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I Brown-Bagged My Lunch for 4 Years! Here’s What Happened

I brought my sandwich to work

Do you think I lost weight? Felt better for eating healthier foods? Well, I did see both of those when I decided to stop eating out every day for lucn, but it wasn’t the change I was looking for. Nope.

I brought my lunch to work every day for four years and did so until the last day on the job (I’m self-employed now). Why? Packing my lunch helped me pay off my debt. That’s right, bringing my lunch each and every day to work helped me pay off nearly $75,000 in consumer debt, $50,000 of which was all credit cards.

You’re probably asking yourself why bringing your lunch helped me pay off my debt and in a nutshell, it helped me shave off years of payments and saved thousands in interest alone. I break it down more below, but I was able to save over $10,000 in interest payments by bringing my lunch to work. That’s awesome!!

Why Bringing My Lunch to Work Helped Me

If you’ve ever been in debt, then you know you have to take drastic measures to get out. It’s only you that can help. You can’t rely on anyone else and you really should not. Nine times out of ten, it’s typically our mindset that gets us into debt. It certainly was the case for me.

One of the easiest things to do when in debt is to save on your lunches. So many people head off to work each day and then go out for lunch. That’s five lunches per week. When I was working through my debt, you could still get a lunch at a fast food place for around $6. That pricing has gone up quite a bit. You can probably get a good meal for around $8 now. This does not include any tips if you go to a sit down restaurant.

Now, let’s break down the simple math here. If you’re eating out five days a week for lunch, you are spending $40 a week ($8 x 5 days). We can say you are probably spending around $140 – $160 a month just for lunch! When you’re looking at thousands of dollars worth of debt, then you might think this is small and won’t make a difference. Well, let me show you how it makes a difference.

A Simple Extra Payment Example

Luckily for this little experiment, there are hundreds of simple-to-use calculators out there (use this one to see what extra payments can do). Today, I’m going to show you what that extra money does for you. Now, since we need to take into account the extra money you will spend at the grocery store (need to bring your lunch), we can say that you are netting $125 by not going to lunch each day of the week for a month.

Making extra loan paymentsIf you have a $50,000 debt balance and the average interest rate you’re paying is 12.99%, then you need every bit of help you can get. Let’s say your monthly payments to those loans is $750. You might think that is high, but my payments were almost over my mortgage payment. That’s when I knew I had a problem.

In the graph to the right, you can see that if we take the $125 a month and add it to our debt repayments, we can shave over two years off the loan balance. Two years and five months to be exact. The real powerful number in this equation is how much you can save on interest.

If you’d be diligent and put that money toward your debt, you can save $10,753 over the course of your payments. That’s freaking huge!!

Who wouldn’t want to keep nearly $11,000 of their hard earned money? Who?

Paying Off Debt Takes Sacrifices

I’m not going to sugarcoat this here people. If you want to get out of debt, then you need to make changes now. You need to make huge sacrifices in how you live, how you use your money, and your general attitude toward money. Debt doesn’t pay off itself. If you want to make a change, you need to make the change.

Making huge sacrifices is the only way to get there. I’m never afraid to make a sacrifice to get what I want. Yes, I’ve been brown-bagging my lunch since 2008 and I’m not afraid of it. I don’t need a fancy lunch to make me happy. That $160 I save a month goes right into my investments (usually my Betterment account) and it earns me money. That’s what I’m talking about.

I can sacrifice a lunch out to have a better future. I’d rather eat the same sandwich every day for years than go back into debt. Trust me, I did pretty much eat the same sandwich every day. Did it suck after a while? Hells yes it did. That being said, I’m on the other side of debt. I’m watching other people walk through the debt payoff tunnel. It’s the reason I work hard to share my story.

This is me encouraging you to make the change. I will help you get through the tunnel. I will shine the light as bright as I can through said tunnel. I want you to get through it and I will do my best to show you how you can.

You still need to meet me halfway though. If you’re not willing to make the sacrifices necessary, then I nor anyone else can help you. Just remember that!

If you want to learn more about paying off debt, check out our fighting debt articles. They can be very helpful!


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About the Author Grayson Bell

I'm a business owner, blogger, father, and husband. I used credit cards too much and found myself in over $75,000 in debt ($50,000 in just credit cards). I paid it off, started this blog, and my financial life has changed. I now talk about fighting debt and growing wealth here. I run a WordPress maintenance and support company, along with another blog, Eyes on the Dollar, which is another great personal finance blog.

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7 comments
Mrs Lewis says January 16

Luckily, I work too far from any restaurants or stores to buy food. It takes 30 min just for the round trip! So I’ve also taken to brown bagging my lunch. If you don’t want to find yourself cheating when you forget your lunch here are some tips. Always store some can soup, top ramen, or frozen dinners in the staff kitchen. If you have somewhere to store food, cache some granola bars, trail mixes and crackers in your desk. I highly recommend purchasing a crock=pot portable food warmer as it makes everything taste better than microwaving. happy lunching!

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Ramona says January 16

A HUGE portion of my expenses, back when I was working, was from these ‘small’ daily food charges. A snack here and then, a coke, maybe a cookie. And, when I first used a budgeting tool, was close to a heart-attack: that was the ‘place’ where my money would go each month. 😀

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Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank says January 17

I always bring my lunch to work and rarely eat out for lunch. My wife does it. This is just one way of spending less and I think this one is very good strategy to save more and achieve our goals in life.

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diane @smartmoneysimplelife says January 18

Buying lunch (and snacks) can chew up a huge chunk of change. That makes brown bagging your lunch the easiest and simplest way to save money.

Frozen sandwiches (most fillings will freeze OK) are one of the simplest lunches to take to work. Make them in batches, then take it out of the freezer either the night before or in the morning and by lunchtime it’s ready to eat or jazz up in a toaster oven.

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Karen says February 13

At my old job, there wasn’t enough time for lunch, so I also brown bagged my lunch for 4.5 years. Now that I have the opportunity to go out for lunch, I go from time to time when I’m in the office. I work from home the rest of the week so I save money on lunches that way.

When I do buy food, I try to get the big meals for lunch so I’ll eat half for lunch and save the rest for dinner.

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    Grayson Bell says February 15

    That’s a good way to handle it when you have a large meal. Don’t eat it in one sitting. Save it for later!

    Reply
Emmy @ Club Thrifty says April 29

I really need to convince my hubby to start bringing his lunch. $50 a week is ridiculous.

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