How to Budget Your Restaurant Food Dollars

Budgeting for restaurant meals helps you keep track of your finances

Budgeting for restaurant meals helps you keep track of your finances

Date nights are important bonding experiences. They give the two of you time to decompress from the week and catch up with each other. However, eating out regularly can get really pricey. Making a concerted effort to budget your restaurant dollars as part of your weekly household expenses and limiting your restaurant meals to twice a week means that you still get to go out and have fun without sending your financial plan to hell in a handcart.

Collect your most recent credit card bills and debit card statements and look at the number of charges that occur in restaurants.

Write down how much each one cost and then verify the charges against any restaurant receipts you may have saved over the past three months.

Use this data to determine if the two of you have consistently eaten out more than twice a week over the past three months.

Take note of the payment method you used for each meal over the three month period -- credit card, cash or debit card.

Choose a container such as a Mason jar, envelope, or box that you can use to hold cash.

Calculate the amount required to cover the cost of your favorite meals at your favorite restaurant, twice a week, with the tax, tip and drinks included. Place this exact amount, in cash, in the Mason jar.

Use this cash amount to pay for your restaurant meals twice a week.

Items you will need

  • Containers suitable for holding cash
  • Credit card statements
  • Bank statements
  • Restaurant receipts


  • Using cash instead of credit is an effective way to stick to a budget, because it gives you a finite amount of money to work with, whereas with credit people often overspend, especially if the restaurant meal is an impulse buy. When you go out for your restaurant meals together, leave your credit cards at home as extra moral support for the cash-only approach to budgeting your restaurant dollars.


  • Avoid using the cash in your Mason jar for any other purpose besides your two weekly restaurant outings together. The cash jar is not an emergency fund. Its purpose is to help you enjoy restaurant meals while supporting your financial goals and keeping track of where your dollars go each month.

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About the Author

Emma Cale has been writing professionally since 2000. Her work has appeared in “NOW Magazine,” “HOUR Magazine” and the “Globe and Mail.” Cale holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Windsor and advanced writing certificates from the Canadian Film Centre and the National Theatre School of Canada.

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