The Biggest Budget Drains

Today we welcome back our normal Tuesday contributor, Catherine Alford!

We all have budget drains. You know what I mean: that delicious mocha latte at Starbucks each morning, the expensive gym membership, or the weekly manicure.

Budget drains tend to be the little things that we don’t want to go without, yet they add up in surprising numbers at the end of the year.

My Budget Drain

My biggest budget drain is definitely eating out. I’m an okay cook, but I really don’t enjoy it. In fact, one of the reasons I fell in love with my husband is that he can make some seriously awesome food. I honestly thought I had won the lottery with him.

When we got married, I had visions of kicking back and enjoying some homemade spaghetti, when in reality he started going to medical school and all the cooking duties fell to me.

My grand solution to this problem was grabbing a wrap or a smoothie for the both of us and counting that as a meal. However, after a few months of this regimen, my bank account really started to dwindle. I made a lot of excuses about how busy we were, telling myself that eating out was okay for two people who work as hard as we do.

Yet, excuses are the one thing that can hold us back financially, and eventually I came to my senses.

Saving Money

Today, I spend about half as much on food as I did in the early days. I started to meal plan a lot more, which reduced my tendency to stand in front of the fridge with the door open wondering what I was going to make.

I found a new best friend in my crock pot, which I use several times throughout the week mostly without a recipe. I just throw some chicken and a sauce in there and then heat up some veggies to go with it.  (I’m sure all of you are just going to beg me for a dinner invitation now!)

This has saved me so much money, and I have a better sense of accomplishment too, knowing that we are saving money and being more cognizant about what we spend on food.

Conquering Your Budget Drains

When it comes to your own budget drains, there are a few ways that you can get around them. First, track your spending to see where your money is going. If you notice that you spend a lot on entertainment, perhaps choose a weekend to stay in instead of going out. If you buy a lot of clothes, maybe take some time to organize your closet and see what you really need.

By completing these tasks, you can figure out not only how much you spend on your budget drain but also how much you really rely on it. Once you know this, you can then decide how much to cut back.

Trust me, it might seem like those small little luxuries are necessary parts of your day, but the ultimate goal should be financial independence.

What are your budget drains? 

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About Catherine Alford

Catherine Alford is a personal finance freelance writer who received a B.A. from The College of William and Mary and an M.A. from Virginia Tech. She enjoys sharing her adventures on her blog,


  1. Oh man, Cat! Our biggest budget drain was also eating out. It probably still is to some extent, but it isn’t nearly what it used to be. When we first started our journey to financial recovery, this was something that we had to cut out almost completely. We were basically eating our money away! Now, we just monitor it much more closely.

  2. I have friends who eat out EVERY meal. They have three daughters and I have no clue how they afford it….or stay thin!

  3. For awhile, it was the sale items. If it was on sale, it justified buying it. I think it mixes needs and wants too easily. Having a budget seems to help there too.

  4. Kayla @ Drowning My Debt says:

    Eating out is my biggest budget drain, by a mile. We have gotten a lot better, but the weeks that I don’t plan our meals and buy accordingly are the weeks that we end up eating out several times. It is a huge drain on the bank account- and horrible for my diet! The crock pot and actually learning to cook a decent meal have both been lifesavers.

  5. My biggest drain is over-buying food. If I walk into a grocery store, I can easily spend $100. I’ll buy things on sale and within my “buy price” but I just can’t help but stock up and hoard food. I’m even worse at Costco.

    So I realized my solution to that problem is that I no longer do the shopping–I send my fiancee to the grocery store with list of the sale items we need for the next two weeks. He only buys what’s on the list and that solves the hoarding food problem. I then can better plan with what we have as my fridge isn’t a packed mess.

    Also, as far as crock pots go, I used to not be great with them because I thought I had to get up early to get everything done in time before I left for work(chopping and prepping). But then yesterday evening, I decided to do the crock pot overnight. I woke up this morning and the roast was complete and ready to put some in my brown bagged lunch for work. I then cooled the leftovers and put in the fridge. And with the leftovers already in the fridge, if I come home from work starving, I have a great source of protein to make myself a small snack with to tide me over until dinner. Now that I realized how much easier it is for me to do crock pot roasts overnight, I will definitely use them more!

  6. Kyle @ Debt Free Diaries says:

    Dining out is also our biggest budget drain. I just love the food and the atmosphere! And not having to clean the dishes…yep, those pesky dishes that call your name as you sit there in half-comatose after your amazing meal.

  7. Before out daughter came into the picture we a part of our budget allocated to eating out. Going to a nice restaurant was something that we enjoyed. Now dinners out are not really an option so we just do brunch on Sunday’s. That has freed up a little in our budget.

  8. I think food’s the one that’s the easiest to let get out from under us without realizing it. It’s so easy to justify it as necessary. Same with cars. Mr. PoP loves his car, so even though I’d love to get him in something a little less gas guzzling, I think it’s going to be a while before that happens.

  9. Yes, you are right. Eating out can add up very quickly, but I really enjoy it. At the end of a long week, it’s nice to go to a wine bar or a restaurant with an outdoor patio and just chill. My biggest money drain tends to be travel. Once international trip per year and two domestic. I believe that as long as I’m still saving a nice chunk of money, rewarding myself with these things is just fine.

  10. We used to do also with Starbucks. But not anymore. They’re overrated and quite expensive too for a cup of coffee.

  11. Alex @ Searching for Happy says:

    Eating out and junk food are my biggest budget drains. It’s all stuff that I can solve with better food planning, and it’s something I’m working on!

  12. hmmm I would say that my biggest budget drain that I DO have control over (meaning some of my budget drains in the last couple of months have been unexpected car repairs) is groceries. I also got a bit lax on non essentials while I was in detroit like venti iced lattes. Just don’t need em. back on track. 🙂

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