Finances & Money

Being Trapped at Work Saves Me Money!

So I’ve been at my new job for 3 weeks now, and I still don’t have a badge. That means that someone needs to escort me everywhere. Basically, by security’s rules, I can’t even be unattended in my office without a badged employee or another contractor present. Therefore, I can’t just take a walk in the hallway, and I definitely can’t leave the confines of our office area.

This also means that I can’t go to the bathroom without an escort, which I’ve mentioned before. Luckily, though, people are willing to lend me their badge for a few minutes while I do my business. But I just can’t get caught walking around. Wow, only 30-90 more days of this by security’s estimates.

But what else does this mean? Well, there are no convenient cafeterias IN the building, so we need to leave the building entirely if we want to eat lunch out. Now I could easily just be a pain and go out every day for lunch and then bother someone to escort me back in, but I’d rather not be “the annoying one”. So instead, I pack my lunch.

I am able to work from home Mondays, and I go out for lunch one day at work, so for the other 3 days, I bring 2 PBJ sandwiches and a cup of Ramen Noodles. According to Stacie’s calculations, the PBJs cost me $0.96 total (48 cents each), and the Ramen cups cost me about 40 cents each on sale. That’s a grand total of $1.38 for lunch each day. Granted, I don’t get any meaningful amount of fruits and veggies (I don’t think I would count jelly as a fruit necessarily), so this isn’t the healthiest lunch for me, but it’s cheap and easy.
While at my last contract, I was actually eating out about 4-5 times per week at a cost of about $6 per day. Now I eat out 1-2 days (I tend to eat out on Mondays while I’m home, just to get out of the house) because it’s just too inconvenient to get escorted back in. I haven’t really gotten tired of peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches, but I’m sure I will after another 30-90 days. Until then, they’re a staple of my frugal lunch and I’ve learned to live with the inconvenience.

I should also mention that I work from home on Mondays because I have 6 hours of class on Monday nights now. Classes are about 45-50 miles from work and it’s just way too much hassle to go into the office that day so my boss is letting me work off-site through early May. So I’m also saving $9 every week on transportation (but spending about $6-8 on lunch that day).

So if you want an easy way to save money on lunch at work, try getting a job where you can’t leave without a babysitter following you around or letting you back into the building. Fun stuff.

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Clever Dude


  • I bring my lunch to work everyday already. Sometimes it’s a sandwich, but more often recently it’s some leftovers from what we had for dinner the night before. Things like spaghetti or a rice dish.

    I haven’t bothered to actually calculate the costs but I’m sure it’s much less than eating out or even eating in the cafeteria.

  • If you can catch them on sale, bananas go great with peanut butter and make a great sandwich. Occasionally they are $0.49/pound at our local grocery and I pick up a bunch for the week.

  • I’ve been fixated on this salad I’ve been eating every day. Spinach, chicken, gorgonzola cheese and olives. It’s amazing and saves me from spending any money at school. Furthermore, it holds up really well in my backpack.

    Throw some veggies in!

  • I’m sure it’s more than a pain to have to be escorted around all day to get from one place to another. BUT, that’s some impressive savings..really! Especially when it’s easy to spend a good $10-$15 just for lunch.

  • Maybe you should add some carrot sticks and bananas occasionally. Or consider buying a little cooler and packing other food in a tupperware like dish. That’s if you have a fridge and microwave handy.

    My old half-hour lunch time saved me a lot of money. Not enough time to really go somewhere, order, eat, and come back. Now I’m at home, again no reason to go out.

  • If there are no microwaves in the building and you want something different from a sandwitch, you can cook salmon in the owen in the evening – it is quite fine cold the next day, and you can pack some salad to go with it. Cold cooked chicken is fine cold as well. If there are microwaves, you can have a nice homemade hot lunch. There are really nice lunch boxes in stores as well as containers. You can pack an ice pack in the box.

    Why is it so difficult to make a badge? Where I work it takes a few minutes. You go to security, they enter a few things into a computer, make a picture and that’s it. We only need a badge to enter the building though, certainly not to go to the bathroom. We are supposed to wear it all the time, but hardly anybody does.

  • I do have a microwave and fridge at work, but I’ve just been too tired at night to make dinner so I just grab something quick in the morning for lunch.

    Kitty, regarding the badge, I should probably explain that I’m a federal contractor who requires a security clearance to be badged at the client location. Some agencies provide an interim clearance so you can get a network ID and/or badge very quickly, but for my current client, I have to wait through the whole clearance process before I get either. That means they check my background, interview my references, run a credit check, etc.

  • Are you getting a TS clearance? My Secret only took a month and I’m not even directly working with the Federal client – my employer just wants to keep my project options open.

  • Anonymous, nope, not a TS (yet). Just a public trust with this agency. The problem is that they’re taking so long because, as I just found out, they think all the other agencies are too lax in their procedures and they’re giving thorough background checks.

    They even have foot soldiers talking to my neighbors! All for a simple public trust! And until I get this clearance, I can’t submit for a TS because OPM processes the highest clearance level first.

  • I used to eat lunch out every day, now I nearly always bring. If you want to eat something healthier here’s what I do:

    bagged salads are $3 each, they last for 2 salads to me
    lean cuisine goes on sale for 5 for $10 quite often, and are preservative free and surprisingly tasty

    So, thats $3.50 a day for a healthy and nutritius lunch. I’m going to stop being lazy and buying pre bagged salad and make my own, which will significantly lower the price too.

    I work full time and go to school at night (which I pay for outright, just made my last payment!)… so I have been forced to learn how to be frugal with food that is easy to make and transport (and is also fairly healthy). I am out of the house for 12-14 hours a day between work and school, so it’s a challenge.

    I also have plain oatmeal in the morning with banana in it for sweetener, probably about $0.50 a meal… and I drink that V8 fusion to get my full serving of fruits and veggies for the day on the cheap! (2 for $5 at costco!)

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