I'm trying to build wealth, and financial planners say I can earn tens of thousands just by cutting back my restaurant habit

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I’ve made many serious lists filled with personal finance goals that I want to hit in the next five years. I want to be debt-free, I want to contribute to my retirement account regularly, I want to diversify my investments, and I want to buy a property to potentially use as a passive income source.

To meet these goals, I need to get serious about cutting down my spending, and the No. 1 thing I need to stop wasting so much money on is spending at restaurants. 

At the end of every month, when I sit down to review my budget and see where I spent the most money during the last 30 days, I always see the same pattern: I spent way too much money on food. I don’t like to cook, so I find that I’m ordering takeout or going to restaurants for over 50% of my meals during the week. It’s the No. 1 reason I overspend my budget every month, and it’s seriously taking an unnecessary toll on my savings account.

To help me switch my mindset and get serious about this, I chatted with a few financial experts who showed me how my net worth would grow by at least 10% in the next 10 years if I just stopped eating out so often and cooked my own meals. 

I can invest my takeout budget to build wealth

Andrew Latham, a certified personal finance counselor, says that if I put the money I was spending on takeout into investments, I could see quite a return.

“If you are a typical American, you spend approximately $3,000 [a year] eating out six times a week,” he tells me. “If you cut that to four times a week and curb your spending by a third ($1,000 a year), and invest it in the S&P 500, you could increase your net worth by 10% after 10 years.”

So how would that work? Latham says that, historically, the average return of the S&P 500 has been over 10% annually since its inception in 1926

“Let’s say your investment averages 8.5%. After 10 years, you would have $14,835 in your brokerage account,” says Latham.

I need a clear plan of action to help me save

Another way to ease into saving more cash and not eating out as much is to create a clear plan of action, says financial planner Jenna Lofton.

Start by figuring out how much you can cut from your weekly eating-out budget — for example, bringing your lunch to work — and then commit to saving that amount.

Let’s say you can save $100 a week by not eating out, Lofton says. That means you’d save $5,200 a year. If you put that cash in a high-yield savings account, you’ll be able to grow that cash over time. 

Ditching my daily coffee and brown-bagging my lunch could net me thousands if invested wisely

Financial planner Julian Morris says that if you ditch just a coffee and a lunch each day, your savings will compound.

“Let’s use the $5 a day coffee as an example and also $15 a day for the lunch or dinner you would eat out. That’s $20 daily. Let’s use five days a week, or $100, as savings, which is $5,200 saved a year,” says Morris. 

What would that look like long term? Morris says if we were to invest the $100 saved weekly over 10 years at 7%, that’s $74,527.66. 

“Imagine what this number would look like if we used multiple members of a household or if a family stopped going out to dinner on the weekends and spending $50 per person,” says Morris. 

Having the experts break this down for me was an easy way for me to wrap my head around a solution. I plan to cut out one or two meals a week and put that money into my investment account. That’ll have me on my way toward making financial change that truly impacts my future.

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