Blogs & Comment

# Make your own lunch: save a mortgage payment

For the first installment of the Before You Buyblog, we decided to tackle one of the most obvious but overlooked ways Canadians hemorrhage money lunch hour. (Lets ignore the irony that Im writing this at 12:30 on a Friday afternoon, over a \$5.50 tuna salad sandwich and a \$2 brownie purchased from the company cafeteria.)
We crunched some numbers and figured out, quasi-scientifically, what it costs to buy lunch every day, and how much a hypothetical office-labourer might save by taking 10 minutes each morning to brown-bag it.
I wont bore you with a detailed breakdown of mathematical wizardry the spreadsheet below, based on a 241-day work year, summarizes it. (241 days being whats left once we subtract weekends, two weeks vacation, and statutory holidays from 365.) Lets have a look:

 Morning coffee, Tim Hortons Bologna and cheese sandwich plus small side salad Afternoon coffee, Tim Hortons Snack Total Cost per day \$1.50 \$8 \$1.50 \$2 \$13 Cost per month \$33 \$176 \$33 \$44 \$286 Cost per year \$361.50 \$1,928 \$361.50 \$482 \$3,133

Adjust for your own preferences, but the prices above are based on a typical day’s purchases.
Now lets look at the cost to brown-bag the same food:

 Coffee beans, unground Whole wheat bread Meat, veggies, sandwich stuffing Cookies/fruit Total Cost per day \$0.47 \$0.37 \$4.76 \$0.80 \$6.41 Cost per month \$9.95 \$7.85 \$100.00 \$16.80 \$134.60 Cost per year \$119.40 \$90.07 \$1,147.62 \$192.80 \$1,549.89

Doing the math for your own lunch gets a little more complicated. Lets say a big cup of coffee weighs in at 10 grams of ground beans. Youve got 454 grams in a pound of coffee, so theres a cup a day for 45 days. Divide in half and you have a little more than two cups a day for the working month. Perfect.
A 16-slice load of bread makes eight sandwiches. Veggies, meat, and cheese add up to maybe \$100 a month. (Of course no one wants to eat a sandwich every single day, but were just going for a ballpark number here feel free to substitute your own culinary preferences.) A bag of 20 gourmet cookies costs \$4.99. Throw in two cookies plus an apple, and youre snacking for 80 cents a day.
Add it all up and youre saving \$1,583.11 a year.
Other things you can buy with almost \$1,600: a high-end 46 LCD TV. Three iPads. Over 1/3 of the average annual undergraduate tuition. A well above-average mortgage payment.
Few of us eat out every day of course, and there are countless variables. You can make an expensive meal at home or find a dirt-cheap one out. Food is pricier in some regions than in others and, lets be honest, were not taking into account food spoilage (we all have some inedibly wilted lettuce and brown tomatoes in the fridge).
Regardless, this little number-crunching exercise should confirm what we already know intuitively eating out equals wasted money. The surprise is how much.