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Mumbai: Nidhi Passi, 21, a Mumbai-based fitness professional, had to shift to Mumbai on a rather impromptu notice to take up her new gig in the city. “I am currently living in a temporary accommodation and have to conduct fitness sessions the entire day. I am out most of the time and I eat out as I do not have any other arrangement," said Passi. While her daily average eating out cost is around 300, her monthly expenditure is about 66% of her salary, including other outings with her friends on special occasions. “I am not paying rent now so I find the cost manageable. Once I move into a permanent accommodation, I’ll look for cost-friendly options like a mess," said Passi. However, currently eating out is not always a necessity but also a means of luxury or a means to get a break from a work-packed week. “It’s not like I don’t get to save at all but this situation is temporary and it’s only a matter of time before my finances get sorted," she added.

The phenomenon is not just in Mumbai. Bengaluru-based Samridhi Kaur, 25, senior executive in a private firm, eats out during weekends to take a break from a long work week. “I end up spending 8% of my monthly salary on eating out during weekends," said Kaur. She has taken paid subscription of a mobile food application and uses it regularly. “It’s not like I end up going out more or spending extra. Both the food and alcohol options are economically viable so even in the two outings I do in a week, the cost comes down by a good amount," Kaur said.

Earlier, eating out was just a weekend trend but with millennials increasingly moving to metro cities for their professional life away from their homes, the frequency is increasing. “More than a necessity they consider it as an experience. With this kind of mindset, it becomes difficult to argue with someone on their lifestyle," said Dilshad Billimoria, director, Dilzer Consultants Private Ltd.

Kaur is not alone as more and more millennials are resorting to eating out only as a means to catch up with friends. Mumbai-based Diksha Kathayat, 23, a brand services manager, ventures out to eat in restaurants only during weekends. “I go out almost three times a week and it is mostly because I have to meet a friend or there is an official get together. It’s a leisurely expenditure as for my daily needs I bank on a mess, which is economical," she said. Kathayat ends up spending 16% of her monthly salary on eating out but much lesser on her daily needs. “This amount does get a bit dearer to me by the end of the month but then there is no option. At the end of a hectic week, meeting my friends becomes a necessity and meeting outside is the only possibility." However, she still makes way for savings. “My expenditure on eating out is a little above the line according to my personal finance needs. But this is an expenditure I cannot avoid. Hence I am cutting down on other things so I can have more funds to save for my future."

This has been a trend across the country as well. According to a study by RedSeer Consulting, millennials spend at least 2,500 a month on eating out. The study was conducted between January and March 2018 in more than 10 cities and over 1,000 respondents were surveyed.

Eating out regularly has now become a means of luxury irrespective of the fact that it may corrode future savings. “Around 20% of my clients are millennials and a lot of them spend as high as 30% of their monthly take home salary just on eating out. Ideally, the percentage should be restricted to 4-5%, considering eating out is not the only thing they need to spend on," said Rachit Chawla, founder and chief executive officer, Finway, a Delhi-based financial advisory firm.

Millennials weigh out the cost of this expenditure. “It is also difficult to ask them to curb costs when they start afresh in their professional lives and eating out expense including other factors like online shopping, streaming services and entertainment costs can extract a good portion of their salary and the number can go up as much as 60% of their pay. They may be able to save less than 15% of their pay," said Billimoria. At the beginning of your career, it is still acceptable to spend more on eating out. However, in the following years you should try to raise your savings. “If they are able to save even 5,000 a month and increase it gradually, owing to the power of compounding they can accumulate close to 3.5 crore in 25 years," Chawla added.

There is no harm in treating yourself to a good lunch or dinner. However, it should not come at the cost of your other needs. Hence, plan your expenses while keeping an eye on your investments.

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