Buyer’s Remorse: The Unplanned Meal Out

by mzumtaylor on February 15, 2012

in A Day in The Life,Life Lessons Learned,Personal Finance

I want to tell you a story about Buyer’s Remorse. (If you’re not familiar with the term, buyer’s remorse is “the sense of regret [you feel] after having made a purchase.)

I had a half-day last Thursday, which also happened to be my husband’s day off. For kicks, he decided to come downtown to pick me up (I take the bus to work), and while we were downtown, we decided it would be fun to get lunch together.

I had $45 cash in my pocket, which my mom had given me to repay for picking up and paying for Thai takeout the weekend before. Even though that $45 was “normal” account money (we were both out of “fun” money until Friday), it had technically already been spent and accounted for, since I don’t track cash spending in my budget.

I wasn’t thinking we’d spend the whole $45 on lunch. I figured we would go to one of the great local delis or this really good pizza place a few blocks from my office. You know, somewhere that we’d never been, but that had a per plate price of around $8.

Well, we started walking down the main drag (the 16th Street Walking Mall) and Ben asked if there was any place I had been curious to try but hadn’t yet had the chance. The first place I saw was an “Irish Pub” style restaurant, which I’ve been curious about for a while. We walked in a asked for a table.

Normally when we’re looking for a place to eat, before we decide to sit down, we grab a menu and check out the prices. Despite the fact that I knew we were on a very specific budget, because we were both hungry we just sat down. When I opened my menu, I got a serious case of sticker shock.

None of their entrees were less than $11.95 (most were in the $13-14.95 range), and none of their appetizers were less than $8.95 (most were $9.95). That’s not a lot on the general spectrum restaurant prices, but it’s a lot more than I was thinking to pay per-plate for lunch. And if those are their lunch menu prices, I would hate to see their dinner menu prices.

But, by the time I had opened my menu, we were already seated. We could have walked out, and gone somewhere else, but I felt held in place by social convention and a desire not to seem rude.

So we ate our meal (which was pretty good, but I didn’t want to pay $15 a piece for it), and had a lovely lunch together. But we walked out of the restaurant with $40 less in our pockets, and if I had it to do all over again, I would rather have had the $40 than the lunch.

What’s the moral of the story? Well, knowing where we want to go before we are too hungry to make good decisions would be a step in the right direction.

I want to say something about finding a way to remember spending and saving priorities, too, but in replaying the afternoon in my head, I really think the key was not making the decision about where to eat when we were already hungry.

Buyer’s Remorse comes in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes strikes after the most innocuous-seeming purchases. The key to avoiding buyer’s remorse is to be thoughtful about how you spend your money. Buyer’s remorse might still hit you from time to time, but it will happen with much less frequency.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Really? May 30, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Really? Maybe look at the menu before you are seated. Maybe realize if the term “seated” applies, you’re not paying less than 8$ per entree. Certainly not for each appetizer either. Have you ever dined out before? Was this your first rodeo? Did you factor in a tip as well? If you had to be “seated” you likely had a server. Places like Subway and Panera Bread don’t have servers, so that would have been a pretty early indication you were at the wrong place.

In conclusion, this might have been avoided by doing some pretty basic critical thinking. You wanted to spend 20$. You spent 40$. All in all I wouldn’t say it was a disaster either way.

Also I couldn’t help but notice you were downtown. Ya know, where business people reside. Business people with money. Business people with money to spend on a nice lunch. Really?

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mzumtaylor May 31, 2013 at 8:23 am

There are any number of sit-down restaurants in the downtown area at which one can get lunch for less than $40. There are several where one can get lunch for $8-$10 an entree. What I was looking for is not that uncommon, actually. The thing that really shocked me was the fact that their lunch prices were the same as their dinner prices, which is somewhat unusual. Usually, lunch portions are smaller and the prices are similarly reduced.

In the end, you’re correct, it wasn’t the biggest deal. It was just a little frustrating at the time, and was an example of Buyer’s Remorse, which is what the blog post was about.

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