When I decided to get serious about getting my finances under control, I created an Excel spreadsheet to track expenses. I’ve always been diligent about paying bills on time, and but for many years I struggled with cash flow. It’s hard to feel well-off and at ease when the chequing account is down to double digits and payday is a week away.
And here’s what I found:
32.58% of my 2017 food budget went to eating out? I’d like to say “That can’t be right,” but it’s true. I logged virtually every receipt from every purchase for the whole year, except for a handful that were forgotten in my pants pocket and then rendered into unreadable lint by the washing machine. The high percentage is likely due to the cost of restaurant food (plus taxes, plus gratuities) compared to the cost of raw ingredients, but it’s still too damn much.
Even more appalling, although ultimately encouraging, is that this is an improvement from previous years. As recently as 2016 I was eating out a minimum of 4 times a week, not a quick coffee and donut but fairly substantial meals.
It gets worse. A lot worse. In my 20s and 30s, as I advanced at work and started to get bigger paycheques, I fell out of the habit of bringing lunch to work and just popped out to a nearby restaurant every day. If I had had the insight to bank that money instead of investing it in burgers —
— Aah. No use crying over spilled strawberry milkshakes. At least I’ve seen the problem and have actually done something about it. I’m going to set a modest goal of getting the eating-out percentage under 20% and keeping it there.
While I’m at it, cutting down on junk food is a laudable goal as well. I’m pretty sure I can make do with less than $500 worth of potato chips and chocolate.