Food budgets, eating out and my biggest issue

When it comes to reigning in the spending, I tend to do decently well overall. However, there is one thing that always becomes a problem for me – food budgets. If you read my about page, you will see that I am a student. Therefore I have to travel in to the city centre on a daily basis. I am often there for the full day, as most of you will be with work, and therefore I require lunches and sometimes breakfasts. The city centre is full of takeaways, fast food shops and other places where I can spend lots of money on food – I usually do. This brings me to my biggest issue in my journey of controlling my personal finance – the food budget.

What I spend on food

Currently, when considering I am in University 5 days a week – all of which I get lunches, and 3 days of which I get breakfasts. I always get these from some form of fast food place. Whether that be my preferred choice of Subway (the Mega Melt is my personal breakfast choice) or some other form of fast food (McDonalds, KFC, Taco Bell, etc.) I always buy one. Lets assume the breakfasts average £5 and that my lunches average £6 every time I buy one. Weekly that adds up to £45 – just on breakfasts and lunches. This is ignoring food spent on dinners. I usually cook my own dinner, and thus the budget isn’t stupid here – but I tend to get a takeaway every Friday or during the weekend just for a night off. This averages about £20. Therefore in total, just from fast food and takeouts I am spending about £65 a week. This isn’t sustainable.

Food budgets and planning

I never really had a food budget. I used to plan the money I needed to pay monthly, then whatever left was there to buy whatever I wanted. It’s no surprise from what I’ve just shown above that most of that was actually going on food. I needed to plan. Now, I have my breakfast at home and take a couple of snacks with me for in the morning. I have a packed lunch that I make the night before. Not only am I eating much healthier, but the food is much cheaper. On average now, with the breakfasts and lunches for a week I am spending £15. Much better. Most of this comes down to better planning. I wake up earlier, leaving me time to have breakfast in the mornings at home. I pack a lunch the night before so that I don’t need to spend money on food whilst I am out. Sometimes I still have the takeaway on a Friday, but this isn’t as much of an issue as the daily overspending on breakfasts and lunches that I was doing before.

Realistically, I should have lots of money available to save. But poor decisions have left me short recently when it comes to having money available to save. These poor decisions have mainly stemmed from the lack of food budgets and planning. Buy your shopping weekly, don’t get the idea that buying something out is better. It might be easier, but it is way too expensive. Another problem I had was buying too many drinks whilst out. I needed the warmth. I don’t live in a particularly warm place and waiting for the bus for a long time makes me very cold. The drinks were about £2 every time, I would buy a couple every day. I needed an alternative. I now bring a flask to University with me, so I have a warm drink throughout the day.

What is your food budget? How much do you spend on food on a weekly basis and have you fell into the same traps as me before? Let me know in the comments!

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