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I Am An Eat-Out-Aholic

by Contributor

I’m an eat-out-aholic. And you know what? I’m not ashamed to say it. The facts that I’m about to disclose may appall you, but I assure you it’s all under control. Between my girlfriend and I, we spend around $1500 on food every month. I was baffled that we spent so much eating out, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how. Eating out is expensive, and when you do it multiple times a week, it adds up quickly.

It may surprise you to find that I am a personal finance blogger and that I manage to spend this much money on food, but $1500 is just the result. Every dollar I spend is conscious. Take a look at the big picture. Only then should you cast your stones of judgement.

What’s the Big Picture

Do you eat out too much?

Do you eat out too much?

Despite my outlandish spending on food, my financial life is in good order. My finances are automated. I take full advantage of my employer’s 401(k) matching. I max out my Roth IRA every year. And overall I have a 27% savings rate on my pre-tax income.

Where do you want to be? How are you going to get there? Answering these questions are key. Once you have the big picture everything else will fall into place. Rather than worrying about individual spending categories, you should focus on the overall well-being of your finances. Create financial goals and create steps to achieve them. By focusing on the big picture, you can rest assured that you will reach your goals. Now that your goals are on track, you know that you have the luxury of spending money on things you love.

Spend on Things You Love

It just so happens that my girlfriend and I love food.

What is your passion? What do you love? You can make the conscious decision to spend a larger portion of your budget on your guilty pleasure. The point is that your spending is conscious. Every dollar that you spend has an opportunity cost. Your money is a finite resource. The goal is to use your finite resource in a way that will maximize your happiness. Spend on the things that you love.

Here in the world of personal finance, we focus so much on saving money that we forget what we’re saving it for. Don’t go through your whole life only to realize you’re filthy rich in money, but poor in experiences.

So There’s No Room for Improvement?

I know that my spending habits aren’t perfect. There’s always room for improvement. It’s only through recognizing our shortcomings that we learn to be better. I’m an eat-out-aholic. What about you? Do you spend freely on your passions?

This was a guest post by Ace, a twenty-something, who writes at Ace of Wealth. Ace is dedicated to helping people make smarter financial decisions. He writes on a wide range of topics from budgeting to behavioral economics. If you liked this article and would like to read more, consider subscribing to his RSS feed.

Photo credit: KayOne73


Published or updated December 11, 2012.
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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kate

You make a great point. My mother, who handles money in a completely different way than I do, always acts shocked when I plunk down $400 to have a family heirloom chair recovered, or some other completely frivolous thing. However, it is because I keep my finances under control that I can afford such extravagances. I clip coupons, don’t get manicures and shop thrift shops so that I can spend money on the things that are important to me.

I’m glad you enjoy your eating out. (Even though that is a LOT of money :)

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2 Ace

Thanks for the comments. :-)

@Kate – What’s important is spending that $400 on the family heirloom chair is important to you. As long as it’s important to you, then it isn’t frivolous anymore. I think it’s great that you save in other areas to spend on things you love!

@Craig – It’s true, and I think sometimes people forget that’s why we save!

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3 Craig

I agree, no problem with spending money on things that you love. That’s the whole point of making money. If you like something and are responsible in other areas, enjoy it.

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4 Kirk Kinder

Ace,

Good for you. You are saving and enjoying life. That is what money is suppose to do for you. It is people who frivolously spend and are in debt that need to get organized. My only word of advice is be careful as eating out usually results in higher calorie meals. You can get away with it in your twenties, but it catches you in your 30s. :)

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5 Khaleef @ KNS Financial

I see no problem with your spending. The whole point of taking control of your finances is to have the freedom to spend on what you deem to be a priority! You already have other areas in order so…enjoy yourself!

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6 Ace

@Kirk Kinder – Good point on the calories :-). Like with most good things moderation is key. I try to exercise at least 3-4 times a week to make up for all those calories. I hope it doesn’t catch up with me too soon!

@Khaleef @ KNS Financial – Thanks for your encouraging words! My gf and I both know that we can improve our spending habits, but we work hard in other areas of our finances so that we can enjoy our money how we want to.

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7 Hank

I always felt guilty about spending so much money on eating out. There seems to be a negative connotation if you spend money and love eating out. It is more acceptable to spend a lot of money on some other hobby, vacationing, etc.

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8 Neil

Hi

Good luck to you. We all should have something in life that we really love to do. My weakness is holidays and travel. I’m happy to spend money on this because (cliche alert!) the memories really do last a lifetime :)

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9 Kristine

Spend the money on what you love. Plan for the future, and enjoy today.

I love eating out, and used to spend that much monthly too! :) Since having a kid and quitting my job to care for him, our priorities have changed. But it’s all good. I now enjoy a different kind of joy being at home watching our babe grow up.

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10 Ace @ aceofwealth.com

@Hank – You’re right about the negative connotation. I went through the same process as well. I used to think that it was wasteful for me to spend money eating out, but I realized that it makes both my gf and me happy. And in the end that’s what really matters. There are many people that don’t value eating out and are just fine cooking every night. That’s great! I hope that they find other ways to spend their money in ways that makes them happy.

@Neil – You make a great point about traveling. There isn’t much that can beat great memories. I’m not much of a traveler, but I am actively saving money so that I have more freedom to go on vacations to places I’ve never been before.

@Kristine – “Spend the money on what you love. Plan for the future, and enjoy today.” That’s a great quote! For a while I had a really hard time admitting that it was okay. I felt like I was being reckless, and it was really stressing me out. I’m glad that I rethought my priorities and decided to enjoy my money, rather than letting it become an unnecessary point of stress in my life.

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11 Meg

I spend about $900 a month eating out myself, so I completely understand. But I shop at Whole Foods and eat mostly organic/natural foods, which is important to me. Also, I spend almost nothing on entertainment such as concerts, movies, etc – I’d rather have a nice long dinner or drinks on a patio with friends. So spending on “eating out” can be a substitute for other budget categories.

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12 Ace

@Meg – Great point! I’m similar to you in that I hardly spend money going to movies, almost never go to concerts. I’m glad that you’re also spending freely on your passions.

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13 basicmoneytips

I can appreciate the honesty in this writer’s post. I am a fan of being frugal and saving, but also realize we all have things we enjoy too, and those most likely cost money. My wife likes shoes and I like coffee. She buys a pair a month on average, so it is around $60. I spend about $50 per month on coffee at coffee shops. I know I can brew my own and never buy coffee but I love the taste so it is an expense I am willing to justify.

However, I believe you can also be frugal within your “vices”. For example, I only buy regular coffee, not lattes, expresso or any of that. My cost is $1.50 per cup, not $4. In the case of the writer, I would recommend trimming that food bill by ordering water with meals rather than other beverages, or hitting happy hours. Every little bit helps.

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14 Ace

@basicmoneytips – You make a great point of keeping our vices under control. Unfortunately, my girlfriend and I always drink water at restaurants, and we hardly ever order drinks (unless it’s a special occasion). I think our biggest problem is the frequency =/ It goes back to what @Kirk Kinder said about this catching up to us when we’re in our thirties! Thanks for your comment!

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15 The Best Money Blog

I thought our average of $1,500 a month for my wife and I was high! I am clearly no match for you sir.

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16 The Best Money Blog

I meant $750…lol. Your number was so outrageous I couldn’t get it out of my head.

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17 Ace

@The Best Money Blog – I would say my girlfriend and I are a formidable match for many people. ;-) It’s all about striking the balance between enjoying our money and growing our wealth. I’ll admit right now we could definitely do better, and hopefully we’ll improve over the next few months. :-)

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18 The Best Money Blog

Same here. We’ve recently started using $100 or less in cash per week for all of our food. So far we have cut back quite a bit. I wrote an article on it if you’re interested.

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19 Rachelle

We eat out a lot too! My work gets me out on the road a lot. My hubby is learning to be a better cook but lots of the time I just pick something up at a fast food joint on the way home.

The real problems is that this food is fattening and not very good it just fills a gap.

Recently we started going out to a sit down restaurant for a nice meal. It costs a lot more but… it is an activity and entertainment. We do this about once a month.

I’d rather cut down a lot more on the fast food and ramp up the family diner.

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20 Ryan

When I’m out and about and a quick meal is the only option, I prefer to try and eat more healthy foods. So I typically go to places like Panera, Quiznos, or another sandwich shop. They offer fresh foods, salads, soups and other foods that aren’t quite as bad for you as traditional fast food restaurants. :)

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