Self-serve frozen yogurt is proving to be a bomb detonating my dining out budget.

As a kid, I loved frozen yogurt. TCBY and a local place saw a good deal of my money (mainly because I could walk there). It was nice because it was a bit healthier than ice cream and sometimes less expensive, too. I never had to worry if my favorite flavor and topping were going to be available (white chocolate mousse, rainbow sprinkles) like I did with ice cream. Yes, I loved me some frozen yogurt.

Then, almost out of nowhere, the stores started disappearing. It was disheartening to see the once prominent TCBY shuttering its doors. Where was I going to get my fix? The fro-yo heyday was coming to an end.  Which made me sad but I was able to move on and substitute it with its less desirable cousin, only seasonally available water ice (a regional thing where I live. Not quite as good as Italian ices, not quite as bad as frozen ice pops).

But last summer, my husband took our daughter out for lunch on Main Street (its actual name) and it was there that they discovered a self-serve frozen yogurt store. At any given time, there are 8 flavors of yogurt and a huge toppings bar with everything from fresh fruit to candy to hot fudge. You can pile on as many or as little toppings as you want (or, as my dad says, add some yogurt to your toppings) and then you pay by weight. This is the part that’s killing budget.

Unlike a salad bar where you’re offered multiple size boxes, the place only offers one size cup. And it’s huge. So you wind up putting more in than you ordinarily would because it can fit. And you need to fill it up because there can be no empty space!!! This adds up to spending a great deal more than if you behaved like a rational person and didn’t load it up.

We cannot walk out of that place spending less than $14. That’s for 3 people, one of whom is a 5 year old. It’s a shame really. Since it’s becoming a weekly treat for us, I really need to figure out a way to get this under control. Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Stop going every week. This is the most practical solution but it’s not the most realistic. We don’t really eat dessert anymore and it’s nice to have that weekly treat.  We’re not really interested in cutting it out, either.
  • Increase the dining out budget to include the once a week treat. This is probably contender #1. Right now, we’re running out of our dining out budget a day early because we’re using it up at the frozen yogurt store. Adding in an extra $30 would make the most sense.
  • Limiting how many topping we put into the cups. This would be good for the wallet and good for the waistline but as it stands now, we mostly put in fruit (I swear this is true) which I’m thoroughly convinced weighs more than candy.
  • Cut out one restaurant meal to accommodate the yogurt. A distinct possibility since we are currently going out for one dinner and one lunch per week. We could probably cut out the one lunch per week and substitute it with the yogurt. This way, the budget stays the same.

I’m not sure which avenue we’re going to pursue because they all make sense. This is definitely an agenda item at our family’s next budget meeting.  But one thing I do know that this is one place I will always remember our punch card. Why? Because every 6 yogurts purchased means 1 free yogurt (up to $5 worth). This means that every 3rd visit gives us a free cup. That’s a nice start to saving money on our fro-yo fix, right?


Melissa Batai
Melissa Batai

Melissa, a mom to three little ones (ages 7, 3 and 1), blogs at both Mom’s Plans where she writes about living a fulfilling life on less and paying down debt, and Fiscal Phoenix where she writes about rising from the ashes of your financial mistakes.