This month, the food categories in my budget have never looked so… different. For starters, grocery budget skyrocketed, most likely as a result of some bad menu planning and having guests around for dinner at least a few times. But my restaurant budget is just mind-boggling.
This month, I’ve only spent $39.60 on dining out, which is unusual for me. I’ve spent an average of $180 every month at restaurants in the last few months. We’re already 27 days into the month, and I’m just shy of $40. What in the world happened? And why am I so depressed about $16.68 of it? Let’s see what happens.
No More Takeout Coffee
I declared a year-long shopping ban on my own blog a few weeks ago. As part of it, I wanted to push myself to go a whole year without purchasing takeout coffee. This probably surprised me the most of all because coffee has always been my vice. I’ve frequently stated that I despise “the latte factor,” and that I’d rather have $5 lattes a few times a week than a monthly clothing budget. People can change, apparently, since I’d rather have neither if it meant I could save more money for larger and better things.
Of the $180 I used to spend at restaurants each month, anywhere from $60-80 of that was at Starbucks. Without takeout coffee, you’d think I would still spend $100-120 on dining out – especially in the summer, with patio season and all – but that hasn’t been the case. Here’s my best explanation as to why.
Read also: How To Keep Your Groceries Under Budget
More Free/Low-Cost Hangouts
Something about the shopping prohibition has changed my perspective on connecting with pals. Instead of meeting for coffee, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I’m now inviting more folks to go for walks, hikes, or even an ice cream cone.
Or how about a stroll across the park or a cup of handmade iced coffee on my deck? We could even do both, because I live near a lot of parks and beaches. Just last weekend, a girlfriend and I went on a walk around Port Moody, bought some treats from a bakery, and then returned home to watch a movie; it was the ideal way to spend a wet day.
The most exciting thing about my new free/cheap hangout suggestions has been the reaction from friends. When I admit, “I’m trying to save more money,” most people reply with, “awesome, I need to do that too”. There’s no objection, and that shouldn’t be a surprise – we could all save a few more bucks and the good news is we can do that together, especially if we’re just honest about our situations and say so.
Restaurant Food Doesn’t Always Taste Good
Now, having said all of that, I did go out for breakfast yesterday. Brunch is my favourite meal to eat out, and yesterday was the first time I’d done so in a month, so I was excited. When we were seated, I immediately looked over the menu, knowing what I wanted (Eggs Benny practically everywhere), and placed my order.
What came out 20-30 minutes later was… well, just average. The eggs were too soft, the brioche was crumbling apart, and there was no flavour other than the extremely salty bacon. I ate everything that was on my plate, but knew I’d probably never go back.
That event cost me $16.68 — and that was just for the meal, no coffee! Normally, I wouldn’t give it a second thought.
I probably spent $50 or more on three breakfasts last month without blinking. But, given that I’d only spent $22.92 at restaurants prior to that dinner, I was dissatisfied with my decision to go out at all. It was fantastic to see my friend, but we might have had just as much fun doing something free or cheaper.
I don’t know what my restaurant budget will look like in the coming months. I set it at $75 this month and thought I’d have a difficult time sticking to that, but I may be able to lower it even further. This just feels so strange/foreign to me, because I’ve always loved dining out with friends! But maybe my interests are changing!? We’ll see if this continues…
I’m just curious: How often do you dine out?