We admit it. Packing a lunch every day is kind of a pain. But, do you know how much money this simple habit can save? Here’s a breakdown of four different work lunch options.
Option 1: A Moderately Priced Restaurant
Let’s say you go to your favorite burger joint or homestyle diner down the road. You order one entrée, costing between $8-$11 along with a $2.50 beverage. By the time you tip your server at 15%, your daily total is between $12 to $15.50. With approximately 22 working days each month your …
Monthly Workday Lunch Budget: $264-$341*
Option 2: Fast Food
What about fast food? You don’t have to pay a tip, so this is a cheaper choice. An entrée, a side and a drink may run anywhere from $7 to $12.50. Although your budget is lower, most people don’t want to eat fast food every day.
Monthly Workday Lunch Budget: $154-$275*
Option 3: A Packed Lunch – Grab & Go Style
If you struggle to get up in the morning and you KNOW packing a lunch isn’t going to happen, consider the advantages of prepackaged food. For example, at a local store you could to buy 15 Smucker’s Uncrustables for $9.99, 12 string cheese sticks for $3.99, 7 100-calorie nut packs for $3.59, a 3 lb. bag of apples (approximately 10) for $3.99 and a 24 pack of bottled water (generic) for $2.69. This combination will cost you around $2 per day. Do you need more variety? Or, do you dislike some of these options? Numerous other convenience items exist including single-serve hummus packs, dried fruit, yogurt, granola bars, chips, popcorn, muffins and cookies. Of course, you will have to visit the store and/or order online every week or so. However, assuming you have everything on hand, you should be able to assemble your daily lunch in two minutes or less.
Monthly Workday Lunch Budget: $44 and up*
Option 4: A Packed Lunch – Budget Style
According to Jonathan Mendonsa, the co-founder of the ChooseFI podcast, you can create a lunch with an average cost per serving of between $1 to $3. His plan is somewhat more involved and includes buying in bulk, shopping at discount stores, preparing food in advance and making use of leftovers. If you have the time and the energy, this may be a fun challenge.
Monthly Workday Lunch Budget: $22-$66*
So, the difference between our highest number, $341, and our lowest number, $22, is $319. You’ll probably fall somewhere in between. After all, some days we DO forget our lunch. Nevertheless, even if you can save $100 per month, you’ll have an extra $1,200 by the end of the year.
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* Estimated budgets do not include state and local taxes.