It’s no secret that my family likes to go out to eat. We know that we like to do it, so we make sure to include it in our budget. We try to employ various strategies (Groupons, sharing entrees, drinking water) to stretch our dining out budget and for the most part, it works. We’ve had to make some tweaks to the budget here and there but we’re content with where we stand.

However, my husband and I have had some discussions as to what’s going to happen if I no longer work full-time. Clearly, our dining out budget will have to be reduced but we refuse to eliminate it completely. This led to a discussion as to why it’s important for us to go out to eat. We have a few reasons:

  • I get a break from cooking. I cook. A lot. Of the 21 meals that are eaten in a week, I cook approximately 18 of them (some are leftovers and right now, my daughter does eat lunch at school. This will change when she starts kindergarten in the fall). My husband feels that I deserve a night off from cooking once a week and honestly, I agree with him.
  • It’s fun to eat foods I won’t or don’t cook. One of our family rules when we go out to eat is that we can’t eat something I can make at home (it’s a big reason why we do not go to Italian restaurants). Eating in restaurants allows us to try some new foods or indulge in some favorites that are cheaper to get in a restaurant.
  • It’s social. We don’t live in a big town and pretty often, when we go out, we’ll run into someone that we know. It’s fun to see people we wouldn’t ordinarily see. And, when you’re waiting for your table, it’s nice to catch up with some old friends.
  • It’s a good date night. We have a child. Who talks. A lot. It’s nice to be able to go have a meal in a restaurant that doesn’t give you crayons when you sit down and have a conversation that is not peppered with stories of Barbie mermaids and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.
  • Sometimes, it’s nice not to have to do the dishes. Since I cook a lot, that involves washing dishes. Which I hate to do. Although the rule in our house is that whoever cooks is exempt from washing dishes, it doesn’t always work out that way. There are some nights where I want to eat and then leave the dirty dishes to someone else. Selfish? Perhaps. But it’s true.
  • It’s faster and more convenient. Not so much at night, but there are days where we’ll spend hours running errands. It’s easier and faster for us to stop at Panera or a local burger place than to run all the way home, eat, and then go back out. Yes, it’s probably lazy but when I’m torn between preventing a meltdown from my 5 year old and spending $20, I’m preventing the meltdown.

I don’t see us eliminating our dining out budget altogether unless we’re faced with some pretty egregious financial circumstances. To find that extra money in the budget is completely worth it.

What are your reasons for going out to eat? 

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.