The past couple months, I've made an effort to cut back on eating out.
Primarily, this was for health reasons. I've come to the conclusion that it's simply incompatible with a healthy lifestyle to be eating out all the time. Sure, you can grab sushi every once in a while or maybe get a salad somewhere if you're really stuck, but eating out is simply unhealthy.
We just don't know enough about how our food is prepared and what ingredients are included, and I'm not convinced that questions asked of servers in restaurants always yield truthful responses. Besides, it's easier to keep healthy if you're selecting the ingredients yourself and cooking at home. I still take the kids to Chilis, go out with friends to steak restaurants and get takeout sushi with my wife on certain nights. But in those cases, I make an effort to eat a lot less and be very selective about what I'm ordering.
Subconsciously, I think I'm also doing this in part to save money. Reviewing financial details for 2012, I saw how much we spent getting takeout and how much I spent getting a sandwich from the deli every day. I can feed myself much better food for a lot less money as long as I plan ahead. It means more solo trips to the supermarket over the weekends, and a portion of a weekend night spent preparing, but it's worth it. Typically, I'll go shopping on a Friday or Saturday night and start preparing after the kids go to bed. I'll start marinating meats and poultry and then grill them up the next day. So it's not uncommon to see me monopolizing the stove and the grill on weekend nights.
I'm hoping to make a dent in the food budget because the calculations regarding what we should be saving for kids' college educations were so eye-opening. We just opened 529s for Kate and Thomas, and will need to open up a third when our third child is born this summer. Depending on whether the kids end up going to state schools, private schools or (dare I dream) an Ivy League school, we should be putting away anywhere from $550 - $1,300 per month, per child if we want to address 100% of the cost.
This is insane, of course. But I'm not sure what's more insane - trying to save this money now or requiring our children to begin their independent adult lives as indentured servants.
Before anyone asks about scholarships, student loans or the notion of whether or not it's even appropriate to a parent to cover the cost of college in its entirety, let me say that a lot has changed since I went to undergrad, and I'm not sure comparisons to my own situation are even valid anymore. Kids going to school today are being asked to carry more of a burden than I did (yes, even when adjusting for 1994 dollars vs. 2013 dollars). For-profit schools are a bigger factor. Student loan debt is now non-dismissable in bankruptcy court. A lot is different.
And yes, I do equate graduating school with crushing student loan debt to be the very definition of indentured servitude. Debt slavery was already rampant in 1994 when I started my first post-college job. It's worse now. I don't know how we expect kids to make a choice to attend college when they do the cost/benefit analysis and the equation seems to involve a lot more risk than it did when a child's parents and grandparents did the calculation years ago.
Call me crazy, but we're taking the path of least insanity.