Today's Works for Me Wednesday is about how my husband and I have changed our spending habits and found a great way to still eat out occasionally...for free! Since we started Financial Peace University and created a monthly spending plan, we purposely cut one of our biggest money wasters...eating out. We are still adjusting the monthly allowance and learning how to eat at home more often. But I have discovered one way I can keep eating out occasionally without busting our budget, through our credit card rewards program.
According to Dave Ramsey's plan we should never use credit cards and pay for everything with cash. That is WISE advice for people who have had trouble with credit and have racked up lots of consumer debt. We don't fall into that category, thankfully, so we still use one credit card for many of our purchases each month. The key is that we have never ever had to carry a balance on that card, and we are now watching and tracking our spending very closely. We have used a Discover Card for many years because of the 1-5% cash back rewards system it has. We used to simply apply the cash we got back in the form of rewards to the balance on our bill. That money is kind of like bonus money, since many cards don't offer it.
When I looked at our expenses before we started Financial Peace, I was shocked by how many $8 lunches at Chipotle my husband had racked up. Now he has started bringing his lunch to work instead of eating out every single day, but he can use that Chipotle gift card to eat lunch out at least once a week...essentially for free! The same goes for me and Panera Bread, since it is a mere two miles from my house and I often went there for coffee and a bagel or a take-out lunch when working from home. We also often head to Panera after church for a family lunch. I have cut back on meals out, but I feel great about being able to use my $50 Panera card to cover the occasional indulgence.
So this plan may not work for everyone, but it is definitely working for me. Got any similar tips for eating out on a tight budget?