Monday, February 18, 2013

Dining Out: An Unnecessary Expense or One Well Justified?

Dining Out - if you read a lot of frugal blogs, they talk about not eating out.  You can save the money and eat in.  I have mixed feelings about this one - and kind of don't agree.  When the husband and I were first married and didn't have kids (first 5 years of marriage) - we ate out all the time.  Probably 3-4 nights a week.  Every week.  Every year.  Yeah.  That is excessive.  Then we had kids.  And we ate in every night.  Every week.  Every year.  It was really just too much of a hassle to take a kid and then two kids out.  We really didn't have any babysitters of sort and pawning off two little boys on friends is easier said than done.

So it came to a point where we realized we were only going out once or twice a year.  Just the two of us.  We realized we wanted to go out together, alone, more often.  So now that the kids are older - we're able to do that.  We typically go out two times a month.  We exchange watching kids with friends to make this affordable (no babysitting costs) and we use a certificate or Groupon 95% of the time.

Two nights a month of going out to eat (just us) costs us about $35 a pop.  That's with the discounts.  We don't drink booze and I almost always order lobster and the husband orders steak.  We're classy like that.  But if you think about it: 2 sodas, a lobster bake, a steak dinner AND 18% tip (on the original amount - about $9.50) for $35?  That's a really great deal.  We typically spring for coffee at Dunkin' Donuts after so just say another $5 for that.  So $40 a night.  $40 x 2X a month = $80 x 12 months a year = $960 a year.

Sure, I'm all about being frugal, and cheap, and trying to be one of those hip minimalist people.  But you also have to splurge on yourself and your relationship every so often.  Sure, the husband and I COULD eat with the kids before we pawn them off at home.  But that isn't fun.  Sure, we could do something more worthwhile - like walk around or something crunchy like that - but we like to eat.  And restaurants offer a place where you can just sit and talk for a good hour or two and not really care about other stuff.  You don't have to look at your disgusting kitchen or yell at the kids to get back in their seats.  Plus, the money is more or less buying an experience.  Not a possession.

I don't feel guilty about going out to eat - for one, I feel like I get great deals when we do.  And secondly - the whole point of being cheap in other aspects of my life is so that I can be a little adventurous in stuff like going out a few times a month.  I mean - I can save well over $40 in coupons alone in a good, stock up grocery trip.  But what's the point of spending the time and energy in saving that money if you aren't going to enjoy your savings elsewhere?  And lastly - it doesn't feel excessive.  2 times a month is really nothing, yet just enough.

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