Monday, August 09, 2010

Putting my wallet on a diet put me on one too

Me efforts to get out of debt have involved some lifestyle changes. The biggest one is that I rarely eat out anymore. For most people, that may not be much of an adjustment, but it was for me. I used to live on fast food and other restaurants.

At one point I was actually convinced that eating out was cheaper than eating at home. My logic was based on a couple of points. One was that fresh food, on the occasion I did buy it, tended to spoil before I could eat it all. I reasoned that buying food that went to waste was a waste of money.

What I didn't realize at the time was that a lot of that food spoiled because even when I did have food in the house I was still eating out a lot.

I did not know that one of the points that Dave Ramsey suggests for getting out of debt was to go on a rice-and-beans diet. He often tells his listeners that the only time they will see the inside of a restaurant is if they work there while trying to get out of debt.

My dining out approach was in part fostered by the fact that I could often scrape together $5 for a fast food meal, but it was much more difficult to scrape together $50 for groceries. So, I kept eating out. At the beginning of this lifestyle change, as I did start buying groceries, I was actually paying for that food with credit cards. That was not a bright idea, but it got my budget turned around so that I could begin to realized that by buying food at the grocery store and not eating out, I could eventually spend less on food.

The fast food restaurants themselves actually pushed me to make the change by raising their prices. First it was Carl's Jr., where my favorite meal used to cost less than $5. Then it cost a little more than $5. And then, it got to be closer to $6. So, I quit going to Carl's Jr.

The places I went as a replacement eventually raised their prices too.

Another factor that pushed me to change was that my work schedule pushed me to go to work early in the day, which required a need to start regularly eating breakfast for the first time in my adult life.

So, my food budget went from less than $70 a week, to about $95 a week. That was just out of control. Now, when the budget is lean, I can get a week's worth of groceries for about $35-$40 when I'm my most frugal. I can include more variety and more fresh food for about $70. For the same amount of money I used to spend I can actually get more than a week's worth of food.

It's been a big lifestyle change, but it was a key to making the change from drowning financially each month to gaining enough buoyancy so that at least my nose is above the water line. I can't take in great gulps of air yet, but I can catch a breath now and again.

It hasn't ended the cravings for those Western Bacon Cheeseburgers. But Carl's Jr. changed their french fries to a style I don't care for. So I can live without them. And my budget sure can too.

1 comment:

Gene said...

And, ol' Carl made some questionable social moves, too. So you're doing good on two fronts. Yay!

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