My budget throughout the workweek is simple – try to get through Monday-Friday and spend as little money as possible. This almost always includes bringing my lunch each day to avoid spending money on takeout and expensive restaurants.
During a rough workday, lunch breaks are actually highly anticipated in my office and I notice how some of my coworkers tend to go out for lunch every single day. If I had to guess how much employees who dine out regularly for lunch in my area spend each year, I’d bet it’s over $1,000 annually. That’s a lot of money to spend on work lunches not even counting grocery expenses and dining out outside of work.
Over a year ago I decided to do something different and start shopping for lunch food while I did my regular grocery shopping so I could pack a lunch each workday. It has required quite a bit of organization and creativity, along with some sacrifices, but overall there’s been a lot of benefits. First, the losses.
Bringing Your Lunch Costs Quality Time Bonding With Coworkers
Going out to lunch with your coworkers is one of the best ways to learn more about the people you work with and bond over interests unrelated to your job. Dining out is often a very social experience and the interaction with other people can really help you relieve stress and feel re-energized to finish the day strong.
The last time I went to eat lunch with a coworker was well over a year ago. In the end, eating lunch with coworkers was an expense that I decided to cut. It wasn’t easy but I’ve found ways to still bond with them and align my spending behavior with my budget and financial goals.
Setting Aside Time to Prep Food
Time itself is always something I feel I don’t have enough of, and the more I add to my schedule and list of responsibilities, the less time I have to do things I value and enjoy. In order to bring my lunch to work all the time, I need to prep food constantly. I’m not the type of person to be content with packing the same type of sandwich each day for months. I love a lot of variety in my diet and get bored with certain foods easily so I’m always trying new recipes for my lunches.
I have to make sure I pick up items to eat for lunch when I’m at the grocery store and spend time either in the evening or in the morning (if I’m running late), de-thawing food, cooking batch meals for lunch, and chopping up fruits and vegetables, on top of the prep work I do for dinner. Meal planning helps me stay on top of costs while still injecting a healthy dose of variety into my meals.
While I’m sure I could definitely streamline my food prep process, it would still require some time and effort on my end either way. If you’re the same and want help preparing and planning meals, check out $5 Meal Plan for great ideas to get started.
Not Getting to Try Out New Cuisine in the Neighborhood
Sometimes I’m tempted to order food when I hear about a new restaurant opening up in the neighborhood or I get a little jealous when I smell my coworker’s Chipotle bowl just a few feet away. Their guacamole is so delicious. I’m definitely not immune to fear of missing out (FOMO).
There are tons of restaurants near my job with delicious foods and let me be the first to tell you, I tried out most of them last year and got tired of them fast. Sometimes, the food you order just doesn’t turn out all that great, then you feel like you wasted your money. I got tired of going broke for a little temporary satisfaction which is another reason why I started packing my lunch and I haven’t regretted it at all.
Now, let’s move on to the benefits. Here’s what I gain by brining my own lunch and ultimately why I choose to bring my lunch to work.
Bringing Your Lunch Saves Money
This is an obvious benefit and the main reason why I commit to bringing lunch to work all the time. Coming to work every day with my own lunch is a great way to save money. To avoid spending any unnecessary money, I also make sure I pack a few snacks and eat breakfast from my home before I leave for work as well. With lunch in my area generally ranging anywhere between $5-$12.50, I could easily see myself spending $30-$40+per week on lunch and snacks while I’m at work.
By preparing and bringing my own food each day, I have more money in my pocket to do other things like put more money toward my student loans, save, go on outings with my family during the weekend, and so on.
Better Control Over My Diet
Quick meals at restaurants may taste good, but they are not always the best for you. I may have to spend a bit more time and effort making my own lunch and bringing it in each day, but I have more freedom over the type of food I eat and I know exactly what I’m eating since I’m preparing it.
If you want to eat healthier takeout, you have to spend more money. Restaurant salads are very pricey so it’s best to just make your own at home.
Clearer Understanding of My Values
There’s nothing wrong with dining out every now and then for lunch, but it feels empowering not to need to do it all the time, especially if you don’t value it. For me, I stopped relying on food to help me escape the work day temporarily and I decided to focus on what would make me feel better long-term, and that’s having full control over my finances and being able to do the things that make me feel happy and fulfilled. If I don’t limit my spending on unnecessary wants, it will take even longer to pay off my debt and have full control over my finances.
There are other ways to bond with coworkers or network with others regularly. Since I don’t value takeout, I can’t justify spending $100 or even $50 per month on pricey work lunches. My FOMO mood wears off quickly when I put my values into perspective.
How do you feel about work lunches? Does spending less money on extra expenses throughout the week help you obtain a clearer understanding of your goals and values?