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Why eating out gives us buyer’s remorse

Why do we feel the need to eat out?

I mean really. Of course there are the advantages like no preparation or clean up. But is it worth the extra expense?

For example. I called my wife about 5:30PM yesterday to let her know that I’d be coming home from work in about 30 minutes. She then mentioned that we didn’t have a meal readily available in-house and that she wanted to take her younger sister who’s staying with us out for a meal. Being in a good mood, I said, “No problem. You girls decide where you want to go and I’ll be home shortly.”

Red Lobster

Due to health conditions, my sister-in-law has a very strict diet that excludes many types of food. So they decided on seafood and off to Red Lobster we went. Since crabfest is going on, my wife and I both ordered a pound of succulent snow crab with about a dozen shrimp scampi. The food was enjoyable. My 10 month old loved the crab.

But then the bill came. Seventy-three dollars later, I’m sitting there thinking, “Why did we do this?” The effects of cognitive dissonance were beginning to set in.

Cognitive disso-what?!

Better known as “buyer’s remorse”, cognitive dissonance is what we experience when our actions don’t fall in line with our beliefs. Our brain raises a red flag saying, “Why are you doing this? This action goes against what we believe about the world or ourself.”

And yet, we as consumers are so well trained to ignore that mental alarm and act in contrary to our beliefs and desires. I believe that fundamental to the issue is the habit of instant gratification that has been nurtured by the “me” or “now” generation. Our grandparents, the people who survived the Great Depression, are skilled ninjas in the art of waiting. And yet, that crucial skill seems lost on many Americans.

What are your beliefs about spending, budgeting, and frugality?

I propose a simple, yet potentially life changing exercise. Sit down this afternoon with a pad of paper and answer three questions.

  1. What did your parents teach you about money?
  2. How do you currently view money and its affects on your lifestyle, goals and dreams?
  3. What actions, such as eating out, are currently in contrast to your views?

From this simple task, you may discover that your attitudes are what they should be. Or that your behavior does not reflect your beliefs. Also, you may discover the root of the issue – your childhood (said slow and deep).

So how bad is eating out and what can you do to change your habits?

Here’s what a few of my colleagues have to say on the topic:

Lunch Savings Calculator provided by Mortgage-calc.com allows you to input what you’d spend making a homemade lunch versus eating out, for how many years, and the investment rate you could yield with the savings.

Saving Money Not Eating Out by Me Financially Free outlines how he estimates an annual savings of $2,340 by not eating out for lunch.

How Much Money Can You Save by NOT Eating Out over at OutOfYourRut.com not only addresses the potential savings, but gives you eight suggestions for spicing things up in the kitchen.

Save Money by Not Eating Out for an Entire Month presented by Les O’dell at Good Financial Cents talks about some of the non-financial benefits in addition to the financial benefits from not eating out.

What tricks or tips have you used to avoid eating out? For more information and commentary, fan us on Facebook!


Tags: , , | Filed under Saving Money, Featured


  • I think it's better to pick up something that's easy to turn into a meal versus going on. We might get a roasted chicken from Costco or something like that can we can turn into a meal quickly with a couple of side dishes.

  • Having components for meals is usually the biggest challenge for us. Since we don't have everything for a real meal, we decide to just bag it and go out. So we need to better plan meals when we shop.

  • Gobankingrates

    One of the easiest tactics I’ve found is to make extra food for dinner and then eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. Not buying lunch out saves a lot.

  • This is probably the biggest reason I end up eating out. We tend to make dinners just large enough for dinner. In part because my wife doesn’t want me eating too much, which means we rarely have leftovers. So really, I need to better control my appetite. Somehow, it always comes back to my love of food.

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