Wednesday, February 22, 2012

6 Reasons to Start Brown Bagging Your Lunch to Work

This week we're lucky enough to have a blog contribution from David Bakke of Money Crashers. We hope you'll enjoy his insight and advice on saving money by taking your lunch with you to work. 

David Bakke writes about different ways to save money and live a frugal & green lifestyle on the Money Crashers personal finance blog. 

Like the morning coffee run to your favorite shop, one of the high points of the working day is to take a nice, leisurely lunch break - if you're lucky. 

Perhaps you head to your favorite local cafĂ© each day with coworkers or clients, or maybe you rush down to a fast food joint for some cheap, quick bites. Regardless of where you go and how much you spend, one thing is sure: Eating out each day hurts your finances. Surely, you think, spending only $6 or $12 each day isn't really causing any damage to my budget, right? Well, not necessarily - at least not compared to larger, more extravagant purchases and expenses. Besides, you've got to eat, so food is a "need" not a "want," like a new flat-screen TV. But all those small expenditures add up, and you may save yourself hundreds of dollars every month - and thousands per year - just by taking a healthy brown bag lunch to work. 

There are a number of benefits to opting to bring lunch instead of buying:

1. Save Money The most obvious reason to bring your own lunch to work is to save money - lots of money. For example, let's say you spend $6 per day eating out, which is a very conservative estimate - chances are you spend nearly twice as much. But even at only $6 per meal, you will spend approximately $1,500 per year. However, if you bring a sandwich, some fruit, and a drink from home, you'll only spend around $3 per meal. You'll cut your expenses at least in half, and have an extra $750 or more in your pocket at the end of the year. 

2. Save Time I have been brown bagging my lunch for years now, and it has saved me a great deal of time, allowing me to enjoy my lunch at a leisurely pace. Traveling even short distances to a restaurant can make you feel rushed. For instance, if it takes 15 minutes to get to your destination, then half of your lunch break could be wasted in a car. And if you are a small business owner, time is money - you can get a few extra things done each day during lunch instead of spending time in a car. 

3. Save Gas In addition to the $750 or more you'll save on food, you'll also spend less on gas. If the restaurant you frequent is only five miles from your workplace, you will drive a whopping 2,400 miles per year. If your car averages 25 miles per gallon, and a gallon of gas costs $3.50, you'll save an additional $335 per year, just by not driving during lunch. Not to mention, 2,400 miles adds a bit of wear and tear to your vehicle. 

4. Reduce Stress Racing out to lunch each day and rushing to finish your meal before the hour is up can be a stressful routine - especially if the wait for your food or your table is particularly long. Don't you have enough stress in your day? By simply strolling back to the break room, you can eat your meal in peace and clear your head before the second half of your workday begins. 

5. Eat Healthier Eating a lunch that you prepare at home can be beneficial to your health, especially if you focus bringing healthy portions of fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoiding prepackaged foods. Many restaurants serve food that is sugary, high in calories and fat, and heavily processed. If you prep your own meals, you'll have a better idea of what you consume and be able to eat healthy on a budget.

6. Be Environmentally Friendly You don't have to put your lunch in a brown bag every day. Instead of spending money on paper bags, plastic baggies and wrap, and plasticware, purchase a few reusable lunch containers. Laptop Lunches provides a wide array of attractive and environmentally friendly lunch kits, cutlery, carriers, and drink bottles. You'll save money and create less waste. 

Final Thoughts Once you've cut down on what you spend at lunch each day, consider identifying other ways to reduce daily costs. For example, you can clip coupons, create weekly menus, buy generic food items, purchase in-season produce, and find other ways to save money on groceries. Brown bagging your lunch instead of buying it at a restaurant is only one of many things you can do to save thousands of dollars per year. It may seem like a small expense, but trimming minor expenditures from your budget will add up at the end of the year. 

What do you think about brown bagging it to work?

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