Source: Alexandria Talty, forbes.com
From the rise of fast-casual restaurants to the ease of delivery services, eating prepared food is a convenient proposition in 2016. And it seems that millennials are taking advantage of that, spending more of their food budget on dining out than ever before.
Millennials spend 44 percent of their food dollars – or $2,921 annually – on eating out , according to the Food Institute’s analysis of the United States Department of Agriculture’s food expenditure data from 2014. That represents a 10.7 percent increase from prior data points in 2010.
In contrast, baby boomers in 2014 spent 40 percent of their food dollars on eating out or $2,629 annually.
“As millennials grow older they have more expendable income for eating away from home, contributing to that increase in year over year expenditures,” said Food Institute President and CEO Brian Todd, in an email.
This phenomena is not contained to the United States. This weekend, The Australian posited that millennials are not buying houses because they eat out too much, dubbing them the “Smashed Avocado Generation” in a reference to a popular breakfast item. Controversy ensued, with many Aussies pointing out that many are not choosing restaurants over house ownership, they just can’t afford to buy a house.
Whatever the reason, the amount of food dollars spent on restaurants and take-away has steadily increased over the years, from 34 percent in 1974 to 50 percent in 2014. That’s a lot of grub on the go.
The Seamless Effect
Being a foodie isn’t a crime, but many millennials say they end up spending more on apps like Grubhub or Seamless, thanks to delivery surcharges and minimums.
Similarly, thanks to ease of these services, they quickly rack up charges with the click of a button, not realizing how much they are forking over.
Shocked by the discovery, Trantham deleted the application. Now, after living in New York for two years, she re-downloads the service when she wants to order food and then deletes it immediately after. Despite this tactic, she was shocked to find that she racked up $418 on the app just in 2016.
“I know $400 over the course of nine or ten months really isn’t the worst, but I’d rather put that money to use somewhere else,” admits Trantham, in an email. In a recent post, Trantham details all of the ways she could’ve spent her dollars instead, including weekly fresh flowers, a roundtrip ticket to Atlanta or four professional apartment cleanings.
But Trantham’s most surprising finding was that she spent an average of $20 on a meal, although her favorite dishes are in the $10 – $12 range. She says that she would probably spend less on average if she picked the food up, rather than having it delivered, as she wouldn’t have to spend more to meet delivery minimums.
Track Your Food Dollars to Stay On Budget
Eating out isn’t a crime. Spend your food dollars wisely, opting for quality over quantity. Use a tool like to Mint or Fudget to analyze restaurant expenditures. More money tracking applications suggestions are available here.
“If we had a month of Thai, we look at [our credit card statements] and say, oh crap,” agrees Bobby Hoyt, personal finance writer behind hit site, Millennial Money Man. Hoyt stays on top of food dollars by tracking his spending.
Or, follow in the footsteps of Trantham and delete the app altogether.