Monday, January 5, 2015

Bagging Your Lunch To Save Money

I originally wrote this post in November but decided to hold it over until the New Year. Maybe those of you who are feeling "New Year's Resolution Fever" will take heed of the message that I am putting out in this post. I'm sure food is expensive in most major urban centers but eating in New York City is expensive, especially if you work on the island of Manhattan (yes folks, NYC is more than just Manhattan).

Now I guess you can eat off the value menu of places such as McDonalds and Wendy's or have street meat on a daily basis. But why would you do that to yourself and your stomach. Even pizza, which used to be an economical way to have something to eat has gotten ridiculously overpriced. So I calculated the amounts that I would have spent on lunch and decided that it was easier and cheaper to just bag my lunch.

The calculations are based on estimates on what I used to spend on lunch/dinner when I bartended. We would order wings from a local wing spot and between the wings, tax and tip, we'd drop $20 each for the bill. That was roughly the same when ordering from the diner or any other take out spot. Spending that much on just food adds up. Not to mention that we would spend extra getting something from the local deli whenever someone did a run to the store. I am not in the position to spend that kind of money on a daily basis and I'd rather utilize those funds to buy food that I can make at home at a considerable savings AND make to satisfy more than just one meal. So for the purpose of this exercise, I'm dealing with round numbers so your estimates might be less than mine.

So let's say you work a five-day week and let's say your daily expenditure for lunch rounds out to $10 a day. Multiply that by 5 and you spend $50 a week on lunch. Multiply that same $50 by 52 weeks and you find that you spend $2600 a year on lunch.
  • $10 x 5 days = $50
  • $50 x 52 weeks = $2600
That's a pretty hefty amount and I'm not even taking into account the money that is spent on your morning coffee, donut, roll and danish.

Now who are you kidding, we busy New Yorkers don't have time to have breakfast at home. Many New Yorkers are so busy that they would rather spend the money to buy their breakfast on the street rather than waking up early and having breakfast at home. Again, as with the lunch estimate, I round out the amount to $5 a day though if you use a street cart it might be cheaper and if you go to Dunkin Donuts, Tim Horton's or Starbucks it might be more expensive.

Based on a five-day work week multiple it by $5 dollars for a total of $25 a week. Multiply the $25 by 52 weeks and that's a total of $1300 a year for breakfast.
  • $5 x 5 days = $25
  • $25 x 52 weeks = $1300
So here is what we are looking at so far:
  • $2600 Estimated Lunch a Year 
  • $1300 Estimated Breakfast a Year 
  • $3900 Estimated Expenditures on Lunch and Breakfast a Year 
So we are looking at an estimated total of $3900 in meals a year and that doesn't include the afternoon coffee you sneak out to buy, the candy bar or bag of chips at the office vending machine, the fruit you buy from the street fruit vendor and so on. Multiply that by two if your spouse or partner spent the same estimated amount and you are look at close to $8000 spent on what you and your spouse spend to eat during the day while at work. I don't know about you but that is a little over five months worth of rent for me. That kind of money can be better served in other areas. So bagging lunch it is. Now am I saying that you shouldn't treat yourself? Absolutely not.

You work hard so you should treat yourself occasionally. Just do it in moderation so you can save some of that hard earned money. If you have to buy coffee while out on the streets, look into ways that you can save money to do so. Some small coffee shops have rewards programs such as if you buy a certain amount of cups, you get a free cup of coffee. Dunkin Donuts for the holidays sells a Holiday gift card (like the one shown to the right) which for $15 you would get 10-large sized cups of coffee. Normally a large cup of coffee would cost you roughly $2.50 so for 10-large sized ups you would save $10. The card doesn't expire and they cards are still being sold. This is something that would work perfectly in terms of both budget and satisfying the craving for a cup of joe.

Another option is to do what I do: Bring your own coffee to work. Luckily for me, my darling wife Momma-San listens to me and heard that I wanted to buy a Thermos to bring my coffee to work. So for Christmas, I found a Thermos sitting under the tree. Now, if you are thinking that I got an old school tan colored Thermos with the plastic lid that doubles as a cup you are mistaken.

What I got was a sleek looking container that according to the product description for the Thermos® Stainless King™ 24-Ounce Beverage Bottle from the Bed Bath and Beyond website:
It features TherMax® double-wall vacuum insulation for maximum temperature retention that keeps cold beverages cold for up to 24 hours and hot liquids hot for up to 18 hours...Holds a generous 24 ounces
If 24-ounces isn't enough, they sell a 40-ounce Thermos: the Thermos® Stainless King™ 40-Ounce Beverage Bottle, which is the same price as the 24-ounce Thermos.

This Thermos has already paid for itself. I take roughly 20-ounces of coffee with me everyday to work. It stays hot during my entire shift and now I don't need to purchase coffee during the day or even after work AND I'm not tempted to buy a donut or two which helps keep my big gut in check.

I'm currently trying to see how many days of coffee I'm getting out of a 12oz bag of ground Dunkin Donuts medium roast coffee. I just bought four bags at CVS at $5.99 a bag using their Rewards Card. I'll go into using those cards in a later post.

Basically the only daily expenditure I have is my transportation. Its gotten to the point that I don't even carry cash with me. Not carrying cash takes away the temptation of spending money. And since I hate swiping my debit card for small amounts I don't have to worry about using that either.

Times are tough. We all need to find ways to save some money. I hope this helps.

Until next time,

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