“If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” — Dave Ramsey

Image credit: https://medium.com/@pablomerchanm

The term “sacred cow” comes from the sad reality that in some countries — India in particular — famine and hunger can run rampant through communities where cows graze undisturbed. Since Hinduism teaches a reverence for cows as a symbol of life, many Indians refuse to kill them. No matter how badly hunger beckons or how seriously malnutrition ravages their villages, these walking sources of beef are considered non-options.

That’s what we’ve come to call it when an obvious solution is unreasonably avoided due to beliefs, preference, or pride.

A sacred cow.

Spenders and Savers

Financial expert and consultant Dave Ramsey teaches that people are generally spenders or savers by nature. Sure, just about everyone enjoys both activities to an extent. But most people derive a discernibly greater sense of pleasure from either watching wealth accrue or experiencing its benefits.

My wife and I are both spenders. I mean, we talk a good savings and investments game. But when it comes right down to it, our budget numbers tell the true story. We really, really like the experiences that money can provide.

And restaurants. Do we ever love restaurants. What follows is our restaurant spending for this year:

  • January: $451
  • February: $227
  • March: $628
  • April: $781
  • May: $941
  • June: $1,175
  • July: $1,570
  • August: $1,296
  • September: $734
  • October: $471
  • November: $468

Restaurants add up very quickly, as anyone with a family can attest. Just one date night and one family dinner out can easily total $150. Repeat that pattern four weeks in a row, and you’re at $600/month. Add more meals out to the mix and watch those numbers skyrocket, as they did for us this summer.

Here’s a sad fact. My wife and I both enjoy decent incomes, but we have literally no cash. Instead of a large bank account, what we have is a line of credit. And that’s unacceptable.

For the first eight months of this year, we actually budgeted $200/month for restaurants. That would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad. I mean, it’s ridiculous when you look at how much we actually spent in comparison.

Our Sacred Cow

Our extravagant restaurant spending is serious. It’s serious because it exposes some ugly realities.

For one, we’re living in cognitive dissonance. We’re repeatedly saying we want one outcome (to spend less than we earn) and will make choices to that end. Then we’re repeatedly going out and making different choices, month after month after month.

Diagnosing the Problem

Why does it happen? Because there are always good reasons and excuses to cheat. Because it turns out that self-control and delayed gratification have never been easy. Because on some level, we’re telling ourselves that the overspending just doesn’t matter, that we’re somehow entitled to it.

We’ve both had long days at work.

We need some date time together.

It’s for the family.

We deserve this.

Gazelle Intensity Required

Dave Ramsey knows all about spending denial. He’s seen thousands of individuals, couples, and families lose the fight to control their spending and dig out of debt because they just can’t seem to find the ruthless resolve required to win. In his bestselling book, The Total Money MakeoverDave calls this determination “gazelle intensity,” alluding to the sort of urgency you see from gazelles when they’re fleeing for their lives.

Photo credit: Art.com

With a lion on their heels, gazelles don’t fool around or get distracted. Their focus is laser clear, and there really is only one mission: escape.

“You can walk into debt, but you can’t walk out of it,” Dave Ramsey likes to remind his listeners.

No, we can’t walk out of debt. And changes to our spending won’t happen by themselves. When it comes to restaurant spending, there really is only one solution.

This year, it’s time to get real about restaurants.

It’s time to kill a sacred cow.