Budget Dining Out
Each day of the series offers new tips, ideas and a challenge to start the year with a solid financial plan.
As long as we’re still on the subject of a food budget, let’s talk about dining out. This is actually an easier number to control—you can eliminate the expense altogether, if necessary. Your current dining expenses may be negligible or a significant portion of your monthly budget, depending on your lifestyle & location.
So, before you can make changes in the amount, you’ll have to decide where dining out fits into your life—think about why you spend money on dining. Do you end up at the drive-thru or order pizza in a panic when dinner isn’t planned? Meal planning, packing a lunch and keeping snacks on hand can all prevent you from making spur of the moment fast food runs.
Do you find yourself spending huge amounts of money on lunches with coworkers? Try reducing it to a more occasional once per month (or week) meal and packing a lunch the rest of the time. (A lunch co-op is also a great way to enjoy the experience of dining with work friends, while keeping the budget under control.)
If your receipts show a significant number of girls’ nights, consider a girls night in—just as much fun, at a fraction of the cost! When date nights add up to more than you can fit into your budget, explore a variety of free & frugal dates—same connection with your spouse, for a lot less.
Of course, if your dining expenses are the result of the fact that your family just enjoys dining out, you can still work within a budget. In this case, you just need to budget dining out into your current plans. Set an amount—and stick to it. Start by lowering the amount you’ve tracked earlier in the series and utilizing coupons, discount days and other tactics to keep dining expenses under control.
For today’s challenge, set an amount for this line item in your budget—as close to zero as possible—then work on tangible ways to save until you get there.
I’m not a financial planner or a budget expert. I’ll just be walking you through the steps I take each time my budget needs an adjustment. In fact, I’ll be participating myself!