Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My Month-Long Experiment: Dining Out

I mentioned in a previous post that I like to have goals of many varieties. One of my most recent goals was to go a full month without spending any money on food outside of groceries. That meant no restaurant or fast food meals, no stopping at a coffee shop for a snack (although I did make an exception for coffee with my pre-loaded Starbucks card), no popping in to 7-11 to buy a candy bar. I didn't do the best job setting up what my rules would be, but all things considered, I think I did pretty well.

Going into the month, I had one planned exception - a coworker and friend was leaving the office, so if a bar or restaurant celebration was planned, I was going to attend. As it turns out, we're still in the planning stages for said celebration, so crisis averted!

Here's how I did:

From January 21 to February 20, I spent $28.59 on restaurants.

February 5 - $19.30 - this was the day before a major event at work, and although I planned to stay a little late, I did not plan on working as late as I did. I took a break with a colleague and went out for Thai food. I knew at the time that I was breaking my own rule, but I felt like it was worth it. Otherwise, I'd have worked for another hour, taken 45 minutes to get home, and arrived at home hangry beyond belief. I'm a delight.

February 17 - $9.29 - my other "failure" during this experiment followed a three-day weekend where I did not leave my apartment. R was on a trip out of state, and we had yet another blizzard so the MBTA wasn't running and I couldn't get anywhere. I didn't really see another human for three days, so when my regular Tuesday night play date rolled around and we were concerned about getting home (neither of us live on lines of the T that were running at that time) we agreed to meet up downtown for dinner. I know we could have brought food and eaten at one of our offices, as we've done in the past, but after three days of solitary confinement, the idea of sitting in a sad dark office eating soup out of tupperware was too much. Worth it.

So, technically, I failed. That said, I did a lot better on food spending than I have in other months, so I'm not feeling too badly about it.


I realized that with a bit of planning, I never need to spend money on dining out. There are certainly going to be days that I don't plan for, but for my regular routine, I can plan ahead and be just fine. I need to stop using "failed to plan" as a legitimate excuse for dining out.

A lot of my social life revolves around restaurants and bars. There were many reasons that this month was isolating. During the month-long period that I was conducting this experiment, we got about 8 feet of snow. That said, even when things were running as usual, I didn't reach out to people to make plans as I didn't really know what to suggest we do. I'd like to work on this in the future - there's no reason that all of my group outings need to take place "out."

Finally, because I did it a lot less often, the two times I ate meals out felt like special occasions, and it was kind of awesome. I didn't grab lunch somewhere and eat it at my desk. I didn't go out for dinner three times in a week and never really enjoy it. Each time I made a special exception to go out to eat, it felt more special.

So even though I may have failed, I learned a lot from this experiment and will be carrying on with limiting my dining out spending.

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