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Why We're Broke Series: Restaurants vs. Eating at Home

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Over the next few weeks I will be presenting a "Why We're Broke" series, which will feature standard spending practices that significantly drain your money supply and frugal solutions that will add cash to your wallet.

The first installment of this series: "Restaurants vs. Eating at Home".

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Restaurant eating is likely one of your biggest expenses. Shocked?

Arguably, most people don't track their day-to-day spending. Sure, they have a general idea of what they pay for their mortgage or rent, their cars, their utilities (maybe), and electronics. Some have a general idea of what they pay in gas (though the figure is likely higher); the same goes for clothing, medical expenses, gifts for themselves and others, and the like.

Few, however, know the exact figures they shell out for food. This amount is considerable and includes: 1) grocery items, 2) work or peer lunches, 3) coffee expenditures, 4) sweets, including ice cream stops, bakery stops, check out candy, general candy, soda, donuts, etc., and 5) restaurants.

For this article, we will focus on restaurant eating.

I could write continuously for seven weeks straight about how the practice of restaurant eating can cause significant damage to your wallet. Once you truly understand how much it costs to eat outside the home, you may reserve this practice for - well, what it was originally intended for - a very rare treat.

Let's compare figures; prepare to be amazed.

ZING! by Quicken Loans illustrates a side-by-side comparison of the costs of eating out vs. the costs of eating in. A family that eats at a restaurant (this includes fast food) three times per week, spending $20 for lunch and $60 for dinner, shells out a total of $240 for the week and a whopping $960 for the month. That's more than my mortgage payment, with PITI, for only 3 lunches and 3 dinners per week.

This does not factor in a stealth money-draining additive: tipping. If you add a 15% tip to the $720 spent just for dinner, you add an additional $108 to your monthly expenditure for a grand total of $1068. Each and every month! It's hard to believe.

Now, let's examine the same number of meals eaten at home. We can remove the tip right away, and save $108 a month. I did some research: bread can be purchased on sale for $1.50 and cheese for $4.99 per pound. A standard loaf of bread has approximately 24 slices in it; a pound of cheese has approximately 16 slices. For a total of $6.49 you can make 8 grilled cheese sandwiches at 81 cents each, and still have 8 slices of bread left over for french toast the next day.

Now for dinner: the other night I made a delicious dinner of spaghetti and meatballs; I used one pound of whole wheat angel hair pasta, one pound of rotini (the corkscrew pasta) for the boys, gravy I made myself (sauce to non-Italians), and pre-cooked meatballs.

The total cost for all of these items equaled $8.74 ($1.25 each for the pastas, $1.75 for a can of crushed tomato, $4.49 for the meatballs (on sale buy-one-get-one free). For a family of four, each meal came to $2.18. I gave myself the tip.

Using this example as a guide, my monthly lunch and dinner expenditure for 3 lunches and 3 dinners each week for entire month comes to...drumroll...$182.76.

We won't discuss the health benefits of eating at home. We won't discuss the convenience of eating at home (beside doing dishes). And we won't discuss the significant family benefits of eating together at the dinner table.

We will only marvel at the unbelievable savings you reap by eating at home, to the tune of $885.24 each month.

What could you do with $885.24 extra each month?

---

Sharon L. Cece © 2014. All rights reserved.

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