Eating Out…My Biggest Financial Downfall

My Biggest Downfall

You don’t know this about me yet, but, my biggest downfall is eating out.  If I add up all of the money I spent eating meals out over the past, dare I say, two decades, the amount would be staggering.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it would be enough to pay off my student loan, car loan, and a portion of my mortgage(s).  I promise to do a quick calculation before the end of this post.  Although, I’m scared and embarrassed to see the number.  Yikes!

You see the feature picture?  That could easily be my friends and I enjoying any one of a hundred+ meals out that we have indulged in over the past years.  I’m not so sure my friends and I were quite so glamorous, but a girl can dream, right?

After many nights of taking turns picking up the tab with a credit card, that dreaded time of the month would rear its ugly head.  Bill Time.  I can remember having hour long conversations with the same girlfriends commiserating over our bleak financial status.  We, of course, ignored the fact that we blew hundreds each month on meals we couldn’t afford to eat.  I can’t even tell you how many times I have paid interest on food I consumed months, or even years previously.  Pathetic.  C’mon, I know you’ve been there.  The thing is, it’s not the wonderful food and drink that sucks me in; it’s the ambiance and social scene.  I even love the golden arches if it means I can partake in friendly chatter outside of the house.

FYI:  Don’t think less of me for loving McDonald’s; you can’t deny that their french fries are totally delicious. 😉

Dissecting My Love for Eating Out

There is no memorable defining moment that comes to mind that shaped my love for eating out.  I think it was a cumulative effect from my early adult years when I equated eating out with being social and having a good time.  Obviously, I gained quite a bit of enjoyment from gathering with friends and enjoying some great food and conversation.  Come to think of it, my eating out go-to gang changed over the years depending on who was currently single and available.  I was in a relationship for most of my twenties that enabled my habit due to his long work hours.  On the heals of that, I was mostly single and licking my wounds in my thirties.  That didn’t help my habit.  I could sit here and speculate for hours (maybe even talk to a therapist) about how and why this came to be a financial thorn in my side that has, no doubt, seriously hindered my “what could’ve been” present and future, but that does no one any good.  The point is to start where we are TODAY.  Right?

How Do I Plan to Curb this Singular Fatal Financial Habit?

I plan to start equating pleasure with family meals around our own dinner table.

I plan to cook and bake delicious goodies with my future husband (did I mention I’m getting married soon?  Yay!) and my daughter for us to enjoy at home.

I plan to think carefully about every dollar I spend on food that doesn’t come from the grocery store or market and how that dollar could be better used elsewhere.  Let’s face it, a $50 meal at Noodles & Company could pay for a winter coat for my daughter.  I need to start thinking like this.  This is how smart people think.  I’m a smart person.  I can do it.  So can you.

One Week Challenge

I am going to challenge myself, and YOU, to not eat any meals out for one solid week.  Don’t laugh!  I’m starting small so I can accomplish this goal.  This is MY latte factor.  Besides, baby steps are the key to success.  Ask Dave Ramsey.

As Promised, Here it is…

Conservatively speaking, if I spent $50/week on eating out over the past 20 years, that equals $52,000!  Unfortunately, I believe that is a low estimate.  🙁  My guess is that I have spent closer to $100,000.  I could’ve paid off my investment home or put that money to work in a solid index fund.  Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.  Do you have a “Stupid” moments to share?

I’m going to go cry myself to sleep now.  Toodles.

26 comments… add one
  • Jing Pei May 15, 2017, 7:00 pm

    Yep, eating out is my weakness and probably the largest % of my budget outside of rent. One small baby step I’m taking is to not eat out alone, which I do too frequently for lunch.

    Living in a city without a car and terrible public transit, it’s much easier meeting up at a central location for dinner or lunch rather than going to someone’s place. I personally still haven’t figured out how to eliminate the catch up with friends cost yet!

  • Retire Lazy Apr 26, 2017, 9:23 pm

    Eating out is definitely my biggest money drain too. I have such an aversion to preparing food, so that’s what I need to fix in my life. I just got back from vacation so I’m forcing myself to not eat out for the next week. Good luck to us all!

  • SteadyReadyCrazy Mar 17, 2017, 8:26 am

    I spent 15k on 8 hours of fun. 4k of that was food, another 4k was for a place to house the party, the rest was for miscellaneous things…. My wedding. Haha! Would never do that again! Great pictures but it really was a big pony show to impress my family in my opinion.

  • othalafehu Mar 4, 2017, 3:58 pm

    Eating out is totally my budgeting downfall, family of 4 equals 10k a year in dining out but I am just not ready to give it up, it makes me happy

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 4, 2017, 4:01 pm

      I can so relate to you! I absolutely love it and I struggle with not going out to eat almost every single day. Ugh.

  • This is so easy to relate to. Eating out (or… drinking out) is the default Adult Friend Activity! And it’s easy to equate spending time with friends with spending money on restaurants. For me anyway, I really struggle with eating out only in moderation because it means I’m trying to find more frugal ways to spend time with my people.

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 1, 2017, 8:31 pm

      It’s definitely possible to spend time with friends outside of restaurants but sometimes you have to “train” your friends to be okay with a night in as an acceptable alternative. The struggle is real and continues on for me and my circle. I have it under control now but it’s definitely A Thing.

  • Carrie Jan 29, 2017, 11:56 pm

    This is my biggest money suck too. My husband and I are always astounded at our credit card bill at the end of the month, 80% of it is dining out,

    I cannot, for the life of me, break this habit. I am a good cook. I enjoy cooking, but I do get tired of doing it. I start every week with the best of intentions. I have all of these great meals planned and ingredients bought….and I still always want to go out to eat.

    I think the amount of money I have spent on dining out over the last 20 years with my husband could easily go well into the $150,000++ range.

    It’s embarrassing and quite frankly shameful.

    Does anyone have any suggestions or tips on how to break this terrible habit? Help!!!

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 30, 2017, 7:10 am

      I can so relate to you. I will never get over wanting to go out to eat. In my perfect world, I would never buy groceries again. That’s how much I enjoy it. It will always be a struggle for me. One trick I used to stay on task in the beginning of my “don’t eat out quest” was to invest whatever money we would’ve spent on going out to eat, each time we stayed in. That motivated me because the money added up so quickly. Check back in and let us know how it goes!

  • Jeff Jan 27, 2017, 9:01 pm

    Bah, yes this is a big money suck for us, but we’ve knocked it waaay back from a year ago. We love variety and trying out new places. We put priority on the more special nights out and/or social engagements, avoiding eating out just for convenience. We’re preparing more food at home like you. My next thing to overcome is the lunches out at work. Love getting away from the office and it is very social to do so. One step at a time! Great post!

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 28, 2017, 7:26 am

      Thanks! I wrote that post about a year and a half ago and have come a long way. We rarely go out these days unless it’s a special occasion. I must say, going out for a work lunch was a big problem for me, as well. I had to work really hard on breaking that habit. It was just such a small amount of money each time that it didn’t feel like anything. But when you add up the numbers, they’re sickening. Now, I ask for gift cards for Christmas to my favorite lunch places and treat myself about once/week. It’s been working out awesomely! Is that a word? Haha! Good job on your achievements in this arena, too! It’s a tough one. 🙂

  • aabaus1234 Jan 27, 2017, 2:25 am

    I used to be like this too! Working in the hospitality industry you knew all about the new places and had to go and try them.
    I’m not sure what changed (maybe getting old and responsible) but I just started thinking about all the effort involved and an internal monologue started each time I went out
    * Oh I have to get dressed to go out, but I’m so comfy in my day clothes
    * They don’t have what I want on the menu – why does everything have to be covered in garlic and onion?
    * $20 for a bowl of pasta!? I could make it for $2 at home and it would probably taste better.

    Now I choose to cook at home far more often than eating out and I actually enjoy it much more.

    Good luck on your one week ban, you can do it!

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 27, 2017, 9:45 am

      Isn’t it amazing how much money you can drop on restaurants. And let’s face it, it’s usually not the food we do it for – it’s socializing that sucks us in. You should calculate how much money you’re NOT wasting anymore. It makes me sick to run the numbers. Ugh. 🙂

      • aabaus1234 Jan 27, 2017, 4:06 pm

        Ahh, see for me it was often about the food, and the wine! I love good quality produce.
        You could try inviting friends over for a potluck dinner, a bbq, or even just a cocktail hour at your place if it is more about socialising for you

        • Mad Money Monster Jan 28, 2017, 7:19 am

          That was one of my first posts – I’ve come a looooong way since then 😉 I do a lot more socializing in my home and others’ homes these days. And I am LOVING it. I shudder when I think of all the money I blew over the years. I could be sitting in a house without a mortgage right now. Not even kidding.

  • financialbloke Jan 25, 2017, 12:09 am

    This is so true for so many people. If you can get a handle on it it can really benefit your financial future. I’ve seen people do it to the extreme but I like more of a balanced quality of life.

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