I get questions all the time about the specifics of our budget. “How much do we spend on groceries?” “How much do we set aside for clothes?” By far the most common question is, “How much do you spend on restaurants?” The answer is, “Not much.” Our monthly dining out budget on one income is $70. That’s it. Would we love for it to be more? Of course. Click on some of my ads and affiliate links and maybe we’ll get to increase it. Just kidding (but seriously…). How do we stick to spending only $70 per month on dining out?
1) We don’t go to fancy restaurants. I have a growing list of great local places and a few chains where we can get a great meal for under $20. It is possible and a lot easier than you might think. We would rather have 3-4 meals out a month than one expensive one.
2) We don’t buy kids’ meals. The Bear is still a toddler with a varying appetite, and every time we’ve ever bought him a restaurant meal we regret it because he leaves most of it on the plate. Instead we bring in a sandwich, veggies, fruit, and a sippie cup every time we go out to eat, and offer him some of our meals. Yes, this takes a little planning on our part. No, we won’t be able to get away with it forever. We’ve never had a waiter even ask a question about it, and several have even commented on what a great idea it is.
3) We don’t buy drinks. Soft drinks and alcohol in restaurants are a total rip off, in my opinion. Why would we pay $2.99 each for a diet coke? Crazy town. Sometimes we break this rule, and when we do Jed and I split a soft drink rather than both getting one. We get free refills and french kiss each other on the regular, so what’s the big deal?
4) We meal plan. Before we started budgeting, we spent an outrageous amount of money on restaurants because we were both busy and dinner time would roll around without us having a plan. We’ve learned that dinner is not an emergency, it comes at about the same time every day. If we plan out our meals one week in advance we end up spending far less on groceries, making fewer grocery store trips, and eat out far less. This way we can plan our meals out and make them count rather than have them be a last minute rush decision.
Do you have a budget for dining out each month? How do you stick to it?