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How to Break the Habit That’s Eating Up Your Future

Let’s not beat around the bush. Eating out is eating up your future. It’s gobbling down your present and keeping you stuck in the past. That heavy debt you’re hauling around didn’t happen while you were asleep. Chances are pretty good that you’re eating your way into debt. 

Breaking the eating out habit isn’t easy to do, but it can be done. What it takes is motivation, determination, and perseverance.

Restaurant hamburger and fries good enough to eaat

Cost

Let this exercise act as a quick-start motivator: For one week, track your household spending on every form of eating out including coffee, donuts, restaurants, cafes, diners, street vendors, food trucks, fast food … all of it.

Once you have that number, multiply by 52. But wait, there’s more. Estimate the cost of all of the food that you throw in the garbage every week because you buy it, then eat out instead. You may be looking at the reason you aren’t saving for retirement, building an emergency fund, or stuck in debt.

6 Ways to Stop Throwing Rotten Produce in the Garbage

Gross factor

I don’t want to get too graphic here describing a negative motivation that might persuade you to eat at home more often, so let me allow the CDC to do that: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that one in five restaurant workers admit coming to work while sick with diarrhea and vomiting—two main symptoms of the stubborn norovirus, which understandably is now running rampant.

The problem lies with these sick workers who take a bathroom break, do not wash their hands with soap then return to prepare and serve our food. Not only is it expensive to eat out, but your chances of getting sick are also increasing.

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The Ultimate Restaurant Menu Cheat Sheet

A restaurant menu—no big deal, right? It’s just a list of the food items that a restaurant offers its customers. Sure it is. Plus a whole lot more.

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Before menus ever make it to the printer, restaurant owners hire menu engineers and consultants to bury super sneaky psychological tricks into the pretty pictures and mouth-watering descriptions for one reason only—to get you to spend more money. 

Want to beat restaurants at their own game? Here’s your cheat sheet listing the sneakiest of sneaky tricks.

Dollar signs

Sophisticated research tells restaurants to stop including dollars signs on their menus because a dollar sign—or even the word “dollar” spelled out instead—triggers negative feelings associated with paying. Both the sign and the word remind customers that they’re spending money. (Well, imagine that!)

Number choices

Menu designers work under a strict list of rules, one of which has to do with the number 9. Consumers have been taught to believe that prices that end with 9, such as $7.99, offer value but not necessarily quality. And get this, prices that end in .95 instead of .99 are more effective, meaning subconsciously, customers are more likely to choose them because the way the price appears to be friendlier.

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Great Ways to Save at Restaurants

If the high cost of restaurant meals is eating up your cash, here are some great ways to keep your tab lean!

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DISCOUNTS. Many restaurants offer a reduced-price menu for seniors and children. If you or someone in your party qualifies be sure to inquire if this doesn’t show up on the regular menu. Typically these discounted menus offer smaller portions at significantly reduced prices.

SKIP THE SODAS. Skip the pricey drinks and dubious “free refills” altogether and you’ll save at least $2 a person. Lisa B. rewards herself whenever she opts for water by stuffing two bucks into her savings account.

SHARE. Splitting a meal these days is socially acceptable and economically savvy. While some restaurants charge a minimal charge for splitting, most are very accommodating. Even if you have to pay a buck or two to split, it’s still better than paying for two meals you cannot eat completely. If you’re embarrassed about sharing, don’t be. If you must explain, say you are a light eater or that you’re doing your duty to the earth by not over-consuming. Many restaurants are so accommodating they’ll split the meal in the kitchen rather than handing you an extra plate.

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