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    Cutting back on entertainment costs...suggestions

    I blogged about this yesterday. My significant other and I figured out we spend up to $700 per month on booze and eating out. This was pretty shocking.

    So, we're discussing the best way to limit our spending in this area. Obviously, we really enjoy drinking and eating out. But also obviously, we need to rein it in.

    Here's a very rough breakdown on where the money goes:
    - I "usually" bring my lunch to work. I still go out for lunch 1-2 times per week. Sometimes 3. I would say $7-$10 each time.
    - He might go once per week, on Fridays since he's off work. Usually fast food, $5-$7
    - Then, we might eat out 4 times on a weekend. Not every weekend, but even 4 times in one weekend in a month is a couple hundred dollars, then one or two times the other weekends.
    - We've been eating out Friday or Saturday nights. $50-$75, depending on where we go.
    - I stop to see my best friend after school on Saturdays. She's a bartender, so I go see her at her bar. This is usually $25. Sometimes if I'm in a hurry, it might be $15.
    - If my significant other meets me at my friend's bar, $50 or sometimes more. We usually eat.
    - We sometimes go out for breakfast Sunday mornings, then go grocery shopping. Sometimes, depending on the time, we might stop somewhere for lunch or drinks in the afternoon.
    - If the UFC fights are on PPV, we go to a bar to watch. There's no cover charge, but we spend probably $60 for food and drinks. This is once or twice a month I think. At least once.
    - Booze at home. There's no schedule here, we go in phases. I might not drink all week one week, then the next week I might have one or two almost every night. I don't drink real expensive stuff, but not cheap either. Lately I've been drinking ciders (like Angry Orchard or Woodchuck, these are about $9 per 6pack). He drinks beer, usually craft beer (and when I'm drinking beer, I drink craft beer also) so more expensive than usual domestic. Lately it's been Tecate though, which I think runs about $13 a 12pk. When I drink beer, it's usually the $15-$16 per 12pk range. When I drink wine, probably the $12 for 1.5liter size bottles. I'm sort of guessing here...

    We've discussed setting a dollar limit per week or per month, and we've also discussed limiting "events". For example, either we say $100 per week, or $400 per month, period. Or we say, eat out one time per weekend, period, he gets 1 12pk, I get 1 6 pk or 1 bottle of wine and that's it. Or some combination.

    I'm aware that this shouldn't be an issue at all. Many will say "just stop already!" But we're talking a major shift in lifestyle here and it can't be a "just stop already". I've already given up my emotional shopping habits! Be nice!

    How do others limit their entertainment spending? Thanks for some advice!

    #2
    We use to be in a similar situation before we started budgeting... found out that we were spending about $650 to $850 a month on restaurants/bars/alcohol. We started by using mint.com to track our spending... we then set a budget to only spend $X on each category. Over time we have been able to reduce it even more.

    you could (for example) set a budget to spend $200/month on Restaurants, $150/month on Bars and $150/month on alcohol... over time it gets easier to stick to it and even reduce it more.

    Comment


      #3
      It's probably as simple as going out less and cutting back on the sauce.

      Set a dollar limit to spend on entertainment every week. Spend it however you want, eating out, the bar, UFC, drinking at home. But, when you reach your limit you are done for the week. It's about discipline more than anything.
      Brian

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        #4
        Sounds like a few changes are in store for both of you that will help your wallets and overall health. My partner and I struggle(d) with the same issue at various points. Usually when we're busy, or when we just get off track. A few suggestions:

        1. Making cooking at home more enjoyable and enticing, and have cheater food on hand for those lazy/tired nights so you can still eat at home, but don't want to make a full mess. Also have food on hand so you can whip up a meal when planned meals run out. Figure out why it's a struggle to eat at home (boring, crappy facilities, lack of culinary knowledge, etc) and improve it. If it's just laziness, I can't help you there. You have to want to do it in order to make a change! Possible suggestions are buying better cookware, going to a cooking class, inviting friends over to eat instead of going out, trying new recipes, and just establishing a habit by repetition of cooking at home. If eating is a social activity, find and invite friends who also like to share food but cook at home.

        2. Booze is a tough monkey. Figure out why you're drinking. Drinking less isn't a simple answer or a solution. You need to figure out your reasons for drinking and then take away the bad reasons, or the reasons that are causing you to drink in excess of your budget and/or health. Removing the reasons is a good way to make the volume of booze consumed, follow. If it's boredom at home, figure out something else to fill your time. If it's stress, find a more effective way to relieve stress. If that's all your friends like to do; find new friends that don't revolve around bars and drinking. Even if drinking isn't a "problem" for you, it's an expensive way to spend time at home, or in the company of friends. Go out and drink, but plan it. Drink at home, but do it for good reasons. Drinking cheaper booze isn't the answer. Plan the events, limit them when you can, substitute other activites that accomplish the same goals.

        Sometimes the slap in the face comes when you start paying cash for things. Take out a certain amount of cash for the week and see how far it goes. Parse things down where you can to try to force your entertainment activities to fit the budget.

        Also, I noticed that my "eating out" and "drinking" budgets nearly disappear when I'm really focused on my health, and the health of my partner. As I ramp up my level of activity and get serious about my sleep schedule, I really start thinking about what I put in my body, and drinking minimally and eating at home are the obvious answers. That doesn't really apply if when you eat out, it's all simple, healthy foods, but I'm guessing for most people, it's not, especially when paired with drinking. Sometimes just getting over the craving of poorly-prepared, high-fat, salty, sugary foods can really whip your "eating out/entertainment" budget into shape.

        Good luck!

        Comment


          #5
          This might be an example where Dave Ramsey's "envelope system" might be employed. Instead of carrying cash, get one of those pre-paid cards and put some dollar amount on it. When you run out of money, you're done for the month.

          Of course, you can keep hitting the liquor cabinet until that runs dry.

          Comment


            #6
            Thanks for the replies! Here and on my blog!

            Some things we already do but can do better:
            - We haven't been eating out for dinner during the week, although I've picked up a $5 pizza here and there. I do this thing called Dream Dinners once a month, where I prepare several meals that can be frozen. It costs under $200/month for us, average is about $160, for 12-15 dinners. I've been taking 3 sometimes 4 out per week to thaw in the fridge so something is always ready to cook. They've been a lifesaver especially since I'm back in school 3 evenings per week, as these are easy for him to make too.
            - We've been getting the Groupon and similar discount certificates when we see places we like to go.
            - We are making a gigantic effort, which has NOT been going very well I admit, to not drink at all during the week. It's not that we drink to excess every single night, but even a cider or glass of wine each night during the week and more on weekends add up.
            - I've been making a large batch of "something" (soup, stew, casserole) once a month, portioning it out and freezing it to bring for lunch at work. I should do this once per week so I have a better variety and won't be so easily tempted to eat out for lunch. I also should bring two of these on the days I have school after work, so I'm not tempted to just "stop for a burger" or something.

            Things to do:
            - Keep taking out the 3-4 Dream Dinners, and also a pound of ground beef and pack of chicken. This will cover 5-6 nights. We don't like waste. If it thaws, I will cook it. If I cook it, we will eat it.
            - Do the large batch of something every week. For variety.
            - Plan the month ahead and set our budget. We need to plan better. For example if we know there's a UFC fight one weekend, and a friend's birthday another weekend, we won't set ourselves up for failure.
            - Limit my Saturday visits to my friend while she's working (I do see her elsewhere, after all). Maybe once a month, but plan for it!

            See? Look at me go! I can do this!

            - Make a bigger effort to find places that are offering deals and discounts. Like...I just signed up for Papa Murphy's eClub and sometimes get texts for $5 large pizzas...that would be a good "cheater food".

            Figure out why you're drinking.
            Sigh. We know why. We like to drink, our friends like to drink, and many of the things we like to do make it easy. I like wine tastings and beer festivals, I used to play darts, he used to shoot pool, I like to make wine and beer, we like live music (usually at smaller venues like bars), we like BBQs, with beer, etc. We can use stress as an excuse, but the bottom line is, we just like it.

            More to do...Find other things to do! He likes to work out. I want to, but don't know how. I told him to make me a work out plan and we'll go together.

            Also, we have a ton of things that need to be done around our property. Some require money, but a lot of clean up and preparation can be done by us. Hopefully this wintery spring will soon pass and we can get started.

            And...my city has a free concert series in the summer, can't wait for these to start. I don't think we went last year at all.

            See, I'm writing all this down, like a contract, so I'm committed!

            Comment


              #7
              $700 is quite a bit for 2 people. Normally if you have more than 1 person in the household, eating normal meals becomes more economical since you share a lot more and can cook larger portion sizes with less waste. Of course if she's the type to want to go out and eat, that's where it gets expensive.

              To me, it's important to have balance, so what I typically do is eat cheaply during the work week (cooking, leftovers, etc), costs maybe $2/ meal. Then on weekends, I eat out, drink or have fun. I think it is important to enjoy life, and entertainment costs is a part of that, and not a sin unless done in excess.

              If one wanted to take frugalness to the extreme, you could start digging in garbage cans for food to take to work, and lining up at soup kitchens for dinner. Then come home and sit in the dark. Repeat this 365 days per year, and you saved a ton of money. But is that really worth it to you?

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by reedda View Post
                How do others limit their entertainment spending? Thanks for some advice!
                We have no choice, we just can't justify an entertainment budget. This does not mean we aren't enjoying life. Quite the contrary. We have way more important priorities. It helps to have like-minded friends. First and foremost, start entertaining more at home. It is infinitely cheaper to serve dinner and buy alcohol at store, and rotate with other people, than it is to go out. So that may be first and foremost. (Often people are embarrassed to suggest this, but will find their friends are relieved as they also have a lot of financial pressures).

                I have also often gone out with friends and not ordered a meal, but only ordered a drink or a soda. I think more moderation is key here. It's not like you can't go out and do what you have been doing, but maybe you can order just one drink instead of spending $25 or $50 at a pop.

                If I were you, I would pick a set amount to spend every month on these type purchases. This gives you the flexibility to decide what you want to do every week or month. Maybe sometimes eating out means more (after a rough week). Or sometimes an social outing is more important (a celebration like a birthday of a friend). So I like your $100/week or $400/month mindset better than limiting the amount of events you can do every week or month. I think it's important to keep things flexible.

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                  #9
                  If you like beer like I do, you could always homebrew!

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Should have mentioned it earlier, but the friends/company you keep plays a big role in the cost of entertainment. if your friends like to do cheap/free stuff like hiking, then it'll be a big difference from friends that like to go dining at expensive places or clubbing or whatever.

                    Originally posted by JoeP View Post
                    If you like beer like I do, you could always homebrew!
                    Homebrew still costs money and usually is done in 5 gallon batches. You might end up drinking more and paying more. Just throwing it out there. Not saying it's a bad idea.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by reedda View Post
                      - We've been getting the Groupon and similar discount certificates when we see places we like to go.
                      - Make a bigger effort to find places that are offering deals and discounts. Like...I just signed up for Papa Murphy's eClub and sometimes get texts for $5 large pizzas...that would be a good "cheater food".
                      these things are good but they will sometimes tempt you to spend money that you normally wouldn't have... for example, if you bring your lunch to work one day and get the text for the $5 pizza. you may be tempted to go with the pizza since it is for that day only and therefore you just spent $5 that you otherwise wouldn't have.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by jane78
                        On should not compromise on entertainment cost because we earn to live with luxury so it is a very bad idea live your life with all luxury

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Regarding Groupon/deals, yes I agree, need to be careful here. My intention is to NOT use them as extra/bonus entertainment nights, but as part of the plan to keep the entertainment costs down. **Instead of** going out to a full-service restaurant and spending $60, I'll pick up a $5 Papa Murphy pizza and we'll satisfy our "eating out" craving at home. That's the plan.

                          I would like to homebrew but I don't have the equipment. I've made my own wine and beer, but I go to a shop to do it and use their equipment. I haven't done it in about 2 years now though. This is on my "wish list" though, someday I'd like to set up place and have the equipment at home. Someday though. Not today.

                          We've already set some limits and are still discussing others. We are trying to come up with "the thing" we want to put the money towards instead of spending it, so that when we're tempted we can remind ourselves and each other what we're working towards. Right now it looks like a new-to-us car is going to win, out of necessity...

                          Thanks for the comments and advice!

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Eating out with friends is something hard to avoid if you want a social life. When I don't have the cash, I eat something at home first and then I'm not starving and tempted to order an expensive meal. A side of french fries is much cheaper than the whole plate of food and I still get to visit with my friends without making someone feel uncomfortable because I'm not eating anything.

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