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Are You Eating Your Lunch? Or is Your Lunch Eating You?

Have you ever started talking with someone about money and thought, “This person really has it all together”? …and then later realized they waste their money by going out to lunch every. single. day. ?

Is Your Lunch Eating You?

It’s innocent enough, right? You manage your money well by driving a 10 year-old car and you live in a modest house, which saves you hundreds of dollars a month compared to your frivolous friends, so why not treat yourself a little bit for lunch? After all, it can’t make that much of an impact in the grand scheme of things, right?


My lunch that I take from home costs me $1.78:

  • Sandwich
    • Bread = $0.17
    • Turkey = $0.40
    • Cheese = $0.08
  • Banana = $0.15
  • Clementines = $0.32
  • Granola = $0.66

The average lunch in our work cafeteria costs $6.00. The food might be a little tastier than my lunch, but there’s definitely less of it (which leaves me hungry), and then of course there’s the obvious – it’s $4.22 more expensive.

For those of you that like to indulge in your cafeteria food – or worse yet, going out to eat at a restaurant – you’re shelling out a minimum of $91.43 extra a month…. and $1,097.20 a year! Whoa!

And let’s take it one step further.

For every dollar that I save, I almost always invest it (seriously, my wife and I live on just 33% of our income), so let’s say that over the next 40 years of our working lifetime, I invested an extra $1,097.20 a year more than you.

Are you ready for this?

By simply eating my self-made lunch vs. your cafeteria fanciness, I’ll have $319,000 more dollars than you in retirement… Three. hundred. THOUSAND dollars!! Don’t tell me the small changes don’t matter! It sounds like your lunch is DEFINITELY eating you! 😉

The Small Changes Investment Calculator

What if you not only switched from a cafeteria lunch to your take-from-home lunch, but you also made a few other small tweaks? Stuff like, cutting out your:

  • daily latte
  • bottled water
  • cell phone payments
  • weekend trip to the movies

If you got rid of these things and invested your savings instead, how much of an impact would this have on your future retirement??

Guess what?? It’s time to play around with the newest calculator I just created!

small changes

Download the Small Changes Calculator Here

Open the file and simply put a check mark next to each item you’d be willing to give up over the next 40 years (heck, you can even add an extra item if you’re really feeling frugal!). Then, the graph will show you how much your savings would grow into if the money was invested instead!

It’s pretty simple, but I bet it will blow your mind!

Based on your small changes, how much more could you have in your retirement?

Battle of the Mind Money


My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. When I first graduated from college, I temporarily lived in a house that was being remodeled and had no kitchen/refrigerator. I would stash some apples, granola bars and PB&J in my room, but I got in the habit of eating out. Even though I was going to “inexpensive” places to grab lunch or dinner, I was shocked how costly this was! Luckily the living situation only lasted 4-6 weeks, but man, it was an eye-opener for sure!

    • It is crazy how quickly it all adds up. Even McDonald’s trips! They seem cheap, but they still total crazy amounts at the end of the month!

  2. There are many who are critical of the Latte factor. Now, in a perfect world, I agree we’d have enough money to buy the daily (or twice daily) $5 drink, $10 lunch, get our nails done, drop $50 at the bar after work, etc. But that’s not the case for most people.

    You make a great point. But I’d go one step further. I’d challenge people to track their spending. Every dime. For a full year. It’s the reverse budget. Don’t guess what you need, and try to still to these number you may or may no have forecast correctly. Look back over the year you just tracked. Then ask yourself the question – is that how I want to budget my money?

    Now, if that money sent 20% to retirement, paid a bit extra on mortgage, and deposited to the kid’s college account, but still had room for the lunch, latte, etc, congrats! You already earn enough and spend wisely enough, that this isn’t really for you. You’re already (at 20% saving rate) that you earned the perks.

    But that won’t be the case for most people. Most will see some major issues. Not long ago, I was on line at the supermarket, and the person in front of me had just put 3 magazines on the belt. I looked at that and though how I’d have subscribed to all 3 for the same price as one issue of each. $5/yr is what the discount sites on line will give you. The list of money-leaks is pretty long and varied. I’ve often said, “show me your budget” and I’ll know your priorities.

    I retired at 50, 5 years ago, and was able to do that based on nearly 30 years of work, choosing what would bring real happiness, vs wasteful spending. Nice article on a topic I’ll never tire of.

    • Yup, the real point is, “Know where your money is going”. If you don’t, then you’ll just piddle it all away and you’ll have nothing left in retirement. And that should really freak more people out than it does.

  3. Not only is the money factor an important consideration, but chances are the lunch that you buy is going to be less healthy for you, which will cost you even more in the long run.

    • True! Healthier AND cheaper. Sign me up! 🙂

  4. All one can do IMHO is to try and minimize costs where you can. You literally cannot save on everything. To boot, I bring my lunches, economize with older car, live below my means house wise, yet the property taxes in highly taxed Ohio on my humble abode are $6,300/year and that is with contesting valuations every 3 years and getting them reduced. Unless one moves far away, and then deal with no likely job,It is virtually impossible to hit a grand slam on saving, but you can hit a double or triple.

    • $6,300 a year! That’s insane!

      Yup, you’re right. Control what you can and be intentional about your investments. Then you’ll be just fine.

  5. Sadly, I can count the number of times I’ve brought lunch to work, on both hands. Even worse, I’ve been operating this way for 15 years. Can I afford it, yes. Do I still continue to save money each month and max out my 401(k), yes.

    Does it still make me feel guilty when I run the numbers on buying vs. bringing my lunch?


    • That’s a problem. You shouldn’t feel guilty about the occasional spend, just if you’re eating out all the time and it’s seriously impacting your retirement. I’ve learned that if my work friends want to eat together and socialize, it’s probably worth it just for the experience. Again, just not all the time…

  6. Yes! It’s shocking how much people spend at restaurants, gas stations, or other convenience foods. It adds up so quickly and can be very addicting. Though my home made lunches cost a bit more than $1.78, for less than $3.00 I can make a very nutritious and delicious meal that honestly sounds better than one I would get going out.

    • Nice! So your meal would be something like, $3.00 vs. $12 probably! Way to keep adding to your investments tomorrow by being frugal today!

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