How Much Do Millennials Spend Yearly on Eating Out?

How Much Do Millennials Spend Yearly on Eating Out?

millennials-eating-out

If you are unwrapping that glorious hormone-free burrito (you know what company I’m talking about) or taking your first sip of your fancy latte with the stupid milk painting in it…prepare yourself.

This is actually a post that hits pretty close to home for Coral and I. Back when we were renting a room from her parents and I was tackling my student loans, we got into the habit of getting out of the house to eat pretty regularly. If you’ve ever moved back in with your parents (or still live there), you KNOW how important it is to GTFO from time to time.

After we moved out, we stayed in that habit for about one month and realized how unbelievably expensive eating out really is. Even when you are debt-free and have healthy bank accounts, it can take a toll on your ability to save and invest.

According to The Food Institute, the average millennial spends $2,639 eating out every year.

Student loans and car notes be damned. We still like our fancy food, and it better come with a side of wi-fi and online ordering or we will be pissed! 🙂

Actually, I totally get it and can relate. Millennials see eating out as more of a social experience than any generation before us. We actually outspend Boomers on this one by over 10% (they spend $2,386 on average). There’s a reason that the more upscale “fast-casual” restaurants are killing it right now. Also, Taco Bell is doing this:

Eating out at Taco Bell

Unfortunately, eating out can hold you back from getting out of debt or making that extra student loan payment. Wouldn’t it be awesome to knock an extra $2,639 off of your debt this year?

Here’s some things you can do to cut back on eating out expenses:

Go Grocery Shopping Regularly

So simple, but true. We find that we go out to eat more when we are running low on groceries. It’s way easier to order a pizza than go to the store, and we’ve fallen victim to that one way too many times before!

Obviously you can go nuts with this and be an extreme coupon person or buy 100 years worth of food in bulk…but we aren’t about that life. We just try as hard as we can to make it to the store the same day every week (sometimes we fail); but we’ve seen a major cutback in food costs when we do it.

Going to the store can also help you cut back on calories, and we ALL know we can use that as our aging millennial metabolisms start to fail us. *sigh* :'(

*PRO TIP* – When you are shopping, check out the tiny price per ounce listing on things like toothpaste or boxes of cereal. Generally, the smaller the packaging the more you’ll pay per ounce.

Share a Meal

This is an awesome tip I got from my great friend/blog coaching student Ricky. Next time you go out to eat on a date or with your spouse (or with a friend – I’ve got your back single people), try ordering one entree and splitting it!

We all know how insane some restaurant portions (and prices) can be, so why not try it? You can always order more food if it doesn’t work out.

Make a monthly limit

This has been the most effective strategy for us. We have cut back our eating out to four times or less per month (that might even be high…but we sacrificed like hell to pay off debt and get ahead so we can truly afford this), and it’s Sunday brunch 90% of the time. Restaurants usually have great brunch deals because they want to bring in as many customers as possible on an “off” day!

Who doesn’t enjoy day drinking? That brings me to the next strategy below.

BYOB…or Drink Liquor

I don’t talk about alcohol on here usually, but screw it we’re all adults. Where we live, there are actually quite a few restaurants that allow you to bring your own alcohol to have with your meal. Here’s why that is awesome:

IN GENERAL, restaurants try to keep their cost per drink around 20-30% of what customers pay. So for every dollar we spend, they charge anywhere from $3.33 to $5. Kinda sucks right? The BYOB model can make that seldom meal out much more affordable. It’s rare, but do some Google research and you might find a place!

Also, a good friend of mine used to run liquor stores back in the day, and opened my eyes to the fact that beer is a WAY worse deal than liquor on a per-drink basis. If you are someone that enjoys a few beers after work, switch over to booze and see if you can save some $$$.

Questions for you:

  1. There are SO many ways to cut back on eating costs. What are your tricks? Any and all are accepted here!

  2. …Is your metabolism slowing down too? We need to support each other during this tough time. #MillennialCounselingMan

Live differently. Your bank accounts will thank me later. ~M$M

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44 comments… add one
  • The Green Swan Aug 29, 2016, 6:39 am

    Eating out has always seemed like a waste of money to me, so my wife and I have been pretty diligent on limiting how often we go out. We set a pretty strict budget on this every year and do a good job living within it. For 2016, our dining out budget is ~$1,350 for both of us the whole year…just a bit lower than what the average millennial spends…

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 29, 2016, 7:17 am

      That’s great! Like I mentioned above, we only really do brunch on Sunday now. There are a few places on the water – super relaxing to have some breakfast (and mimosas) with a great view!

  • Michelle Aug 29, 2016, 9:35 am

    Does that figure include lunches out during the work week? That has always seemed like a money pit to me. I try to eat out only a few times per month, and usually that’s with coupons or half price gift cards I buy ahead of time. Saves me a bunch so I don’t feel quite so bad about eating out 🙂 aside from those dreaded excess calories

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 29, 2016, 9:51 am

      It’s on all money spent outside the home on food. I linked the post source near in the article up there.

      Lunch IS a money pit! When I first left my teaching job I started eating lunch out a few times a week. I was so used to a 20 minute lunch break while teaching that I went a little crazy with the extra time haha! Had to reel it back in after a few weeks.

  • Christa Szabo Aug 29, 2016, 9:43 am

    Both my fiance and I are chefs and people think we eat REALLY well at home. We don’t. Sometimes we get avant garde at home, but when it’s your job, it’s like extending our workday. We come home from long hours just to work some more. We are getting better at eating at home more often and one of the things I’ve been trying to do is grow our own herbs and some of the cheap, easy veggies that we eat a lot of too. Salad greens are REALLY easy to container gardening, like spinach and loose leaf lettuce. You can buy a plant and watch a quick YouTube video about how to take care of it. It will grow year around and when cut right, it will just keep growing back so for the price of one bag of spinach and lettuce, you have the freshest, tastiest greens possible for the low, LOW price of free! Thanks for another great article!

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 29, 2016, 10:01 am

      Oh wow, chefs? That sounds like such a cool job to a computer-worker like me haha! I can definitely see how it would feel like working when you get home. That’s like me writing articles during the day, and then writing my own articles later so I can read something. 🙂

      I’ve noticed the garden idea becoming popular lately (maybe it always has been), but it sounds like a cool idea!

  • Christa Szabo Aug 29, 2016, 10:58 am

    Well I know as a generation, we’re really into all things vintage. I think it has something to do with how we were effected by the recession, seeing as it’s referred to the worst economic crisis since the great depression, and though it’s no where NEAR as bad; I think we’ve been taking our ques from those decades on how things were handled. I’ve learned not just to grow my own food, but how to preserve it by canning or aging. I’ve learned to grow a sourdough starter without any packaged yeast and I even know how to make my own cheese. My fiance does part time work in construction with his brother and eventually, we want to buy property where we can be pretty well self sufficient. And I see that as a trend through a lot of my friends as well. I think we realize that we can’t expect the government or anyone else to take care of us and we’ve decided to take things into our own hands, almost giving us a reason to take things that we’re interested in or passionate about and figure out how we can do it on our own

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 29, 2016, 3:00 pm

      That’s so cool that you guys are tackling your finances together! One of my favorite things about being debt free is that my wife and I don’t fight about money. There’s really nothing to fight about when you don’t have many bills 🙂

  • Nicole Aug 29, 2016, 11:22 am

    Eating food out is a huge waste of money. I only work anywhere from 3-4 days a week (but long hours on those days) so I try and find meals that have a ton of leftovers. This is great for people that don’t enjoy cooking much or just don’t have the time. It seems to work well for me and my significant other and we always have lunches for work. Also, believe it or not but eating vegetarian 1-2 days a week saves a ton of money. Meat tends to be the most expensive part of your plate. I also use some blogs that break down the price of each recipe!

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 29, 2016, 2:59 pm

      Yeah you definitely are paying for a luxury type item. We’ve been doing the leftover thing lately too – such a help! I can believe it on the vegetarian costs…you can buy like 324 fruits and vegetables for $10 haha!

      • Nicole Sep 5, 2016, 1:33 pm

        324. That is very specific! haha. But I also try and eat organic and eating vegetarian saves money that way. Fun fact: since eating mainly organic my significant other no longer has allergy problems. Interesting, huh?

  • Amanda @ centsiblyrich Aug 29, 2016, 11:33 am

    Wow! Taco Bell!

    We are pretty good at keeping the restaurant expenses to a minimum, but we still have months when we spend more than I would like. I try to keep a few quick-to-fix meals on hand for busy nights when I have no time to cook (think pasta) and plan our meals out a week at a time. Also, everybody takes their own lunch, except my 16 year old (I choose my battles). Going out to eat is treated as a form of entertainment at our house, so it’s not something we tend to fall back on in a pinch.

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 29, 2016, 2:58 pm

      Haha I know right? Taco Bell for the win. I think EVERYONE has times that they spend more than they would like to on eating out. We’ve been trying crockpot meals lately and love it! Super easy and usually plenty of leftovers for lunch.

  • Taylor Aug 29, 2016, 12:26 pm

    Does this mean the average couple spends $5,278 (2x the $2,639)? That would make me feel better! Since focusing on our finances more seriously last December, we have cut down our going out to eat budget by 22%!!

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 29, 2016, 2:56 pm

      It’s for Millennial households, not individuals, so this would be for the average couple in your case. 22% is a huge cut – congrats!!!!! 🙂

  • Michael | The Student Loan Sherpa Aug 29, 2016, 7:18 pm

    Eating out definitely has a social component. However, I think it can be replaced with cooking together as a social event. A taco bar or pizza making station can be a ton of fun.

  • Scott @ Couple of Sense Aug 29, 2016, 7:58 pm

    Fun post – Sarah and I have discovered that going to the grocery store can be as dangerous sometimes as a restaurant. We forget something like lemons or need to do a mid-week stock up on lettuce but once we get there they have the freshly baked buns, or a great sale on almond milk, etc. I misread the last point and thought you were recommending that people switch to booze at work – Hello Mad Men!

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 29, 2016, 9:44 pm

      🙂 I try to make ALL of the posts fun. Well, sometimes they are sad too haha. Ha I always wished I worked one of those corporate jobs where people drink scotch during the day just because! Seems like it would be cool for about a week.

  • The Financial Panther Aug 30, 2016, 10:56 am

    Ms. FP and I need to work on eating out less. It’s definitely where most of our discretionary money is spent.

    Matt over at the Distilled Dollar had a post a little while ago about saving money going out to eat by using meal delivery services like Blue Apron, Home Chef, Hello Fresh, or Plated. Typically, these services cost about $60 per week for three meals for two people (so $10 per meal). We’ve occasionally been ordering these meals, with the calculation that, if it can get us to cook a meal at home one time, the $60 covers the cost of going out to eat on a Saturday night.

    I really need to get into meal planning. I’ve got a ton of apps to help me do that, but just never seem to get myself on track with my meal planning.

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 30, 2016, 11:37 am

      I’ve considered doing some reviews of those services! It seems like a really interesting idea.

  • Aryana Aug 30, 2016, 4:09 pm

    My problem is that I get bored when I eat at home. I’m not the best cook, but I think the best thing I can do right now is teach myself how so I can actually MAKE the fancy stuff I usually go out for. Any tips around that?

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 30, 2016, 4:31 pm

      Those Tasty videos though. 🙂 That’s about the fanciest stuff my wife and I can make. But in all seriousness, I’m going to do a review of those home order food subscription services next month. Seems like a cool way to learn how to cook some fancy-ish stuff and cheaper than the majority of restaurants we have around us!

    • Christa Szabo Aug 30, 2016, 6:44 pm

      Most local community colleges have culinary programs where you can take a 4 hour Saturday class to learn a particular cuisine or how to make a particular ingredient. Le Cordon Bleu had great Saturday classes where one week you can learn to make pasta from scratch along with about 4 different dishes you can make with said pasta, the next one could be a taste of Thailand, Italy day is popular, and sometimes it was a baking class. You can check the school’s website for prices and even though it might be $100 for a class, the knowledge you gain from learning how to make your favourite going out dish will save you so much money in the long run

      • Millennial Money Man Aug 30, 2016, 9:20 pm

        Great tip Christa!!!!

        • Maureen Sep 5, 2016, 5:45 pm

          I meet my friends at a walking trail instead of for drinks or food. Cheaper. Social. Skinnier. It is working for me.

    • Aryana Aug 31, 2016, 12:36 pm

      Thanks for the tips, guys! I will be looking forward to that food subscription review.

  • Ms. Montana Aug 31, 2016, 9:43 am

    We go out maybe twice a month. But mostly it’s just to get out of the house and have some conversation time, and less about fancy food. There is a local grocery store that has a nice eat in area. We can eat breakfast like kings for $6. So it’s us and a bunch of folks in their 70’s having biscuits and gravy ($1) , bacon (60 cents), donuts(70 cents) and coffee ($1). Because really, how many times a month can we eat that with out packing on the pounds? Twice a month is all our waste lines can take!

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 31, 2016, 9:45 am

      I’m with you – we LOVE brunch. I’d rather do a cheap brunch 4 times a month than a nice dinner once or twice. Our favorite place has boat access so we drop the boat in the water and have a nice Sunday!

  • Mrs. COD Aug 31, 2016, 1:15 pm

    Great post! I hear so many millennials complaining about how they can never pay off their student loans, but then they’re talking about going out drinking every weekend and eating meals out constantly. It drives me crazy that they don’t take the cost of eating/drinking out seriously. Yes, the social component is important, but you still have to set limits and fulfill your responsibilities. We’ve cut back even more on our eating out since having kids, since you also have to add in the cost of either a babysitter or the kids’ meals. Definitely makes cooking at home more appealing! It’s more work at times, but generally healthier and our cooking skills have improved!

    • Millennial Money Man Aug 31, 2016, 1:23 pm

      Thanks! 🙂

      My wife and I actually really enjoy cooking together. I don’t know if that will change when we have kids down the road or not, but it’s cool to try some different stuff. We actually lived together in college, and I think that’s where we really got into the habit!

  • Millennial Moola Aug 31, 2016, 4:20 pm

    My girlfriend and I just share meals when we go out. Actually makes the meal look extremely reasonable when you discount it by 50%

  • Jen Smith Sep 3, 2016, 1:55 pm

    I used to get so embarrassed when my husband and I would split a meal at a restaurant to fit it into our “eating out” budget. But over time I realized how much money we saved and fewer calories we ate and I am so glad we picked up that trick. And if you’re with a big group of people who can’t take their leftovers (always my friends for some reason) people give you all their extra food. Win!

    • Millennial Money Man Sep 3, 2016, 2:42 pm

      That’s a great tip! Other people don’t pay your bills, nothing to be ashamed about! 🙂

  • Janice Sep 4, 2016, 5:57 am

    I am probably not answering this one right but we love to eat out. I guess I am the older generation though and well after all these years of cooking and not eating out I am loving it now!! We live date night or date lunches and we look for good deals. We pretty much put eating out into out food budget even and just have a pretty high food budget each month. We were discussing things that are important to us and because we are a little older than most of you answering we have less to save for now and so eating out and trying new little mom and pop places are just our passion. There are really great little gem places out there and we usually eat under $25 to $30 and we don’t drink so that always saves a lot. Once in awhile a cheap draft but out favorite places are quite expensive like Hooters for crab legs and chicken wings and onions rings of course. We do this once a month because we love this place on the gulf so much. It’s our super fun date night and well $60 once a month for that is soooo worth it!!!!! I don’t thrilled k we are crazy out of line with the millennial a at $2500 a year. But I think we only spend that much as a couple. Maybe a little more. But then we budget around $600 a month for food and $200 is our eating out allowance. Thanks for sharing all your answers everyone!

  • Tj Sep 4, 2016, 9:44 pm

    Eating out has always been my biggest struggle. I remember during college, I was awlays excited to come home for breaks and actually have homecooked meals. The dorms only really had communal kitchens and neither me nor my roommates ever really used them. The problem is I that don’t usually go to the grocery store until I start to feel hangry, and by then, it’s like, I don’t want to actually go back home and actually cook something, I just want to eat. So I’ll inevitably pickup some prepared food from the grocery store like some baked chicken or hot soup, or I’ll go next door to the Mexican or Chinese place.

    I’llg et some cheap breakfasts like oatmeal or cereal, but more often than not I’m rushing in the morning and go through the drive thru.

    There was a period of time when I would pick up meat from the butcher and cook it myself on the grill pan, but I wasn’t really spending any less on a per meal basis. And I was so stressed out about undercooking it.

    I budget $450/mo for restaurants, but looking at my spend history, it’s usually right around $400. Groceries are usually between $50 and $100 per month. Is it too high for a single guy? Probably. But it’s convenience that I can afford.

    If anything, I’m most concerned about the long term health consequences of my diet. I can’t process all the stuff that I used to be able to. I’m eating a lot less deep fried stuff, which is great, but there’s still definitely a lot of grease, fat and oils.

  • The Savvy Couple Feb 6, 2017, 5:25 pm

    We always thought it was insane how much Millennials eat out. We budget $50 a month for “restaurant”. That includes fast food.

    Glad we are about $2,000 under the average.

    It helps we both know how to cook. We are also very easily pleased when it comes to meals.

    We have breakfast for dinner once a week. Regularly have turkey sausage, rice, peppers, onions.

    Not only is eating at home a savvy savings but man is it healthier also!

  • Beau Feb 6, 2017, 6:08 pm

    Great post! Love your split-the-meal tip. My wife and I do that more often than not. You don’t over eat, so you really enjoy what you eat, feel better about yourself afterwards and definitely feel like champs when the bill comes! My wife is also great about cooking for the whole week, so there’s no temptation or need to get fast food on our 12+hr work days. I hate eating fast food, and my wife makes it easy to avoid.
    One thing I love is grass fed meat….I can eat half of a small steak and feel just as full as eating a whole grain fed steak, and I know it’s better for me, too! Thanks for the post!

  • Malori Feb 6, 2017, 6:11 pm

    Crockpot is a time and money saver – we buy all the supplies for about 15 meals once a month at Sam’s Club (no Costco here), and prepare them all in freezer bags. Before I leave for work a meal goes in the crockpot and dinner is done when I get home. Usually there’s leftovers for the next day’s dinner and a lunch portion.

    • Millennial Money Man Feb 6, 2017, 6:47 pm

      We love cooking with the crockpot! Unfortunately I dropped it and broke the lid a few months ago haha.

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