Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bag Lunch Challenge (Part 1): Always about the money

Buying lunch everyday at $8 to $13 a pop adds up. Over a week, that is $40 to $65 a week. And at the end of a year, that turns into $2,080 to $3,380 a year.

Short of getting a sugar momma or daddy, or plain mommy and daddy, there is no way to completely eliminate that cost. Food costs money -- duh. However, minimizing the cost of food is possible. Cutting that $2,080 to $3,380 per year by half can lead to a savings of $1,040 to $1,690 per year for use for things like buying dinner, a bunch of kegs, or a few bad bets at the track. It's worth it to give it a shot, right?

My history with bringing lunch
Bringing lunch and I don't go together well. I've tried it a few times over the past years for the money saving reason specifically. The last time I tried was earlier in the year, but it was more out of necessity due to a lack of restaurants near my office. I was actually wrong, I just didn't know about the one a block away -- that restaurant a block away regularly set me back $12 a day. For as long as it lasted, there were a lot of sandwiches, new food containers, ten minutes every morning rushing to slap food together, frozen food, and never looking forward to lunch. Eventually, I just went back to buying lunch and blew a good $60 a week.

What was so bad about bringing lunch?
Predictability, a lack of variety, the need to reheat, limited options, the desire to save money, laziness, lack of time, weight, bulk, not wanting to carry anything, etc.

I can bring or buy anything I want and bring it to work for lunch. The only problem is that I have to buy it, cook it, pack it, bring it to work, warm it back up, think ahead, plan ahead, and exert myself. With a long commute and long work day, options become a lot more limited. Near the end, I resorted to just throwing a box of frozen food in my backpack. Not wanting to carry anything huge, I kept to small, rectangular boxes, which meant frozen lasagna or shepherd's pie. I hate both now.

What's so good about buying lunch?
Anything I want, whenever I want, wherever I want. Unfortunately, these perks require money, the proximity to restaurants, the ability and desire to travel, etc. If one can afford it and is lucky enough to have access to a variety of restaurants, then it really is up in the air. Even if there are few restaurants nearby, someone else has thought up the menu, prepared and cooked everything, and may have done it shortly before you arrived. Not having to carry anything coupled with a hot, prepared meal compensates for some of the shortcomings.

Even the mediocre cafeteria I've been going to for the past few months has been better than bringing lunch. The food might not be good, but it's fresh, there are choices, and most importantly, I enjoy it.

Why change and try again?
Money. Wasn't it money last time? Yep. But priorities change and I'd like to give it another shot. The potential to save an extra $1,000 is reason enough. If I put some more thought into it, I'd question how much I really enjoy the cafeteria food and how much more enjoyment I actually get out of it compared to a bag lunch. Yep, I'm trying to monetize "enjoyment" and "pleasure".

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