Mr. FAF and I love eating out. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because we’re Asian that we just love eating out at Asian restaurants so much. Of course, we do it in moderation – about once a week.
There’s something so refreshing, exciting, and memorable about trying delicious Asian dishes at different restaurants. It’s like an adventure that makes both Mr. FAF and me happy.
Even when we travel, we’d be more interested in the local food than the tourist attractions. We’d definitely enjoy both, but what’s traveling without eating the local cuisine?
When I read about how Ms. Frugalwoods frugalizes her families’ groceries or how the Saving The Crumbs family spend $60/month on groceries, I feel guilty and want to be as drastic as them: not eating out at all to save money.
However, part of me still wonders if we’re missing out on the beautiful things in life – going out, trying good food, and having fun – by forcing ourselves to eat home-cooked meals all the time.
How do we strike a balance?
Is eating out once a week too much? I actually Googled this question to see what other people think. But ultimately, it depends on people’s income and how they balance eating out with other priorities (i.e. movies, traveling, clothes, gadgets).
Right now Mr. FAF and I don’t live together, but it will change in a couple of months. I’ve asked Mr. FAF about our food budget for when we live together with Baby FAF. He suggested:
— Eating out once a week for $50 or $200/month
— $500 for groceries/month (2 adults & 1 baby)
-> Total: $700/month
I told him I thought it was too high. According to the USDA, a family of two (female & male) has the following monthly food cost:
— Thrifty plan: $381.90
— Low-cost plan: $488.70
— Moderate-cost plan: $607.40
— Liberal plan: $760.70
Our $700 monthly food budget is definitely above the cost for a moderate plan. Ms. Frugalwoods’s goal is to stay under $350 for groceries each month and her family was able to keep up with that level before they retired early in the woods in Vermont (now it’s about $400-500/month).
I’d love for Mr. FAF and I to stay under $350/month. The frugal side in me would be over the moon.
However, the food lover in me would balk at that idea: Am I depriving myself of joy and good stuff in life? What am I saving for? To pay off the mortgage? To put towards retirement so that I can enjoy life later? Is it that simple?
We waited at this Korean BBQ place for half an hour. But we were just so excited we didn’t mind the wait at all. And the food was super delicious!
Once we pay off our mortgage, we will start saving up to buy a rental property. We will need a mortgage for the rental investment.
Given that Mr. FAF and I both don’t like being debt, we will work hard to pay off the rental mortgage.
So when will this buy-mortgage-save-buy-mortgage-save cycle end so that we can fully enjoy our lives? We can just be content with one rental, but the entrepreneurial spirits in us scream: “Work harder and invest more.”
Another thought is we can eat at home and save now so that we can retire early and enjoy life. I’ve thought about living in a tiny house when Mr. FAF and I retire, but will we be healthy enough to be on the road all the time?
Most of the adults in my family are advised by their doctors not to consume too much seafood, meat, or sweets although they have maintained a relatively healthy diet and lifestyle (i.e. no smoking, no heavy alcohol). The dietary restrictions have a lot to do with their age.
When people get older, their metabolism is not as good as before. They tend to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gout, etc. Now everyone in my family watches their diets carefully and is hesitant to try new food.
I don’t want to be like that when I’m old, always having to watch out for what I eat for fear that I might die early. I’m careful about my diet now, but death doesn’t sound so near and scary yet.
I feel like I’m in such as dilemma. When Mr. FAF and I eventually live together, I will convince him to stay within $500/month for two reasons:
1. We live in one of the most expensive cities in America, so $500 is reasonable for a frugal couple.
2. Eating out for us is almost the only fun activity/date we have to pay for. I think we can live a little while being frugal.
Mr. FAF is usually willing to meet me in the middle, so I’m hopeful this budget will become a reality.
Striking a balance between eating out and cooking at home is one of the frugality versus enjoyment dilemmas.
How do we enjoy life while saving and giving generously? That’s a question we will need to discuss and compromise not just for food but for many other things in our lives.
What about you? I’d love to hear how your family strikes a balance between eating out and eating at home.