Finances

Balancing the Restaurant Budget

How many of you have gone a little spend happy this month trying to survive the rush of the new routine? It’s so easy to go through a drive-thru and grab some grub instead of having to work away in the kitchen for the next half hour to an hour. It’s instantly ready, tastes delicious, and the family are all happy. But how’s your wallet feeling? If you were to total how much you’ve spent eating out in September, would it exceed $200? Was that in the budget? How’s your gut feeling with all that fast food? Feeling a little sluggish these days?

This isn’t a guilt trip or a coming down on you. This is just a friendly reminder and awareness to take care of yourself and your budget. 

Michael and I thoroughly enjoy eating out. We’ve got our favourite spots from as quick as a burger at Wendy’s to the finer dining of Montana’s and the Keg. We delight in good food and the experience of going out on a date together of any kind. 

We especially enjoyed it when we were first married. We were still on the romantic high of dating one another (we still think this is very important), and liked the excuse to get out as often as possible. Work was busy for both of us, so why not go out on the town?

The next thing we knew, our waistlines were getting a little larger. A good ten to twenty pounds or so were showing us we were enjoying too much. Then one of us had a medical issue we needed to deal with which made it mandatory that we shed that extra weight. 

We phoned a friend that was wise in nutrition and asked for help. It was a little lesson in adulthood. We needed to set some boundaries and get smart about the food choices we were eating. We needed to start taking care of our bodies. So he set us up on a healthy meal lifestyle. We would eat well, by the directives he guided us with. One bonus is that we could enjoy a “cheat” meal once a week. We would eat well all week and then thoroughly enjoy something we craved on our Saturday date night. 

This started a healthy discipline for us. We found ourselves eating at home during the week and then saving all the treats for the weekend. It was great for our bodies. But eventually, we got creative about where we could eat out during the week. Hmm, Pita Pit anyone? 

Okay, so our bodies were starting to get into shape, but we were still ignorant to our spending. We still had that entitled mindset that since we were making money, we could afford to enjoy all the goodness of the restaurants around us. 

Then the time came when we learned about making and keeping a budget. We were shocked when we realized we were spending around $220 a month on eating out, for the two of us! That wasn’t even related to our monthly grocery bill. That doesn’t sound like that much until I tell you that was about one sixth of my monthly income at the time. Ouch!

How were we going to enjoy a date out, the convenience and joy of good food, and manage to keep within our now reduced budget of $100 a month?

We got creative. Going on a date doesn’t have to just consist of eating out and watching a movie. We switched things up. We planned to go to one nice restaurant a month that would total around $60.00. We would plan to go to one less expensive restaurant another week for $25.00. Then we would either order pizza, save the rest for the next month, or stop by a café, bakery, or ice cream shop for another little treat. Then we would make something at home the other one or two weekends in the month. 

We made cooking at home an experience. We made our own pizzas. We baked delicious treats together like chocolate chip cookies or an apple pie. We would BBQ steaks, ribs, or burgers at home. Things that would still fit within our grocery budget as well. We would light candles, play some enjoyable light music, and get dressed up. The odd time we would surprise each other with a gourmet type meal. It was a lot of fun. We realized that we didn’t miss the eating out experience as much. It was all about enjoying each other’s company around the table. 

If you’ve got a financial goal in mind, you get creative with what you’ve got. Taking care of your finances becomes another natural thing to do in life. It isn’t a burden. Plus it helps to keep your imagination and creativity flowing. You can’t get stuck in the monotony of every day life. It allows you to experience different things that you normally wouldn’t have. And, to be honest, being financially fit starts to make you think about the other things in life. Creating a discipline in that area will help you create disciplines in health, fitness, and stewardship of your belongings because you realize the value and cost of life. 

So my challenge to you this month is to find creative ways to bring down your eating out column of your budget. If you normally spend over $200 per month eating out, try to keep it to $100. If you spend $100, try to get it down to $50. Share some ideas you might have in the comments below to help others get their creative juices flowing as well. Did someone say a hot dog roasting, smore making, camp out in your backyard night?

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