Fairly recently, I became obsessed with initiating money saving habits in my life. Things such as line drying most of my laundry as opposed to using the dryer. Being conscious of electric use, thermostat control and comparing prices for frequently bought items. This post is going to focus on a small but very effective change you can institute immediately: Bringing meals from home as opposed to buying them at a store or restaurant each day. It is money saving, time saving and usually, healthier. Further, and probably more importantly, we will focus as much on that point as the concept of effective habit formation and/or habit change.
The Cost Of Sandwiches
Over the years I have worked with people from all walks of life, people very well off and people who were probably days away from being out on the street. An alarmingly common trait among people in general that I’ve worked with, for and around are that on a daily basis, they will stop at some point in their work day, head out to restaurant X or convenient store Y and purchase whatever it is that is striking their fancy at that particular moment. I have done this same thing many, many times. There is definite pleasure in it, there’s a definite ease of this habit, but is it a fiscally responsible habit? Is it even financially reasonable for many people? No, it is not. Consider a lunch at a restaurant. Some sort of sandwich and a beverage. You’re looking at five to ten dollars on the absolute low end of the spectrum. If you’re actually going to eat a sandwich worthwhile, in my opinion, it’s going to easily exceed ten dollars, but we’ll not mince the point.
Five dollars per day time five days per week over the course of the year, you’re looking at a bare minimum $1,300. That may not seem like a significant amount of money and to many people, it’s not. Consider this: How many people do you think are spending that $1,300 every year on credit cards with a 20% interest rate (or higher) that they’re not even coming close to paying off because they’re spending like this in every category on their non existent budget?
I have worked with many people earning just over minimum wage that live like this. Food eaten at work takes up 15% of their entire income! That is unacceptable and ridiculous, in my opinion. Now, it’s obviously completely up to you how intense you want your frugality to be when it comes to your food bill each day (or week, month, year). If you want a phenomenal, in depth break down on how to shop for food, there are amazing resources to be found. I’m not going to suggest spending one dollar per day on your lunches, or two or three. I’m suggesting spending less than you are currently. The real point is to begin actively thinking about it. Make conscious decisions instead of mindlessly following your habits.
Don’t Forget Your Sandwiches
You can literally begin this habit today. Prepare something to eat to bring with you to work tomorrow. Personally, I tend to cook large quantities of food. Literally 8-10 pounds of food at a time. Enough to last me three or four days. I’m not a big guy, but I have an obscene metabolism and I eat a lot. I will be hated by some for writing this, but it’s honestly a bit of a burden having to consume so much food in order to maintain my weight and to gain weight… look out, I’m pushing 4,500+ calories per day. Mass cooking is really a great way to go. Rice, chicken and vegetables are inexpensive and pretty hard to screw up. Again, there are more variations on recipes than you can imagine, so you’re guaranteed to be able to find something that will suit you. Also, sandwiches. They’re simple and can be made on a pretty tight budget.
Begin developing the habit. It will pay off financially, it will be reflected in your health, if you so choose to eat healthy, and it will be a time saver. If you use your lunch break to drive somewhere to pick up food, eat it and drive back, you’re putting yourself through unnecessary stresses when you could have your food already with you. Whip out your sandwiches and read a book. Watch Netflix and eat your sandwiches. Do additional work…and eat your sandwiches that you lovingly prepared for yourself that morning or the night before.
“But I don’t have time to make food!” “I’m not a planner!” “I always rush out the door in the morning!” First, I call B.S.. Lame excuse. Second, there’s a solution to all that as well.
“But I keep forgetting to bring my food with me!” This is the entire point of beginning to develop the habit! The most difficult part of forming a habit is forming the habit. In the beginning, you may have to take some measures to assure you remember:
- Put your car keys in with your lunch. You certainly won’t drive to work if you can’t start your car.
- Simply wake up early and use that as a cue to remember to grab your lunch.
- Write yourself a note and leave it in a conspicuous place. SUZIE! DON’T FORGET YOUR SANDWICHES! …THAT I MADE YOU.
Even if your name’s not Suzie, that last one should be wildly effective.
This habit, in and of itself, is probably not going to change your life too drastically. It will improve your life! How significantly will probably depend on your current situation, but improvement will be had. Initiating and instituting these small, effective habits in to your life one at a time also has a cumulative effect. The more positive you’re experiencing, the more forward momentum you have — the more positive you’ll experience and the quicker you’ll continue to move forward. The more good habits you develop, the easier it will be to develop more good habits. It’s a wonderfully beautiful perpetuating cycle!
In conclusion, if I can say it one more time: Begin developing this habit. Begin developing any good habit. It will pay off.
And, don’t forget your sandwiches.
- Newton’s Guide To Personal Finance
- Recurring Expenses (Part 2)