I’m sure you’ve probably heard that dining out can cost a small fortune if you do it often enough.
Let’s say you spend about $10/day during the work week either grabbing work lunches, coffee, or breakfast at different restaurants. That’s easily $50/week, $200/month or at least $2,400 per year. That’s not even counting happy hours or dining out for social events.
I’m not going to lie; dining out is a guilty pleasure of mine. It’s fun and I’m a major foodie. I love to try new foods and I also like the social aspect of dining out. It’s a great way to spend time with friends and catch up.
While it’s so easy to say, “Let’s meet up for lunch,” it’s also important to think about your financial goals and how excessive dining out can take you further away from what you truly want.
While avoiding dining out can help you save money, you don’t have to give it up for good. Here are 6 real ways to curb your dining out habit so you can direct more money toward important goals.
1. Make a Slow Transition
Changing a habit requires time, motivation, and consistency. If you try to go cold turkey and give something up completely, odds are you’ll be tempted to do it and feel rebellious when you do.
To avoid this, start by making a slow transition to curb your dining out habit. For example, if you find yourself dining out 3-4 times per week, try to cut down to twice a week. That way, you’re spending less money but still don’t feel deprived.
Set a fun goal of doing something else with your money instead of spending it on food and use that as motivation. For example, I want to register my son for soccer practices, and I know that if I cut a few restaurant meals each month, I can afford it no problem.
2. Pack Your Lunch
When I worked in an office, everyone would always go out for lunch. I tried it a few times, and it was expensive and a hectic process. We only had 30-minute breaks, so everyone would pick up food then take it back to the office to eat it.
After doing this a few times myself, I figured I’d rather save my money and my time by packing a lunch instead. I wasn’t missing out on any social time since people had to rush back to the office anyway. I felt more relaxed by bringing my lunch because I had more time to actually eat it and enjoy my break.
Regardless of how your lunch breaks work, packing your lunch will definitely save you money long-term and you probably won’t miss too much social time.
If you enjoy going out for lunch, you can still get the best of both worlds by limiting it to once a week.
3. Start Planning and Prepping Your All of Meals
Ever since I started planning and prepping my meals, I’ve been able to dine out much less. Sometimes, people choose to go out to eat or order takeout just because they see it as a quick option. It seems like a quick convenience when you don’t have anything planned or prepared.
Instead, plan out what you’re going to eat throughout the day when you make your grocery list. Take one day out of the week to prepare batches of meals and make sure you have enough snacks packed the night before you head to work.
I’m not the best at meal prepping and I do it when I can, but I’ve created a habit of eating mostly at home just from planning out meals. Fridays are my weak spot because after a long and busy week, I don’t really feel motivated to cook.
Instead, I pull out a frozen pizza or something that I can quickly cook in the oven. Having a plan can make a huge difference and before you know it, you’ve created a habit of eating more meals at home.
4. Invite Friends Over For a Meal
Instead of going out to eat with friends, invite them over for a meal instead. You can even host a potluck so everyone pitches in. If you prepare the main dish, others can bring the sides, drinks, etc.
Sometimes my husband and I do this for game nights we host or if people are coming over to watch a show or movie. It’s so much cheaper than spending $20 – $30+ per person for a meal.
Take turns having happy hour at each other’s places to avoid costly drinks at the bar.
5. Use a Cash Budget For Dining Out
This is something I recommend when people tell me they struggle with slowing down on dining out. It helps to show yourself some tough love and create a specific dining out budget.
To make sure you stick to that limit, place the cash in an envelope to use. When you’ve used all the cash available, you have to stop dining out. Having cash can make you more conscious of what your spending anyway. As a result, you might slow down on your dining out habit in order to stretch your budget which gives you more leverage to change the habit.
6. Take Advantage of Coupons and Deals When You Do Dine Out
There’s nothing wrong with dining out every now and then so long as you can control the habit as you work toward other financial goals. When you do go out, be sure to consider using coupons and deals to lower the cost.
Most restaurants offer coupons so be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to save money when you can. Restaurants also offer discounts and deals that you can work into your savings strategy.
I know some restaurants that have kids eat free nights on certain days, half-price drink specials, and buy-one-get-one deals for entrees.
Ultimately, saving money while dining out can help you stretch your dollar and do more with your money like save for a big purchase or pay off debt.
Have you ever had an excessive dining out habit? Which one of this tips would work best for you?