HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Have you added up your past few months' restaurant receipts lately?

Boy, it sure adds up if you're not careful, doesn't it?

How do you budget your restaurant spending? I think I'm going to limit myself to so many times a month.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. John, I went through an exercise where I wrote down every expense in Oct and Nov. It was enlightening, to say the least. I had no idea I spent so much on food and wine. I am going to begin the next part of the exercise in Jan and cut back severely.

    My dogs are really going to miss their toys and treats! (kidding!)

    1 Reply
    1. re: NE_Elaine

      When I sat down and actually added up a pile of receipts I was surprised at how big the total was. I think eating out got to be a habit (on the other hand my grocery bill did go down; this somewhat offsets the restaurant bills). I'm going to be more cautious now about eating out on impulse.

    2. Exactly why we pay cash for all dining out. No receipt pile to frighten us... ;-D>

      2 Replies
      1. re: Servorg

        Is that why I usually pay cash?

        I just know that I don't want to know as I enjoy it too much.

        1. re: gaffk

          I don't want to know either. I am very careful about what I spend on everything else and my grocery bill is between 40-95 dollars a week. My SO pays for most of the eating out and tells me how much we spend each year but I think he spends 40-50 a week just on his lunches (which he refuses to pack). We can afford it and when we couldn't we ate in more often. I plan to stay in the dark on this one!

      2. We regularly track our spending and still can't seem to spend less eating out! Okay maybe a little less but its just cutting back on the frequency of special occasion dinners but we still hit up mid-range restaurants a few times a week. And in the SF Bay mid-range is probably high end in other areas.

        1. Oh, it would be a lot. I basically budget for going out for a nice dinner twice a month, although that drops to one if we have a big bar night. Then I build money for lunches explicitly into the budget, plus takeout up to twice a week. I know precisely how much I spend on this stuff, it's just a matter of whether I'm spending it on food or booze. I try to weight it toward the former. Drinks are really expensive where I live ($6 bottles of Amstel Light) and you have to ask yourself why you wouldn't have preferred a great dinner over five hours at the bar. I make late dinner reservations, like 8pm, so I can get happy hour specials in the lounge, have dinner, and then go home instead of paying top dollar for drinks out for hours after dinner.

          I also do not order bottles of wine at restaurants when I'm with less than four people, either. My husband prefers beer anyway, so it's quite a bit cheaper if I get two glasses or two cocktails and he gets two beers. And I try out new restaurants for lunch first, almost always.

          I live and work in downtown D.C. There aren't really mid-range restaurants. Or rather, there are, but they are $30/entree. I feel good if I get out of there for $150 or less with two people.

          1. Have I? No. Do I plan to start? No. As long as the cash flow is positive around here and we're filling the retirement account on schedule I'm not sweating the day-to-day details.

            2 Replies
            1. re: BobB

              I'm with BobB - and we *are* now both retired.

              Eating out is a hobby, if you will. We try to visit somewhere new each week. Sometimes, it's a casual bistro. Other times, it's a Michelin starred place. Of course the costs add up. Do I care? No - we only have shot at this life.

              1. re: Harters

                ...and eating is the one and only way that you actually can "take it with you" ;-D>

            2. No, and I do not want to do so, until it's been awhile. Mostly because we have been traveling, since August, and have dined out every night, when abroad. As almost each meal was very good, to great, I am not ready to face the total - at least not yet. I'll face that music later.


              1. This post is timely for me, as just yesterday I noticed my account had more money in it than I'd anticipated.
                I am TERRIBLE at managing my finances. I really hate to be bothered, to my own detriment at times.
                I pay my bills on time and all that jazz (thank the lord for bill pay) but my day to day spending is at my own whim and sometimes I am left scratching my head at the status of my checking account. Ouch.
                What has changed this considerably was my move this past summer to a house in the country. My expenses and rent went up, and when I think of being solely accountable for every single utility and household expense I can almost hyperventilate. The hours I spent worrying in the middle of the night when I first moved in! I can smile about that time now, but I was seriously freaked out.
                I told myself, you moved here to enjoy your house. This means your kitchen, your patio, your dining room etc. No more eating out willy-nilly. Cook at home, have people over, spend your down time enjoying what youre already paying for and make restaurant meals a special occasion, once a month sort of thing.
                That is just about the only thing I've cut back on, and for two months now I've been like, 'Whoa, what's all that money doing still in the checking account???". Seriously, I even checked yesterday to make sure my landlords been depositing my checks.
                Do I miss eating out? Of course, but I now see what an awful lot of money I was throwing at the pleasure.
                It probably helps that the restaurants up here are not nearly as good as those I left in the city. Trips to SF definitely involve meals out or take out brought home.

                1. We began tracking our expenses by category soon after my husband and I both retired. I don't mind spending money on restaurant meals that represent good value for money or a special experience, whether it's hole in the wall Mexican or white-tablecloth dining. What I do object to is mindlessly forking over some of our fixed income on mediocre food that I could have made better and for one-tenth the price at home. We (or rather, "I") have become a lot more selective about when and where we eat out so we rarely exceed a month's budget.

                  On the topic of overspending, here's a story my hair stylist told me. Several of her other customers work at a Starbucks a few doors down from her salon. According to them, their regulars (most of whom are not particularly well paid retail workers) drop in two and three times a day and usually order something fancy on each visit. My stylist and I did the math and estimated that over the course of a year three visits a day multiplied by 50 weeks is roughly a typical monthly mortgage payment. That's a lot of bucks for burnt tasting coffee and a boatload of empty calories.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: mandycat

                    That's kind of the realization I had. I was so used to eating out that I was routinely dropping considerable money all month long. When I stopped, I saw what added up to my rent still in the bank.
                    I don't do the Starbucks thing, and like to make coffee at home, but I was paying for mediocre food more and more often.
                    My friends and I kept lamenting the waste. "All that money for such ____(salty, greasy, un-inspired)food. We should just cook at home!"
                    Now I do.

                    1. re: rabaja

                      "...but I was paying for mediocre food more and more often."

                      Exactly why I frequent this site as much as I do..."Chowhound; The antidote to paying for (and consuming) mediocre food."

                    2. re: mandycat

                      And that's in AFTER tax dollars! My brother is the worst about that.

                    3. How do I budget my restaurant spending? I never initiate it. We eat out when my partner suggests it, otherwise I am happy to cook. Dinner at a restaurant can amount to many nights of home cooked dinners, and I think I am much more aware of it because I do all the cooking and buy the groceries.

                      Well, that's how it is at this point. There are so many things we'd like to do around the house and I'm trying to balance eating well (and healthily) with all the other things on our wish-list.

                      1. less than 10 dollars.

                        1. eating out is probably the only regular expense i have - but that's also the mainstay of my social life. when my friends and i get together, it's generally to go out to bars and restaurants.

                          to balance it, i try to keep my work lunches to $2 or less a day (it helps that i have trader joe's close to my office). i also try to limit eating out or having drinks to fridays and saturdays and do dinners at home the rest of the week.

                          i do save my receipts so i can remember how much i tipped, but with online banking, i almost never make an actual budget.

                          i don't know, maybe this is a generational thing?