Lending Club Blog

Eating Lunch Out: The Budget Killer

Many different types of expenses cause people to overrun their budgets. Perhaps none is as common as eating lunch out. All households could save money by reducing this expense category.

One of the main reasons that it’s so easy to severely overrun your budget for eating lunch out is that the expenses are so frequent. If your estimate of the cost is a little low, the cost overrun gets multiplied by the number of times you eat out. If you regularly buy your lunch at work, you can imagine how this could add up. It’s much less expensive to bring your own lunch, where you can effectively take advantage of buying in bulk.

Saving money by bringing your own meal doesn’t mean that you have to eat cheap food. Even replacing purchased meals with similar food that you bring yourself will save you money. Think about what it costs to get a sandwich from a deli or fast food sandwich chain. Compare that to the per sandwich cost of making it yourself, and you’ll quickly realize how much money you could be saving. Adding in the cost of drinks and side items, purchased in larger quantities than a single serving size, increases the cost savings even more. On a per lunch basis, I spend less than $3 a day. You’d be hard pressed to find similarly healthy, quality food for anywhere near that cost by eating out.

For the financial benefits of bringing your own lunch there are some tradeoffs. Obviously, it takes time and effort to buy and prepare food for yourself. Also, you may be tempted to eat less healthy food that’s easy to prepare. Many of us choose fast food when eating out for lunch though, which isn’t anywhere near as healthy as what we can bring for ourselves. Bringing your own lunch also lets you control portion size more easily.

Reducing your expenses from eating out doesn’t necessarily have to mean eating out less. It can also mean eating out more intelligently. Many restaurants have weekly specials or a particular day with discounted menu items. Shifting when you eat out to these days can yield substantial savings. You can also save money by getting multiple meals from one dining experience. Increasing portion size makes this easier than ever. Eating half of your meal and saving the other half for lunch the next day will not only be good for your finances, but likely your health as well.

Reducing the cost of lunches is a small change that can have a large effect. There are lots of ways to reduce our overall expenses, but lunch is one expense category that is common to nearly every household. It does take some discipline and effort to do so, but the benefits make it worthwhile.

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008 at 9:07 am

Comments (3)

  1. As someone who has recently gotten much better about bringing
    lunch, I’ll share my two cents: In the past, if I was trying to
    save money and bring my lunch, I’d try to go as cheap as possible
    and do sandwiches every day. This never worked, because a) I’d get
    bored of sandwiches, and b) I didn’t feel full after eating it. So,
    I found that it’s worth spending a little more at the store to get
    foods that you really like, and are easy to prepare. I have a big
    laziness factor so if I buy food that is too hard to prepare I’ll
    end up not using it, which means I’ve wasted money on un-used
    groceries AND going out to eat! I’ve found that spending $3.50 on a
    pre-made salad from Trader Joe’s is still much better than spending
    $6+ going out. Also, if I bring 2-3 small snacks in addition to the
    main lunch, I feel more satisfied and don’t end up hitting the
    vending machine later.

    April 8th, 2008 at 10:42 am

  2. Saver:

    Recently, there was a forum that a woman in Switzerland asking how
    to reduce the expenses in her household. She stated her monthly
    grocery being about $400, but her husband spends $300 just for his
    lunch – he eats lunch out every single days, yep Monday thru
    Friday. In addition, he spends nearly $30.00 altogether per day for
    his lunch. I pointed out saying perhaps he should cut his daily
    ritual of eating out…rather than trying to cut back her grocery
    or relying on cheap recipes. He could still enjoy dining out, but
    limit the number like, twice a wk. Switzerland is known for its
    high cost of living, but I still thought it was plain ridiculous to
    spend that much money for j.u.s.t lunch. But she didn’t want to
    budge, either others. A lot of people simply can’t do the simple
    math. Only wish she could see this article!

    April 20th, 2009 at 6:54 pm

  3. PShickely:

    how about eating only every other day? is that good for you?

    May 29th, 2010 at 10:15 am

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