My wife and I have recently recommitted ourselves to the budgeting process. We’ve lived on a budget for the past several years since we discovered Dave Ramsey and followed his plan to become debt free in 2008.
However, in the past six months or so, we got a bit lazy and lackadaisical in our day-to-day finances. I decided to check out some new budgeting software that would make things both easier and more fun to track than my good ole, self-made Excel spreadsheets. I learned a lot about what’s available in the world of budgeting software, and you can read my review of five top budgeting software systems for the details.
For this post, I just had to get something off my chest…I seem to have a big problem with eating out at restaurants!
As I took the time to reflect on our spending habits over the past several months, it quickly occurred to me that I had eaten at least one meal at a restaurant virtually every…single…day!
This habit is really apparent during the work week. Last spring and summer, I was doing great and using my lunch time to go cycling when it was nice outside or hit the gym on rainy days. I brought a simple lunch most days and maybe went out for lunch once a week or so and usually when I was traveling for work (and it was reimbursable).
Not lately. I have literally been going out every day for the past four months or so. This could be a sit-down restaurant with co-workers, lunch with clients or just fast-food drive-through on the way to a meeting. And our family usually eats at least one meal in the form of carryout each day of the weekend just to top off our excess.
Wow, this explains a lot!
So, what’s the big deal? Well, let’s take a look at what this is costing our family.
For just my lunches, I spend probably an average of $11 per meal when you average out a few $6 value meals with more frequent sit-down restaurants with bills around $12-15 with a tip.
At five days per week, that’s $55. That adds up to around $220 per month. Or more than $2,800 a year…for lunch!
That’s half of a fully-funded Roth IRA. Or a nice used car every five years. If you invested that money every year in a good index fund and averaged 8% annually for the next 30 years, those Big Macs start looking like $350,000!
If you’ve been following the Improve Yourself! challenge, you know that I am trying to shed some extra pounds. Well, I think I found a big part of my problem.
I looked up the nutritional value of one of favorite meals at Applebee’s Restaurant. The Oriental Chicken Roll-up with a side of fries weighs in with an artery-clogging 51 grams of fat and more than 1,100 calories. And that’s with a side of zero-calorie Diet Pepsi!
This is certainly not the worst thing I eat each week, but it probably represents a fair average. I could instead be eating a healthy turkey sandwich and baked chips at under 500 calories. That’s a net difference of around 600 calories per meal.
So, over the course of a five-day workweek, I am consuming around 3,000 extra calories! That’s the equivalent of almost one pound per week…just from my lunch choices! Or around 50 pounds per year if all else is held constant!
I am really glad that we decided to take a fresh look at our family budget. It seems so obvious now, but it really took the effort of focusing on my habits to reveal my lunchtime problem.
So, I have committed to reform my expensive and fattening ways. I will be limiting myself to one lunch out per week, and I’ll try to make that on a day when I am traveling and get reimbursed for the expense.
Our family is looking forward to having some extra money in our account and less weight around my waist as a result.
How often does your family eat out each week? Do you have any other habitual budget-busters that you know you need to address?Photo by pointnshoot
Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.