I’ll confess, this post is written somewhat from a feeling of frustration. I’ve read a few posts lately—on some really great financial sites that I enjoy and admire—about how people can make a deep sacrifice and cut their eating out in order to find some wiggle room in their budget.
Since when did eating out become a necessity rather than a bonus? How is cutting eating out a sacrifice?
Now, for the record, I don’t consider running through a drive-through and getting two or three things from the dollar menu “eating out” as long as you’ve got the money in your budget somewhere. To me, eating out is when you’re spending unnecessary money for a meal that would be far less expensive to eat at home, or when you choose to go out when you could have eaten at home.
I’ll ask again. When did eating out become a necessity rather than a convenience or special treat?
We shouldn’t feel guilty for the great blessings we’ve been given, but when you’re working toward a goal like getting rid of debt it might help to keep a broader perspective. There are people in this world who truly struggle just to meet their basic needs, so let’s not call cutting a few first-world privileges a sacrifice.
Let’s look at five first-world luxuries that should no-brainers to cut from your budget when you’re working toward a greater financial goal.
5 No-Brainer Cuts for Your Budget
- Eating out—eat at home, carry lunch to work, and keep some protein bars or snacks handy for when you’re away from the house and get hungry.
- Movies and other entertainment—you can still have fun but in a frugal way like renting a movie from Redbox or an online streaming service like MGo or Vudu ($2-5 total rather than $8-12 per person).
- Cable or satellite subscriptions—cut the cord and find streaming alternatives or figure out something better to do with your time instead of sitting in front of the TV for several hours per week.
- Deal Shopping—don’t fall prey to buying something just because it’s on sale. Determine if you really need it, and then budget it for it.
- Name brands—whether clothing or food, think twice about the real value of a name brand over a store or generic alternative.
There are dozens of other luxuries we could talk about cutting, from cell phone contracts to high car payments. As you can see from the list above, even if we cut common purchases from our budget we’re still living a relatively luxurious life. Don’t make the mistake of labeling conveniences as needs.
Don’t misunderstand me. This isn’t some sort of complaint about the “evils of becoming rich.” I want you to be rich, just don’t try to live like it when you’re not!
I’m a pretty firm believer in the idea of splurging on a regular basis as a reward for good behavior—but even then you should make sure you’re covering that splurge in your budget.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with spending money to eat out or do fun things, but please let’s stop acting like cutting these things from our budget is a sacrifice.
I’m Jeff M. Miller, and I help ordinary people who are stuck in a rut change their behaviors so they can be extraordinary. I’m an entrepreneur who retired from my full-time job in my early 40s to work from home. I’m a financial counselor, life coach, graphic designer, and passionate believer in helping others improve their lives a little more each day.