Why Eating-Out is Eating-Up Your Savings

 Within a one mile radius of Indiana Wesleyan University’s Marion Campus, there are over twenty options on where to go out to eat. This includes both sit-down and fast food restaurants. On the bypass, one of Marion’s busiest roads, there are two McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bells, Arby’s, and Subways. To put it simply, it is easy to find a quick meal right off campus. With this, I have found the challenge lies in avoiding the temptation not to go out to eat.

If this is the challenge, why should we avoid or minimize going out to eat? In terms of a budget, the places we eat may be running a higher tab than what we would like to admit. For a single person, the average fast food meal costs around $7. If we make the decision to eat out for three meals a week, that adds up to almost $1100 per year. Even if someone cuts down on eating fast food to once a week, it would equal a savings of about $700 per year. Now consider sit down restaurants. If you eat out three times a week at $15 per person, one individual would spend approximately $2340 per year.

As a social work major, I’ve learned that if you want to change a behavior, it simply cannot be erased. Instead, another behavior needs to be implemented in place of the old habit. For example, let’s say your goal is to stop drinking 6 cups of coffee per day. In order to reach this goal, stop drinking coffee and replace the behavior with drinking water or tea.

If you want to replace your fast food habits, what are your options?

First, a key option is to diversify what you eat at home! We often eat the same things for each meal. (This is coming from someone who ate a spinach wrap twice a day, every day my freshman year of college). In a meal plan on campus, there are a variety of options that can replace your desire for the novelty food provided when eating out. One resource to help you do this, whether you’re in the college cafeteria or your own kitchen, is http://www.supercook.com/#/recipes. This website provides recipes based on what you already have available.

Secondly, I often find my eating out comes from social situations. To minimize this, propose other ideas to your friends. It can be quite entertaining to have a nostalgic movie night, to brush up on your Monopoly skills from your childhood, or to play capture the flag. Try new things with your friends, and when you replace the social eating with social activities, you may not even miss the fast food or restaurant expenses.

Even with a budget created, I know how real the temptation can be to get fast food. It is quick, tasty, and alluring. However, every decision we make is also a spiritual decision. Whether I have been blessed with the ability to afford eating out or not, ask the question, “Am I most honoring God with these frequent purchases or is there something else I could do as a steward of the financial resources?”