My Lunchbox Makes One House Payment a Year for Me

The contents of my lunchbox one day this past week - (PB&J sandwich, chips, veggies with hummus, yogurt, apple and a few mini peanut butter cups).

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My lunch box makes one house payment for me a year.

It wasn’t always this way, though.

Up until a couple years ago, I use to eat lunch out every day.  Some days, it was a Jimmy John’s sandwich while other days it was a trip to the sushi train (my nickname for that cool place with little sushi plates chugging by on the conveyer belt).  I mention these two restaurants because of their speed.  I could get a Jimmy John’s in under 5 minutes and be on my way.  At Sushi Maru, I could sit at the rail and eat alone and be finished in 10 minutes.  Bada-boom, done.

Those restaurants also represented the end of the spectrum in my lunch prices.  Jimmy John’s would cost me about $8.00 out the door.  Sushi Maru, with just a water and a tip, was costing me about $15.00.  I was hitting both once a week with other joints for the off days.

There were those occasional snacks (either morning or afternoon) which were far too often and which I’m still paying the price for in my work-outs.

What Eating Lunch Out Cost Me

I’m going to be very generous and say I was only averaging $8/day eating my lunch out, but I was spending far more than that.

I’m also going to use an average of 50 weeks a year assuming a couple weeks for vacation.

Here’s the math: 

$8/day  x 5 days = $40/week x 50 weeks = $2,000/year. 

It's hard to make a lunchbox look cool, but trust me, it is (really).

It's hard to make a lunchbox look cool, but trust me, it is (really).

Yipes!

My bank account was leaking cash at lunch.  I needed an intervention and it came in the help of my girlfriend and this awesome lunch box.

What Bringing My Lunch Saves Me

All the credit goes to my girlfriend for making my lunch.  I’ve tried to do it but I fail to keep it regular.  When it comes to groceries and meals, she’s the engine for budget consistency.  Without her, I would fall apart and spend too much for food.

Some days my lunch is a cold cut sandwich, some chips, fruit, nuts and a yogurt.  The items are usually in reusable containers, the exception being the occasional yogurt.   Other days I get leftovers from the previous night’s dinner.  The lunchbox is always filled with extra goodies to provide me with a healthy mid-morning snack and an afternoon snack.  My snacks are often celery sticks with a little humus, an apple or a small container of trail mix.

I often will bring home something I didn't eat as my girlfriend has a habit of over-packing my lunchbox.  Just because I work-out at the end of the day, she thinks I'm going to pass out from low blood sugar.  It's usually the apple or nuts as I try to save the items for later consumption.

My girlfriend and I have calculated the average costs for my lunches and it often comes to a few dollars a day.  That always sounds so ridiculously low that I’m raising it to $3.50/day for this exercise, but I want you to understand it's incredibly inexpensive to make your own lunch. 

Here’s the math: 

$3.50/day x 5 days = $17.50/week x 50 weeks = $875/year.

What's the savings look like? 

$2,000 (eating out)
- $875 (lunchbox)
= a whopping $1,125/year savings. 

What's that $1,125/year really mean?

- It’s my house payment. 
- It’s one less real estate commission I must earn each year.
- It’s a time-saver – I don’t have to go find lunch during the day.
- I’m eating healthier.
- I’m happier.

We all have friends who will say that the $1,125 savings isn’t worth the work.  They will point out that broken into monthly amounts it's only $93.75/month and not worth the effort of making a lunch every day. 

Ask them to calculate how many hours they would have to work to pay for $93.75 of lunch savings?  At $20/hour (excluding the government’s hand in your pocket), they’d have to work almost four hours each month to pay for that lunch savings.  It's even worse if you ask them to calculate how much they are working to pay for their actual lunches. 

What The Most Successful Broker Eats

In our office lunchroom, there is only one other broker who consistently brings his lunch from home.  I won’t name him as he is a private man.  He is, however, the most successful broker as well as the wealthiest real estate investor in our office. 

This guy has a massive real estate portfolio with no debt on it.  It’s a cash flow engine.  His habit of getting to the office before everyone else and working later than most is legendary.  He’s a deal-making machine and a nice guy to boot.

Every day, though, he brings leftovers from dinner and heats them up in the company’s microwave.  This guy, with more money than I would care to guess, is bringing leftovers.  Occasionally, we’ll chat but usually we just pass each other in the lunch room and say a quick hello.

If he’s not acting rich by eating out every day, why should I?

Are there never times I eat lunch out?

Am I perfect?  Come on, man, let's get real.  There have been several perfect months in a row without a single day of eating out.  Then I'll have a month where a client is in town one day for a lunch meeting, it's a friend's birthday another day and then finally I have an out of town tour with my business partner.  

It's the same philosophy with going to the gym.  Just because you miss one day, doesn't mean you throw away all the progress you've made and sit down with a bucket of Chunky Monkey.

But I don't skip a lunchbox day just because I want to.  Doing that would lead to continual excuses to start slacking with the budget.  Again, using the gym analogy, one skipped visit, leads to a second, leads to a New Year's resolution to get back to the gym.


Like I said before, my girlfriend deserves the credit for my lunches.  I’m only the consumer in this process.  She’s the one who keeps us on budget in this area and I can’t thank her enough because of what it means to the overall goal.

On a side note, she occasionally sends me to work with soup in a Hello Kitty thermos or a sandwich in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles container (seen in the above picture).  Our son gets the cool Avengers-themed thermos and sandwich containers.  She says we’re on a budget and I need to act like a grown-up in this equation. 

All I want to know is this - can I get Captain America to protect my sandwich someday?

What about you?
Are you bringing lunch or battling a budget leak by eating out?