Americans Spent an Average of $95 on Restaurants in January. Is That Too Much?

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  • Average restaurant spending has risen slightly over the past year.
  • While it's okay to dine out on occasion, doing so shouldn't drive you to the point of debt.

It's fun to dine out -- but only if you can afford it.

There are plenty of reasons why people carve out room in their budgets for restaurant meals. For one thing, it's nice to get a break from cooking -- and the cleanup that typically ensues. Also, going to restaurants means getting to sample different dishes and enjoy the unique tastes a great chef can bring to the table.

There's the social aspect to enjoy, too. Often, people use dining out as a reason to get together, and that alone makes the cost of restaurant meals worth it.

But let's be real about that cost -- it's enormous compared to the cost of shopping for food and cooking at home. When you dine at a restaurant, you might easily spend three or four times more than what you'd spend at the supermarket to whip up a comparable meal. And too many restaurant visits could really eat into your budget.

In January, the average consumer spent $95 at restaurants, according to a recent Morning Consult survey. That's a 1.6% increase since January 2021. Now to be fair, a big reason for that increase could stem from the fact that food costs are now higher. But still, Americans are spending more on restaurants than they were a year ago, even if marginally so.

On the one hand, spending $95 a month on restaurants might seem like a reasonable thing. But in some cases, it may constitute going overboard.

Can you afford a monthly $95 restaurant tab?

Whether $95 is a reasonable amount to spend each month at restaurants really hinges on your personal financial picture. If you're able to spend $95 without missing other bills, racking up debt, or pulling money out of your savings, then you may be more than okay to fork over that sum for great food and good times with friends. But if you're already in debt and your current paycheck can't cover your bills, then unfortunately, you probably shouldn't be spending much, if any money, at restaurants until your financial picture improves.

What’s more, if you're just covering your bills each month but have no money in your savings account to fall back on, then you should really consider eliminating all non-essential spending until you've built yourself a bit of a cushion. That way, you won't immediately be forced into debt if an unplanned bill arises that your paycheck can't cover.

How much should you spend on restaurants?

The money you spend to dine at restaurants is money you won't have for other purposes, whether it's savings, your rent, or the big vacation you're hoping to take later this year. When figuring out how much to spend at restaurants, first make sure you're in a position to allocate money to non-essentials. Then, figure out what other things you might have to postpone or give up due to spending money to dine out.

It may be that you can easily afford to spend $200 a month at restaurants, but doing so will make it so you're unable to take that beach vacation with your friends this summer. You may decide you'd rather dine out and enjoy yourself every week than take a single one-week trip, and that's okay. The key, however, is to make that conscious decision rather than spend at restaurants and regret it later.

Ultimately, dining at restaurants can be a source of fun and happiness. You shouldn't feel bad about spending money on restaurant meals as long as you can pay for them without racking up debt or hurting your savings goals.

Our Research Expert

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