My wife and I do not have a "blow" section of our budget. We just don't blow money right now (or we do our best not to!). However, we do have a couple of areas of our budget where we splurge every now and again. One is that we still have DirecTV, but we do not have a large package (and we renegotiated our bill down to less than $40/month, with two receivers).
The other is that we still go out to eat sometimes. We don't go a lot, but we do like to "grab a burger" every couple of weeks. We also like to "dine" about once a month. We don't go to five-star restaurants, but we also don't go to Waffle House for our fine dining!
However, just because we set aside money for eating out does not mean we can just pile up a huge bill when we do so. Many people leave a restaurant and have no idea where all the money went. Here are some "little" things that really add up when you eat out:
1. Appetizers and desserts. At most national chains (think Applebee's, Olive Garden, etc.), these can be anywhere from $5-$10 each. Just adding one appetizer and/or dessert can make a bill get large quickly. Why do you think the wait staff asks you if you want them?
Two people: one gets an appetizer, the other dessert: add about $15 to your bill.
2. Not drinking water. I have to admit, I "add this" on my bill nearly every time I eat out. I drink a lot of water during the day, so, when I eat out, I want something else. This being a Christian blog, we're not even going to discuss the cost of alcohol. But just think of a soda, tea or lemonade. $1.50-$3.00 per person! And many restaurants are starting to offer "premium" drinks, like specialty sodas that are even more.
Two people: two "non-water" drinks: add about $4 to your bill.
3. Over-ordering. Some restaurants have smaller and larger versions of certain dishes. Many have half-portions if you will just ask, especially on large dishes. Often we are guilty of letting our eyes tell us we will eat a 12 ounce steak, when we only end up eating 6 or 8 ounces. If you constantly have food left over, ask about smaller portions, OR...
4. Not getting to-go boxes. When you have food left over and you can take it home, but fail to do so, you are leaving money on the table. If an entree costs $10 and you each 3/4 of it, but don't take the rest home, you, in essence, just left $2.50 on the table...and not as a tip. Sometimes you are travelling and cannot take food home, but you often can. Do so if possible.
Two people: don't eat (or take home) 1/4 of two $10 entrees: you just lost $5.
5. Tipping Too Much. I think tipping is a great thing. Many waiters are great and earn their money through kind service and quick response. Others, though, don't. They are just there and don't do well at all. There are some who think you should tip a certain percentage "no matter what, because it's just the right thing to do." I can't disagree more! While I always leave a tip, a waiter has to earn a larger tip.
Two people: overtip by $3.
Add all those things up. On a typical night at a typical restaurant, by just doing these five things, you have over-spent (or lost) $27. Now, do that once a month (which is way less than most people eat out), and you have just thrown away over $300 just in "extras" while eating out.
You can eat out and be frugal, but you have to think and plan ahead.