Finances & Money Frugality

Not So Frugal Lunch

My coworker lives the opposite lifestyle detailed in the Frugal Lunch article. He knows about the article. He knows I try to bring my lunch to the office. But it’s “just not a lifestyle for him”. He makes it harder for me to just sit in the office and eat my PB&J sandwiches when he’s out getting Chinese food and Greek gyros.

Let’s look at the cost of his habit:

  • Morning: $1.50 for a 32 oz Coke
  • Lunch: $8 for lunch. He buys what he wants, not always the best value on the menu. For example, he’ll get a deli sandwich (no chips) and a Coke for $8. What a waste! I never get soda with lunch (only tap water), so I save $1.50 each time.
  • Afternoon Snack: $2.50 for another 32 oz Coke and a bag of chips or Reese’s Pieces.

Total Daily Cost: $12

Total Yearly Cost: $3,000

That’s based on a 2,080 hour year (260 days) minus 2 weeks for vacation. Wow, $3,000. That’s the same amount we’ll be sending to pay down our credit card debt next month.

Profiling my coworker

Why does my coworker spend so much? Is it because he grew up in a somewhat priveleged household? Is it because he’s single, 35, and makes a decent amount of cash? Or does he just not care?

It’s a mix of all of those (I asked him). He’d rather just spend his money to get what he wants rather than spend his time and save his money. Can I blame him? No. He shares the cost of a condo with his brother, has no debt and has a decent bit of disposable income. He also doesn’t make dinner at home most days, so tack on another $10-15 per day for dinner.

I will say, though, that my coworker has a decent amount already saved up towards retirement. However, a large majority is in our company’s stock, which is doing well, but he knows he needs to diversify. Unfortunately, it’s mostly stock options, and he can only divest 25% each year. He could be very stuck if something bad happens.

An extra $1,500 in yearly savings (by bringing his lunch) wouldn’t seem like much for his retirement compared to what he already has, but it wouldn’t hurt. I don’t rag on him about buying lunch because he has already expressed his opinion and reasons. I spend money on things rather than doing the more frugal option as well.

I guess we all have our own priorities.

About the author

Clever Dude


  • Brett, surprisingly my coworker is pretty fit. He goes to the gym 4-5 days a week. Sorry if I gave you the picture he’s a 350lb whale 🙂

    Oh, and it’s a 20oz for lunch, not 32oz. And he wanted me to let you all know he fills up the cup with ice, so he’s only getting about half soda. (even less of a value then!)

  • Well written post. Prioritizing your money is the key. When I was single I ate out 5 days a week and for numerous dinners. Now I have went the exact opposite way and pack for lunch everyday and limit the dining out to only a few times per month. It makes me appreciate going out to eat more doing it that way and I look forward to it. Plus learning to cook a little better has helped me tolerate eating at home so much.

  • Filling the cup half with ice makes it more of a value! Frequently the ice costs the vendor *more* than the soda.

    I’ll admit to spending $5 or $6 per day on soda. That’s 3 or 4 32 oz. sodas, and usually a bottle or two from the vending machine. It’s all diet, but still money that could be put to better use.

    But like your friend, I save *way* more than enough, and I’m frugal in other areas. So I don’t feel too guilty.

  • I think if you have extra discretionary money what’s considered a “waste” depends on what you enjoy and value. My days are pretty long sometimes, so my lunch break is often the highlight. I couldn’t justify eating out every day, but I would be pretty miserable eating a sandwich and water every day.

  • Anonymous, I agree, which is why I actually only take in leftovers or a sandwich about once per week. But I get something I’m satisfied with on the menu, but is still under $6. Sometimes I splurge and get Mongolian Grill, or even Fogo de Chao (it’s expensive!).

  • Nickel, what are you getting at? I haven’t increased my credit card debt for 6 years now. I’ve carried it at 0% all this time as I was paying off other stuff. Now my CC debt will be gone in 2-3 months.

    I can question whatever I want that doesn’t make sense, as can you. When I then understand the reasoning behind something, then question answered. Perhaps you didn’t read the article closely enough when I said “I spend money on things rather than doing the more frugal option as well. I guess we all have our own priorities.”

    I spend a couple bucks a week on lottery tickets, while a friend spends hundreds (or thousands) per year on anime. That same friend questions my purchasing lottery tickets when I don’t see the need for more clutter in my home.

    Another friend buys sports collectibles. I buy cars. My car will definitely depreciate while his collectibles will only marginally increase in value. I use the car while his stuff hangs on a wall in his basement.

    Value is all relative. I don’t see the value in anime art or sports collectibles, while they don’t see the value in lottery tickets or a new car every few years (I’m not counting the new cars for both my wife and I, just for me). For my coworker, he finds value in eating out, and 4/5 days, I join him for lunch. I should be bringing my lunch from home, but I love the options at our food courts.

  • CD: I didn’t mean for that to be as negative as it ended up sounding. My point was simply that, even though he chooses to spend more on lunch than others, he seems to have his finances well in hand. Much better, in fact, than an awful lot of ‘average’ people. Despite this indulgence, he seems to live a very frugal life overall. And that’s what it’s really about, right? Being responsible overall, even if you choose to be indulgent in certain areas.

  • Thanks for the clarification.

    As a side note, he goes to Vegas about 3-4 times per year and goes to about 40-50 sporting events per year (he counted them last week). I believe he and I make close to the same salary, even though he’s about 6 years older than I am (he’s stayed with the same company for 13 years), but he’s much further ahead of me in regards to non-home debt.

    However, he just bought a condo for about $150,000 more than our home costs, but as I mentioned, he splits it with his brother.

  • Well, he has said he doesn’t have credit card debt, and he only has 2 more payments on his car (3 year loan). He doesn’t have education debt either.

    So ahead in non-home debt. He pays on credit for the trips, but he pays it off when he gets back.

  • When considering the whole brown bag approach to lunch I think you also have to consider the social enjoyment of spending time away from the office with co-workers. Let’s face it, many of us don’t particularly enjoy our jobs, getting away from the office for a short amount of time with co-workers may be worth the extra money.

  • This is why it is tough for me to write about frugality. Everyone has a different situation so for some people it wouldn’t be worth the opportunity cost of enjoying life to add $1,500 to the $10,000 per year you already contribute to retirement.

    Focus on the easy savings and live life a bit.

  • […] No So Frugal Lunch – Boy, people are so protective of their perceived rights to spend money as they wish. I’m just advocating that if you’re hurting for money, or aren’t saving towards retirement or paying down debt as fast as you should, that you look into your spending habits to find ways to cut costs. Calm down everyone! […]

  • Outside of my immediate department, almost everyone at my company goes out for lunch. We only get 30 minutes, so they take turns getting food for everyone. Then they eat at their desks while they keep working, on their break. Who knows.

    I’ve gotten lunch out three times since I started my job in June. Twice at Corner Bakery: around $7 each time; once at Panera for $3.50–just soup.

    Because I really do see the huge savings in making my own lunch and because I like what I make more than most fast-food, I generally brown bag. There have been comments about it. I’m a manager, why should I be worried about money? But who cares. I’m into saving for more important things.

    Also, I should add that my big weakness is morning coffee. I’ve probably done that more like a dozen times since June. Usually I make and bring my own, but when I have a coupon, when it’s a special occasion, whatever… I get myself a nice big cup from Dunkin Donuts. YUM.

  • If most people could pay off the debt you had what a wonderful world we would live in..happy passover, happy easter and enjoy your new life from what you used to be indebted to…ciao

  • Every job I have had I have brought my own lunch..nothing near where I worked and I made little money why spend it on a lunch..dinner was another story, sometimes I had enough in chinese food for dinner, most times I got it to go and had enough for two meals, never wasted money on lunches though, saved, enjoyed when I was very hungry only..lunch now when I don’t work to see my semi retired hubby and enjoy it on their daily lunch specials…

Leave a Comment