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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Is Dining Out Killing Your Budget?

I don’t know about your area, but in Denver it seems like there has been a recent explosion in the number of new restaurants. From my personal observation the increase seems to be tied to more and more low to mid cost restaurants opening; i.e. Chipotle, Panera Bread, Noodles & Co and Garbanzos.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the average American household spends $2678 or approximately 40% of our food expenditures away from the house. Yes, you read that correctly, 40%. Now we are all aware that food typically prepared away from costs more than what we can buy and prepare for ourselves. So how do we cut back?
Four tips to reduce your dining out costs:
1.       Coupons and deals – use local coupons and deal finders such as the Entertainment Book, Groupon and Living Social to get 50% or more off. Two things to keep in mind, the deals are usually there to lure you into spending, so don’t end up spending more by adding on items like alcohol and desserts, and remember to tip your server on the full amount not the discount. You received the same level of service; the restaurant should take the hit not the waiter/waitress.
2.       Downgrade – moving from sit down restaurants to quick casual can help save, not only on the need to tip, but also the overall cost. Why go to an upscale restaurant to order a burger and fries, when you can find an equivalent for cheaper.
3.       Reduce your portion intake – do you usually have a take home bag after a meal out? Then you probably have the “eyes bigger than your stomach” syndrome. Why not forgo the appetizer and just have the main meal, or split one appetizer between several people? The same goes for desserts.
4.       Reduce the frequency – by cutting out one or two dining out trips a month by planning and preparing ahead. An hour or two preparing quick meals in advance can save you from needing to stop. We suggest making a big pot of chili or soup and putting some in the freezer for those nights when you just don’t feel like cooking.
Dining out doesn’t need to take a big bite out of your budget. Implement the four tips above and you could save 10, 20 or 50% off of your budget, giving you more money to put towards debt and your financial future.

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