Cost Savings Series: 1–Making Dinner at Home

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compound interest, compound interest calculator, early retirement, saving, eating dinner at homeI love food. I may have posted in a previous post about how I lost weight, but make no mistake about it, I really do enjoy food. Sure, I ride my bicycle over 10,000 miles per year to stay fit, but I also do it so I can enjoy some great food while still maintaining my weight. You might think that since I enjoy food so much that I eat out at restaurants a lot. I do enjoy eating out from time to time, but I think it’s safe to say that our family eats out an average of about 1 time per week. Is it convenient to eat out at times, sure. How many times per week to you eat out? Have you thought what that costs over a month or a year?

Restaurants are in the business of making money, just like any business. They serve a great purpose in our society, so please don’t misinterpret this as bashing restaurants. I have some friends that eat out most nights of the week and I know the costs can really ad up. Many folks do it out of convenience and some folks say they don’t know how to cook so they go out rather than go hungry. Meals at a moderate sit-down restaurant will general cost between $10-15 per person and then if you have an adult beverage, that can be another $5-7 per person. So for a family of four, that dinner can easily cost $60-70 after you factor in tip and maybe dessert. Now, let’s think about what that meal would cost if you ate it at home, using the kitchen and dishes you already own.

For starters we’ll talk about the beverages. If you drink sodas, an entire 6-pack can be purchased for the prices a restaurant will charge you for a soda. For wine/beer, the mark-up is 2-3 times what it would cost you to purchase the alcohol yourself at a liquor store. And for food, there are a lot of variables and types of menu items you can choose, but I think it’s safe to also say that the food could be purchased for at least half of what the restaurant charges and usually much lower if you buy in quantity or when it’s on sale. Then consider that you don’t have to pay tax on most food you buy at the grocery store and also you don’t have to tip a server when you are at home. Of course whoever cooks and serves dinner at your house may love a tip but usually a heart-felt “thank you” or a hug will do wonders.

So if we can all agree on a simple figure of half the cost when you eat at home, that’s a savings of about $30 each time you forgo eating out and eat at home (but I actually think the savings will be much more). Even if you reduce your evening dining out from 4 times a week down to 2 times, that’s $60 savings per week or $240 per month savings ($2,880/yr). And if you continued to keep that and save it each month at a 5% return that would be just shy of $100,000 after 20 years or nearly $350,000 after 40 years of compound interest. My wife and I have done this for just about 20 years and I can definitely attest to the fact that it works.

Is eating out fewer times worth that to you? Only you can be the judge. Check out the compound interest calculator and play around with some scenarios to see what a few changes in your habits could make.