Why having a dining out budget is important

It’s no secret that my family likes to go out to eat. We know that we like to do it, so we make sure to include it in our budget. We try to employ various strategies (Groupons, sharing entrees, drinking water) to stretch our dining out budget and for the most part, it works. We’ve had to make some tweaks to the budget here and there but we’re content with where we stand.

However, my husband and I have had some discussions as to what’s going to happen if I no longer work full-time. Clearly, our dining out budget will have to be reduced but we refuse to eliminate it completely. This led to a discussion as to why it’s important for us to go out to eat. We have a few reasons:

  • I get a break from cooking. I cook. A lot. Of the 21 meals that are eaten in a week, I cook approximately 18 of them (some are leftovers and right now, my daughter does eat lunch at school. This will change when she starts kindergarten in the fall). My husband feels that I deserve a night off from cooking once a week and honestly, I agree with him.
  • It’s fun to eat foods I won’t or don’t cook. One of our family rules when we go out to eat is that we can’t eat something I can make at home (it’s a big reason why we do not go to Italian restaurants). Eating in restaurants allows us to try some new foods or indulge in some favorites that are cheaper to get in a restaurant.
  • It’s social. We don’t live in a big town and pretty often, when we go out, we’ll run into someone that we know. It’s fun to see people we wouldn’t ordinarily see. And, when you’re waiting for your table, it’s nice to catch up with some old friends.
  • It’s a good date night. We have a child. Who talks. A lot. It’s nice to be able to go have a meal in a restaurant that doesn’t give you crayons when you sit down and have a conversation that is not peppered with stories of Barbie mermaids and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.
  • Sometimes, it’s nice not to have to do the dishes. Since I cook a lot, that involves washing dishes. Which I hate to do. Although the rule in our house is that whoever cooks is exempt from washing dishes, it doesn’t always work out that way. There are some nights where I want to eat and then leave the dirty dishes to someone else. Selfish? Perhaps. But it’s true.
  • It’s faster and more convenient. Not so much at night, but there are days where we’ll spend hours running errands. It’s easier and faster for us to stop at Panera or a local burger place than to run all the way home, eat, and then go back out. Yes, it’s probably lazy but when I’m torn between preventing a meltdown from my 5 year old and spending $20, I’m preventing the meltdown.

I don’t see us eliminating our dining out budget altogether unless we’re faced with some pretty egregious financial circumstances. To find that extra money in the budget is completely worth it.

What are your reasons for going out to eat? 

5 Responses to Why having a dining out budget is important

  1. I specialize on inexpensive casual dining places in my local area. We generally go out twice a week on Friday and Saturday. Often it is with friends and catch a movie. I feel dining out is a reward for remaining debt free and maxing out retirement savings. Besides it is less than a couple hundred dollars per month.

  2. I love eating out, but it’s horrid for my budget. You’re right though; it’s important to me because of all of the reasons you’ve listed. I’m a lazy cooker and usually just eat pasta.

  3. It’s funny but my family really does not eat out. We may go out for a big celebration like after a major graduation but we like to eat in. It saves a lot. If we do go out, we like to go to a buffet. I find especially for the kids, they get to try all they want and we know before we go out, exactly what the cost is.

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