I’ve made a lot of money over the course of my career. Not billions, no. But I’ve had a fairly high salary from time to time, and a couple of big unexpected bonus payouts that amounted, in one fell swoop each, to as much as I normally would make in a couple of years. In each case, I’ve resolved to live carefully and frugally from that point forward, to invest, and preserve my capital, and so on. It never works. I always end up broke again. Mainly because Joe and I like to eat out. It’s that simple and sad. I’ve probably wasted more money eating out than my parents spent on my education. Much, much more.
I’m not talking about fine dining, by the way. I’m talking about Waffle House and Applebees and Red Lobster. I’m talking about eating all three meals out, every weekday, plus snacks, and four meals out on most weekends. For two big fat boys who always order appetizers and dessert, that comes out to something like $150/day (say, $20 for breakfast together at Waffle House, $30 for lunch together at Applebee’s or the Thai restaurant or whatever, and $80 for dinner together at Red Lobster), or $4,500/month.
That’s where all of my money has gone, all of my adult life.
When we decided to move back to Louisville, I took a substantial pay cut; I make about half of what I made in New York. It’s true that Louisville is a much, much cheaper place to live. But it’s not necessarily half as cheap. To economize, we’re eating just about every meal at home. Now, to be clear: we’re not having Hamburger Helper or Sloppy Joes every night. We’re taking advantage of the proliferation of celebrity chef recipes on the Internet (Rachael Ray and Paula Deen are particular favorites, because their stuff is good and easy).
Right now, we’re down to $900/month on food, which is a huge savings over what we used to spend, but still much more than most people spend. I think we can cut it down to $600 next month (we had to buy a lot of expensive spices this month, for one recipe each — but we’ll have those next go-round).
We’re actually enjoying the food more, too. With the exception of Waffle House, which is outstanding, none of the other restaurants we were eating at regularly even bothered to cook most of their food in-house. The chain restaurant menu is turning into an assortment of fancier and fancier frozen entrees that are assembled by less and less skilled staff. Or at least it seems that way to me.
Anyway. I wanted to give you guys some context to explain the more-frequent food-related blog posts that you’ve been seeing since we moved back. And to get you guys to wish us luck! So wish us luck!