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I read an interesting statistic today – 18 to 25 year olds spend up to 49% more than other age groups on dining out. Doesn’t say if that’s fast food, fine dining, or drinks, but if I had my guess, I’d say 90% fast food with a smattering of fine dining.

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This was from an article someone Tweeted about buying habits across the 50 states and I just thought this particular tidbit was just SO fascinating. This is the first generation that has grown up in the Happy Meal lifestyle and this is demonstrating how much they have taken this lesson to heart. And don’t worry, I’m lumping my three kids right in there too!

I find this kind of disturbing on a couple of levels. One is the money aspect. It doesn’t say what proportion of their income they are spending, but it sounds like a pretty significant chunk of change. You probably aren’t in this age bracket – I’m certainly not, but think about what you’ve spent just this week on food other than grocery store items.

Did you get a latte or other fancy drink in the mornings? Grab a pizza or some burgers for dinner on your way to sports practice or whatever? Have a few lunches in the office cafeteria, or lunch out with some friends? Maybe you and your husband have a Friday night date night at a nice restaurant? Even snow cones or ice cream for the kiddos? What about all those sodas or expensive bottled waters? It adds up fast. And if these kids are spending even MORE than we do what do you think their total for the week would be? $100??? $150??? More??

And what are they getting for all that money? Well, nothing really. Not to be crude, but they are spending large amounts of their income on something that is here today and gone tomorrow (in a manner of speaking).

That’s money that could be used for a car payment, a down payment on a house, investing in a business, or saving for retirement or a college education for your grandchildren. I joke with my husband that we could have put one (or two) of our kids through college just for what he has spend on soda pop. And it’s totally true. If you figure he has three sodas a day at a buck or two apiece times 365 days times 25 years. It ends up being between forty and fifty thousand dollars!

And that’s just the soda. Figure in all the pizza, chicken, tacos, and burgers we eat in a year, not to mention the rare times we go out for a nice meal. Shoot, it usually costs me $40-$50 just to take everyone out to Denny’s for pancakes and double that for a nice dinner. There’s probably a house or two in there after all these years.

And of course, you are paying for all that eating in another way too. With your health. We’ve all heard all the statistics – heard Dr. Oz spouting forth on Oprah about childhood obesity, diabetes rates, and all the damage we are doing to our bodies with all this excessive amounts of unhealthy food we eat. We’re literally digging our graves with our teeth!

So, what’s a Mom to do about it? Well, it’s probably a little too late if you’ve got kids in the 18 to 25 age range like I do. They’re pretty well set in their habits at this point. But if you’ve got younger kids, now might be a good time to start talking to them about this.

But talk isn’t enough, is it? You’ve got to set the example and consistently teach them how to feed themselves and their families without falling into this trap. It would be an interesting challenge to see how long you could go without buying ANY outside food or drink at all. One day? Three days? A week? A month?

It would be kind of fun if you put the money into a jar, so you could see how much you had saved over that time. I’d like that part. Brown bagging it to work, not so much.

I think I could probably do one day, if I planned ahead or even three days if I really got serious about it, but a week? A week would be a challenge for me, and a month, I think would be almost impossible to do. I’ve never really tried it though, unless I was really seriously dieting and then that was just me, not the whole family.

Give it a try.  I’d be interested to see what your results are.

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13 Comments on Smart Money – The Fast Food Challenge

  1. I have found that one of the best things I can do for our health and finances on a daily basis is to cook a real dinner. My husband is always hungry when he comes home from work, and unlike me, he actually likes fast food so he’d be happy to pick up a meal on the way home (that’s what he was in the habit of doing when he was single). But he won’t be tempted to do that if he knows there’s a tasty hot meal waiting for him at home. I know that making the choice not to be lazy and to cook really helps our health and our finances–plus, that means there’s money available when we do want to go out on a date!

  2. I haven’t eaten fast food for 3 1/2 years!! And I don’t miss it! I just made the choice. At first it was hard because fast food is convenient, but once I got past that, I don’t even miss it 🙂

  3. We order pizza out once a week IF the kids have friends over. No fast food, ever. We do eat out, but usually if we must be away from home (no choices, like being out of town) or if we are really hungry for a certain kind of food (we don’t “make” sushi at home) Other than that we eat homemade stuff, at home.I am a real food advocate, and I buy little to no processed foods. My food expenditures are pretty much the same as if we were eating out though, since I try to by local, organic and non GMO- Eating in all the time allows us to spend the same, but really increase the quality of the food we consume. We do cut corners a bit by eating vegetarian meals at least twice a week, and vegan at least once or twice as well. Everyone feels much better since we started doing it, and I am getting better about shopping sales and utilizing the freezer, so maybe eventually I’ll see a financial difference!

  4. We don’t eat out much – fast food or otherwise because I can’t afford it anyway.

    Good points though – kids aren’t learning how to cook (I think) – so I can actually see my 17 yr old son doing this when he gets on his own, he can hardly boil water – lol

    Stopping by from #SITSSharefest

  5. It is so easy to go through the drive through or order up something to be delivered. But, I find that when I prepare ahead, I can usually keep us from eating out. We make it a point to sit down and eat together almost every single night. It is rare when we don’t eat together – usually due to a meeting or the kids are at their grandparents. I always keep “go to” meals handy like spaghetti, tortillas, and chicken breast in the freezer that I can thaw out quick in the microwave. This helps – the only time I struggle is weekend lunches because weekends get so busy with sports and I’m totally addicted to Firehouse Subs.

  6. Just thinking about my own habits when I was in that age group, I can see how that stat came about. From 18-25, many kids have jobs but are still subsidized by their parents. Socializing usually started with dinner and drinks.

  7. I recently found our family sliding into this statistic, even though we’re a bit older than the demographic. Far too easy to go through the drive through and let the kids eat while I drove!

    Now, I’m starting to cook healthy meals and freeze a second batch of everything so I have something, even on nights when life is busy!

  8. I love that you are writing about this! I don’t personally eat fast, junk or restaurant food (not even a latte!) because I find that NOT eating healthy directly – and negatively – affects my fibromyalgia symptoms. But I know so many people who eat out on a regular basis, and I’ve known a few parents who were so tired and overworked that fast food became their answer to busy days.
    I hope you have lots of responses to your challenge!
    Visiting from SITS Girls 🙂

  9. This is a very compelling challenge. I’m going to try my best, too. I figured up the math earlier this year and I can save about $3-4/day by bringing my lunch to work rather than grabbing something from Wendy’s or Tim Horton’s, but I usually find myself going out for lunch at least twice a week.

    Good luck to everybody else who plans to participate!

  10. Oh i wish I could break my eatting out habit. I have gone long periods of time (2 months -not consecutive, several weeks, days) but I always go back to it. It is a terrible habit.

    i will do my best with your challenge!

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