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Does the amount you spend eating out surprise you?

I’ve been using Quicken to monitor our finances. Since it can download credit card charges and bank info directly and categorize my spending, its been helpful to see what I’ve been spending money on. So I finally got around to doing the year end report for 2011 and when I saw the dining total I paused for a moment. If you had asked my how much I spend eating out during the year before I looked at the report, I would have given you a number ½ of what showed up. I won’t post what the total was as it’s my secret, but does the amount you spend eating out over a year surprise you?

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  1. No, it doesnt surprise me.

    I usually have an idea how much a meal at a particular restaurant is likely to cost and, of course, know how much I've actually spent at the end of the evening.

    I cannot afford not to know how much things cost before I commit to spending buying them. I'm envious of folk whose financial status means they don't need to be as cautious.

    1. It does not come as a surprise to me, though I might guess a bit high, or low, relative to my Quicken reports.

      I know that I could buy some gold, some serious gold, if I never ate out, but then how much FUN would that gold be?


      4 Replies
      1. re: Bill Hunt

        Exactly. Gold sits there and does nothing. Dining out with friends/family/associates feeds the soul with great conversation and memories.

        1. re: gaffk

          I can think of dinner dates who sat there and did nothing. I would have preferred the gold.

          1. re: Veggo

            Well, in those cases, I might well agree with you.

            Fortunately, my dining companions usually have more to offer, at least to me.


            1. re: Veggo

              Funny stuff Veggo but I doubt fiction.

        2. I got out infrequently and know what it will cost, so it's never a surprise....just wish I could afford to go out more often.

          11 Replies
          1. re: escondido123

            I used to share the exact opinions, but now, a quiet dinner, home with my wife, is something that I covet, and hold dear.

            It is not that I do not like dining out, but when one must do so, very often, it does tire one.

            This weekend is a good example. Wife had about 3 offers, and I begged, "can't we just decline, and spend the entire weekend, without an dinners, parties or galas?"

            Sometimes, one just needs downtime.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Believe me, we would rather eat at home, just the two of us, then anything else--and we are lucky that way. We used to eat out maybe once a week when money wasn't tight and that seemed about right.

              1. re: escondido123

                While I really, really enjoy dining out, in the last few years, I have adopted your sentiment. Dining at home, with just my wife, is great. She's a fantastic cook, and we always dine well. Having her home alone, is worth as much as a few Michelin stars, at least o me. Unfortunately, we do not get that option many nights, so make do, with what we have. Still, I completely agree. Besides, the wines from my cellar are usually much better, and I already own them.


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  Am totally with you. Aside from the clean-up which I detest, having even a simple but good dinner at home beats eating out almost every time. A good martini, a nice quiet dinner and good bottle of wine at home with my loved one, is a very special occasion.

                  1. re: josephnl

                    As the cook of the house, instituting the "I plan, shop and cook, you do the dishes" rule has made dinner in my home immensely more enjoyable for me.

                    1. re: iluvcookies

                      And also, thinking about the original point of this thread...I don't minding spending even "big bucks" when dining out if the overall experience is terrific. But, often when we dine out and have a mediocre meal, which even at a modest restaurant usually tops $100-120 for two with drinks, and perhaps a glass or two of wine, we feel somehow cheated. I know that for less than half the cost, and pretty modest effort, I can put a much better meal on the table, with a terrific cocktail and bottle of wine, and not have to worry about driving, or having a noisy table next to us, etc. eating in is IMHO generally a treat!

                      1. re: josephnl

                        Late to the party, as usual, but I agree.

                        We do not just throw $ at our dining out choices. We expect a good ROI, and usually find it, though, and unfortunately, not always.

                        Part of our experience is probably due to traveling 100,000 miles per year, but then we also often dine out, when back in town.

                        Still, when all is said and done, we both want ROI, and have a pretty good idea of what we spend. So long as the experience is worth it, then we are happy.


            2. re: escondido123

              Same here. There was a time when I was genuinely surprised at how much I spent at restaurants, but it was also a time when I was making more money. Now, I only go out to eat at special places, and eat most of my meals at home.

              What has surprised me recently is how much I spend on wine. It's not quantity that gets me, but I feel that I'm spending about 50% more on a bottle than I did in years past. I should really start buying them by the case, but I haven't been doing that.

              1. re: caseyjo

                Our "house" wines--both California cabs--are under $7 a bottle bought at TJs and Albertsons supermarket where you get 10% if you buy six.

                1. re: caseyjo

                  For me, there was a greater surprise, when we were making far less. We knew that we enjoyed very good food, and developed a taste for fine wines a bit later one, but now, I have a much better handle on the total costs.

                  Also, as many dinners are for business, I keep the wines to a "budget," until it's just the two of us, and then I sort of "turn it loose." As I age, I sort of contemplate the end of my days, and will often see wines that I realize that I might never see again. If I can afford it, we often go for it. I have seldom been disappointed. Was that expenditure worth it? Upon reflection, my answer would be "yes." I also figure those into the yearly dining budget, so fewer surprises.


                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    Agreed on the contemplation as we age. Both my parents died around the age I am. We would never have expected my wife to become ill just before she retired. She & I take the view that we do not know what life has in store for us. We spend on having fun and, within reason, say to hell with the future.

              2. The amount the two of use spend on eating IN surprises me more.

                5 Replies
                1. re: sueatmo

                  Yes eating in is not necessarily cheap, but compared to eating out, it's a bargain.

                  1. re: josephnl

                    But you can really fudge when it comes time to add up the "bill" since there are all those bits of things you use that weren't in that day's bag of groceries--2 cloves of garlic, splash of white wine, one knob of butter, 2 spoons of olive oil etc.

                    1. re: escondido123

                      Sure...but even so, eating in is IMHO way less expensive than eating out...and even if I must say so myself, the quality of the meal is reliably good. I'm not a fancy or especially capable cook, but I do buy excellent ingredients and can put together a pretty good meal with minimal effort.

                      1. re: josephnl

                        That's exactly how I feel, though I love to do something complicated at least once a week.

                        1. re: escondido123

                          Complicated...every 2 weeks for me! Rest of the time, I can get what we consider a pretty good meal on the table in 60 minutes, or usually less.

                2. I'm not surprised at the aggregate cost of meals out. However, I do get frustrated by my lack of self-discipline, which turns a $28 set menu dinner for two into $100. Sigh.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: KarenDW

                    LOL. I know the feeling. Somehow the cost of a "cheap" meal always balloons to larger than you anticipate. Which is one reason I often decide to eat the food I already have at home instead! I can afford to waste money on restaurants or groceries, but not both!

                  2. when we both worked outside the home we'd often go to breakfast atleast 2 times a week.
                    hubby and cohorts would go to lunch 2 times a week (atleast). even though sometimes it'd just be McDonnies or Baco Tell for me it was still 2-3 times a week. every Friday night it was dinner out for the 5 of us. at least twice during the week we'd (all 5) meet somewhere for dinner at places like Bob's Big Boy or the local Mexican joint. I'd bring the kids and hubby would join.

                    although my earnings were mostly in cash I could not believe how much I went through in a weeks' time.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: iL Divo

                      You're right. Until I read your post I had forgotten to include lunches when were were working, That would have added about 200+/month.

                    2. The amount spent on dinners out doesn't surprise me as we are fairly deliberate about those meals. What is unnerving to me is how much I spend on things like coffee (I live in the land of Starbucks and am a sucker for frappucinos, what can I say??), convenience stops for snacks, lunch, etc.

                      My home is less than a mile away from my office and has a well-stocked frig and pantry, yet I will make stops for yogurt, soda, cheese, etc. rather than going home. Ridiculous.

                      1. Yes. But it's what makes us happy....life is about choices.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Janet from Richmond


                          My sentiments exactly. Life should be enjoyed, and I am very fortunate to do that often.


                        2. We eat out infrequently so no it wouldn't surprise me or maybe it would for how little we eat out. What does surprise me is how well we can eat in for so little money.

                          Recently made fresh amberjack over shredded brussel sprouts. The amberjack was about an 8 oz portion each and was $12/lb. Bigger than I had wanted but the fishmonger cut a piece that was just about a pound and it looked so good I said ring it up.

                          All in all the dinner cost under $8 and change per person in food product plus wine which was around $15/bottle. I would estimate this meal to be about $40/person if eaten out

                          1. Not really. I'm sure it would surprise some other people, but I enjoy eating out more than doing/buying a lot of other things.

                            1. Catching up on this thread. Obviously for any given meal, I know about how much I will be spending. Its just amazing how it all adds up over time. We probably eat out at least once a week, and since we live in NY, the cost of even a simple dinner out in the neighborhood for the family can quickly add up. Throw in a bottle of wine and watch out. Though as penance for over indulging during the holidays, the wife made us do a juiceless January and that helped cut down on the number in the credit card bill as well as the scale.

                              1. It's really our only form of entertainment so I consider that as our "entertainment" budget. We do not rent or go to the movies, or go to the theater, or concerts, or much of anything else. I get movies out of the library occasionally and we watch a lot of DVR. Our vacations are only once a year and are very inexpensive (renting a cabin, doing a lot of grilling, etc) so really, that's our whole entertainment budget right there. I guess you could throw cable in there too, as that's our sole source of entertainment outside of dining out.

                                I know it's a big slice of our income, but I also get a year-end statement for daycare and I don't look back at that and go, gee, I enjoyed spending that money. :)

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: rockandroller1

                                  We are the same way. We spend more than our mortgage on dining out....which surprises other people more than it does us ;-)

                                2. I spend about $80 on lunch every week which is a fair amount of money but I don't ever buy coffee outside and I usually eat dinner at home so I am ok with spending money for lunch.

                                  1. Going to our cheap local pub for burgers and a beer (plus a burger for out little guy) costs $60 with tip. And that's about the least expensive outing we can do. Think about spending $60 on a meal cooked at home - it would be fit for a king! There's no doubt that eating out can cost a lot -- and like you say, more than you really think.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: melindaneely

                                      I made a delicious albeit not cheap dinner for 3 last night for 50 bucks including drinks, French Brie and crackers, fresh orange/arugula salad, beauful fresh salmon rolls (with sea bass), couscous, pickled dill cucumber salad, a beautiful Oregon Pinot noir, and fresh fruit for dessert. Took about 30 mins to put together, was delicious, and with everything was about $50.

                                        1. re: melindaneely

                                          Not last night! But kidding aside, we're big fans of soups and stews, and there are usually just two of us for dinner. I can make a large pot of soup or stew for $10-20 from which we'll get 3 dinners (I freeze the leftovers in quart containers). Wiith a cocktail (one must be civilized at dinner time), an added salad, and some nice bread, a glass or two of good wine and a simple dessert, dinner can be delicious, fun, minimal effort and much less expensive than dining out.

                                    2. My husband and I are trying to tighten our belts, and for the first time actually did an analysis of our spending over the last six months. The amount we spent eating out was truly frightening! (I was reminded of the Sex and the City episode where Carrie adds up how much she has spent on shoes.) While our average meal was inexpensive ($40 or less), they really add up. In the last month we managed to ratchet it down 30%, but we still have another 50% to go...

                                      1. Oh, I'm sure it would surprise me. I spend a lot of time in bars and restaurants. I don't even want to know.