Thursday, January 23, 2014
Going Broke, one fast-food meal at a time.
Finally, a financial story in the mainstream media that isn't about trendy stock-picking or how to score the best "rewards" credit cards.
A simple basic story that makes a basic point: Using a restaurant as your kitchen not only will make you fat and unhealthy - it will drive you to bankruptcy.
Middle-class people are particularly susceptible to this. Too tired from working hard, or "too busy to cook", they send out for pizza, eat lunch at a restaurant near work, or order a $5 Starbucks, instead of making their own damn coffee.
And the cost? Staggering. The cost of restaurant food - even plebeian chain restaurants like Olive Garden, or fast-food restaurants like McDonald's - can be five to ten times more costly than buying food at a grocery store and preparing it at home.
Of course, convenience foods bought at a grocery store are not much better - but are big profit centers for the stores. Pre-made frozen meals and sandwiches from the deli are big profit-makers.
Suppose you order a pizza one night a week, spending $20 including tip. And you eat lunch four days a week, spending $10 each time. A couple of nights a week, you and the spouse go to a medium-priced restaurant and spend $50 each time. And maybe you have a designer coffee three times a week for $15. Throw in a three breakfast sandwiches a week, at $5 for the "meal" for $15. That's $190 in meals that would likely cost you less than $30 to prepare yourself.
$160 a week comes to $8320 a year (didn't see that coming!) and if invested over a 30-year working life with a 7% rate of return, that comes to $840,927.70 in your 401(k) plan.
Whew! And all for a little convenience.
And yet I know people who do this - use restaurants as their kitchen, and eat out nearly every night of the week - and every lunch at work. And they wonder where the money all went. It went there.