This food really ain’t that good.

I love America. Anything is possible in America! For example, it is possible to not have enough money to put toward retirement and yet people can magically find the cash to eat out for lunch nearly every day!

That, of course, is a joke… but it’s funny because there is some truth to it. 😉

So many of the people I counsel burn the largest part of their disposable cashola on FOOD. Who can blame them here in Louisiana: The food is good.

But it isn’t without consequence. Enjoying restaurants can absolutely be a part of a wonderful plan. BUT – be proactive and intentional. Plan how much you’ll save for your goals, including that day when you quit working for The Man and do whatever you wan (known by some colloquially as “retirement”) and plan how much you’ll spend enjoying leisure – colloquially known as “Taco Tuesday.” If not, you’ll be like the average, normal American, and normal is broke.

The median American, in this story, has only $5,000 saved, and yet they spend $3,000 a year eating out. (Thanks, research! Thanks Department of Labor Statistics!) The Average American makes much more than  $8,000 all year long, so we know they can do more eating out or more saving. If you stick those numbers in a handy dandy investment calculator, you will find that those $5,000 in a CD for 30 years will not even keep up with inflation. And those eating out dollars? If you buy lunch in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, you’re spending on average, $13.50. Three times a week (that’s cutting it back for many people) That’s $160 a month, ish. Let’s stick that in an investment calculator (I like this one) at 8 percent, and throw that money into a mutual fund for a working lifetime from age 30 to age 65. Your lunch money, invested instead of scarfed down, ends up turning into $500K! Holy guacamole! (Speaking of guacamole… is it lunchtime?! Oh wait!)

$500,000. That’s a lot of dough. Either a lot of pizza dough eaten and turned into your midsection, or a lot of moolah and turned into even more moolah.

How can you amp up your lunch savings? Here are 3 GROUNDBREAKING LUNCH-MONEY SAVING STRATEGIES WHEN ALL YOUR COWORKERS GO OUT TO EAT EVERY DAY AND YOU DON’T WANT TO BE LEFT OUT. Sorry for the all caps – it’s important!

  1. Eating at home is for sure the first place winner for lunchtime money savings. (Let’s just assume your home is close enough to commute for food. If not, check out these other options below!) If you love your coworkers and you want to break bread with them, invite them to bring their lunch to your porch, or patio. “But what if I hate my coworkers?” If you DON’T like them, why you worried about eating out with them?! Tell them you’re on a mission to save money and you’d love to have them over. Chance are, they would relish the opportunity to save some cash and stil be social, too.
  2. Pack a lunch and ask your group to nosh in your office or at the company patio. I like prepping my meals on Sunday so I have something ready to just grab and go, but since my husband is a First Responder and we have three kids, this simply isn’t always possible. That’s where those frozen veggie protein packs save my derriere – I buy a few a week, bring them to work, and leave them in the freezer. They are typically $3 a bag or less, and they are super tasty. I just had a quinoa, roasted tomatoes and spinach one, yesterday’s was South West with beans, corn, and brown rice. There are flavors to satisfy everyone’s preferences.  Bird’s Eye makes them, Walmart has a pretty good store brand – and they are super good for you. If your friends are going out, you can always suggest they do take out and you all eat at a park. Easy peasy.
  3. If you fold and decide to waste spend your hard-earned money going out, suggest the place and order strategically. I am just joking around with that title, but seriously: be intentional. Pick a place where you know you can eat cheap – you don’t have to agree to lunch and then go to the endless meat-on-a-stick place) Grab two sides and split an item, like dessert, with a coworker. A side salad and a baked potato or roasted veggies or the small cup of soup of the day will typically run you less than the lunch special.

Eating out is one of the biggest budget busters out there. Think ahead, tell your office mates the plan, and stick to it. Oh, and fill up on endless water: it’s free and you’re probably dehydrated anyway. When you think about your retirement savings and your money spent eating out every month…. just remember, this food really ain’t that good.

What are your tips for being the boss of your lunch budget? I’d love to hear them! Now, I am headed to the store to make some of my own home made guacamole… the cheapest way to do it!

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