MoneyWise Live


The Penny-Wise Diner

January 15, 2019

How often does your family eat out or get take out? Two or three times a week? More than three? With today’s hectic lifestyles, buying prepared food is definitely convenient if your budget can take it.  If only there were ways to have our cake and eat it too— pun intended … to eat out with the family but still keep costs down. There are a few tricks.  Financial planner and teacher Rob West has them. 

Food is expensive and it’s not getting any cheaper. The average family spends nearly 13% of its disposable income on food— a significant part of the family budget. That comes out to just over $7,000 a year for food— according to government data. Of that— 3-thousand is spent on food away from home. That includes “dine in” and “carry out” like fast food— plus snacks at convenience stores— and of course— your daily $5.00 cup of coffee at Starbucks, Steve.

  • The most dramatic savings you can achieve is to simply prepare meals at home. 
  • Have you thought about sharing a meal? Most restaurants will allow you to split an entree and salad with your spouse.
  • Another cost saving idea is usually found on the first page of the restaurant menu— the appetizers. Consider getting an appetizer as an entree, then add an inexpensive side salad.
  • Avoid soft drinks and just order water with the meal instead.
  • If you’re going to a “sit down” restaurant, make sure to check out the daily specials. 
  • Always take advantage of coupons.

At the taping of this MoneyWise Live, we’re in Day 25 of the partial government shutdown as President Trump and congressional Democrats butt heads over whether there will be a wall on our southern border. Some 800,000 federal workers— identified as “non-essential” — have now missed a paycheck. Also about 4,000,000 federal contractors are in danger of missing a monthly payment. So that’s a lot of folks potentially hurting right now.  The following are some tips to make things stretch a bit further:

  • No matter who you are. Normally, you couldn’t think of anything more stable than a federal paycheck— and yet— here we are. Even those folks can get furloughed temporarily.  What do these folks need to do now?
  • Prioritize your expenses rather dramatically.
  • No eating out. 
  • If you can’t make a payment— notify your lender or landlord ahead of time. Explain your temporary circumstances and ask for an extension.
  • If you have an auto loan, you need to make that payment. If you can’t, again notify your lender ahead of time about your circumstances. It will likely buy you some time.
  • Priority is utilities. 
  • The lowest priority is credit cards and other consumer debt. We always pay our debts as Christians— and you’ll want to catch up on those as quickly as you can once you’re paid again— but they can wait a bit. 


Next, Rob and Steve answer these questions at 800-525-7000 or via email at Questions@MoneyWiseLive.org:

  • Would it be better to pay off the mortgage early and send that money for the monthly cost for three kids or let it ride and contribute to a college fund?
  • If you live paycheck-to-paycheck and owe the IRS from 2 years ago, how should you proceed?
  • If you're a 64 old nurse, have reduce your income and lifestyle to about 3 days a week, have only about $20,000 in retirement investments, have student loan debt totaling about $50,000 and want to pay a personal loan of about $4,000, should you consider getting a CD backed loan to pay that personal debt?
  • If you have two children, should you give an allowance and if so, how much and at what age?
  • If you have a savings account that has been flagged as dormant and the bank has suggested putting it into a fixed annuity, what should you do?
  • If you're 79 years of age and your husband recently passed away leaving a $350,000 life insurance benefit, how should you invest it to last?
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