Friday, May 6, 2016

Five Thousand Dollar Dinners

Have you ever sat down and added up the amount of money you spend on frivolous shit each month? More specifically, on food and drinks from anywhere other than the grocery store?

If you aren’t prepared to make a change in your dining habits, don’t. It will just make you feel bad about yourself.

But if you are prepared to make a change, to start spending more wisely and making better food and drink choices, the first thing to do is pull your checking account statements and add up every swipe from a Starbucks, 7-11, Walgreens, or bar/restaurant/night club. It will blow your mind.

And not in a good way.

I recently read a blog someone had posted on Pinterest that said, basically, that if you stopped going out to eat, stopped ordering lunch in, and stuck strictly to consuming foods purchased at the grocery store, you’d save enough money to buy a round trip plane ticket to anywhere in the United States…every month. Yes, every month. A round trip flight every single month.

No fucking way. There is no way.

But then my curiosity got the best of me. What if she was right?! What if I was really spending that much dining out every month – I mean, I do like to have Jimmy Johns and Thai Terrace delivered occasionally, and I do enjoy a good happy hour. I was convinced she might be right. So I very, very doubtfully pulled my checking account statement for February, March, and April of 2016.

Mind. Blown.

She was right!

I took into account every purchase from mini marts (Pepsi and white cheddar popcorn), Starbucks, and restaurant and bar. I accounted for every food or drink item I paid for with my debit card for 90 days. I did not count the food or drinks I bought while on vacation in Phoenix – part of being on vacation is always bars and meals out, so I don’t think that should be accounted for. And then I averaged the totals and was floored to discover that I have been averaging $450 a month in lunches, dinners, snacks, and happy hours. FOUR HUNDRED FIFTY DOLLARS A MONTH!! That’s more than a thousand dollars a month, people! That’s $5400 a YEAR! On food and beer!

For comparison sake, you should know that I eat lunch out maybe twice a week – usually Jimmy John’s, because I get busy and they deliver a lettuce wrap to me the moment I realize I’m hangry. And I would say I eat out maaaaaybe once a week; usually sushi on a Saturday with my roommate, or Thai food. I am not, by any means, eating three square meals a day at a restaurant. It’s not even close to a daily habit.

But it costing me five thousand dollars every year.

I committed to a 30 day challenge starting today. I’m not going to dine out for the next month, nor will I grab Starbucks or a soda on my way to a movie, while I’m out shopping, or in the middle of a bad day at work. I am committing to eating and drinking only what I purchase at the grocery store or farmer’s market from today until my weekend road trip on June 10th. My goal is to put that $450 that would have been spent on food, into my travel jar. Because let’s be real, all I ever want to do is take vacations. And I’d rather make my own lettuce wrap and jet off in a plane once a month than eat Jimmy John’s at my desk.

To keep myself focused and in line, I started thinking of all the things I could do with an extra $5,400 a year, and seriously the list blew my mind. I could go to Europe. I could go on a local trip every month all year long. I could live in a nice apartment without a roommate. I could finish my sleeve, tattoo my other arm and both legs. I could start a very expensive drug habit.

Okay so the last one isn’t something I’d actually do, but you see where I am coming from. The fact that I ever complain about money while I am simultaneously spending five grand on sushi and beer, is insane.

I really encourage you all to do the same. Tally your frivolous food tab, and commit to cutting it down. Even cut it in half, just to see if you can do it. The reality is, not only will I be saving a ton of money, but I’m sure to see positive changes in my weight and body size, as well as my overall health and well-being. Eating at restaurants is generally not good for you. You eat way bigger portions of non-organic, unhealthy food. You make choices you wouldn’t make at the grocery store, like appetizers and desserts. You are more likely to have a few beers instead of a glass of wine at home. In general, eating out as often as we do, is not good on our bodies or our pocketbooks. So I am looking forward to this next month, to see how much money I have to waste on other things.

Like shopping sprees with my roommate, to buy clothes that fit better after I lose weight from not eating at Panda Express.