When I was in credit card debt, I lived simply. I saved and saved and saved my money. I skipped meals, figuring that if I ate less often, I’d eat less, period.
But I didn’t stop going to restaurants. Here’s the thing. I love eating out. I love going somewhere, pointing to something, and getting it brought to me. I love not having to do dishes, and I love the atmosphere of meeting up with people in a dining situation.
So I kept eating in restaurants. Not often, and it was never my idea, but occasionally (maybe three times a month?) I’d find myself in a restaurant.
Why Restaurants Should be Off Limits When You Have Credit Card Debt
- Because you’re in credit card debt, and when you’re in credit card debt, you should throw every last dollar toward getting rid of it
- You should live like a monk until your debt is gone
- Because restaurants are a treat, and there’s perfectly good food in the grocery store
- Because every dollar you spend in the restaurant is pushing back your debt freedom date
- Because restaurants are expensive
- Because you don’t deserve a treat
Right? It’s logical to ban restaurants when you’re getting out of debt. In fact, it’s the right thing to do. You can’t afford it if you owe more than you have. And yet …
Why I Still Ate in Restaurants When I Had Debt
- Because paying off my credit card was a long game
- Because my friends and family had birthdays that were celebrated in restaurants and I wasn’t strong enough to miss out on those
- Because what’s another month in the grand scheme of things
- Because dishes
- It wasn’t always convenient to eat at home
The real reason? I needed a treat, every now and then, to remind me of my goal. It took me years to pay off my credit card. Years. So, I let myself have a meal with people I cared about once in awhile. And I think that made all the difference. I never felt debt fatigue, I never veered off course by more than ten or twenty dollars. In fact, I made my debt payoff strategy as close to real life as possible so I didn’t go nuts when my debt freedom date finally hit.
Of course, I had all kinds of strategies for saving money when eating out. Eat during happy hour. Order a bowl of soup. That’s almost always the cheapest thing on the menu and filling enough to call it dinner. Don’t order alcohol, unless it’s happy hour. Bring cash, and if the thing you want costs more than you have, well, you made your decision, didn’t you?
One of the things I started doing as a way to stop spending so much money in restaurants is establishing family dinner with friends. Even now, almost two years after the credit card debt was vanquished, family dinner is one of my favorite parts of the week. We alternate going over to each other’s houses and having a nice, leisurely, home-cooked meal. It’s not fancy, and it’s not expensive (unless someone decides to cook steak). It’s a nice way to catch up, or to cook something that if I only cooked for the two of us, we’d end up hating after eating so many times.
So, if you have a lot of debt, and you feel buried, I say, live like a monk, but allow for treats once in a while.
Being free from credit card debt is a way of life. One I wouldn’t change for anything. But I know if I had stopped eating in restaurants entirely, I would have made myself miserable, and, once I got out of credit card debt, I would have overcompensated and spent all the money I could on restaurant food.
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