MattHutter.com

Personal finance mastery with a pinch of motivation.

MattHutter.com header image 2

How To Save Money Eating Out

November 2nd, 2006 · 2 Comments

First, the obvious. Don’t do it. But for those days where you just don’t feel like cooking I offer these tips.

Let’s begin with a statistic taken from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

“In 1994-95, 57 percent of Americans consumed meals and snacks away from home on any given day, accounting for about half of their daily calorie and fat intake on average.” This is “is 33 percent higher than in 1977-78.”

http://www.bcm.tmc.edu/cnrc/consumer/archives/mealtime.htm

The “What We Eat In America” survey is based on personal interviews nationwide. The 1994-96 study is USDA’s 10th national food survey since the 1930s. Over 15,000 Americans including low-income individuals, children and the elderly were asked to recall their food intake for two days. Now, the purpose of this section is NOT to lecture you on healthy eating versus unhealthy eating (although the odds increase dramatically for unhealthy eating when you go out to eat). The purpose of this section is to, once again, show you how you can give yourself a raise by reducing your eating costs.

Let’s look at three types of eaters:

Frugal eater: packs lunch every day; dinner and breakfast home; rarely goes out to eat

Occassional go-out-to-eater: packs lunch sometimes; goes out for dinner sometimes; Goes out to eat on weekends often

Spendy Eater: eats lunch out every day; dinner out 4-5 times per week; all weekend meals are eaten out

(Short commentary on the Spendy Eater: it is highly likely that this person is NOT a trim person. Also, it is highly likely that this person will tell you that he can’t pack a lunch for less than $4 – $5 per day so why waste his time packing one? )

For the purpose of this example I will eliminate the extremes and not analyze the “Frugal Eater” or the “Spendy Eater” (although I believe more and more Americans and becoming Spendy Eaters). Let’s look at a typical week and potential savings.

The Occassional Out-To-Eater

This person “brown bags” it for lunch at work 2-3 days a week and goes out the remaining days. He goes out to eat for dinner 3 times per week (or orders pizza delivery) and mostly eats breakfast at home. On weekends he eats a couple meals out.

Lunch: 3 days per week X $5 lunch = $15/week

Dinner: 3 days per week X $10 dinner = $30/week

Weekend meals out: Approximately $20 per weekend in meals out

These assumption are for the “average” Out-To-Eater.

Now, this person is spending $65 per week eating out or $279.50 per month eating out! That is a car payment for some people. To reduce these costs I’m not recommending eliminating eating out entirely. Rather, find ways to make it cheaper or reduce just some meals out. Possible suggestions:

• Buy an Entertainment book from someone local or from entertainment.com – the book costs around $30 and it includes $1000s in savings and coupons
• Use coupons for restaurants
• Cut one section IN HALF (reduce lunches out in half or dinners out in half)
• Get carry-out more often (thus eliminating tips, drinks, tax, etc)
• Cook more meals at home and pack your lunch more often

Now, some of these tips are common sense and some require discipline. But look at it another way – if this is you then you are spending $279.50 per month and you have nothing at all to show for it (except for maybe a bigger waist!)

If you still don’t have the discipline to reduce these costs, what if I told you I would give you a $140 per month RAISE if you could only find a way to cut these eating-out costs in half? Well, YOU CAN! You don’t need me to get that $140/month – just cut the $279/month in half and BINGO! … there’s your $140/month RAISE.

Tags: Best of Matt Hutter · Money

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Become's Pocket Change // Nov 28, 2006 at 9:49 pm

    Guest hosting: Festival of Frugality

    Buenos ding-dong-diddly dias folks, and welcome to the 50th edition of the Festival of Frugality. Sure, we rock the Carnival of Shopping here (and have one on the way tomorrow) but we figured we’d take a stab at hosting another…

  • 2 Guest hosting: Festival of Frugality // Jul 27, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    […] Hutter has some good tips on how to avoid pouring all your money down a restaurant’s drain. I’d add to his post: remember that they charge you for a bottle of champagne even if you […]

Leave a Comment