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‘This is the time to treat myself’: Why so many millennials eat out 5 times a week

Brooke DiPalma
Associate Producer

Gina Jadelis, 21, admits that she’s not good at saving and eats out at restaurants more than she should. Like many millennials, she loves to share her culinary adventures from around the world on Instagram, Snapchat (SNAP), Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR).

“I feel like this is my time to treat myself,” says Jadelis, a New Jersey native who is working as a sales intern at PVH corporation in New York City. “I don’t have responsibilities like a house or kids, so any money I earn goes to my own enjoyment.”

Jadelis is far from the only millennial to overindulge. A new survey by Bankrate of 1,003 adults living in the U.S. finds that a whopping 34% of people ages 18-36 admitted to ordering food or eating out five times per week. That’s three times more than Gen Xers (11%) and Baby Boomers (10%).

Yahoo Finance spoke with several millennials to see what’s driving these decisions.

Jadelis’s Instagram account dedicated to her culinary adventures: @gjeats_

Dinner for one, two, maybe three people … five times a week?

Many millennials say they eat out as a way to socialize or because they’re just too busy to cook. Alyssa McLaughlin, 21, tells Yahoo Finance that she eats out roughly 10 meals a week.

McLaughlin, a student at Marist College and an intern at G-III: Jessica Howard in NYC, spends around $80 a week on take-out or dining at restaurants with friends. “I like the different settings, I like to be social, and I don’t like to cook myself,” she says. “It’s easier to go to a restaurant than to put something together myself.” Plus, newly 21, she’s been going to a lot more happy hours and bars now, causing her to spend even more money.

McLaughlin and Jadelis clearly would fall in the more extreme end of the Bankrate survey, but older generations are also guilty of a bit of gluttony. About 18% of Gen Xers and 18% of Baby Boomers admitted to eating out three to four meals per a week.

TIP: If you’re going to dine out, try to find deals that will provide maximize savings. But if you’re trying to eat healthier and save big, try to cook more than half of your meals a week.

“By cooking more often at home, you have a better diet at no significant cost increase, while if you go out more, you have a less healthy diet a higher cost,” Adam Drewnowski, director of UW Center for Public Health Nutrition, noted in “Cooking at Home: A Strategy to Comply With U.S. Dietary Guidelines at No Extra Cost.”

Addicted to Morning Joe?

Coffee habits are also costing millennials a lot of cash. Twenty-nine percent of millennials surveyed say they regularly purchase coffee 3-4 times each week. That’s compared to 7% of Gen Xers and 9% of Baby Boomers.

Chris Beyer, 23, tells Yahoo Finance that he typically buys a large iced coffee or iced tea at least once or twice a day, about four to five days a week. Beyer, who works for HVAC in Long Island, says he is a loyal Dunkin’ Donuts (DNKN) customer and spends around $20-$25 on the beverages a week.

“I need caffeine,” he said. “It’s kind of like a ritual to get my day going, makes things better.”

TIP: If Chris got his coffee fix at home by brewing his own iced coffee five days a week, then he could save around $2.79 plus tax everyday, which means he could save over $14 per a week. The Dunkin’ Donuts Original Blend Coffee costs about $8.99 per pound and makes around 40 six-ounce cups — that’s less than 25 cents a day!


But it’s not just coffee. Millennials are also racking up big bar tabs. The survey found that 42% of millennials go out for drinks at least once a week. That’s almost double that of Boomers and Gen Xers.

“I love happy hour. I think happy hour is the best, especially with a work-life schedule,” shares New Yorker Katharine Osborne, 22. In a typical week, she goes to about four happy hours and spends around $25 per a week, depending upon her schedule.

“I feel like so many people use it [happy hour], especially now, as a networking event. It’s an easier way to connect with people, relax, meet people, and be yourself in a less serious atmosphere.”  

TIP: If you’re a millennial who is looking to save, try to limit yourself to one alcoholic beverage out every other week. If you can’t avoid the temptation of happy hour, look for deals online or through apps like Happy Hour Finder. You’ll be surprised at how much you can save.

Is it really all millennials?

Of course, some millennials are frugal and don’t spend all their money on going out. The study found that 57% of millennials don’t typically purchase coffee or tea, 58% don’t typically buy drinks at bars or restaurants, and 8% don’t buy any meals during a typical week.

Elias Marcopoulos, a 19-year-old student at Tufts University studying computer science and English, says that he gets coffee, goes out to eat, and goes to happy hour a grand total of zero times a week.

“You can get the same food at the grocery store for cheaper… I typically only spend about $10 [on groceries] per a week.”

Jenna Discher, 22, just moved into New York City and began working at Momentum Worldwide. She shares that she only will get brewed coffee or tea, takeout or eats at a restaurant, or go to drinks an average of once a week.

“I like doing these things, but I’m just so tired and it’s expensive,” she says. “Also, now saving money, now having rent really keeps the budget tight.”

Brooke DiPalma is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @BrookeDiPalma

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