Are You Going Out For Lunch Today?

If so, you’re not alone. According to a Visa survey released yesterday, 60% of us eat out once a week or more. The highest percentage is in Ontario while the Western Provinces tends to eat out the least.

Eating out is convenient, it’s faster than making lunch and – well, we can get kind of lazy. But convenience comes at a price. On average our eating-out meal is just under $9 a pop. Not that big a deal if it’s once or twice, and a lot more for a family of four. At $9 it adds up quickly, and even quicker for the 61% of people whose average is up to $13 at a time.

Who cares? That depends on the state of your finances. It’s certainly ironic that this survey was done by a credit card company. When we pay by credit card, no matter what it is, we spend an average of 12 to 18% more than paying cash. McDonalds has an almost 50% increase in per person sales on credit cards, and vending machines who take them increase their sales 178%.

For anyone who is in debt, these little $10 lunches here there, and all the time, are some of the biggest killers to getting out of debt. There isn’t one magic bullet to changing your finances around, it’s all the $10 and $20 buck stuff like a leaky faucet. If you’re broke or on a budget you shouldn’t see the inside of a restaurant, unless you work there – period. Eating out is 75% ambiance and 25% food costs! There’s nothing wrong with that, but broke people can’t afford it.

If you want to turn your finances around, you need to do a budget. You’ll need to put in writing at the beginning of the month what money you’re spending on what category. Once the budget is set, the only way to spend extra money is to take it out of another category. It’ll give you total control of your money, and you’d be amazed at what you’ll discover about your spending. I’ll guarantee that anyone who does a budget for two months will find at least a couple hundred dollars in savings!

When it comes to eating out – go for it. But it has to be in the food budget. When the food budget is done – you’re done! With the food category, the most effective way is to take the cash budgeted for food for the next two weeks and put it into an envelope. That cash, and only that cash, is used for food. It’ll be very powerful to see that money shrink and shrink – but you’ll actually see it. Paying some of it on credit card, using a debit card for lunch here and there, or buying the odd thing with cash means you’ll have no idea of what it all adds up to. But an envelope with the cash for the next two weeks is powerful and visual – and it works, and you’d be amazed at the money you’ll save.

Living on a cash food budget takes discipline. Plus, your broke friends at work will make fun of you when you don’t go out for lunch with them all the time – that’s why THEY are broke and will continue to be. Anyone who is trying to get ahead, also on a budget, or debt free, will be your biggest cheerleader. But there are more broke people than debt-free people, so get ready for them to pick on you.

One last thing we talked about three weeks ago: If you want to save some money in the kitchen, stick to a budget, and/or reduce waste, there are two new web sites that are kind of cool. Both are set up for you to enter the ingredients you have in the house and will ‘translate’ them into figuring out what you can make for dinner with what you have! The two sites are www.saymmm.com and www.supercook.com

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