Eating out is a common budget-buster. A meal at a restaurant can cost easily several times what a meal prepared at home would cost. And don't get me started on the 1,000%-plus markup on sodas!
If dining out is killing your budget, then a simple way to begin bringing the problem under control is to eat out less.
This implies, of course, that you were eating out too much to begin with. What I'm going to suggest to you now is that there are other nice side effects to eating out less besides the fact that you'll spend less on food, and it will likely be healthier for you if you cook yourself.
When I was in grade school, we were dismissed early on the last day of school. I remember many of those last days of school we would go to McDonald's for lunch, and I'd get a Filet-O-Fish Happy Meal.
My parents were very frugal (and still are). We didn't go out to restaurants often at all. We went to McDonald's a few times a year.
Not a few times a week. A few times a year.
I'm certain that the reason I remember what I got for lunch those times was because we did it so infrequently. Going to McDonald's was a special occasion.
Fast forward to now. We used to spend a lot of money dining out. I'd be picking up something a few times a week, my wife would stop for something while she was in town with our daughter, and we'd have two, sometimes three or more meals out on the weekends.
It was something we just did. If I were to go through our credit card statement to look at all of the charges for restaurants and fast-food places, they'd all blur together. If it was a really expensive restaurant, I'd be able to say, “Oh yeah, that was our anniversary,” but most of the other stuff? It would take a while to remember even who I was with that time.
Last month, though, we drastically cut down on our eating out. When I went through the charges, a funny thing happened. I knew immediately what the occasion of the meal was for of the charges! We did a few inexpensive things for Valentine's Day. I grabbed some Chick-Fil-A following an unexpected meeting in town. And so on for a few more of the charges. I remembered the context of all of those meals with no problem.
All of those meals out were memorable. Just like my McDonald's outings with my mom when I was a lot younger.
If dining out is a special occasion, it will be remembered as such. But you can't have special occasions every day. If you eat out less, that will help a lot.