Monday, November 16, 2009

Money and Eating Out

I love food and enjoy eating out in nice restaurants with friends. Recently, I analyzed my past two years expenses to find reasons that got me into nearly $30,000 in debt (see post how I got myself in debt). I realized that I was spending too much with my credit cards for eat in nice restaurants. A decent meal and drinks worth $30-60 does not seem much but they slowly add up. Eating just two decent meals like that each week (Friday and Saturday nights)  adds up to $5,200 a year (2 x 52 weeks x $ 50). However, I  don't want to give up eating out completely - it's one of the joys of my life. What can I do?

It has been scientifically proven, known as tragedy of the commons, that people in group misuse the common asset even if in a long term they end up paying more. If we equally share the check in a restaurant, usually everyone in the group will order more, thus increasing the price of meal. Also, in a large groups, there will always be someone who orders the expensive meal. Sharing cost equally with credit cards is easy, you ask server to split cost equally. My recommendation is not to use credit card and pay for what you eat with cash. While paying don't forget to add taxes, tip and cost for shared items such as appetizers.  Using cash, instead of a credit card, would be helpful when putting down the exact change. Paying by cash also also makes you realize the actual cost of the meal, which is often distorted in your head if you use the plastic. Sometimes people feel socially awkward when it comes time to share cost of the meal. It's not difficult to politely mention, this is what I owe and pay your fair share. To be polite, rather always pay a dollar or more extra, if needed. Don't jeopardize relationship for a few dollars. Recently, I have been paying my share of exactly what I eat in cash and it works great. I don't order extra and am more conservative while spending money on restaurants.

Photo: Meal in Columbia Restaurant, the oldest Spanish restaurant in the United States, Ybor City, Tampa, Florida.

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