This is post #19 from the 30 Day Personal Finance Challenge: Boost Your Financial Health with a Daily Tip!
When I started calculating my monthly expenses, I realized I was spending a lot on eating out at lunch break.
I had been working at the same office for about 3 years by this point. I had been to all the nearby restaurants, and then to all the far away ones. I have had all the possible food around. It had started to be boring.
A regular lunch in the center of Berlin costs anything from €7 to €15. For 22 working days a month, this would make €150-330 a month just for lunch. I don’t include the drink that goes with the food, the espresso after the lunch, the mid-afternoon snack or the ice-cream or frozen yogurt in summer.
My lunch was costing me €1,800-3,900 yearly. This is a lot of money! For this amount of money, I could live for 4-8 months with all expenses covered in Thailand! I could live for 3-6 months in my hometown – Sofia.
My rough calculation shows that:
for a regular working life of 40 years, I would have spend €72,000-150,000! This is insane!
Here’s another calculation. Let’s say I invested only €2,000 from the lunch money for 5 years in a row with a yearly interest of 8%. At the end of the fifth year, I would have ended up with €12,671. If I did this for 10 years I would have had more than €31,000! Mind blowing, isn’t it?
So, I decided to bring food to work. I got a nice lunch box and started improvising with anything from salad and sandwiches to beans, eggs, rice, sausages, chicken stakes (this was before I joined the vegetarian camp).
As I was doing it, I discovered another way to improve not only my budget but also my eating habits.
Do you know the nagging hungry feeling at around 4 in the afternoon? You try a snack or a fruit but it doesn’t help and you are not very productive.
I usually do sports after work, so I needed something more substantial. It was inconvenient to go out again in search of food. Drum roll, please…
I brought in a second lunch box! Or rather a bigger main box so I can fit 2 servings.
I would take a short afternoon break, eat my food and go back and finish the tasks for the day. Some hours later my stomach will be still half full and I had enough energy for the sports.
Still not convinced?
Check out the benefits:
- You got to eat healthier – you pick what you put in your lunch box
- Cooking at home can be relaxing
- You will significantly reduce your expenses. Food from home, of course, is not for free, but it costs far less than eating out
- You got to meet new people in the office kitchen
- If you are on any special diet, vegetarian, vegan, lactose-free – it’s all under your control
- In summer you can have a mini picnic and enjoy the sun
- It keeps you away from junk food
- You can use all these money to put into your investments or increase the mortgage payments
- You can still go out with your colleagues on the days you don’t feel particularly inspired to cook. Or you feel like being more of a social animal.
And a few tips how to reduce the preparation time:
- Start with once or twice a week
- Start with something simple first – a sandwich, salad, fruits, nuts
- Start with some food that you enjoy
- Build a habit of cooking the night before and pack the leftovers
- Get yourself a solid, not leaking plastic container which would make everything easier
- Keep it simple – don’t bring too much or too different food. For a long time, I was doing the Tim Ferriss’s Slow carb diet which made food very easy to prepare.
- You get extra points if you share lunch with a colleague. You can take turns – one day they bring food for both of you, the next day – it’s your turn. You’ll get more variety and it’s half the work.
You can set the whole thing as an experiment framed like this: Bring you own food twice a week for a month. At the end of the month, evaluate if this works for you or not.