The Fast Food Lifestyle: How Eating Out Sunk My Budget
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Like many people, I can’t always get a meal on the table if it means a lot of cooking. Between work, afternoon activities and projects, my family sometimes can’t make it home before dinner. This meant we benefited from the convenience of fast food all the time. However, the value hamburgers and the seemingly cheap dinners of the fast food lifestyle can add up over time. Let’s go over how eating out sank my budget.
After reviewing my expenses for last year, I learned that we’d spent thousands on eating out. For the same amount, I might have jetted to Rome for a week of sightseeing or paid off a car loan. Instead of visualizing these outcomes, I drove my car to my favorite fast food places.
To start off the day, it’s natural to want a cup of coffee and a breakfast burrito. Upgrading my coffee to a premium espresso and throwing in an order of hash browns can inflate the bill to close to ten dollars, though. That’s $50 a week or $200 a month for breakfast alone.
By waking up a few minutes earlier, I can brew my own coffee and add the right amount of chocolate syrup and whipped cream. I can also make an egg and ham breakfast sandwich for a few dollars a day, depending on the brands at the grocery store. The savings could let me upgrade to a fancier coffee maker and beans in no time.
The Lunch Rush
I only had half an hour for my lunch break at my last job, so it seemed natural to speed to the nearest fast food restaurants. My husband liked his chicken sandwiches and a large soda, too. Unfortunately, with both of us spending almost $100 a week on these lunches, we weren’t able to reduce our credit card bills like we wanted.
Instead of buying fast food every day of the work week, I now designate Fridays for my taco or roast beef sandwich fix. This lets me have lunch away from the workplace on a regular basis. For my other lunches, I can pack my favorite sandwiches, soda and chips for less than a daily value meal.
With picky eaters and full schedules, letting someone else cook dinner proved alluring for my family. Rather than letting everyone order the biggest meals on the menu each time, I now steer my kids to cheaper options. On road trips and game nights, I can fill a cooler with drinks as well as sandwiches and fruit from home. Salads are another meal I can prepare ahead of time. One neighbor grills extra chicken breasts on the weekend for his salads.
Although a stop at my favorite fast food restaurant made me feel like burger royalty each time, my budget suffered. Setting weekly or monthly spending goals for fast food spending can keep my costs in check. Instead of splurging on fast food each day this year, I’m planning a fun vacation with my family. I won’t let my budget sink under a pile of cheeseburgers and chicken wings again.
Jennifer Willard is a new blogger in the financial community. She writes for her own personal finance blog about her journey out of debt, and her new life as a mother and spender.
Photo by Joey