Welcome to Fiscal Friday! This post was inspired by a blog post by librarian friend of mine. She was lamenting that going out to eat can be a little pricey, and given that half of her household is in school, that makes it a little tough.
I totally sympathize, and it's where my Mad Money spending account came from. I live in a big-time foodie part of the world, and I really do want to experience some of its amazing offerings. But I can't just scrape up $100+ at a moment's notice to go to the fancy-pants restaurants! (to give some context, I try to keep my eating-out expenses under $200/month)
One of my friends mentioned that she sets aside $20 a month in cash into an envelope, and intends to use it for an annual Amazing Dinner Out (we're talking $200+ to eat at the restaurant she mentioned). I don't do well with cash sitting around - somehow I dip into it for other spending - but I loved her idea. So, with my lovely bank USAA, I opened a separate savings account, labeled it Mad Money, and started saving a little bit of money every paycheck. I started small, just $10/month, but then I paid off the last of my debt and bumped it up to $25/paycheck. I don't miss it, and I know it's there if I really DO need it, but mostly it just adds up.
So far I've used Mad Money this summer to eat at Prospect, a new restaurant in San Francisco where a coworker's partner is the pastry chef. I used Mad Money in January to take advantage of Dine About Town, where I squeezed TWO fancy meals out of the account: at Le Central, a French bistro that's been open since the 1970s, and at Chaya Brasserie, a Japanese-American fusion restaurant.
Next up? I think I'll see if I can find anyone who wants to eat at a local-to-me honest-to-goodness-Michelin-starred restaurant. I think if you do the tasting course and paired wines it's something like $90 per person - not something to be undertaken lightly, but certainly something I can save for with my Mad Money account!
As a side note, I'm so glad I track my spending - it was the only way I could locate the names of the restaurants I ate in 9 months ago!