I spend money on going out. According to popular schools of thought about the most satisfying ways to spend one’s money, that’s a good thing. Good because I’m spending on “experiences,” choosing a long, wine-filled dinner with friends over a handbag or a slightly nicer car. And through my general financial dieting, I’ve managed to reduce my “going out” spending to something much more meaningful and concentrated.
I no longer rack up hundreds (or thousands) of dollars a month on brunches, indiscriminate rounds of drinks, and elaborate dinners. I eat most of my meals at home, brunch once a month max, drink less, and almost never go out for designer coffee when a cup at home would do.
I’ve gotten much better. In doing so, I have been able to forgo a lot of freelance work and focus on TFD while not really feeling the sting in my wallet. Starting a business requires a more conservative outlook on spending, but in falling back in love with home cooking, it hasn’t felt like deprivation. I’ve been living the somewhat-Spartan lifestyle of a first-year entrepreneur while not feeling like I’m sacrificing.
I no longer rack up hundreds (or thousands) of dollars a month on brunches, indiscriminate rounds of drinks, and elaborate dinners.
There is a near-endless number of restaurants in our neighborhood to try and with the weekend food fairs and street festivals, not indulging in everything there is to offer feels like an almost-criminal neglect of the city around you. “Why live in New York (or any other great city)," one thinks, "if you’re not going to enjoy the wonderful things about it?”
That’s the thing, right? You think you’re doing the right thing by limiting your unnecessary spending to just “experiences,” because that’s the more righteous and important of the spending categories. If you’re just soaking in culture, cuisine, and the fundamental humanity of a place, then you’re not really wasting your money. At least, not in the same way as an overpriced piece of jewelry. It’s in this way that I spent myself into debt and bad credit over the several years before I started TFD. I even looked at my vacations (perhaps most notably my vacations) as an expression of joie de vivre instead of what it often was: a waste of money. I thought of myself as a mostly-broke, 20-something Anthony Bourdain, traveling the world and eating all it had to offer because, well, YOLO.
It’s about making the process and feeling of eating at home (or even in a picnic) something that doesn’t feel like your sacrificing.
A summer with limited going out-time? That’s hard.
Last week, though, Marc and I had a simple date night at home, with candles, a good bottle of wine (and a nightcap), and a nice spread of cheeses, meats, salads, and some crusty bread. It was lovely and we had a one-on-one chat — for nearly five hours — about any and everything, something that’s much harder to do when sitting at a restaurant table with a pushy waiter, or mindlessly consuming your takeout in front of Netflix.
It was a moment of really indulgent home dining that we hadn’t experienced in a while. Beyond just cooking at home — which we do almost daily — we were actually taking the time to make everything feel like a special night out. It was a nice reminder that the experience of dining out, while not entirely possible to reproduce at home, can at least be emulated in the best way.
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I can’t help but think of everything I’m missing out on.
Every time I indulge in one of those “at-home nights out,” I always feel wonderful and wonder why I don’t do it more often. It’s easy to do when you’re organizing a little dinner party with friends, but even when you’re by yourself, you can shake yourself up a cocktail and set a nice little plate for yourself and read a book with some music in the background.
Experiences are something we can create, if we choose to.
And that doesn’t mean we will never spend on going out or that we’re going to stop taking vacations altogether. But having come pretty far in reducing my social spending, I realize that the progress I have left to make all comes down to making my own home (kitchen, dining room, and living area) an even more indulgent place to be. When you have an inviting space, and actually use it for great food and entertainment, the need to go elsewhere that ambience disappears.
My current setup isn’t perfect, but making the effort to use it for things like at-home “date nights” is a start. The next place I live in, I plan on focusing even more on making sure that the living spaces are inviting and open. Because the more we invest up-front on our setup at home, the less we feel like we need to escape our routine in order to enjoy ourselves.
It’s not just about cooking at home or resisting the temptation to get fancy coffee instead of making your own — it’s about creating that same feeling of luxurious experience that we think we’re buying when we go out. It’s about making the process of eating at home (or even in a picnic) something that doesn’t feel like you're sacrificing. And only through doing this can we truly get out of the rut that comes with thinking we need to spend on the vague notion of “experience.” Because spending on “experiences” isn’t any more noble if it’s just another impulse buy.
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