Ways to Build Wealth Through Savings at Lunchtime

by Jeremy Hartley · 10 comments

ham sandwich
If you’re like me, lunchtime is a much enjoyed reprieve to “sandwich” in the busy work day. It also means that $10 to $15 is about to leave the wallet. This may not seem like much, but after grabbing a quick bite over the last month, I counted my receipts and realized I said goodbye to $188.07. Wowsers. That’s why I’ve set a goal to shave that in half. Here’s what I’ve found to be helpful.

Water Cups Can Save a Ton

Did you know drinks are the number one profit margins (percentage-wise) at restaurants? Every time a cup is sold, restaurants make around 800% profit. What really costs the eatery 30 cents or so is priced at $2.49 to the consumer. Add in taxes and you are basically paying 10 times the cost of having the same thing at home. Avoid being marked up by sticking to the free water cup. You’ll immediately see your $10 to $15 dollar meal reduced to $7 to $12. If you absolutely need that jolt of caffeine, keep a can in your purse or car and ask for a cup of ice. No one will care that you put your own drink into the cup of ice, but you can also enjoy the drink on your way back to work if you feel self conscious.

Consider the Questions

If you’re the type to visit the drive-thru during lunch break, you’ll most likely be offered to “try” something new. Those “trys” are new items that are usually marked up more than your average lunch.Β At the end of your order, you’ll probably be asked if that combo was “medium” or “large”. Stick with the small, and don’t let those little up-sizes get to you. Did you know that some of those cups only differ by a few ounces and yet they charge you way more than a few cents? The stores ask consumers at the drive thru these questions to maximize profits. Take a few minutes to think about what you really want (and what you really want to spend) and stick to it at the speaker.

Pack a Lunch (or More)

Taking 10 minutes (or less) on Sunday night and Wednesday night to pack lunch will save you quite a few bucks as well. Grocery stores, especially warehouse bulk foods, are not as marked up as restaurants. Sure, you won’t be handed a delectable BLT at your request, but making a lunch yourself will bring down that $10 to $15 to $5 to $8 (if we’re going on averages). That combo at the sandwich shop costs $11.99, but if you make something similar the night before, you’re looking at $5 or so. You also get to pick exactly what you want in the sandwich as well. Added Bonus: You can eat healthier by packing fruit instead of getting those fries.

Share the Meal (with Yourself!)

I always get a to-go box for my lunch orders nowadays. That’s because the portions offered are always huge and saving the leftovers for the next meal means that I don’t have to buy lunch every day or at the very least don’t have to buy a full meal every day. I just leave the box in the refrigerator at work and heat it up the next day. The trick is to divide the portions before I dig in. That way, I can control my portions so I don’t overeat. Another benefit is that the food spoils less easily because our saliva speeds up the breakdown of the food.

Eat Out

I mean literally. Enjoy the outdoors by asking the order to go and finding a park or an open space to enjoy your food. You’ll get some fresh air to recharge your batteries a bit for the rest of the work day. You also won’t be pressured to pay too much in tips. The norm is 15% in my area for eating in these days, and the $2 – $3 tip per meal adds up really quickly.

Setting a few financial goals during your lunch break can save way more than just a few bucks. After a month of trying these tips, my lunch receipts went from $188.07 to $122.44. I’m not quite there yet with my goal of reducing lunch expenses by half, but I’ve already earned myself a free tank of gas with the extra $65.

Do you have any tips to save while craving a bite?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Latoya says:

    I work from home and the temptation to eat out still exists especially if you don’t have anything quick to eat at home. One thing I have been doing to save though is going to the grocery store vs a fast food joint. I can get 20 pc wings at Publix for $10.00 and have lunch for a day or two. If I go to Zaxby’s a 20 pc runs around $22!

    • David @ MoneyNing.com says:

      Great alternative Latoya. Watch out for the calories though.

      PS: I’m a fellow wing lover, so I know this from experience! In fact, I had 36 different flavored wings for my 36th birthday!

  • Dave says:

    After many years doing the daily “power lunch” I decided to eliminate going out lunches unless there was a networking element involved. Sometimes that networking was with internal folks, but either way I still needed to get value for the money I was spending.

    If I was eating by myself, I brought from home or ate something very small and cheap. Helped with the calories too.

    Now that I mostly work from home it’s not as much of a problem. But it’s been replaced by the “Starbucks” problem.

    • David @ MoneyNing.com says:

      It’s amazing how easy it is to gain weight eating all that junk for lunch. Don’t be too hard on yourself, because Starbucks can be okay depending on how much you have accumulated already and how often you go.

  • Ramona says:

    Back when I was working at the radio station a lot of my money was spent on eating take-out food. Only after I started tracking my expenses I realized how much of a money drain this is

    • David @ MoneyNing.com says:

      Good for you to find out. And by bringing your own lunch, you bank the money and get to eat healthier too!

  • Bori says:

    Great article! Totally agree with your water part, I never order drinks at restaurants… try to avoid eating out at all πŸ™‚
    Making my own lunches saves me about 2500$ a year.

    • David @ MoneyNing.com says:

      Wow $2,500 is no small feat. Invest that excess every year and you could shave quite a bit of time off the “work treadmill”!

  • RAnn says:

    I came to the same conclusion and decided to invest money I save by not going out to lunch.

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