My Story: Dining Out On a Tight Budget

by Nancy R.

We're in the "recovery" phase of paying off our credit card debt. We've done all the "right" things: looked our bills right in the face (and winced), stopped credit card spending cold turkey, and prepared a budget. We're paying down our debt starting with the highest interest rate and we have a plan.

One of the ways we racked up high credit card bills involved eating out. Eating out is a pleasure for us--our favorite recreation, in fact. The key to our budget and to our success has been not denying ourselves the pleasure, but cutting down. Instead of eating out 3-4 nights a week, we've made Thursday our night out so that we avoid the weekend crush and get better service.

We take turns deciding on where to eat and we pay cash for it instead of credit card. Yes, we spend money eating out--but the key is that we don't feel deprived. We feel like we get our treat and reward, we enjoy it, and we're willing to scrimp in other areas to pay for it. Clothes are not a big issue to us--we buy at thrift stores or cheerfully accept "leftovers." We've put off purchasing a new car for at least a year, until we've made some progress on the debt reduction.

There's been an unexpected benefit. My husband and I both realized that our one night a week of dining out is even more of a pleasure than our 3-4 nights out used to be because we eagerly anticipate it. It's helped us stay on track with our finances because we don't feel deprived--sort of like finding a diet where you can still eat chocolate!

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