“The disparity between a restaurant’s price and food quality rises in direct proportion to the size of the pepper mill.”
– Bryan Miller
How to save money when eating out
People love to eat. Every city has dozens of bars and restaurants you can go to. Back in Iowa there are towns with less than 500 people, yet they have two or three eating establishments.
One of the things I noticed, even as a young kid, was the fact that people who “never had any money” somehow managed to eat out several times a week.
While I’m not Sherlock Holmes, it was easy to find a correlation between eating out and being broke.
Every restaurant is in business to make a profit. The dish you order is marked up to pay the rent, staff salary, and utility bill. No matter how you look at it you’re overpaying for quantity of food you get.
A quick example
When I was traveling around the Peruvian countryside it was really hard to find a gym or a decently priced meal. A small pizza and drink was about $10 and the only gym I found charged me $12 for a day pass. That might not sound like much, but it was almost as much as my hotel cost. Doing some squats and eating a mediocre snack should never be that expensive.
I’m all about living cheaply. A 45-minute lift and post-workout meal that runs me $22 is insane. That’s more than a lot of people earn in an hour.
Three meals and a trip to the gym would add up to $42. With my hotel I’d be spending $82 a day. And that’s without any little impulse purchases.
Living on $100 a day doesn’t sound like much, but it’s expensive.
Basic math will save you a lot of trouble
$100 a day times 365 days equals $36,500. That’s quite a bit of money. More than a funeral attendant, travel agent, or police dispatcher would make in a year. Like I said, $100 a day isn’t as cheap as it sounds.
Most guys in their early twenties aren’t making enough to cover those expenses. You’d need to be pulling well over $40,000 to survive debt-free.
Think about your expenses in terms of percentages
$50 is not a lot of money. A new video game costs less than that. If you make $500 a week spending $50 seems like nothing.
Until you look at your expenses in terms of percentages.
That $50 is 10% of your earnings. Buying 10 new games, something that’s very easy to do, would eat up all your income. Same with one wild night at the bars. $100 in drinks and $40 in snacks and other expenses doesn’t leave you with much. $140 is 28% of your paycheck.
Over one-quarter of what you earned would be lost on an evening of sub-par entertainment.
Easiest way to save money when eating out
Look at restaurant prices and compare what you’d get with what you could make at home.
I love Chinese food. And in Peru you can get cheap fried rice and honey chicken for three bucks.
Buying rice, soy sauce, chicken, eggs, broccoli, carrots, and peas would cost me way more than three dollars. It’s cheaper for me to eat Chinese at a restaurant than it is for me to cook it at home.
Non-fast food hamburgers cost six or seven bucks. It’s less expensive for me to buy buns, ground beef, cheese, and ketchup at the grocery store. Same with sandwiches. I can make a steak sub for less than any shop.
If you want to go out and order something look at the price tag and then check to see how much it costs to make yourself. Eggs, toast and coffee are cheaper at home than some trendy cafe. Hamburgers, pancakes, and sandwiches are that way too.
Unless you want something with a lot of ingredients, like Chinese food, or a gourmet dish, like cerviche, stay in. Foods that don’t require expert preparation aren’t worth going to a restaurant for.