Is eating out a waste of money?

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Is eating out a waste of money? That was a question posed recently on my News Corp Gen Y column. And the answer is that it depends. I’m a big believer of quality over quantity so I’m happy to (occasionally) go to a nice restaurant with friends, but I almost obsessively avoid takeaway and uninspiring cafes. The three questions I ask myself before eating out are: can I afford it (without putting it on my credit card)? Will I enjoy it? Will it improve my quality of life? If it ticks all those boxes then I go for it.

Eating out can be a valuable social engagement with both colleagues and friends. A great meal in a fantastic location with good company can be a really good investment. But there’s eating out as above and then there’s “eating out” on foods that we really should avoid. According to the Heart Foundation, Australians collectively spend more than $7 billion on fast food each year. That’s around $800 per household. Households also spend (according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics) around $1,600 per year in restaurants.

Plus there’s the daily four dollars on a coffee and buying lunch because you couldn’t be bothered making it before you left for work. Not to mention the eye-wateringly expensive beers on a night out. All those small purchases add up and it’s easy to burn through a few thousand dollars each year on food and drink that does nothing particularly good for your happiness. That is definitely a waste of money!

According to Canstar Blue’s research, the majority of us have at least one person in the house (often ourselves) that can cook well – so why not make the most of that?

When it comes to eating out, prioritise. Set yourself a weekly or monthly budget, that won’t build up a credit card debt, then work out how you would best like to spend it. There’s no right or wrong choices – just do what you enjoy.

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