Dining out can be a tough habit to break. After a long day at work, it is much more enjoyable to just gather the kids and run off to a family restaurant. Let someone else do the work and just relax. The numbers do not lie though. Eat at a restaurant for dinner just a couple nights a week and you could be running through over $500 a month or $6000 a year.
With compound interest, that is a huge amount of money that is not winding up in your retirement account. Let’s make some changes.
Below are some great ways that you can stop dining out so much and still enjoy yourself.
Learn To Cook
One of the main reasons that people dine out is that they just do not know how to cook. This leaves them at the mercy of takeout joints, frozen food and the oh so expensive sit down restaurant.
Learning to cook is really not that hard and it is an indispensable skill if you want to save money. You may never become Gordon Ramsey, but you can make some great home recipes that will put fast food to shame.
To learn to cook, start out slow. Start with frozen vegetables, dinner rolls from a can and a simple meat like chicken thighs. Chicken thighs are very forgiving and all they need is a bit of salt, pepper and garlic powder to come out great.
From there, slowly expand your arsenal of meals with online recipes. Start with simple ones, master them and then add another. Before you know it, you will have dozens of meals that you can make at home. Meals that your family will be begging you to make.
Bring The Family In
Another reason that many turn to restaurants is for the entertainment factor. You get home from work and you want to be with your family you do not want to be in the kitchen.
Well, who is to say that the family can not help. Make family meal prep a thing. Get everyone involved and you have a great opportunity to converse and bond.
Turn off the television, turn on the radio and gather everyone together. have a glass of wine while you talk about your day and go about making your meal.
Once you are done, you can sit together at the home table and dine. Everyone has a good time and a sense of accomplishment since they all contributed.
As a side benefit, you will be setting your kids down the right path. Helping them learn to cook and understand the value of saving money and the value of spending time with the family.
Plan Out Your Meals
If you have to rack your brain to decide what to cook and if you do not have the ingredients at home, what are you going to do. You will go out to dinner.
Lack of preparation is another thing that will keep you from saving by eating at home and wasting hundreds of dollars.
To solve this problem, you need to plan out your meals. Plan out a whole weeks worth of meals and shop for the ingredients.
You do not have to stick to a rigorous plan like tacos on Tuesday or grilled chicken on Friday but you should have all of the ingredients for several meals ready to go. This gives you no ready made excuse to go out to eat.
Prioritize Your Savings
You need to make saving money a priority in your life. When you do, you will seize every opportunity to save because savings can become addictive.
As far as meal savings go, make a chart with year to date savings from not dining out. Add $50 to the total every time that you stay at home and cook instead of eating at a sit down restaurant.
Even better, transfer $50 to savings every time that you stay at home instead of going out. You get to see the balance increase when you make a decision. Real, recognizable results can be motivating.
Nobody is saying that you can never go out to dinner again. In fact, you should do so from time to time but you need to make it special occasion. If you are dining out for dinner half of the week, it ceases to be special and it becomes a major drag on your finances.
Save a little money today for a big reward in the future. Take that $500 a month you are wasting and invest it. In 20 years, at an average return of 8%, you would have almost $300,000. That makes it well worth the sacrifice, especially if you learn to enjoy yourself at home just as much, if not more.