how I managed to spend almost $9000 on lunch this year

carrot for lunch

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I try to bring my lunch to work with me, both for health and wealth reasons, but it just doesn’t happen all the time. I’ll say:

  • “I forgot to pack it and now I’ll miss the bus”
  • “There’s nothing good I want to eat”
  • “I like eating fresh veggies at the salad bar”

Basically it all boils down to “I’m lazy.” Either too lazy to cook, too lazy to prepare, or too lazy to pack it. Whatever the reason, I end up getting a salad most days. But as I mentioned, I decided this past year to track my spending to keep it down. I put together a spreadsheet and kept track of every dime I spent on food this year.

So the results, one week short of a year of tracking? I spent almost $9000.

Let me explain, because that’s not entirely true.
I spent $1300 out of my pocket. But if I had taken that money and invested it at a return of 8% (which I don’t believe is a realistic assumption but that’s another story) for 25 years, it would have been almost $9000. That’s a lot of money to pass up.

On the other hand, I do get cash back rewards since I put lunch on my Amex Blue every day. Before you gasp at the fact that I put food on my credit card, I should point out that we pay off our credit cards promptly every month, and I never spend anything that I couldn’t pay cash for if I needed to – other than our mortgage.

I also did see a massive downward trend after I started keeping track (with a few bumps).
Almost every week I managed to smash down my weekly average, and in recent weeks I was down to about $4 per day. Of course I had a few outliers in there, but generally the trend was good and my habit of writing things down paid off.

The final benefit was eating healthier. If I bring food from home it might be a whole wheat sandwich with turkey or some sort of meat substitute. Fine, but not as good as what I get from the salad bar – lettuce, carrots, oil and vinegar. So I did realize some sort of health benefit from not bringing my lunch. You may argue I could do the same thing at home, but it’s tough to transport salad back and forth to work. Not impossible…but not my first preference.

Planning is the biggest key to success – making sure that you shop wisely and pack the night before are 90% of the battle. So next year I’ll try to cut back from that $9000!

Creative Commons License photo credit: malias