What Foursquare Has Taught Me About My Budget

by Hank Coleman

what Foursquare can tell about your budgetI have a confession to make. I love checking in to venues through Foursquare. I love earning badges and trying to become the mayor of places around town. I want to earn more badges and more mayorships than my friends. But, I have learned something by my new obsession with Foursquare. My family and I love to eat out at restaurants. This has the potential to be the bain in my budget’s existance. If I ever need to scrape up some money, I now know where it is all going. While I love Foursquare, it has definintely opened my eyes to some potential problems that I may have with my monthly budget and where I spend my money.

So, What Is Foursquare Anyway?

It is a little hard to explain Foursquare to people sometimes. Foursquare is a social networking website where users “check in” at different venues they frequent. When you check in, you earn points, and eventually you may claim the title of mayor of a specific location if you go there enough. Users can also earn badges to show off on their profiles and on Twitter for meeting certain accomplishments and criteria. While the website may not give you much more than bragging rights it is still addictive nevertheless. Many companies are also starting to get into the crazy by giving discounts or freebies for frequent checkins. For example, my wife and I scored a free appetizer from Carrabba’s Italian Grill the other day because we had checked into our local one five times.

90% Of My Foursquare Locations Are Restaurants

On Foursquare, you can see all of the locations that you have checked into since becoming a member. In just the two short months since I joined Foursquare, the friend-finder, a social city guide, and game website, I have realized that 40 out of my 50 check in locations have been restaurants. My wife and I love to eat out. It is a big part of our monthly expenses, and it has a large section of our monthly budget devoted to it as such. But, just looking at how many times and how many different McDonald’s I have checked into recently has clued me into how much money I spend there and how unhealthy my diet is too. It is a very stark reality and insight into what is going on in my life and with my budget.

Why Eating Out All The Time May Be Bad For Your Budget

Eating out in restaurants is one of the biggest budget busters for most families. My family of four routinely spends over $50 per meal at sit down restaurants such as Applebee’s, Chili’s, and others like them. The bill can even get higher and higher if we bought alcohol. Now, if you multiple that at just once a week, the price is $200 per month. But, if you find yourself dinning out two or three nights a week, then the bill can quickly become a budget buster for sure. And, I have only been talking about eating out for dinner with your family. How many workers eat out for lunch during the weekday each day? Not bring a brown bag lunch to work can cost you over $100,000 over the course of a career. The problem is that we love to eat out all the time, and we do not want to admit to ourselves that may have a problem. We tend to complain about how tight our budget is and we do not have enough money to save, invest, or pay off debt. But, often we may not be being honest with ourselves.

Why Eating Out All The Time May Not Be Bad For Your Budget

What if I said that I don’t mind spending $600 per month eating out at restaurants every month? It is already factored into my monthly budget. I know that my wife and I will not be cooking most nights. We are just too busy. But, we are tight with our money in other areas of our budget. We do not spend much on groceries. We purposely save on other aspects of our budget in order to afford to spend a larger portion than a normal family’s budget on restaurants. My wife and I also have an adequate emergency fund and maximize our retirement contributions. So, we feel very comfortable spending money on the things that we enjoy in life. Other people save their pennies for a fancy vacation, flat screen televisions, or their hobbies, and that is fine. It is fine spending money on the things that you enjoy if you can afford it and have saved for your other financial goals in life. Eating out at restaurants just happens to be what my wife and I enjoy more than other things.

Everything is great in moderation. If something is important to you, then it should have a large place in your monthly written budget if it costs money to do or participate in. There is nothing wrong with eating out a lot at restaurants if you have your other financial goals and priorities in order. Are you saving enough for retirement? Do you have an adequate emergency fund to cover three to six months of living expenses? If your answer to those questions is yes, then you may be able to afford to eat out a lot and check in one Foursquare.

Be sure to join and friend me on Foursquare and follow me on Twitter.

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