasional meal in a restaurant or a comedy night with your colleagues, and those events will be guilty pleasures because they’re out of budget. Accept you’ll spend money on luxuries, so that you can control that spending.

When you spend part of your budget on entertainment, you should still be getting value for money. In this article we’ll look specifically at how to spend less on eating out.

When To Eat Out

Spend Less Eating Out : Restaurant Table Setting

One of the issues we have with this area of spending is that we can slip into routines where we eat out too often, because it’s easy. Better to save eating out for special treats and avoid turning this budget into a black hole of excess expenditure. Restaurant meals are little luxuries, and if you treat them as special, they’ll continue to feel special, which is what you want.

It Has To Be Worth It

If you’re in the habit of going to restaurants and eating something you could have made at home, my suggestion is to stop doing that. Your time and money are better spent making your home a more enjoyable place than spending small amounts of time in places that aren’t yours. Cash spent on restaurant food that’s no better than what you can make at home won’t feel like a special treat at all so what’s the point? You’ll get more for your money at home.

We’ve all done it. When we’re too tired to cook, and can’t be bothered to get stuff going in the kitchen, we go out for a quick meal instead. Unfortunately, those meals will not be as enjoyable as when you make a date out of it. They also add up to a lot of money over time. Far better to save your budget for a romantic meal with your partner or for a dinner date with a group of friends. You’ll get much more out of it.

It’s A Reward, Not A Routine

I’ve been through phases in my life when I ate out at restaurants more often than not.

It was a bit decadent, I felt like I could afford it and it felt easier than eating at home. I told myself that after a hard day it was reasonable for me to not want to work 20 minutes in the kitchen, that I needed my little luxuries and that I deserved something better than a simple home meal. I also ended up very familiar with the staff at the restaurants and bars I frequented and I liked the feeling of being part of the neighborhood.

While I felt like I had money to burn, that was in large part because I was single, on a decent salary, and my costs were much lower than my income at the time. This is a fallacy of who you are in time. It’s part of the multiple selves problem. Today, with responsibility for a family, higher costs and a greater need for a safety net, I have smaller savings than I would have had I been saving properly back then.

All that money I spent on average restaurant meals, I could have saved. One useful way to think about is that it was money my self at that time stole/transferred from my self today. If I think about these two versions of myself at different points in time, the person I am today is quite annoyed with the person I was back then because he made things harder than they need to be for me in the now.

In short: eating out is a treat that costs you today and in the future, so treat it with the respect it deserves.

How To Get More For Your Money

Eating out can be horribly expensive.

If the meal is not up to the standard you expected, the expense can leave you frustrated that you wasted the money on what turned out to be a very average experience.

When you go out for a meal, you want all aspects of the experience to be positive, which includes feeling that you got good value for your money. The best way to do that is to ensure that you are, in fact, getting a deal compared to the usual restaurant prices. Other ways include eating out at lunch rather than dinner, forgoing alcohol with your meal, never ordering the bottled water and eating two starters and sharing a main course.

For more details on these and other suggestions, check my article on ways to save when eating out.

It’s Not Just About The Meal

By doing it a lot, we turn eating out into a regular event that doesn’t have all that much value attached to it.

That’s a shame because it is, in fact, a treat.

When I was very young and my parents would take me to a restaurant, it would be an event. I’d get told we were going and we’d have to get ready. We’d get in the car and drive to the restaurant. I’d get handed a menu, which I would study intently without understanding very much of it, and I would order with a great sense of responsibility. I would then receive food unlike the food at home, usually richer and with different flavors. I’d get to order dessert, which would involve an agony of indecision followed by the same choice every single time.

I’m no longer that young, but eating out in a restaurant should still be a luxury.

So when you decide to go out for a meal, a few tips:

  • Make sure it fits in your budget so it’s not associated to any guilt. You earned this, and it’s part of the plan.
  • Pick a place you want to eat at, and go with people you want to spend time with.
  • Set aside enough time for the meal, don’t squeeze it into a gap in your evening routine
  • Consciously make an event of it. Decide to enjoy yourself. Wear something nice. Eat something different. Choose your topics of conversation for enjoyment not practicality. Appreciate the moment.

Second image by PhotoMIX Ltd from Pexels.

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