Sunday, June 5, 2016

Do You Live Like a Typical American?

My daughter and I had to make a trip to town last week during lunch hour. I had just finished reading an article about how easily a person can spend their hard earned money by living the usual American lifestyle. I'd say spending money everyday for lunch on a fast food meal would qualify.

She and I had already eaten before we left home that day. Because we know eating the majority of our meals at home is  huge money saver. We do our best to save eating out for special occasions like birthdays, graduations, etc. 

My daughter was driving that day in town, so it was easy for me to look around and observe things. 


As we drove past multiple restaurants and fast food establishments, I noticed how many cars were parked there and even more so, how many cars were lined up in the drive thru. Many of them had cars backed all the way out around the building and up to the street. 

These days it is not uncommon for a drive thru to have two lanes. One local fast food chain is even remaking their drive thru to include two lanes. 

Even just buying drinks away from home can get expensive and vending machine drinks also add up. A stop at a fast food establishment for drinks can easily cost $2 a day or more. Add that up and it is $60 a month, which is enough in some cases to pay a bill. 


I know of a man who worked with my ex who would not buy drinks out. The EMS crews often stopped at the local convenience stores for drinks and snacks. He did not buy snacks or drinks at these stores. He would always buy snacks or drinks at the store  in bulk and then bring those items from home to save money. It's easy enough to do this if you plan ahead. 


How many people are buying drinks, lunches, and snacks at convenience stores who really cannot afford that convenience? Eating away from home definitely costs more money than eating at home or bringing your lunch to work. Are they paying cash, which could be earmarked for other essentials like gas or mortgage payments? Or worse, charging these items on a credit card they are unable to pay off in full each month?


Trust me when I tell you that I have no credit card debt. We do our best to live within our means and for us that means keeping eating out to a minimum.


Now, having said that I would also like to say that for some of you eating out does not present any problems. You have an adequate income, no debt, so eating out is not the problem it may be for some other people. I think that's great. We love to eat out! This post is meant to be helpful to those people who are struggling to make ends meet. 

Is eating away from home preventing you from realizing some of your dreams of home ownership or a new car? How many Americans file bankruptcy each year due to living beyond their means? And I am not referring to people who file bankruptcy due to medical bills, which can wipe a family out in some cases. 


People think they do not have the time to make meals from home, but how much trouble is it to make a sandwich the night before and stick it in the fridge? 


Len over at Len Penzo.com states...


The truth is, despite those ever-increasing grocery bills, for most people, brown-bagging a sandwich, piece of fruit, and carrot sticks or a serving of chips is less expensive than buying lunch — regardless if they’re at school or work.

You can check out Len's annual sandwich cost survey, which I always find interesting, here: 

Len Penzo 7th Annual Sandwich Cost Survey 


Just some food for thought this Saturday evening.  :)



Belinda
~ Living within our Means~
Earn with Swagbucks

18 comments :

  1. I just found your blog a week ago and am finding your frugal ideas refreshing. We have always been frugal and it is rather frustrating to read other frugal blogs and websites that advise their readers to do things I've always done, such as not going to Starbucks everyday. I haven't been to Starbucks in years! (Not that I wouldn't love to, we just can't afford it). We cook from scratch, make our laundry soap, menu plan, and take our lunch to work everyday, among the other countless things we do to save money. I know they are helping many people and they have their place but when I read blogs like yours, I know I will find good ideas and that I have found someone that is on the same frugal journey as we are. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you so much, Rick. That means a lot to me. My situation is very different from many bloggers and like you, I don't go to Starbucks. I think I have had tea there once or twice and that was a long time ago. We just could not afford that on our budget. Sounds like you do many of the frugal things we do here. Nice to find another kindred spirit. I'm so glad you found my blog and so glad you decided to comment. I hope you have a great week. :)

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  2. Great post, Belinda. It brings to mind a coworker whose Dh was unemployed a few years ago. She learned to cook at home, shop alternative stores, try store brands, consignment etc. Once DH got his job, while she continues to shop alternative stores, her daily routine is the McD's drive thru window for 2 sausage biscuits and a coffee. Lunch: our cafeteria at the cost of $10. Mid afternoon snack or lunch dessert from the vending machine: easily $4 between a soda and candy. Her DH is a tradesman, so it's not like $$$$ came back into the household. They are raising 2 kids and are constantly attending expensive events with the kids to keep them entertained. Sigh. To each their own.

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    1. Thank you, Carol. Those breakfasts at McD's will definitely add up over the course of a month and $10 for lunch is a lot of money! It would be hard to pay bills on an average income with spending like that. I wonder if they have any saved for retirement?

      My parents both retired with credit card debt and no retirement savings. I am not going to follow in their footsteps. I have goals, just like you do, and I plan on getting there someday. :)

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  3. When I was in the workforce, I always brought lunch from home. I worked in Boston so take-out lunches would have broken the budget.

    My dd is now married and she and her dh bring their lunch with them. I think dd does order take-out once a week in the office, but it certainly isn't a budget buster.

    But children live what they learn. My dd didn't buy school lunches, not totally because of the expense but she said by the time you got through the line you had no time to eat so she always brought her lunch to school and it's carried over to adulthood.

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    1. That's so great that your dd has followed in your footsteps, Mary Lou. And I know what she means by having no time to eat school lunches after waiting in line for them. Another great reason to bring lunch from home. :)

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  4. We have no debt (mortgage, so some, I suppose) but keep a very close eye on our eating out budget. We're by no means perfect, but we try to keep it to special occasions & traveling, with maybe once/month casual eating out between sporting events.

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    1. That is terrific, Hawaii Planner. I've always read that a Mortgage is good debt. :)

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  5. I/we eat out twice a week. Fast food on Friday (this includes pizza) after a long week, it is just easier. A sit-down restaurant on Saturday usually due to the fact that most of the day is devoted to running errands and/or attending family member's sporting events.

    I take my lunch to work, every day.

    I do have a co-worker who eats fast food for breakfast and lunch. Every day. Granted she is a DINK and can well afford to do it.

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    1. Hi Kelly...you're right, many DINKs can afford to eat out and have that income which allows them to do so. Probably even cheaper for them since they have no children. lol

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  6. I pack a lunch for my dh everyday. The only time he will eat it is if I pack a lunch that needs a microwave and the job sends him out for the day. Probably only happens three time per year. We eat leftovers and some convenience foods due to my son working odd hours and no leftovers and he can work 10 hours with no break so a sandwich before work will not fill up a 19 year old boy. C

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    1. Your son works long hours with no break, Cheryl. Does he double up on sandwiches if he takes them? You're right one sandwich would not fill him up.

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    2. He works at a country club as a dish washer while on break from college. No one takes a break but can eat any food that is there. Trouble is Adam doesn't get to eat till after dinner hours most days so the food has been sitting out for a long time and he wouldn't bring a meal so I try to fill him up before he goes. Most of the time I cook enough for leftovers but sometimes he likes hot pockets or pizza rolls that I get on sale. His diet has improved a ton since he has been home, didn't eat many veggies or salads at school, I serve that every day. He likes that, too much processed food at school.

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    3. That's great that he can eat what food is there. Too bad he has to wait so long to eat. Good planning on your part to fill him up before he goes. Sounds like his diet is so much better now. Great job, Mom. :)

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  7. It very much seems cultural that Americans swing through the drive through or eat out regularly. Whether it's grabbing a snack or a soda or a meal. It's a cultural phenomenon that does not exist in many other countries. Even close neighbors like Canada do not have establishment after establishment with filled parking lots and long drive thru lanes. While its nice to live in a free Country where we have have choice. It's also a. Shame this is so part of the American way and a huge contributor to obesity and poor health epidemic in America.

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  8. Living in a free country, I choose to serve meals prepared at home. At the same time, this free country is filled with immigrants, legal and illegal. Many immigrants's home-prepared meals are weight increasers without need for fast foods or drinks.

    Public school lunches are not healthful. Read your newspapers's list of breakfast and lunch foods that are served. Barf.

    I read quite a few American, TX-Mex, and European at-home menus and see photos of their plated foods. Where are the needed non-canned green veggies? Too many carbs.

    When I create the perfect 3-a-day menus, I will share. Until then, we plough onward trying.

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    1. The public school lunches can be hit or miss. I've seen them serve two items and call it lunch and sometimes five or six items. They need consistency.

      I serve more vegetables when I am following Dr. Furhman's diet. Other times I fail, but like you we plough onward trying.

      We will write that perfect menu together one day. :)

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  9. It's so true that eating out often can impact your budget. I always try to bring my lunches to work and cook enough dinner for leftovers. It's worth taking a look at other parts of your budget, like insurance or utilities, to see where else you can cut costs if you're already spending the minimum on food.

    Joshua Duncan @ Focus Insurance Atlanta

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