Sunday, July 22, 2012

Making Your Own Lunch

Making your own lunch is not a weird thing to do.  Eating in restaurants all the time, is.

As I noted in Five Cubicle Survival Tips, lunch is a difficult thing for the young salaryman.   When you work in a cubicle, it is like High School all over again, and if you concentrate too much on being "popular" and being "liked" your career may be short.

Lunch is problematic, as it is a time-bandit.   Spending an hour every day going to out eat with "the gang" can add an hour to your workday, as you have to work late to make up the lost time.  In addition, after eating all that food, you will find your productivity dying in the late afternoon.

And bear in mind that the "gang" of peers you go to lunch with, is not the people who are paying you, evaluating you, or promoting you (or for that matter, firing you).  Moreover, getting in "tight" with your fellow co-workers only insures that you won't be promoted, as people do not respect their peers, and would not take well to one of their own being elevated to their manager.   Seeking acceptance from your peers at work only insures that you will remain at your current level.   Think about it.

But then there is also the cost.  And many a young Salaryman will say, "I can afford to buy lunch out, as I am making $80,000 a year!"  But $80,000 a year, equates to about $40 an hour.  After taxes, and your 401(k) contribution, maybe you take half of this home.  After deducting your rent, utilities, and other fixed expenses, maybe you have a dollar or two of spending money - if that.

And yet many people think nothing of going out to lunch and spending the equivalent of an hour's pay just to eat.   Throw in their commuting expenses, and it may be mid-morning before you make any money at all.

For people in lower income brackets, the situation is more dire.  If you are making, say $15 an hour, well, your commuting costs and lunch might take you all the way until noon.  Throw in a drive-through breakfast and that delivery pizza, and you are basically living to work and never getting ahead.

Like anything else, it takes time and effort to make your own meals.  You have to shop for ingredients - and not just wolf them all down the moment you get home.  And you have to get up in the morning and make your breakfast and  your lunch.   It is a pain in the ass.   But the potential savings are huge.

Eating lunch out can be expensive.  Even the cheapest sandwich shops want at least $5 of your money, not counting extra for a drink or chips.   And the food is not necessarily good for you - too many calories, too many carbohydrates.

Realistically, I doubt you could eat lunch regularly for $5 a day, but even assuming that much, you are looking at $1300 a year in lunches, for every working day.   That is a lot of money.  Over time, invested, that could be over $100,000 at retirement.

Anything worthwhile in life is difficult and requires effort.   Making your own lunch is a hassle - that alone should tell you that it is a worthwhile thing to do.   The savings may seem trivial at first, but like anything else, over time, they add up - to a lot of money.

Today, we make our own lunch all the time.  In the past, I was not averse to going out to lunch with the gang from the cubicle farm, the factory, or the laboratory.   And when I did that, I was broke all the time, and couldn't understand why.

Now I know.

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