Eating out can be fun and convenient, but it can also be costly. If you’re not careful, too restaurant spending can increase your financial stress and hold you back from long-term freedom.
I love restaurants as much as anyone. There was a time in my 20s when I ate lunch out almost every day, and I probably had dinner out three or four times a week. But I was in debt and spending so much money at restaurants that I didn’t have enough left for things that really mattered.
It’s ok to go to lunch with a friend every now and then, or to enjoy a nice coffee or glass of wine as well. But eating and drinking in restaurants is much more expensive than feeding yourself at home.
If you’re serious about financial freedom, you need to start thinking differently about your restaurant spending. Adjusting your habits could free up a lot of money for defeating your debt and funding your future.
It may not be practical to eliminate restaurants from your life entirely, but you can save a lot by cutting back. In this article, I’ll give you some strategic ways to do that.
But first, I want to tell you about Stress-Free Finance, a free program we have created to help you make sense of your overwhelming financial life. This five-part video series has short, simple lessons to help you solve money problems so you can stop worrying and build a better future.
Here’s a preview of the free video series:
Now, back to the topic at hand:
Saying yes to a lunch invite or running through a drive-through can be a reflexive habit. But changing your financial life requires forming new habits. So teach yourself to stop and weigh these five considerations before you go out to eat.
1) Food vs. Friendship
When you get together with friends, you probably go out for dinner, grab coffee or meet for a drink. But the food and beverages aren’t the key ingredient in this experience — your friends are. Look for ways to spend time with people who matter to you without spending money on things that don’t.
2) Recreation vs. Celebration
I used to eat out just for fun. But I learned that debt isn’t fun at all, so I shifted my perspective. I still go restaurants some, but I do it with purpose. When you’re pursuing financial freedom, go out only to celebration special occasions, not just for recreation. And when you do go out to celebrate, make sure you have set aside money to pay for it.
3) Convenience vs. Cost
Fast food can save you time when you’re in a hurry. But is saving time worthwhile if it costs you financial freedom? If your restaurant habit is leading to money problems, you’re really not alleviating stress by eating out — you’re just transferring the stress from one part of your life to another.
4) Habits vs. Health
Most of the menu at restaurants, bars and coffee shops isn’t very healthy. If you need help controlling your spending, think about how your restaurant habits are impacting your health. What’s bad for your body is also bad for your budget.
5) Restraint vs. Rewards
You don’t need to institute a permanent ban on going out. Instead, you need to choose a short-term discipline that will help you achieve long-term freedom. If you take these steps now, one day you’ll be able to go out more and do it without worrying about money. Choosing restraint today brings to rewards tomorrow.
God wants you to enjoy great meals with family and friends. But even more than that, He wants you to be free. There’s no food that tastes as good as financial freedom feels.