Have you heard of the concept of an “Achilles heel”?
We have that in way or another. It can also be described a “thorn in our side”, or in some other creative way. What it’s getting at is that we have that one thing – or more – that just holds us back in some way. This can also happen with our budget.
To me, a financial Achilles heel, so to speak, is the cost of eating out at restaurants. More specifically, the amount of money I spend on going out to eat. These costs can really add up, as a quick look at my spending patterns has told me. While I’m what I would consider to be a financial responsible person who understands the difference between wants and needs, I can acknowledge that even personal finance enthusiasts can have one or two spending weaknesses. I’m no different, as my increasing pattern of getting meals from outside shows.
Here’s the thing – the costs can not only be financial, but can also impact one’s health. Not only might you pay more now, but you can pay later too. The cost of healthcare in retirement can be quite high, so in effect there is a balloon payment involved in your decisions made today. Best to think of overall costs from a holistic point of view.
Anyway, there are habits we can get into which can save us money on costs related to dining out. I’m starting to focus – or in some cases, focus more – on the following 5 ways to curb spending on eating out:
1) Do the math. This is one way that a person can stop spending too much on eating out. Just track your expenses, and see how much you’re spending on eating out. Just to throw out an example, if you’re spending $15 per day on eating out, but you could alternatively spend $10 per day eating very well at home, that’s $5 per day more. Added up, it’s over $1,800 in excess spending per year. Isn’t that motivating? For even more motivation, think about the potential long-term value of simply investing $1,000.
2) Pack your lunch. Often times, it can get expensive eating lunch at work. Whether you go out to eat, or dine at an office cafeteria, you can find yourself spending a fair amount of money daily. And don’t even get me going on vending machine snacks. Though a gold vending machine would be nice, but I digress. Anyway, taking 5 minutes to pack a lunch can be well worth the investment.
3) Batch cook. If you think that it takes time to prepare food to pack, I can understand. That’s how I see it. What I think might be a good solution is batch cooking. Cooking a large amount at one time, while refrigerating or freezing multiple servings, can be good way to manage time. This way, you can save both time and money by getting it all done at once.
4) Learn to appreciate good food. What? Isn’t some restaurant food awesome? Well, sure some can be really tasty. But you know what? The more I think about different meals I’ve had over the years, really well-cooked homemade dishes with fresh ingredients just taste better and healthier. It sure is better than swinging by the drive-thru, and you don’t have to use penny-pinching strategies on saving money at the drive-thru.
5) Challenge yourself. Many of us like a challenge, and have a competitive streak and/or a quest for self-improvement. If you can challenge yourself to cut eating out by 50%, or some other amount, you might end up getting more enthused about making a concerted effort. After succeeding, you just might develop some new habits that can stick with you!
My Questions for You
How often do you eat out at restaurants (or pick up food)?
What approaches do you take to saving money on eating out?
Do you have another expense that is your “financial Achilles heel”?