Cut Back on Workweek Spending: It's as Easy as Making PB&J

>> Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Along with the no-new clothes challenge, monthly FREEKENDs, more carefully examining our grocery bill, and getting creative with gift giving, we've been watching what we eat -- specifically while at work. Those daily coffees and sandwiches are sneaky, and they really add up. Fast.

In fact, when I did an audit of my work-week food habits, I uncovered that I was spending nearly $10 a day! If you can do simple multiplication (it's one of the few math skills I've retained, thank goodness), that's a $50 a week habit. It's plain outrageous and shows much laziness on my part.

What did I spend it on? Well, working on a college campus has its perks and its pitfalls.

  • Perk: Multiple coffee shop-like establishments -- including one located in my very own building.
  • Pitfall: Yep, just re-read that last bullet minus the "perk" part.

At said food service location, I'd purchase a morning soy chai ($3.50) because I'd often skip breakfast (GASP! I know). At lunch, a quick trip across the quad to the food court to buy a sandwich ($4.00+) -- along with some type of chocolate ($1.50) at the campus store. I realized my daily trips to this store prompted me to buy other things like magazines and other whatnots. Whipping out my debit card and politely refusing receipts only made matters worse.

So, I've changed my ways . . . and if you're a big spender like me, you should too!

Tip #1: Bring your lunch!!! Yes, it's extra work. Yes, it's more fun to go out. But spending over $4.00 on a sandwich you could easily make for a fraction of the cost (and knowing how fresh the ingredients are) is sheer insanity! Moreover, if you have a daily chocolate habit like mine, you could be adding 250 (or more) calories to your diet that can likely be classified as I'm-bored food. That's 2.5 extra miles on the treadmill, people! Save yourself and bring your own apples and peanut butter. Or if you absolutely have to have something sinful -- pack a homemade cookie.

My coconut chocolate chippers travel well. I'm just sayin'.

Here's a tip to make it green: Invest in a bento-style lunch box (like the Laptop Lunch Box -- I scored one this past weekend for $20) and you can transport your foods -- like Stephen's bulgar wheat salad -- waste-free everyday. It'll pay itself off in time when you stop buying Ziploc and paper bags. Plus, it's exciting to see all your food laid out in cute containers.

Tip #2: Keep a mug at your desk. As well as packets of instant hot chocolate, tea, or even instant coffee. A package of my favorite tea -- Red Zinger -- is less than $3.50 for 20 bags. To get just one at the cafe? $1.75. Again . . . you do the math. And you can easily make use of the hot water tab on your water cooler. Or heat up tap water in the office microwave.

Maybe your coworkers has a coffee club -- which is definitely cheaper than buying your own day after day -- join in! Where Stephen works, the only requirement is that he buy a canister of coffee (maybe $5 or $6) basically once a year (they would all rotate). A regular cup of coffee out in the world is around $1.75.

Just HAVE to fuel your habit? If you have your own mug, at least you'll cut down on all those paper (or worse, styrofoam) cups.

Tip #3: If you must, go out for lunch rather than dinner. Maybe you're good with bringing lunch to work, but all the madness afterward (picking up kids, going to the gym, cleaning, etc.) has you stopping to pick up pizza or Chinese takeout on your way home. In this event, you may want to consider spending any time you have at night preparing dinner for the next day. Work week food habits not your problem? Save on weekends as well by following this tip. A lunch out is much less expensive on average than a dinner out. At least in our experience.

Have any tips of your own to share? We'd love to hear 'em. Just leave a comment or email us at :)

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