Its been a few months since our last installment of our Deep in Debt to Debt Free series and we thought it was about time to continue the story. I’ve had many of my friends and previous co-workers ask me about the last installment whether we really purchased our green Nissan Altima in the exact way I described. My answer? Yes, the title isn’t The Most Insane Way to Buy a Car for nothing!
But its time to discuss a huge contributor to our debt problem. Its true we enjoyed traveling in style and went into massive debt doing it. We definitely spent money trying to decorate and make our house a home – immediately after our wedding. But one of the largest chunks to our debt problem was eating out.
First, you might think that eating out occasionally shouldn’t be that big of a problem. Ah yes, you would be correct about that. Even today on the other side of this story we love to set aside some money in our budget to enjoy dining out. Even with our greatly decreased income stream we set money to eat out (only once per month) for our family.
But what I am talking about is much more severe. Our problem was one that ran much deeper, much more ingrained into our lives. For you see, just as Cassie grew up in a home that loved to spend money to travel, I grew up in a family that loved to dine out. The end result? We both brought into our marriage a piece of financial baggage, if you will, that wound up costing us a lot of money! One of our first things we state to a newly married couple (right after congratulations!) is to be cautious – don’t think you need everything your parents had or gave you. And especially don’t think you need it now when you can’t afford it.
Yes, with that it wasn’t hard to convince Cassie about the good life. And soon we knew…We LOVED to eat out! And we’re not talking the dollar menu from McDonalds. No. We’re talking about eating out lavishly (if you can call the neighborhood grills lavish) and without remorse or regret. That is, until later when we ran out of money.
Before we start – you need to remember our very large “savings account” that we were given on our honeymoon! The $16,500 credit line was getting eaten up pretty quickly from our travels and other necessities. But we don’t want you to think we were hurting too badly because in the mean time we were able to get another $21,000 in credit card and credit lines – those “savings accounts” really started to give us a lot of wiggle room on what we could spend.
So with all the money we had at our disposal, we couldn’t just let it set there! We had lives to live and future income that meant we could pay it all back. So it was time to eat out. We wanted to share with you the 7 Debtly Sins that turned our eating out into “Eating a Large hole into our credit”!
1. We ate out because it was a necessity – our lives were so busy!
We mentioned last time that we were DINKs (Double Income No Kids). Both of us worked full time. We had different schedules much of the time and I was going to school on top of it. Who had time to cook and clean? I know we sure didn’t. It was so easy to justify calling Cassie at 3pm (having already eaten out lunch and breakfast) and asking if she wanted to grab a quick bite after work. Of course I either had school or studies or possibly she had to close out at the gym. We wouldn’t even consider there was another option to eating out because of our schedules.
2. While working full time it would have been rude not to go out with my coworkers and friends
I worked with a bunch of geeks that loved to work and have fun doing it! But one of the consequences of working in such a fun environment (yes, I am a geek – so fun was the right term) is that we enjoyed going to lunch and splurging a bit. We were working hard. What’s a few bucks to go out to eat and live it up a bit? We used to go to gourmet burger joints (one of Harrison Ford’s favorite restaurants when he was in town – we even sat at the table next to him :)), awesome grills, and just anything that seemed to be the in place to go.
But it wasn’t just the coworkers, it was also the other friends I wanted to get together with for lunch. I had prior co-workers that I wanted to meet for lunch. I had a wife that I definitely wanted to take out when she was available for lunch. She had friends to meet for lunch. Yes, eating our lunches out was non-stop!
3. You just don’t understand how hard we worked – we deserved to eat out!
If you only knew how hard we worked between two full-time jobs and going to school half time then you would have understood our need to eat out. We deserved it! Not only that, but you see I was working towards a graduate degree that meant we would have an even better life in just a number of years. And isn’t it better to invest now (by not wasting the time by shopping, cooking and cleaning) and then pay it off later with all the extra cash we would have from our current hard work? That’s the way we’ve had purchasing a house explained to us before – buy what you can afford in the future because you know you’ll be making more then! Eat now, celebrate and enjoy – for tomorrow we can easily pay it off! If only it was that easy.
4. Spending just a few more dollars meant healthy eating
When you ate out as often as we did, we started to realize just how unhealthy all the restaurant food was for our overall health. We started to justify that spending more would mean we would live more healthy lives. We justified that instead of eating a burger – a steak would be healthier (more $$). We justified that opting for the healthier Spinach and Artichoke Dip appetizer would save us some calories (one restaurant favorite lists that at only 1,580 calories alone!).
We convinced ourselves that the yummy Oriental Chicken Salad (maybe you guessed one of our favorite restaurants during that time of our lives by now) was healthier (weighing in at just over 1,340 calories). I guess our “healthier options” might have been better than some options, but our health was anything but the real consideration.
5. Drinks were mandatory
If you have even attempted to take your family out to dinner, it becomes pretty apparent that a great way to cut one significant expense is by drinking water. Well, we would have none of that! If you’re going to eat out you need the full experience! When you can get bottomless fountain drinks for only $2.99 – all that means is to get your money’s worth is you better drink them fast! We won’t even mention the cost of specialty drinks.
6. We would save money by having leftovers the next day
After a while we started considering how much our restaurant eating was draining us. So what do you do? Start eating at home after realizing the drain on your budget? Never! You justify! Yes, I will never forget the day I seriously rationalized to a co-worker just how much money we saved by ordering pizza the night before (with breadsticks and dessert pizza of course so we had left-overs!). Why? Of course, because the next morning we were able to eat pizza for breakfast (at least I did) and for lunch. I remember how proud I was that we knocked out two whole meals (breakfast and lunch) all because we had those expensive left-overs from the night before!
7. We’ll starting eating at home tomorrow
We finally started to realize that eating out was draining our “savings accounts” pretty quickly! Even though those monthly payments didn’t quite go up as fast as our actual available credit went down, we did soon realize we had a problem. But the last debtly sin was probably as great as the rest – it was the “We’ll start tomorrow” syndrome. And you would think we had started to get a bit wiser, but this justification was possibly just as large as the rest – it was the “Since we’re going to start eating at home, we should celebrate by having one last hurrah!”. Yes, every time we realized just how close we were to stopping our addiction the last hurrah became larger – because this was the last time we would eat out for a while.
The sum of it all?
Its amazing to look at your budget and realize just how quickly you can eat through your budget. Think of it – if you had $40 dinners (a conservative estimate when you consider drinks, appetizer, two entrees and a tip) that only means you have to eat out 25 times to spend $1,000. If you spent $20 for a lunch (his and hers) then you only need to spend it 50 times for that same grand! When you combine it and eat out multiple times per week – you can see just how quickly it all eats away.
I think you’re starting to get the picture on just how unthrifty the Un-thrifty Couple really was. Honestly our biggest temptation we still struggle with today is eating out. But that’s why we try to so hard to plan ahead, know our weakness (eat before shopping so we’re not tempted), and allow ourselves a meal out with the family (with water, using coupons, and much wiser ways of course! :)) when it fits into the budget.
Be watching for our next installment where we discuss yet another struggle we had in our financial lives. And if you’re mentally adding up the tally as you go, you know we must be getting closer to the wake up call. Or are we?
If you’re new to the series or just want to catch up, please check out our whole Deep in Debt to Debt Free series!
- Part I: The Newly Unthrifty Couple
- Turning Our Apartment Into an Unthrifty Home
- It’s A Crystal Affair
- The Show Me Just How Much Debt We Can Get Into State
- The Most Insane Way to Buy a Car
- Our Seven Debtly Sins of Eating Out
- One Year Later and Our First House
- Will This Business Get Us Out of Trouble?
- Why Didn’t This Couple Realize What They Were Doing?
- The Baby that Saved Us Financially
- You Want Us to Eat What?