Have you ever thought, “We should eat out less often — for the sake of our wallets and our waistlines!” Maybe you tried tracking your purchases, keeping almonds in our purses, and beating yourself up. But nothing ever seems to work. What if I told you I could eat out and save money?
A restaurant tax
I decided to do something drastic. I instituted a surcharge for each meal I didn’t make at home. It was a bold move, but I can do anything for a month, right?
I told myself I could eat out or order in as often as I wanted, guilt-free. However, as long as each time I did, I tucked away an equivalent amount of money in a special envelope.
A $10 trip to the Burger House now cost me $20.
Thai food for the family meant spending $90 instead of $45.
And a frou-frou coffee drink was $8, not $4.
To keep myself honest, I imposed a non-negotiable rule: my “tax” was due at the time service was rendered. If I didn’t have the cash to put into my envelope immediately, I couldn’t place my order. It’s difficult enough scrounging through the nooks and crannies of my purse and minivan to find money for a burger on the run. But now I had to find twice as much.
I assumed this experiment would drastically reduce how frequently I ate out, because eating out is expensive, and I had just doubled the cost.
A surprising result
At the end of the month, I removed the bulging envelope from my desk drawer and held the stack of small bills in my hand, curious to see how much I had collected. My heart beat faster as I counted: $185, $190 — I was holding over $200! A mix of emotions swirled to the surface.
Embarrassment — Do we really eat out this much?
Shame — How did this not “cure” me of eating out?
Concern — Had I forgotten to pay a bill?
But those emotions were eclipsed by excitement: We spent $200 eating out last month AND we had an additional $200 saved!!
That means, at least for last month, I could have spent $400 in some other way, if I had chosen not to eat out at all. At the very least, I had $200 in my hand that I could still choose to spend intentionally. The options were endless — all because my experiment failed!
Or had it?
Spending money intentionally
How much money do you spend eating out each month? Is there something you could spend that money on that would give you more satisfaction? Maybe. Or maybe not. How will you know if you’re not intentional?
One Small Win: Try imposing your own restaurant tax. You may eat out less frequently. You may eat out just as often. At least you’ll be making an informed decision. Either way, you’ll gather far more money than you’ll ever find by foraging through your car.
Kendra Burrows has a passion for tending her earthly and spiritual gardens. Some days they overflow with blooms, other days the weeds seem to prevail. In either case, Kendra strives to mindfully recognize God’s grace in her life every day, and to encourage others to tend and nurture their own beautiful gardens.
Kendra is joyfully married with three great kids and son-in-law, and two other lovable nuisances (pets). She lives in Eugene, OR, and teaches psychology at the local college.
Don’t get me wrong I appreciate the freedoms and opportunities money can afford, but the lack of it is draining.
My husband and I have been in full-time ministry for most of our lives. Budgeting has been a necessary reality since the beginning of our union. Dental bills, unexpected car repairs, medical issues, and the cost of everyday life created stress for us in various seasons but nothing could have prepared us for nine months of unemployment.
The cost of unemployment
We had just moved so I could accept my dream job at a Christian camp in the mountains of Arizona. I left teaching, took a pay cut, and trusted God’s call. Everything was awesome until my husband started looking for a job. He has a Master’s Degree from USC (on a full ride), decades of experience, and, frankly, he is a good guy. Nothing. No one seemed to have a need for that which he had to offer. It was arduous.
The tension in our home with our teenagers and between my husband and I became palpable. An increase in raised voices and shed tears precipitated a change. That change came in the form of a trip to the dollar store (God bless the dollar store).
We bought polished rocks, a candle, and a Sharpie. I pulled out an old glass hurricane lamp and charger plate from the garage and got to work. I put the candle in the middle of the charger plate, placed the hurricane over the candle and spread the rocks all around the outside of the glass. Then I called a family meeting where I told everyone anytime we felt overwhelmed or frustrated, we needed to contribute to our family’s ebenezer.
A family ebenezer
Ebenezer is more than the name of the lead character in that old Christmas story. It comes from the name of a stone raised by Samuel to commemorate a victory over the Philistines at Mizpeh (I Sam.12). The word itself comes from the Hebrew (ebhen “stone” + ezer “help”). God often asked His people to remember His goodness by building an ebenezer to remember His faithfulness. God didn’t do it to feed His ego, but instead, He knew we’d need the reminders.
We have very short memories in times of trouble!
Each person in my family was given a few rocks and asked to write something God had done to show His love in the past week. We used the permanent marker to scribble our ideas on the rocks. Anytime we saw the hand of God provide for our family, we wrote on a rock and placed it on the inside of the hurricane glass.
They served as our reminders
By the end of the unemployment drought, we had gone back to the dollar store three times to buy more rocks. Even on days when our financial situation looked bleak, it was very difficult to feel sorry for ourselves. Written on every rock we saw His faithfulness evidenced on a daily basis through others, circumstances, and His church. The arguments dissipated and the joy quotient vastly increased.
Someday when my kids leave the house to start families of their own, the first thing I will send with them is the makings of an ebenezer. I pray when they face the tumult of difficulty, such a visual reminder will commemorate God’s faithfulness, and the “joy of the Lord (will be their) strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
One Small Win: As we built an ebenezer, He built in us a solid trust in His provision. When we removed some of the rocks, we were reminded of all that had happened. We were flabbergasted at the creative ways God provided for our family.
Amberly Neese is a national speaker, author, and humorist with a passion for pointing others to the joy found in Christ. She has won hearts (and funny bones) of people all over the country at hundreds of conventions, camps, seminars, retreats, and chapels. She also serves as the program director at UCYC and an adjunct professor at Grand Canyon University. Amberly received her Master’s degree from Biola University.
Amberly has been married to Scott Neese since 1992. They have two kids, Judah and Josiah. They live in beautiful Prescott, AZ and love the Food Network and all things Star Wars. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Are your kids acting entitled after the Christmas craze?
Mary Hunt, the author of Raising Financially Confident Kids, walks you through how to kick entitlement and irresponsibility to the curb this year and teach your kids that just because they have $3 doesn’t mean they need to spend it on bubble gum and Pokemon cards.
A no-fail plan to help your kids become financially responsible.
How to keep your kids from falling into ugly habits of entitlement and financial irresponsibility.
A step-by-step plan to teach your kids about finances.
Eliminating entitlement and growing gratitude in your kids.
Listen in and find out how you can start the year off with a huge dose of financial responsibility and a heaping dose of gratitude.
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