Donna Freedman’s MoneyCentral article reminds me of an issue with which I consistently fail each time I’ve made the attempt over the last few years. In the article, the author provides some success stories for those who have saved money by “brown-bagging” their lunch rather than buying each day.
Here is one example:
“I never really noticed how much money I was putting down the drain,” said Lizz Johnston, a secretary from Texas who kept bread, peanut butter, soft drinks and other basics at work. She saved about $200 in restaurant meals, plus the cost of the gas she would have used to drive 10 miles each way to the nearest lunch joint. She’ll throw the savings against credit card debt.
I have to face the truth: I don’t like spending time preparing my food. The supposed motivation of saving about $5 a day, or $100 a month, is apparently not enough to get me to better plan my shopping excursions and spend some time Sunday nights preparing my lunches for the week. Perhaps I am just lazy, but whatever the reason, I struggle.
At the end of last year, I set a goal to keep my groceries and dining out down to $200 a month combined, and packing my lunch would be a big part of this adjustment. If I were to accompish this goal, I’d be saving up to $200 a month, which would be a nice portion of my coming rent increase.
Rather than packing my lunch, I go out to eat every day with several of my coworkers. While this option is usually less than our company’s cafeteria, it’s definitely more expensive than what I could be doing myself. In addition, while I really enjoy my coworkers, it’s not like spending my time with them will enhance my advancement opportunities here.
Part of me wants to accept failure and go on with my current spending pattern. I believe being responsible amout money includes accepting your limitations. On the other hand, I don’t want this to be a limitation. It should be easy! Anyone should be able to prepare their lunch ahead of time, theoretically.
$200 a month is $2,400 a year, and that is some significant dough that will go a long way in paying for more necessary expenses or saving for the future.
If I want to do this, I need to break it down. If I pack my lunch one day a week, without making any other changes, I might be able to save $20 a month. At that amount, it doesn’t even seem like it’s worth the effort.
At this point, I don’t plan on buying groceries again until I’ve moved into my new apartment, so I won’t be making my lunch for at least another few weeks. For when I do, I found one good tip in the article that might make the difference for me. The article suggests buying prepackaged salads and pre-cut fruits and vegetables. They’re more expensive but less time consuming than buying salad ingredients and making the salad yourself, for example.
At the root of the issue is motivation. Self-motivation for me is very difficult because I am always operating on at least the two levels, the motivator and the motivatee. My brain seems to think such a psychological structure is ridiculous and therefore ignores my own attempts at motivation. Anyone have any tips?
Updated September 30, 2007 and originally published June 13, 2007.