When i was in my twenties my wife and I would go to the movies at least once a week. Movie Tickets cost about $8 each at the time. A large soda and popcorn was $4 each, so the total cost of going to the movies was about $24. Going to the movies once a week cost us about $1,250 a year. During that same time we also went out to eat three to four times a week for between $25 and $50 each time. I estimate we spent about $7,800 a year eating out during my twenties. When I think of the money we spent on eating out and going to the movies during our twenties, I feel physically ill.
I’m not suggesting that we never should have gone out to eat or to the movies. But if we had limited outselves to eating out once a week and one trip to the movies then we would have saved amost $4,000 a year, after accounting for the cost of groceries. If the money we wasted during our twenties had been invested in a 401k earning 7% interest then by the time we retired it would have grown to over $600,000 without ever making another payment to the retirement account.
We all need to have fun sometimes, but in my thirties I decided that less expensive options for recreation may be just as good. Rather than going to the movies each week we now watch Netflix. I find that I enjoy watching a movie from my couch on my big screen television more than I enjoy going to the movies. Microwave popcorn tastes good and has a few hundred calories instead of the thousand calories in movie popcorn. I don’t have to fight the lines at the movie theater, be annoyed with the guy in the first row that is blinding me with his cell phone, or listen to the teenagers talk about their social lives. When all things are considered, I prefer watching a movie at home, and by doing so I save about $1,100 a year.
Eating out less has had an even bigger effect on my life. The twenty pounds I gained during my twenties while eating out was lost in my thirties when I started eating at home. Eating out is convenient but if you usually go out to restaurants where the food is served to you and you are waited on by a server (rather than fast food) then you don’t save much time by eating out. I have found that I enjoy cooking at home now, and it is not such a chore now that I know how to cook. I also save $4,000 a year by eating at home most of the time.
I wish someone had shared these thoughts with me when I was in my twenties, but in my twenties I may not have listened. When I was twenty-four I knew everything. The older I get the less I know. All things considered, I am happier, healthier, and wealthier for making simple choices about reducing my recreation expense. If I save that money and invest it properly then it should provide me with a reasonable amount for retirement.