How to Indulge Your San Francisco Foodie Passion…on a Budget!

Cathy Curtis

The third truth in my 10 Simple Truths About Money is …Live Within Your Means: Don’t Spend More Than You Earn  (or Contrary to Popular Opinion, You Weren’t Born to Shop!).    If you are a foodie living in the Bay Area – this is DEFINITELY easier said than done. 

But don’t fear, help is on the way. With a budget and some savvy practices, you can eat well and avoid overspending.

by Cathy Curtis, Certified Financial Planner

One of the greatest joys of living in the Bay Area is the multitude of options for eating really well. The food culture is so strong that eating out has become THE entertainment of choice.

Indulge Your Foodie Passion and…
 Stay on Budget!

Whether it be the hottest new restaurant in the Mission or Oakland, or the food truck that parks down the street from your office, it’s not hard to indulge your foodie passion – or to bust your budget eating out.

But, suggesting you deprive  yourself of the food scene that rivals that of New York or Paris,  is not the intention of this post.   Instead, try out these strategies and tips for indulging your gastronomic and enophilic passions and still have money left to pay the rent!

Strategy:  Create a Budget

1. Add up all of your monthly non-discretionary and necessary expenses (including taxes and savings). Subtract this amount from your monthly income.  What is left is discretionary income.  You can spend this money anyway you want to.

2. Create a budget for eating out from you discretionary $$. Make your choices based on what gives you the most pleasure.  This is where the hard decisions come in.

Would you rather eat out three times a week or buy season tickets to the symphony or go on a B&B weekend once a month?   Is a new outfit more important to you than dinner at Chez Panisse?  Would you rather buy books or breakfast?    

3. Track your budget. Each time you go out to eat, track the expense in a notebook, on-line, on a chalkboard in the kitchen, whatever method works for you.  

Stop spending on eating out when you hit your limit.

4. Withdraw your eating out budget in cash at the beginning of each month.   When the cash is gone, no more eating out until the next  month.

Tips for Stretching your Eating Out Dollars

Key point:  Save your eating out dollars for the really good stuff, don’t fritter it away on the mundane.

1. Use groceries for as many meals as possible:

  • Bring your homemade lunch to work
  • Fill a thermos with your favorite home-brewed coffee
  • Carry baggies of snack foods: nuts, dried fruit, tangerines, crackers, energy bars in your purse. 
  • When you cook at home prepare for more than one meal so there is always something good to eat.

2. Too busy to stock up the fridge? Buy prepared foods at Trader Joes or Whole Foods for lunch.

3 . If friends invite you to a restaurant that’s too rich, suggest going out for drinks or offer to join them for dessert instead.

6. If you belong to groups that usually meet at restaurants, suggest rotating potluck gatherings at your homes instead.

7. If you order a meal that is  less expensive than your dining companion (s), suggest that you split the bill according to what everyone ordered.

8. Share a bottle of wine instead of buying by the glass.

9. Drink beer instead of wine.  Or skip wine altogether. (Not easy, I know).

10. Order appetizers instead of main courses.

11. Sit at the bar and eat. You will feel less pressure to order a full meal.

12.  Order pizza. You can’t go wrong in many places and it’s usually the least expensive and most filling dish on the menu.

If you don’t spend your full budget in a month, treat yourself the next month and splurge on a favorite restaurant! 

I am sure that you have developed some savings strategies and tips on your own, share with your fellow foodies by replying to this post.  Bon Appetit!

Sharing is caring…so if you enjoyed this article be sure to share it!

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Category: Your Finances

About the Author (Author Profile)

Cathy Curtis is an independent fee-only Certified Financial Planner and CA Registered Investment Advisor based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her firm, Curtis Financial Planning (since 2001) specializes in the finances of women, their families and their businesses.

Cathy passionately believes in Financial Literacy and educates consumers through her website CurtisFinancialPlanning, her blog: Of Independent Means, and her facebook business page Women and Money. She speaks frequently about personal finance issues – most recently at the Financial Women’s Association in San Francisco, National Association of Personal Financial Advisors Norcal Group, and the Commonwealth Club.

Check out Cathy’s Author Library to learn more practical and helpful tips on Money Managment!

Comments (4)

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  3. molly says:

    this is excellent advice! I don’t know anyone who isn’t on a budget. There are lots of great restaurants popping up with well priced dinner offers – sandwich and a glass of wine at, 2 tacos and 2 beers at parkside, etc, etc. I see these deals all over the place. So keep your eyes peeled for these offers.

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