What Makes You Splurge On Food

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What Makes You Splurge On Food
What Makes You Splurge On Food
Larissa Fernand - 30 June 2024

With increased earnings, people tend to spend more on gourmet experiences. However, spending within your means is essential to stay healthy, both physically and financially

I believe that there are three relationships which guide almost every facet of our life. These are:

  • Our relationship with God.
  • Our relationship with Food.
  • Our relationship with Money.


(Not in any particular order).

And because the influence is only sometimes overt, if at all, and often subconscious, we tend to underplay its impact.

Before I elaborate, a clarification. I use the word “god” in its broadest sense. It could be religious where we adhere to certain guidelines. But it could stretch way beyond just the supernatural, the divine, the mystical, the magical or the mythological. It could be any altar you worship at—be it the altar of money, power, fame, pleasure, narcissism, and so on. We all worship something or someone. And worship transforms, hence the influence could be all the more insidious.

So when I came across a comment by Chirag Barjatya, I was intrigued.

Chirag identifies himself as a fitness entrepreneur and is the founder of PFC Club. Since I am a big fan of his practical fitness suggestions, I was very fascinated by his observation: “Your fitness largely depends upon your mindset towards money.” He then elaborated and I think he meant physical wellbeing and not fitness in the narrowest sense of the word. So I took the gist of what he said, paraphrased it slightly, and split it up.

  • As you earn more money, your expenditure on expensive food, gourmet experiences and gastronomic delights tend to increase. Hence, you see a lot of the nouveau rich individuals getting unhealthy faster.
  • You can see it in how people flaunt expensive liquor and premium wines in their luxury home bar.
  • It is also evident when people go to a 5-star hotel buffet and try to eat as much as possible from the numerous dishes available. They keep eating even after they feel stuffed. The underlying attitude is: “Well, I am paying for it so I want my money’s worth.”


When Past Scarcity Drives Current Consumption

Author and financial expert Ramit Sethi often says that as he grew wealthy, he loved the idea of being able to afford appetisers at a restaurant. When growing up, his family could not afford it when they went out to eat.

He also cited a conversation with a young man in Washington DC who wistfully told him that if his money quadrupled, he has a list of every Michelin starred restaurant in town that he would love to visit along with his family. Because they cannot afford a meal at any of those venues.

I so resonate with both the above confessions. My family almost never ate out when I was growing up. And when I began to earn, I loved the idea of going out to various restaurants and experimenting with various cuisines. When eating out is a luxury, the financial ability to do so feels like freedom. The empowerment and the accomplishment that one feels cannot be ignored.

While all this sounds very normal, there is a dark side to it if the deprivation or poverty was a little more extreme.

Sarah Hill, a professor of psychology at Texas Christian University, along with her research team, found that people who grew up poor would unconsciously overeat even after attaining financial security. She concluded from her studies that when individuals grow up in an environment of monetary unpredictability and uncertainty, it often includes access to food.

Economic depravity when growing up would lead people to continue eating even when they were not hungry, and even if they were financially stable.

When It Is A Status Symbol

A lot of our expenditure falls under this category, even if you choose not to admit it to yourself.

Some seek social validation with their wardrobe, or their car, or even their residential address. But often it morphs into the culinary world too. They will brag about the lovely bar in their house and the bottles of imported liquor, the expensive ingredients in their salads, and the restaurants they frequent. My friend used to visit a very upmarket gym in South Mumbai. One day one of the ladies wanted to invite the girls over for home-made pizza. “I will be flying to London for a week, let me pick the ingredients and then will call you all over,” was how she framed the invitation.

This not only happens in conversations, but is blatantly flaunted on various platforms. The social media food phenomenon is something we all have to grapple with even if we don’t subscribe to it. When Magnolia Bakery opened in Mumbai, I was stunned at the number of individuals inside who were more occupied with Instagram reels. And wherever you are, it seems obligatory to check if anyone on the table is whipping out their phone for a click before you start digging in (Imagine how impolite it would be if you just started serving yourself and the original plating was not documented).

I don’t know if it is fun, but once posted on social media, it certainly makes the person look cool and trendy (and rich).

What Is The Takeaway?

  • Food is pleasure.
  • Food is entertainment.
  • A lot of bonding, connections and celebrations happen over food.


Sethi cited another “food experience” that money permitted him to splurge on. For the first part of his honeymoon, both spouses invited their parents to Italy. They hired a chef to take them to a farmer’s market to pick fresh ingredients, and then they cooked it all together.

I think it is lovely that one uses money to enable others’ participation in such indulgences, bring so much happiness to each other and create memories.

There is absolutely nothing wrong about spending on food and related experiences. The issue is, don’t go overboard when you cannot afford it.

  • If you feel that the driver is social acceptance into your peer circle, then it is a much deeper issue.
  • If it is to post photographs on social media, then maybe it is validation that you are seeking.
  • If you are eating out of an emotional need, it may help to seek therapy or counselling.


In most cases, you can work around it.

Let’s say you want to take your family out to good restaurants but really can’t afford to do that every week. Well, then set a restaurant date every fortnight, or once in three weeks (whatever fits your wallet). All through the week, stop ordering on Zomato or Swiggy. You have to give up something to get something else.

This way, you get to take your family out to enjoy different types of food, it is a lovely experience that you all look forward to, and you create wonderful memories. Moreover, by being disciplined about it, you teach your children about living within one’s means. Also, eating at home the rest of the time is a very healthy alternative for the entire family.

In all aspects, you win.

By Larissa Fernand, Behavioural Finance Expert

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