Recently, a coworker/friend was talking about how he’s trying to bring his lunch to work more to cut down on costs. I told him that I tried that one month, but for all the hassle it was, it wasn’t worth shaving a small bit off the $150 or so I spend on lunches. He was flabbergasted that I manage to spend so little each month!
In 2011, my average monthly spending on work lunches was $140 or about $1,700 for the year. So far this year, I’ve averaged about $165/month. If you average those 16 months together, you get about $148/month, which probably averages out to about $7/day.
I find it absolutely fascinating that my coworkers and I all make (fairly) similar incomes and yet, we all view money in different ways.
To this particular coworker, lunches out were an expensive habit. He probably saw lunches out as closer to $20/day than my $7/day average. At $20/day, I agree that it is a pretty expensive habit to maintain, but at $7/day, it is significantly less of a trade-off and one that I am willing to keep in my life.
How do I keep my lunches spending down?
- If I have a surplus of dinner leftovers, I’ll bring them in for lunch. (This isn’t very frequent.)
- I often have morning and afternoon snacks that I buy at the grocery store on my way to/from work, which is far cheaper than buying stuff at the cafeteria or coffee shops, e.g. yogurts, fruits, and vegetables, and it also helps me to eat smaller portions at lunch time.
- I buy good chocolates in bulk instead of from the vending machine and then keep them near my desk (but not on it so they’re less tempting) for when I have a chocolate craving. I find that this makes eating chocolate less of a craving and more of a small want, than the break of buying some from the vending machine.
- I don’t drink coffee. I buy a good hot chocolate maybe once or twice a month.
- I tend to frequent the lunch places that sell portions that are closer to what I need to eat to feel full. The $20ish lunch places tend to be fancier, but also have larger portions. There are plenty of places where you can get small soups, half-sandwiches, small salads, etc. Sometimes places will give you a discount if your meal comes with two side dishes, but you only take one, for instance. Or you can just order a side dish or an appetizer instead of the normal meal!
- I try to only go to the fancier lunch places at most once every week or two.
Seeing how much some of my male coworkers eat, I’m pretty sure they’re incapable of eating out for lunch as often as I do and spending under $200/month. One coworker said that his daily average is closer to $15 than my $7. That difference sure extrapolates quickly!
With the cost being under 2% of my net income last year and my projected for this year as well, I’m not concerned. It makes life easier and provides a nice break in the middle of the day.
Readers, what do you do for lunch at work? What is your bar for spending like this?