Whenever I watch those money-saving segments on TV news shows, one of the first things suggested as a way to save money is to ditch the daily latte.
The idea is that eliminating the little $4 or $5 expenses can add up to big savings. And I don’t disagree with that theory.
But for a non-coffee drinker, the daily latte has never been my problem. My problem is eating out. I love to go out to eat. Fast food, family dining, buffets, fancy restaurants – I love them all. But they are bad for the budget and bad for my health.
It’s easy to make up all kinds of reasons for why I “have to” eat out. But the numbers don’t lie. It’s a terrible use of our financial resources.
Just check out the Meal Saving Calculator I found at FinancialCalculator.org. The calculator allows you to figure out exactly how much money you could save by eating at home instead of at a restaurant.
Here’s a screenshot of my calculations. I based the home cooked meal figure on $5, since I know there are some wonderful meals you can make for $5 or less. The average meal at a local restaurant for my family of 5 is about $40.
Just look at the numbers: Instead of eating out once a week, I could eat at home instead and save more than $1,800. If I ate fast food twice a week at $30 a visit, and switched to eating at home, I would save a whopping $2,600.
And that’s before I invested my savings! Putting the money I saved into a mutual fund would really give my savings a shot in the arm. In 20 years that twice-a-week fast food habit could morph into more than $100,000 in savings!
So how does a restaurant junkie make the switch from eating out to frugal home chef?
- First, get in the habit of creating menu plans. A plan makes it easier to say “no” to eating out.
- Learn how to shop for the best prices on groceries and buy the best quality ingredients you can afford. Or even grow your own food!
- Make eating at home an experience. Set the table nicely and create an atmosphere that makes eating at home fun.
- Enlist help. Part of the reason we’re tempted to eat out is because we get tired or bored with cooking. Have a family member cook once in a while. Get the kids to help. Hold a soup swap (or maybe a dinner swap!). Invite friends to a potluck at your home.
- Remember the perks to cooking at home: You know how the food is prepared. You know the ingredients used. You can have better control over portions. And it can taste better, too!
Just remember that you don’t have to deprive yourself to live frugally. If you want to eat out, budget for it, and eat out. Just recognize that the choice to eat out is costing you money that you could be spending on other things. You can create some amazingly wonderful (and simple) meals at home that will save you hundreds of dollars over the course of just one year.