Not Bringing Your Lunch to Work Screws Your Finances in these 4 Ways


Written by Liz

Just your regular 27-year-old, queer, super-introverted, FIRE-chasing, frugal Singaporean, who lives a pretty good life while earning only a modest salary, but still plans to retire at age 40 with $1,000,000. Click here to read more

July 8, 2018

I met one of my best friends for lunch last Thursday, in the middle of the work day. She told me that she wanted to treat herself to a good meal for having survived half a gruelling work day. I (reluctantly) agreed, while putting on my best I’m-so-down-with-this smile.

When we got to one of her favourite cafes, my eyes quickly scoured the menu for the most cost-effective item. There were none. Who was I kidding anyway, fat chance of that ever happening in a pretty fancy cafe.

My heart wrenched as I forked over $12.80 for the cheapest set on the menu. I thought about how I could feed myself 3 good meals for 2 days with that money.

The meal was scrumptious. But as I left the café, I knew there was no chance of me ever returning for a work lunch, if I had a choice.


The Massive Lack of Proper Value (for the Price You Pay)

My lunch set was simple. Brown rice, an egg, a few pieces of chicken, a little side of salad, a bowl of clear soup, and a cup of coffee. I could cook that for myself for say, $3.

Then you’ve got to pay for convenience and for sitting in the café. Apparently, that cost me a mark-up of about $10. I’m not going to lie though, the café was beautiful. Clean and minimalistic, just the way I like it.

But here’s the thing about work lunches – you’ve got all of 1 hour. 1 hour to travel to your lunch place, eat, and then travel back.

Within 30 minutes, my best friend and I were done with our lunches, and we raced back to our respective offices.

In 30 minutes, I rushed through lunch, didn’t get a chance to lounge around and enjoy the stunning ambience, and came out $12.80 poorer.

Definitely not good value for what I paid.

It’s different, though, if you get yourself this same lunch set over a Saturday. You enjoy a delicious and leisurely meal over an hour, savouring every bite. As you slowly sip your coffee, you get a little work done on your laptop or scroll through social media on your phone for the next hour. All the while taking in the stunning wood work and carefully placed decorations.

That’s much better value.


The Danger of “Value” Add-Ons

In order to rake in higher profits, restaurants would usually offer add-ons that would make your meal seem more value for money. Add on a drink, a salad, and/or a dessert for let’s say, $3.

This would mean that a singular food item that you really wanted to eat, which you could get for $10, would eventually become $13.

Over a month, you’re paying an extra $60 ($3 x 20 work days a month). Just for a coffee or a soft drink, and a few green leaves.

These add-ons are attractive because they seem to make your meal complete.

Since you’re already at the restaurant, and already ordering a food item, why not go all the way and just make it complete? Why not just experience the whole package?

It’s been a gruelling first 4 hours of the work day. You deserve a whole lunch set. And it’s not too expensive. Just add it on!

Sometimes, you do deserve a whole lunch set. But over time, these costs really add up.


The Temptation to Treat Yourself

My office is situated near a shopping district, which boasts plenty of food options. And more. Sometimes, I’d watch with intrigue as my colleagues lumber back to office with a bunch of shopping bags. Or a Starbucks in hand. They’d talk about how it’s been a crappy work day, and about how they needed to treat themselves. To make themselves happier by buying a few things.

Make no mistake, you don’t need to be working near a shopping district to be tickled by this temptation. Shops will pop up wherever there are crowds. Casually stroll into one, spot something that catches your eye, and find yourself shelling over hard-earned money for a quick relief in the middle of the work day.

I get it, work days are crappy. We all struggle to get out of bed at 7AM just to make it to the office on time. Then we fight the strong desire to fall asleep the moment our eyes meet boring spreadsheets. An awesome lunch break filled with great food and shopping can never be more welcomed.

But by bringing your lunch to work, you’re less likely to get tempted when catching a whiff of Starbucks. You erase any likelihood of you casually strolling into a random store. Removing that desire to constantly treat yourself in the middle of the work day would mean that your wallet gets fatter. And you’d soon be on your way to quitting your corporate job for good. Isn’t that better?


The Presence of Other Associated Costs

I don’t have many food options near my workplace. The easy solution to that is to take a 2-minute bus ride to the shopping district. That’s $1.

I grab a lunch set at an awesome café. $15.

After a quick lunch, I pop into a few shops. A second-hand book catches my eye. Another $5.

Before heading back to my dreaded cubicle, I buy a coffee to cheer myself up. $5.

Another bus ride back. $1.

That’s $27 in total. That’s what I used to do, and thought that it was perfectly normal.

A $1 bus ride may seem innocuous, but over one month, that could amount to $40 ($2 per day x 20 working days). Over the course of a year, that’s $480 ($40 per month x 12 months).

Imagine that. Just riding the bus to grab lunch and back will cost you $480.


Bringing Your Lunch to Work is a Great Solution

When you bring your lunch to work, it only costs $2-$4.

When you bring your lunch to work, you don’t get tempted by the “value” of add-ons. You don’t get tempted by a casual stroll into shops or Starbucks.

When you bring your lunch to work, you don’t rack up associated costs.

When you bring your lunch to work, you make great savings.




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