I have another confession to make…before we started managing our money better, me and my husband used to spend $800 per month on dining out. And that was even after spending $675 per month on groceries! Between the two of us, we were each literally eating away $24 every day.
Things were getting dire with our financial picture and we needed a drastic (and sustainable) change, especially to deal with our dining out addiction. Over time, we’ve developed a plan that has helped us successfully kick the habit. We’re not perfect, but I’m happy to say it’s been working great—we eat out less, we have more money, and when we do eat out, we enjoy it more.
Here’s how we did it.
- 0.1 Develop A Plan
- 0.2 Step One: Identify Reasons Why You’re Dining Out So Much
- 0.3 Step Two: Brainstorm And Try Methods To Deal With Each Of These Problems
- 1 How To Stay Successful In Battling A Dining Out Addiction
Develop A Plan
Everyone becomes addicted to dining out for different reasons. I could describe to you my plan (and I will), but for this to be successful for you, you need to tailor the solution to fit your situation.
The steps to do this are simple. It’s actually doing them that’s a bit trickier:
- Identify the reasons why you’re eating out so much.
- Brainstorm and test different ideas to combat each of those reasons.
Step One: Identify Reasons Why You’re Dining Out So Much
In our case, we ate out for three main reasons:
We just didn’t want to cook, especially at the end of a long day.
- Discussion time
It’s easier to have honest discussions in a restaurant than at home sitting across the living room from each other. We don’t have room in our tiny apartment for a table, there’s dishes to do, the dog is chasing the cat around, there’s several precarious stacks of mail piled up, the TV is on, etc…
I am not a good cook, and because we don’t have space for a grill or a deep fryer, I can’t cook a lot of things even if I wanted to.
Step Two: Brainstorm And Try Methods To Deal With Each Of These Problems
We came up with five main ways to make it easier and more convenient for us to cook. Now, it’s almost more of a hassle to go out and buy food rather than make it at home.
- We collect recipes like a fiend (no more wondering what I can make).
- We plan our meals each week (no more puttering around wondering what to make, and I draft up a shopping list so I have all the stuff on hand already).
- We learned how to make cooking a more stress-free process.
- We do a lot of freezer cooking, which save lots of money and frees up time during the week
- We always have a go-to easy meal on hand (spaghetti) for if we really don’t feel like cooking after a long day.
Instead of relying on expensive dinners to allow us to have good conversations, I’m trying to make more of an effort to have real discussions with my husband every day. We’re also making more time to do things at home for cheap, like playing board and card games. This has been a great substitute for conversations at expensive restaurant tables!
Quite simply, I’m learning how to cook better by experimenting with new methods and taking online cooking classes from sites like Craftsy. I’ve found that I’m not nearly as bad a cook as I thought I was—I had only been using that as an excuse to justify my expensive habits.
I’ve also found workarounds for some of the things we don’t have: we might not have room for a real grill, but we do have room for a George Foreman grill! It’s almost the same thing.
How To Stay Successful In Battling A Dining Out Addiction
Aside from the strategy above to isolate and solve the reasons you’re addicted to dining out, I’ve found it’s helpful to focus on a few other things.
- Calculate how much you will save by eating more at home. Compare expenses before and after making these changes.
- Calculate how much your dining out habit actually cost you in terms of hours of your life.
- How much faster will you be able to reach your financial goals by eating at home?
- Realize that once you meet your financial goals, you can go out to eat more if you like.
How We’ve Fared In Our Battle Against Our Dining Out Addiction
I’m happy to say that we’ve been very successful in curbing our dining out battle. It’s been a year since we’ve reduced our spending from $800/month down to its current value, around $200/month.
We temporarily decided to bump it up to $450 a few months ago to allow us to have more date nights (with discussion time!), but we’ve since reigned it back in again and are focusing on cheaper activities that we can do together.
I’m not gonna lie: it hasn’t been easy. At the same time, it hasn’t been as difficult as I expected it would be. I miss dining out all the time, but what I like even better is making measurable progress towards my financial goals.
Since kicking the habit, we’ve managed to break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle and are now making real progress towards our other goals, like building up an emergency savings fund and paying off debt. And that’s more important to me than any cheeseburger.
Have you struggled with an dining out addiction? How did you break it? Leave a comment below!