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The One Money Rule I Follow When Going Out To Eat

Here at TFD, we don’t believe any type of spending should be wholly off-limits — especially if it’s something you wholeheartedly enjoy. And for many of us, that includes eating at restaurants. While many personal finance experts will tell you that restaurant spending is a no-no, and we agree that home-cooking is one of the cornerstones of a financially healthy life, we would never tell you that going out to eat just isn’t worth the money across-the-board. However, there are ways to make sure you’re always getting the most for your hard-earned dollars — like following this cardinal rule of going out to eat, courtesy of Tis But A Moment.

There are few things I get more excited about than good food and good wine — but I almost never go out to restaurants for them. Growing up, I was so, so spoiled when it comes to cuisine. To this day, my mom is the best cook I’ve ever met — and I don’t mean that in the typical “oh, the best food is always what your mom makes at home” sense. I mean she uses the freshest ingredients and would make these amazing, elaborate dinners.

And while I probably visit my parents more than most, I’ve had to figure this whole food thing out for myself. For a long time, that meant eating out or eating ho-hum prepackaged foods, for fear of the damage I could cause my taste buds or my kitchen. That said, the longer I’m on my own, the less I spend eating out and the more I spend on the tools and ingredients that let me eat in. In fact, I find myself at the point where I only treat myself to a professional’s cooking when there’s a special occasion, and when I do go out to eat, I always ask myself one question:

Can I make it better and cheaper at home?

If so, I’m not getting it. It’s that simple.

What I Won’t Get

I’m not going to go out for brunch on the weekends with the girls. I’ll never understand how a restaurant can say two eggs, a slice of toast, some bacon, and hash browns are worth $15+ when I can do the exact same thing at home for less than $5. I’m also not going to order the same salmon I’ve made at home a couple dozen times — even though it’s my favorite. The only things I’ll seek out are the dishes that evade me in my own kitchen now.

And this goes double for drinks. Why pay $5+ for a glass of orange juice that might be fresh, when I can buy a whole bag of oranges from my farmers market for the same amount? Or worse, $12 for a glass of Chardonnay when the bottle costs $8 at my local Ralphs. And my personal pet peeve: $5 for a Tazo-branded tea bag and hot water. The instant gratification of having them there doesn’t outweigh the annoyance I feel for the crazy increase in cost.

What I Will Get

Those are no-brainers. That said, there are some things that just aren’t as cost-effective to make in smaller batches. Do I need to have a ton of perishable ingredients on hand when I just need a pinch of each for that curry? One recipe can easily cost $15+ just in ingredients, so they better be things that I plan on using again before they go bad! This means the only things I’m treating myself to are the things that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to, well, treat myself to.

*****

It’s a quick check-in to keep my wallet and taste buds happy – while ensuring that I’m only paying for experiences that are worth it. To recap:

Fancy craft cocktails with ingredients I have yet to hear of? Sure, let’s get bougie.

Sushi, curries, or novel combinations of foods I’ve never considered? All fair game.

“Artisanal” grilled cheese in Venice, California? I think I’m okay…thanks, though.

I want to try the best new things, and I’m happy to pay for the experience! But I almost always walk away thinking, Okay, now how do I make this myself?

Tis is a 20-something recruiter, startup enthusiast, finance blogger, and proud feminist-slash-crazy cat lady. Find her on Twitter or check out the blog for lifehacks and musings on personal finance, professional growth, and enjoying the journey to early retirement.

Image via Unsplash

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