Budgeting for Dining Out
It's the Blono Foodie writing to you, and I am a guide for going out to eat and exploring the city of Bloomington-Normal. I am your answer to "Where should I go?"!
However, on today's blog I wanted to touch on a bit of a different topic than I typically write about. Dining out to eat tends to come with a pretty hefty bill at times, and I want to make sure that any reader of Blono's Foodie is well equipped with the budgeting skills needed to support a lifestyle that includes going out to eat!
As I have left my home and entered the college world, I quickly had to learn how to manage my money and how to make sure I allocated enough money for necessities while also enjoying a bit of spending money. To be honest, this has been pretty hard for me. I still struggle to this day managing my money in the right ways and when to say no to going out. Between shopping with friends, getting coffee with a teammate, grabbing Chipotle after practice, and going out with friends on a Friday night, there's a lot of money down the drain! I wanted to share some of the tips that have helped me budget to support my dining out habits as well as some advice from some other sources.
Starting off with some of my own personal experience, I wanted to share the advice that I have been given and that habits I try to maintain. Rent is one of the biggest expenses I have to pay every month, so I make sure it is a priority. Every month I set aside $X to ensure that I have enough money for rent, then with the remaining money, I try to budget how much I spend on groceries, if I need to get gas soon, and what my plans are for the month. When going grocery shopping I limit the extra snacks like sodas, chips, ice cream, that I truly do not not need, and I look to buy more of the staple items that help me make meals and that will last me a long time. Also, I try not to buy too much produce, I have noticed in times past I, when I buy too much, I always end up letting too much go bad before I eat it. If I had to guess, I think I spend about $50 per week on groceries, give or take a couple of dollars. Lately, gas has come at a pretty steep price, so this is also something I like to budget for because you never know when you will need a full tank of gas! In regard to my planning for the month, I like to be aware if there are any birthday dinners or extravagant plans I have going on, that I know I will be spending a decent amount of money at. Knowing these days in advance help me say no to going out earlier in the month. Another habit that I try to get myself into is to only spend on the weekends. By trying to stay in and cook all week, I end up saving a ton of money, and then I do not not feel as guilty going out to eat on the weekend... It's almost like a little treat! Lastly, by setting myself up to only spend $X every month, it has really helped me to set a boundary of when to say yes and when to say no, it has also allowed me to view saving money as such an important tool because in a month like March, when I am writing this post, two of my best friends and my boyfriend have a their birthdays within three weeks of each other, if I didn't save money in previous months, I would not be able to afford buying presents and going out to eat with all of these special people in my life. Budgeting, to me, is crucial, and it is definitely important in the lifestyle I like to maintain. I hope that you all are able to gain some advice when hearing about my own personal experience, but I would also like to share some advice from experts as well.
I did some research, and I came upon an article by Courtney Neidel of Nerd Wallet titled, "How to Eat Out on a Budget." I found some really insightful stuff, and I wanted to share the key points I took away from her article. Neidel made a really great point in her bullet "Make wise menu choices." In this bullet point, Neidel emphasized the importance of recognizing where you choose to dine. For example, if you choose to go to a sit-down restaurant, where you get served, you have to be aware that tipping your server is going to be an added cost to your meal. In addition, it is important to try to estimate what your total bill may be when you start ordering your meal. Maybe a water is a better financial choice opposed to a three dollar soda that has no refills, alcohol also tends to quickly rack up the bill as well. I also really liked Neidel's point of joining the email chains of restaurants and coffee shops. She writes that this is the place that many promotions and coupons are shared, so if you are subscribed to an email list of your favorite restaurant, you might score a cheaper meal because of that! Lastly, Neidel closes her article with the statement that you need to leave room in your budget. At the end of the day, I think that this is one of the most important points to get across because if you recognize that you are a person that tends to splurge on dining out, you have to be willing to sacrifice other areas of your budget, or you just may have to say no to going out as many times. It is very important to incorporate both your wants and needs into your spending plans.