The Real Cost of Eating Out

With the COVID restrictions finally loosening, I’ve had the urge to go out and do something after being stuck at home for so long. One of my favorite things to do before all of the restrictions took place, was go out to eat, and with dine-in restaurants opening up, it seemed like a great opportunity, but I realize that for the longest time, I haven’t been calculating the real cost of eating out.

I went to the Cheesecake Factory for lunch with my little brother. I got my favorite Miso Salmon and my brother got Chicken Pasta, and we both had a slice of Celebration Cheesecake for dessert. It was wonderful and delicious… and then the bill came. We had spent over $60.00 just on lunch for the two of us, and we didn’t even order drinks, we just had water.

I was stunned, I never really thought that much about it before, but the cost of eating out was really much higher than I realized. Before all of the COVID restrictions, I rarely cooked. I was always more interested in going out to eat. BUT, because of the restrictions, I HAD to cook, I bought groceries, planned meals, and cooked for lunch and dinner. That Cheesecake Factory bill shocked me, because the first thing I thought was… for $60, I could have cooked THREE really nice dinners for the both of us. True, it wouldn’t have been Miso Salmon, but it would have been Beef Bulgogi, Grilled Pork, or even Chicken Teriyaki. For $60, I could have made lunch for the both of us for a week.

It really made me reconsider how I was living my life. My brother and I used to eat out for both lunch and dinner 90% of the time. True, it wasn’t always the Cheesecake Factory, but we were easily spending $40-$60 a day. That’s $1,200-$1,800 a month on food! Then I thought about my grocery bills for the past couple months… I was averaging about $750 a month… it was a shock.

Yes, eating out is convenient, you don’t have to prepare, cook, or clean up after, BUT how much more could I do with my money if I put it towards getting rid of credit card debts, mortgages, and student loans? If I could take that money and invest it in things like stocks or real estate that would make my money work for me? It doesn’t mean I can’t eat out; it just means saving it for special occasions and to celebrate successes in my life. It’s time to build a new habit of cooking, and put my money to work at building a better financial future for myself. One where I can retire early and enjoy life. Don’t you want to be able to do that too?

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