Americans spent an average of $95 at restaurants in January. Is that too much?

Group of friends enjoying food in a restaurant and using a mobile phone.

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It’s fun to go out to dinner, but only if you can afford it.

Key points

  • The average spend in restaurants has increased slightly over the last year.
  • While it’s okay to go out to dinner once in a while, doing so shouldn’t lead you to the point of going into debt.

There are many reasons people make room in their budgets for restaurant meals. On the one hand, it’s good to take a break from the cooking and cleaning that normally goes on. Also, going to restaurants means trying different dishes and enjoying the unique flavors that a great chef can bring to the table.

There is also the social aspect to enjoy. People often use dining out as a reason to get together, and that alone makes the cost of restaurant dining worthwhile.

But let’s be real about that cost: It’s huge compared to the cost of buying groceries and cooking at home. When you dine in a restaurant, you can easily spend three or four times what you would in the supermarket to prepare a comparable meal. And too many restaurant visits could really hurt your budget.

In January, the average consumer spent $95 at restaurants, according to a recent Morning Consult. poll. That’s a 1.6% increase from January 2021. Now, to be fair, one of the main reasons for that increase could be due to the fact that food costs are now higher. But still, Americans are spending more at restaurants than they were a year ago, albeit marginally.

On the one hand, spending $95 a month at restaurants may seem reasonable. But in some cases, it can constitute going overboard.

Can you afford a $95 monthly restaurant bill?

Whether $95 is a reasonable amount to spend each month at restaurants really depends on your personal financial situation. If you can spend $95 without losing other bills, racking up debt, or taking money out of your savings, then you may be more than fine shelling out that sum for a great meal and good times with friends. But if you’re already in debt and your current paycheck can’t cover your bills, unfortunately, you probably shouldn’t spend much, if any money, at restaurants until your financial situation improves.

Moreover, if you are alone cover your bills each month but you don’t have money in your savings account to fall back on, so you really should consider eliminating everyone non-essential expenses until you’ve built a bit of a cushion. That way, you won’t be forced into debt right away if an unplanned bill comes up that your paycheck can’t cover.

How much should you spend on restaurants?

The money you spend on dining out is money you won’t have for other purposes, whether it’s savings, your rent, or the big vacation you’re hoping to take later this year. When calculating how much to spend at restaurants, first make sure you’re in a position to allocate money to the non-essentials. Then figure out what other things you might have to put off or give up because of spending money to dine out.

You could easily spend $200 a month on restaurants, but doing so will mean you can’t take those beach vacations with your friends this summer. You may decide you’d rather go out to dinner and have fun every week than take one weeklong trip, and that’s okay. The key, however, is to make that conscious decision instead of spending at restaurants and regretting it later.

Ultimately, dining at restaurants can be a source of fun and happiness. You shouldn’t feel bad about spending money on restaurant meals, as long as you can afford it without racking up debt or hurting your savings goals.

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