When Dani and I first got married, I remember telling her that I wanted a weekly food allowance. I was so used to eating out—and really enjoyed eating out—that I couldn't imagine a week going by without having some Subway or Pizza Hut at some point during the week.
Naturally, she didn't like this.
After we took Financial Peace University I realized there was going to be some areas that we'd have to cut back on, and eating out was one of them. Sigh. I wasn't happy about it, but I figured I'd at least see how it goes. At first we budgeted about $50 a month for restaurants. Depending on whether we got a $12 pizza or a $25 dinner at 99's, we could eat out about two or three times a month. Then one of our bills went up and we had to scrape together an extra $10 a month, so the restaurant budget went down to $40. It continued to drop as the months ticked by.
After about a year of this, I had become more accustomed to not eating out. I still had my personal money which I could splurge on pizza if I wanted to, and my boss would occasionally buy lunch for the office, so I was still getting my "restaurant fix," though I had weened myself from it significantly.
Then came the day where Dani and I were looking at our monthly allocated spending plan and we realized just how much money we could put toward our mortgage if we cut out restaurants entirely. And so our budget for eating out went back onto the chopping block, except this time it didn't come back. R.I.P restaurant budget. We'll resurrect you some day :-(
Dani and I have become determined to get out of debt as soon as possible. We've found the "Gazelle intensity" that Dave Ramsey so often talks about, and we're putting it to good use.
I tell this story because I think it's valuable for people to understand that we didn't become the "penny pinching rappers" overnight. It took months and months of discipline and compromise. The things we're doing today to cut back on our spending were unthinkable a year ago!
If you're considering doing this penny pinching thing too, ease into it. If you bite off more than you can chew you run the risk of getting frustrated and discouraged before you even get off the ground. Yes, sometimes you need to make drastic life changes to get out of debt. Yes, you need to be willing to discipline yourself and compromise on many of life's luxuries. But take your time. Slow and steady wins the race.
Keep pinchin' :-)