Dining out for lunch is a fun way to bond with your co-workers. Eating at or picking up food from a restaurant is the easy option after a long day at work. Going out for dinner or drinks with your friends is a fun way to be social.
But all of this dining out increases your spending (and caloric intake), and many people may find themselves in debt — and consequentially stuck with bad credit — from going overboard with eating out.
Eating out has become a major problem in our culture
According to a Forbes article in late 2013, Americans spend nearly $1,000 per year eating out for lunch alone. They say that means we eat out an average of twice a week for lunch and spend $10 both times.
That’s just an average. Many people eat out for lunch every single day.
According to Rasmussen Reports, in 2013 58 percent of Americans said they dine out in restaurants at least once a week and 14 percent dine out two or three times a week.
This behavior, whether it’s due to feeling exhausted, wanting to be social or simply feeling lazy, can put a dent in your pocket.
The cost of your bill goes up quickly if you also order drinks. If you order in at a sit-down restaurant, you also spend extra money on tips.
Regular eating out can cause you to live beyond your means, having to put these expenses on your credit card. If you ever go over your limit or get near it, or can’t pay your bill on time, your credit will suffer.
Eating out frequently isn’t only bad for your finances
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, studies show “Frequently eating foods prepared away from home is associated with obesity, higher body fat and a higher BMI.”
Additionally, there is a link between eating fast food and consuming more calories and saturated fat and fewer fruits and vegetables. With portion sizes at restaurants much larger in recent decades, we all tend to overeat when we go out.
It’s time to put the credit card away and stop eating out. But if you absolutely have to use plastic, be sure to get a credit card specifically designed for people with bad credit.
“Eating out is often just an
excuse to be sociable.”
Here are a few steps many people, including myself, use to make it easier to dine in:
- Every Saturday or Sunday, sit down and create a menu for the upcoming week. Select easier meals for the busier nights. Plan to make enough at dinner each night for you to have leftovers for lunch.
- Next, make your grocery list based on what you need for each of the planned meals, along with any snacks and household items.
- Go grocery shopping and stick to this list — no impulse purchases! You will learn produce is actually quite cheap.
- Come home and prepare some of the food to save time during the week.
Chop up veggies and fruits, saute meats — anything you can do to make you more inclined to cook on weeknights. Crockpots are also major timesavers and you can often prepare all of the ingredients well in advance.
A quick Internet search will help you find many blogs where people prepare and freeze meals weeks in advance so eating in will be a no-brainer.
You may hate leftovers at first
But I can tell you from personal experience you get used to it, and you actually start to like them when you enjoy the food you make. If you aren’t a good cook yet, don’t worry. There is a slight learning curve.
One thing you will find is other people are often relieved when you say no to eating out.
Co-workers often feel pressure to eat out because their co-workers do so. Friends usually want to go out because that’s what they think their friends want to do.
Let your co-workers know you’re on a budget and will be bringing leftovers more often. Tell them you would love to still all eat lunch together in the company cafeteria or on the patio.
Tell your friends you would love to have dinner with them, but how about everyone save money and do a potluck at your house instead?
I have found many people are often happy for the opportunity to save money but still hang out because eating out is often just an excuse to be sociable. And you don’t have to spend a fortune or ruin your credit to do it.
Start a new trend with your co-workers, friends and family. Your credit will thank you for it and so will theirs.
Photo source: bostonmagazine.com