Brown Bagging Your Way to Savings

Today’s post is written by Mike Collins of as part of the Yakezie Blog Swap in which bloggers were asked to share their best day to day money saving tip.

Do you buy lunch at work every day?  Have you ever actually sat down and added up how much money you’re spending?

I did once…and I almost fell out of my chair when I saw how much I was spending!

Back in the day I used to buy lunch at the office almost every single day.  It certainly didn’t seem like I was spending much.  A chef salad here, a cheese steak and fries there.   But every day I was spending about 7 dollars and change.  That’s $35 a week, which adds up to a whopping $1820 over the course of a year!

I started thinking about all the things I could do with that extra $1820, like paying off some of our debt, increasing my 401k contributions(ed: but staying with your 401k contribution limits, of course!), picking out a new big-screen tv, or enjoying an extended family vacation at Walley World.

I immediately starting bringing my lunch to work 4 days a week (I do treat myself once a week) and I’ve been saving money ever since.

Now I know what you’re thinking.  It costs money to bring lunch from home too right?

Yes, of course it does…but nowhere near as much as eating out every day.  Let’s do some basic math to prove the point.  Say you swing by the grocery store to buy some ham and cheese so you can make sandwiches for the week.  You pick up a half pound of ham for $3 and a half pound of cheese for $2.  A loaf of bread on sale runs you another $2.  That means you just spent $7 for a week’s worth of lunches.  Even if you only bring lunch 4 days a week you’ve still saved yourself $21.  That’s over $1000 a year!

And here’s a tip to save even more:  If you have extra food from dinner, just bring the leftovers for lunch the next day.  We always try to make just a little bit extra so I can have free lunch the next day.

So the next time you’re sitting around complaining that you don’t have enough money for so and so, think about how much money you are spending every day on lunch, or coffee, or cigarettes, etc.  You might just find that you have plenty of money after all if you just shift your priorities a bit.

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    1. I typically take my lunch to work to save money from eating lunch out which adds up very quickly. Like you, I also like taking leftovers from dinner the night before to work for lunch. One perk I have at work is lunch is purchased by my boss at least one day a week so I still get to eat out but not pay for it, which is great.

    2. Excellent tip Mike! Eating out everyday definitely adds up and $1000 a good chunk that can be put to good use.

    3. I don’t brown bag, but I do pick up a cheap lunch at my local Target (next door to my office). I spend about $2 on lunch, where if I go out, it is usually $5!

    4. Mike, I was all ready to comment ‘bring leftovers from dinner’, and then you had already written it. I loved eating leftover stir fry, spaghetti, whatever for lunch the next day.

      I work at home, but I do go out a couple times a week. It is as much for social reasons as anything as I do feel a little isolated at home sometimes. However, I notice that when I don’t go out, I have more money, and I have more time!

    5. I read this as I just came back from my once a week lunch with colleagues. 🙂 I downgraded from daily to once a week. It’s not so bad I guess.

    6. I take my brown bag almost everyday also. I save money and it’s more healthy. Whenever I go out to have lunch with colleagues, I always feel so lethargic afterward. The serving portion is so big these days.

    7. Mike, when you do the math it really adds up to significant savings — who knew? Thanks for a great article.

    8. I wrote on this topic at the end of January. The numbers become even more staggering if you eat at pricier “sit down” restaurants where tips are expected and you get dinged $2 for a diet soda!


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