This was my lunch a few weeks ago, and it was a treat, not just because it was delicious, but because I bring lunch with me to work everyday. Sometimes, I treat myself to a nice lunch that didn’t come in a tupperware. Most days, however, I bring a pre-cooked meal I prepared ahead of time. Bringing my own lunch to work is my way of cutting back on expenses for simply showing up to work.
We work to make money. It’s a simple concept. But for many, working means spending some money. I’m not talking about business expenses necessary to run a company. I’m talking about the cost of simply going to work. The little things here and there. That coffee you drink every morning. That gas mileage you spend on driving to work. That daily lunch you buy at the restaurant by your job. The little expenses may seem little, but done on a daily basis, they can add up.
Imagine this: a cup of coffee for $2.00 every morning yields to $10.00 a week, which equals to about $500 a year. Some of the same people who consider $2.00 insignificant also would be ecstatic to take home a $500 end-of-year bonus. Some who don’t get any bonus would wish they had that extra $500 to spend for the holidays. Yet, this is the mindset many people have: a couple of dollars is almost nothing.
Here’s another scenario: $10.00 for lunch everyday. That’s a pretty modest amount as many spend more than that, but let’s just take this as an example. That’s $50 a week, which equals to about $2,500 a year. Put this side by side with, say, $20 on groceries to make you own meals for the week. You could’ve saved $1,500 a year. By the end of the year, if you take into account your daily expenses by simply going to work, it’s safe to say that you could’ve saved at least a couple thousand dollars by simply “cutting back”.
Imagine, Christmas morning with a tree full of gifts and they’re all covered. You didn’t charge any of them on a credit card. You pocketed that Christmas bonus you got from work, and now you’re planning to spend it instead on that dream vacation you’ve been wanting to do. All this, and all you have to do is simply making a few small daily changes a day; would you do it?
Make no mistake, I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t enjoy the fruits of our labor. What I am suggesting is that we should evaluate our perception of the value of a single dollar, and how our daily choices affect our lives because of it. Did you know that 76% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck? This statistic does not just include people in “poverty” level, because about 24% of those people living paycheck to paycheck make $50,000 to $100,000 a year! One-third of those making at least $75,000 a year says they make just enough to make ends meet every month. In 2015, about 25% of those making at least $100,000 a year still live paycheck to paycheck. These are startling numbers. In the land of plenty, plenty is still not enough for many.
There are many factors that contribute to this, and it’s obvious that making more does not guarantee that one will have extra money to spend or save. To a lot of people, making more simply means they buy more, and the monthly maintenance of that lifestyle eats up their otherwise big paycheck. This also proves that simply giving someone more money does not mean that they can’t go broke. “Broke” is a mental state that says, “I don’t have enough” whether you make minimum wage or a six-figure salary. Truth is, we always have “enough,” whether you’re poor or wealthy, if you have roof over your head, clothes on your back and food in your belly. It’s your lifestyle and your perception of money that determine if what you make is “enough” or not. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, you can make more money than you do now, but if you still treat money like you always have, you’ll end up in the same place: making just enough. Unless, of course, you make some changes.
So, to go back to our original topic: cutting back on expenses related to going to work. If you feel like you can’t quite make ends meet every month despite working everyday, perhaps it’s time to sit down and look over how you spend your hard-earned dollar when you go to work, and make some changes. Here are some suggestions:
- Meal prep! This is quite common for people on a diet, but is also quite economical. Cook Sunday night to make 4 containers and freeze. Give yourself that Friday to go out and buy lunch. You deserve it for being good those 4 days 🙂
- Stock up on drinks and snacks that you just know you will consume on a regular basis instead of impulse buying at convenience stores. They markup at these places are huge. Take some with you to work so you won’t feel the need to get a snack on your way home.
- Make coffee at home instead of stopping at that coffee shop every day. Indulge once or twice a week by going to your favorite coffee shop, but try not to make a daily habit out of it. That daily $3.00 latte adds up to $750 a year!
- Consider the location of your work the next time you move. The money you spend on gas to and from work adds up quite a bit, as well.
- Take the money you would’ve spent on your daily work expenses and put them away (quickly, before you spend it!). Better yet, perhaps allocate a special place for it, like a Christmas or vacation fund. Whether it’s the good ol’ system of putting cash in an envelope or allocating an account where you deposit money, make it a rewarding experience to save. That way, you see how your dedication is paying off. Instead of focusing on that Starbucks coffee you don’t drink everyday anymore, focus instead on that vacation you’ve been wanting to go to, or being debt free when the holidays roll around, or simply having an extra cushion for when financial emergencies occur. Whatever your goals are, focus on those.
The little work you do everyday will pay off big time by the end of the year with enough dedication. Like I’ve mentioned, I don’t believe in not enjoying your money. But, treat indulgence as a reward for doing well. Set your goals, and reward yourself a little after each stage. This way, you won’t feel like you can’t even live life, anymore. As long as you understand the value of the money you work so hard to earn, and you apply it to your daily routine by not taking advantage of what you have, then you’re good. Look over what you spend daily when you go to work, set your financial goals and aim to reach them!