Business of Home: How Lunch Can Eat at Your Income

Continually dining out is a great way to eat through your budget and your savings.

While peanut butter and jelly or leftovers may seem like a drag, ordering out all the time can add up to thousands of dollars over time.

"It seems like when you are eating in the loop, no matter what you get, you spend $10 or $12.  It really adds up fast," said Chicagoan Geri Baumblatt.

A lunch calculator on shows that spending $2 on a homemade lunch, versus perhaps $7 while dining out, could save roughly $1,200 a year.  With interest, that lunch money in savings could grow to more than $18,000 in 10 years.

If your lunch budget is a few dollars more, perhaps $10 per day, that could be missed savings of more than $29,000 over 10 years.

Ideas on how to save on lunch costs:

  • Try a potluck lunch with colleagues.  Everyone can bring a dish and share.
  • Pool lunch money with co-workers: order a pizza or another large food item that can be shared.
  • If you must eat out or get take-out, have a lunch budget.

Another idea: getting a new job.  Chicagoan John Preto works at FactSet Research, and one of the benefits of his job is a free lunch, within a budget, four days a week.

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