I Ate Out 176 Times in 2019 – How Much Did I Spend?

Restaurant
l

Written by Liz

Just your regular 27-year-old, queer, super-introverted, FIRE-chasing, frugal Singaporean, who lives a pretty good life while earning only a modest salary, but still plans to retire at age 40 with $1,000,000. Click here to read more

May 20, 2020

I’m going to admit it right off the bat – I love eating out.

There’s something exciting about going to eateries to try out delicious new cuisines and styles of cooking. And there’s something even more thrilling about scoring awesome, eye-popping, mouth-watering food deals.

In 2019, I ate out a lot.

176 times, not to be specific or anything.

That’s like eating out every other day.

At the beginning of the year, as I always do, I set myself a budget of $50 a month to eat out. I didn’t meet this. I wasn’t even close.

As a fun little exercise, I decided to see how much I spent on eating out and how much value I got out of it.

And without further ado, here are some interesting statistics of my eating out habit in 2019.

Interesting Statistics

Expenditure and Number of Eateries, by Month

MonthAmount Spent (S$)No. of Eateries
Jan-2019$81.609
Feb-2019$68.709
Mar-2019$186.7021
Apr-2019$124.6014
May-2019$163.4014
Jun-2019$147.5011
Jul-2019$117.4512
Aug-2019$90.7011
Sep-2019$111.3014
Oct-2019$137.5018
Nov-2019$187.4024
Dec-2019$25619
Yearly Total$1,673176

Yearly Total Spent: $1,673 (or $140 a month)

Number of Eateries: 176 (or 14.7 times a month, yikes)

The year started off with my spending being more tame. I spent less than $100 a month, and went out to eat less than 10 times a month, for January and February.

In March, I discovered F&B deals on various money-saving apps (the irony of it all), and went all out trying to buy as many deals as possible (face palm).

I reigned this in a little in April, after discovering I was eating myself sick. It worked for a while, and I made incremental progress in spending less every month, until August.

However, nearing the end of the year, shit hit the ceiling at my corporate job. The situation was already bad before this, but everything got worse after. As such, I chose comfort eating as a way to cope with the negative, unhealthy feelings I was experiencing. This resulted in the spike in my spending on eating out.

Buying Food Deals

Exciting food deals that I bought back in 2019.

Price Per Meal Distribution

The average price that I paid per meal was $9.50 ($1,673 divided by 176), which doesn’t seem too exorbitant.

Here’s the price per meal distribution:

 Price Per Meal  No. of Meals
 $1 ≤ Meal < $10  120
 $10 ≤ Meal < $20  40
 $20 ≤ Meal < $30  15
 $30 ≤ Meal  1

 

The cheapest meal I had was a $1 lobster roll + lobster bisque + cassava chips + drink meal (that I snagged on promotion), while my most expensive meal set me back $37 for a shabu shabu all-you-can-eat buffet at a pretty fancy Japanese restaurant (no promotion, just walked into a fancy restaurant after a difficult day at work).

Lobster Roll

The $1 cheesy lobster roll.

Shabu Shabu

The $37 all-you-can-eat shabu shabu buffet.

Type of Establishment Distribution

I split up all the eateries I went to into:

  1. Restaurants and cafes;
  2. Fast food joints; and
  3. Hawker centres and food courts.

Hawker Centres

Hawker centres are open-air complexes that are common in a few Southeast Asian countries, Singapore being one of them. There are dozens of stores in a single complex, with common eating areas. Food here can cost as little as $2, and rarely costs more than $6.

Food Courts

Food courts, on the other hand, are air-conditioned complexes that have fewer stores (but also feature common eating areas). Food here is more pricey, ranging from $4 to $8.

For eating out, hawker centres, followed by food courts, are the cheapest options in Singapore.

Fast Food Joints

I put fast food joints on a more expensive tier because I find them to be slightly more pricey than food courts. Apart from value meals that cost maybe $5-$6 (my favourite value meal provider being Burger King), other meals may set you back anywhere between $8 to $10.

Restaurants and Cafes

And last but certainly not least, there are restaurants and cafes, guilty of very successfully making me part with most of my eating out budget. Not all restaurants are fancy and expensive though, and I’m usually quite careful not to spend too much.

Here’s the type of establishment distribution:

 Type of Establishment  Visited
 Restaurants, cafes  109 times
 Fast food joints  47 times
 Hawker centres, food courts  20 times

 

My Thoughts

Judging from both the (a) price per meal and (b) type of establishment distributions, I’d say that about 50% of my restaurant and cafe meals cost less than $10. That’s the power of being on top of all the best deals in town – you always know where to go for a cheap yet delicious dinner.

I’m also realising that I love restaurants (of course, cheap ones) more than I’d ever love hawker centres, despite there being a drastic difference in price.

Restaurants are quieter, and more private. This provides me with a great deal of comfort. Hawker centres, on the other hand, are noisier and much hotter. For an emotional eater like me, hawker centres aren’t where I want to be for lunch or a long day after work. A few dollars of difference can really go a long way.

 

Pleasant Surprises

When going to restaurants for the first time, you can never predict how the food and ambience is really like, despite reading all the reviews you can find on Google. I experienced this as well. And today, I’ll share with you the biggest surprises and disappointments of my 2019 food adventure. I’ll start off with the great experiences I had.

Name of Establishment: Cluck Cluck

Type of Establishment: Cafe

Cuisine Type: Western

Amount I Paid: $1
Usual Promotion Price: $7.50
Usual Price (No Promos): $15

I first came across this eatery when my favourite restaurant money-saving app, Chope, during a 1-minute flash sale, offered a $15 voucher to this restaurant for the price of just $1. It was one of the best value-for-money dollars I spent the entire year.

For just $1, I got a huge, mouth-watering piece of fried chicken, 4 sides (I chose coleslaw, corn, onion rings, and cauliflower), and truffle sauce. The usual price of this is $14.80.

Right now, during the lockdown, this cafe is temporarily closed. However, hopefully after the lockdown ends, the usual promotion of 50% during off-peak hours will still continue.

Cluck Cluck Cafe

Having breakfast at 11 a.m. on a weekday morning. That’s one of the off-peak periods, so I scored the above meal for 50% off. Paid just $7.50 for everything.

Name of Establishment: Marugame

Type of Establishment: Restaurant

Cuisine Type: Japanese

Amount I Paid: $7.50
Usual Promotion Price: $7.50
Usual Price (No Promos): ~$12

I came across this eatery on another money-saving app, Fave, where $7.50 can get you a piping hot bowl of udon, a crispy chicken skewer, and a drink of barley. The best part of this deal is that it can be used at any time of day. No condition regarding off-peak hours or anything like that.

I love this restaurant because the staff is efficient, and the ambience reminds me so much of Japan.

This establishment has various locations in Singapore, and my favourite one is in Bedok, where it’s quiet and can make for a great place to study/work/chill/catch up with friends for long periods of time, especially during off-peak periods.

Marugame Udon

A delicious bowl of udon. Apologies that I didn’t get a picture of the side of fried chicken. 

Name of Establishment: Yellow Cube by 328 Katong Laksa

Type of Establishment: Food Court

Cuisine Type: Peranakan

Amount I Paid: $1
Usual Promotion Price: $4
Usual Price (No Promos): $5 to $6

I came across this Katong Laksa establishment via Chope’s $1 flash deals. For those unfamiliar with Katong Laksa, all you need to know is that it’s the best kind of laksa around. 

Yellow Cube is generous with their ingredients (prawns, fishcake, and cockles), and the broth is thick and delicious. The spice didn’t sit very well with my stomach, giving me a little uncomfortableness for a while, but it was so worth it. That’s how good it is.

Chope still offers vouchers for this laksa at $4 for a small serving, and $5.50 for a large.

Katong Laksa

The best laksa around. I’ve already frequented this eatery at least 5 times.

While I enjoyed many wonderful experiences eating out for a small price in 2019, it would take me too much time to list out all of them, so I’ll just leave you with the above 3.

 

Big Disappointments

While I had many pleasant surprises, I also had my fair share of disappointments. Even my favourite deal-hunting apps can sometimes recommend disappointing places, but at least I know better next time. 🙂

Name of Establishment: Window on the Park

Type of Establishment: Restaurant

Cuisine Type: Mixed (Buffet)

Amount I Paid: $30
Usual Promotion Price: ~$40
Usual Price (No Promos): $45 to $50

The biggest letdown was the buffet at Window on the Park, which set me back $30 (and that’s with the discount! I think the usual price is close to $45-$50).

With that kind of price, and a Google rating of 3.6, you’d expect something of at least a decent quality.

However, the food selection was sad, and it seemed like they prepared the cheapest possible food items. To top it all off, the place was noisy and cramped. I got seated in between a wall and another table that was just 20cm away.

You’d be much better off eating at a hawker centre, which is cheaper, and of better quality.

Window on the Park

The meal pictured above is called Kueh Pie Tee, can be found in many hawker centres around Singapore, for just $2. 

Name of Establishment: Food Exchange

Type of Establishment: Restaurant

Cuisine Type: Mixed (Buffet)

Amount I Paid: $30
Usual Promotion Price: ~$40
Usual Price: $60

This was also another buffet recommended by my favourite money-saving app. Although the food was significantly better than the previous buffet, I still don’t think it’s worth the $30 price tag. (The usual price is $60!)

What I did love about the place was its ambience. There weren’t many people around, and the restaurant is in a quiet part of town with lots of greenery. It was nice to just sit in the restaurant and chill, staring out into the distance. A huge thumbs up is deserved here.

Although the food wasn’t that great, I might still go back if I’m feeling flushed, and want to spend the day in a quiet, stress-free place.

Food Exchange

I definitely love the ambience of the restaurant, so I wouldn’t consider this place that big a disappointment. The picture doesn’t do the ambience justice.

Lessons Learnt 

Looking back, I realise that having a job I was miserable in led to a lot of excess spending. Because I hated going into work each day, my only source of excitement was in looking for daily food deals. Each time I camped in-app for a deal, a wave of dopamine would rush over me, allowing me to feel something other than misery while at work.  

I also thought that I wouldn’t fall for lifestyle inflation, but it looks like it certainly crept up on me. In 2019, I made a total gross salary of $54,000, in Singapore dollars. Although it’s not a lot of money, it was still $6,000 more than I had made in 2018, and made me feel like I had a lot more disposable income than I thought. Left unchecked, even a self-proclaimed frugal person like myself became a victim of lifestyle inflation.

Another important lesson I learnt is that more expensive doesn’t always mean better. The price tag is not the sole indicator of an item’s quality. Some of the more expensive meals I had in 2019 were unmemorable, sometimes even regrettable (like the buffet at Window on the Park). On the other hand, because I had such low expectations of meals that were priced more cheaply, they surpassed my expectations and left me craving for more.

One last thing I learnt is that all-you-can-eat buffet meals can be damaging both financially and physically. The price tag for such meals are typically higher, as you’re allowed to eat all you want over a wide selection of food. This resulted in me wanting to eat more to get my fill, to make my money worth the while, even though the food was sub-par. Wasted calories, if you ask me. Needless to say, I probably won’t be going for too many buffets from now onwards.

Poke Theory

Another $1 meal that I had – A delicious, healthy poke bowl.

Plans going Forward

In early-2020, I transitioned from full-time work to part-time work. This has resulted in a 40% pay-cut, and I take home no more than $1,750 a month in Singapore dollars from my office job. This doesn’t give me a lot of disposable income to blow, and I’d like to cap my eating out expenditure to at $50 a month. 

The rest of the time, my girlfriend and I will be cooking our meals at home and trying out new recipes that don’t break the bank.

I still find deal-hunting great fun, and would like to keep that in my life. However, I’ll be limiting the amount of time I spend deal-hunting, as my priority for the year is to work on this blog. In addition, I’d most likely buy deals that cost less than $10 per person, as something like $30 seems a little exorbitant considering I don’t earn a lot of money.

I’m already looking forward to posting my food adventures on this blog, as well as seeing my food expenditure for 2020 and reflecting on how I have improved. 😊

Cooking Shakshuka at Home

Cooking Shakshuka at my girlfriend’s.

Is eating out in your country more expensive? What do you think of my eating out habit?

As always, thank you for reading and supporting this blog.

Become a Millionaire and Retire Early on a Modest Salary Book Cover

You May Also Like…

2 Comments

  1. Backpack Finance

    Hey Liz. What I try to do is eliminate the “functional” eating out habits. So, during work I almost never go out for lunch. I cook great meals at home. What I do like to do is go out for dinner once a month to really great places, michelin star style restaurants. It comes out to eating once a month an amazing meal with a great experience for around $80.

    Reply
    • Liz

      Hi! You’re right. That definitely makes a lot of sense. I guess I really fell off the wagon in 2019 and ate out way too much. But this year has been going much better. Whenever I’m in the office, I pack lunch so that saves a lot of money. 🙂 It’s great that you get to enjoy Michelin-starred restaurants! I don’t think I’ve reached a level of net worth to enjoy experiences like that guilt-free though. When I have a more stable source of income and am more comfortable with spending, I’ll definitely keep your suggestion in mind. Thanks again 🙂

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *