Sometimes, it’s the simple things that end up saving you the most money!
Here’s a link to the video showing how it’s done! Easy Lunch Video!
Why is Money Always Getting Tighter by the End of the Month?
There are a lot of potential reasons why your finances are tight, but if you’re anything like me, there are a lot of things that you may be doing that while they aren’t serious if done on occasion, if done everyday they’re going to eat into your finances in a serious way. Chances are, like me, you didn’t even realize what you were doing to yourself until you actually took a step back and took an honest look at how you were doing simple things.
I noticed a major problem in my cash flow after taking an inventory of my expenses one month, and I’m willing to be that a similar exercise would help you out as well.
Figuring out What’s Wrong and Gaining New Wisdom in Personal Finance
If you work outside of your home, chances are pretty high that you end up hitting some take out or even sitting down to lunch in a restaurant during the week to get your midday meal in. I used to head out of the office to eat lunch just about everyday with coworkers and we would have a rotation of restaurants we visited. The social time was great, the food was rich and delicious, and getting away from the desk and a change in scenery is never a bad idea in my humble opinion.
However, I had noticed that over the course of a year or so, I ended up having to buy a new set of work pants because I stopped fitting into my normal size. Having to buy these new clothes wasn’t cheap and I was finding that there wasn’t much of a cushion left at the end of the month. During many months, I was actually starting to spend more than I made after having to update the wardrobe. Something was up that wasn’t up in previous years and it was high time to determine why things had changed so dramatically.
After tracking expenses carefully for a month, I was shocked at what I had learned about my lunch habits.
My Lunch Break Can’t be Costing me this Much, Can it?
After running the numbers I had found out that I was spending an average of around 15 dollars a day on my lunches. While 15 dollars for a nice meal is certainly fine every once in a while, some quick math was showing that I was spending around 75 dollars a week, or 300 dollars! a month on lunches outside of the office. Once I added in clothing expenses to everything, I had figured out that continuing this habit was going to push things well over $4,000 dollars a year. I was shocked when I had actually taken a look at how much I was actually spending. I was also unhappy about putting on over 15 pounds in less than a year and having to buy new clothes that fit when I still had a perfectly good set in the closet.
Four thousand real after tax dollars! That’s enough to take a vacation just about anywhere in the world every year and have a great time. It worked out to around 3 months of rent that I was spending on unhealthy food every year. I could clearly think of tons of ways that I would have loved to use that $4,000 dollars. I could have upgraded all of my electronics, taken several university courses, or invested it.
The point is, this spending was clearly out of control and it was time to step back and get a new plan in place to raise the level of wisdom.
How I saved Over $2,000 a Year on Lunch and Lost Weight Doing it!
After figuring out the lunch problem, I immediately put in a plan to make myself healthy lunches that were nutritionally sound and cost effective. I had originally decided on things like sandwiches but quickly figured out that lunch meat is a trap and that it’s actually pretty expensive if you want to make a sandwich that will satisfy a reasonable hunger. I also missed hot hearty meals that kept me going through the day.
What I finally came up with was so cheap, easy to make, and healthy that it has become my go to lunch for years now. Anyone with a Costco Membership and a slow cooker can make what I’m making as well, The ingredients are cheap and the prep is at the level where even someone with absolutely no skills could make it without a problem. Need a slow cooker? Check this one out from Hamilton Beach, I’ve used it and it works well for me: (link directs to amazon).
The recipe uses four simple ingredients:
Costco Brand Chicken Tenderloins: (Cost $16-$17 for the bag/$6 a week)
Costco Brand Mixed Vegetables: (Cost $6-$7 for the bag/$2 a week)
Store Brand Spaghetti Sauce or Salsa of your choice (24 oz. jar):(Cost usually $2-$3, but can be as low as $1; same price per week)
Rice of your choosing: (Cost is probably $.25 a week)
Put around 2-3 pounds of frozen chicken in a slow cooker, with around 24 oz. of Spaghetti Sauce or Salsa in the morning, turn it on low. Let it cook until it’s finished (usually six hours for me).
Once the chicken is done, put 2 cups rice in your rice cooker with the proper amount of water and prep that.
After your rice and chicken are cooked, split the rice into equal portions in five containers, add a handful of the frozen vegetables, and an portion of the chicken. You can pour some of the pasta sauce or salsa on it if you like, and of course add some spices. I like oregano and cayenne powder. Here is the finished product in four lunch containers:
Let the containers cool a bit, and then put your food in the fridge and take one to work each day. They heat in around 2-3 minutes in the microwave.
What this actually ends up costing you is around (6+2+2+.25) dollars a week, which works out to $10.25. That’s a lunch for $2.05 a day! Even adding a can of juice (I like V8) or a pop and perhaps a treat will only push you into the $4 a day territory if you’re being extravagant. For me, it worked out to $3.20 with a can of juice and something sweet for a dessert. The meal is filling enough that I’m fine until dinner time as well. Depending on your treat and drink, it works out to around 700-800 calories and has plenty of protein from the chicken as well. If you need more calories for weight lifting or something like that, I’ve found adding some butter or oil to the rice works well, and is also cheap. You can sub in quinoa for rice, but this is more spendy.
Now, compare to my $15 a day restaurant lunch, I’m now saving $11.80 per day, or around $60 a week! Over the course of a year that works out to well over $2,000 as I still occasionally go to a restaurant with my coworkers. I’m happy to say that I’ve also lost the 15 pounds that i put on as well. All for a simple fix that requires almost no work at all as the slow cooker is the lazy person’s best friend.
Wisdom and a Better Life from Simple Fixes
Hopefully you can see the wisdom in taking a look at things that you’re doing and what they are actually costing you.
I want you to get excited thinking about how you can use an extra $2,000 a year from simple fixes like this. There’s no “right” answer to how to use it, this is something that we all have to reflect on to figure out what will make us the happiest. The point is, if you were struggling like me to figure out why there’s not enough month at the end of the money, you may be surprised at the ways that you’re spending it, and how easy it can be with a little creative thinking and strategic spending to save yourself enough money to make a real difference in your happiness.
This is just one example of the type of idea that I can offer to help you get to a better way of life. Easy fixes like this fall right into our True Viking Wisdom model of taking a step back, reflecting, and making a positive change.
In my next personal finance article, I’ll show you how I managed to free up another $1,200 a year for something that I wasn’t even really using anyway. Start thinking about what you can do with an extra $100 of fun money a month!