Raise your hand if the best part of eating out is not having a kitchen full of dirty dishes!
Whenever my husband and I go out to eat, the bill is always more than what I planned on spending. Ugh! Totally not a good thing when I am on a budget.
Yes, eating out is easy and convenient, but boy can it really impact your finances negatively if you aren’t careful!
However, you can still be on a budget and eat out, but it is how you approach it that makes a huge difference in preventing the destruction of your budget.
A successful budget that includes eating out, involves making a plan ahead of time of how much you are going to spend and having a strong reason why you are budgeting in the first place.
3 Tips to Reduce The Cost of Eating Out
#1. Set the amount you want to spend each month on eating out.
A good number to start with is how much you spent last month.
And if you have absolutely no idea on how much you spent, go through your bank statements and tally up all the times you ate out.
Warning: this number might have a ‘Yikes!!’ effect when you see just how much you have been spending! It’s ok – we’ll work through it together – but it’s better to face it instead of underestimating the amount and then constantly trying to figure out why your money comes up short.
#2. Reduce your expenses and plan how many times you will go out to eat.
For example, let’s say you spent $300 on eating out last month. Now, what I want you to do is decrease that amount by one-third. It’s not too drastic and you still will have plenty of money to go out to eat so you don’t feel too deprived.
You’ll have $200 left and that’s your budget for eating out next month. Estimate the average cost of a meal out to be $40, tip, tax and everything. This means, you are allowed to go out to eat 5 times a month, only spending $40 or less each time.
Or, you can go out to eat 4 times spending $30 and then you can have one splurge night spending $80.
Of course, modify the average meal cost to fit your family. A family of 8 will spend more on one meal that a family of 2.
Instead of going out to eat just because you don’t feel like cooking or because it’s convenient, set aside five specific nights on your calendar for the month as eating out nights. You will look forward to those nights and enjoy them even more!
Now that you know how many times you can go out to eat and how much you will spend, here are some ways you can save money on eating out.
- Use a coupon
- Sign up for loyalty coupons/discounts
- Go on days/times when kids eat free
- Sign up for Birthday Freebies
- Go out for lunch instead of dinner
- Take advantage of happy hour specials or “tonight’s specials” (like $1 tacos on Tuesdays)
#3. Most important: Have a reason why you are following a budget and reducing the cost of eating out.
Without this reason, you will not succeed at cutting back and your budget will continue to be a huge struggle. Hey, I honestly don’t want to see you struggle with your budget Every. Single. Month!
Instead, I really want to see you have a successful budget and you can – especially when you have a reason why you are budgeting.
So what is the main reason you are on a budget?
Are you paying off debt? Building your savings?
You need to have a strong enough reason why in order to have a willingness to cut back on eating out, so you can apply the money saved to reaching your goal even quicker.
Having a solid reason why will help you in developing a successful budget, allowing you to reach your money goals quickly because you know where the savings will go and you can see your progress!
Now, that you have your why, take all the money you have saved on eating out, $100 per our example, and apply it to your main financial goal each month.
I love tracking my savings when I trim monthly expenses and find how much more motivated I am to to cut costs when I see how much progress I am making each month!! I use this spreadsheet.
Try keeping a record of how much you are able to save over several months and apply the money towards one specific purpose. I bet it will be so inspiring!!
You will be surprised at how quickly this amount will add up and you may find the desire to reach the goal is so strong, you cut back even more on your eating out expense!!
Just from our example, if you just decreased your monthly amount by one-third (just $100 each month), you can easily put $1,200 towards paying off your debt or building your savings in a year!! Umm, yes please!
Reducing your costs in eating out – by planning out how much you will spend, when you will spend it, and having a specific purpose for the money you save – is very do-able and you can do it!!
If you are looking for more ways to win at budgeting, check out my free Planning a Successful Budget worksheet to get started.
What are your best tips for staying on track for your eating out budget?
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