How to Trade Lunch for a Vacation

Eating out can take a huge bite from our wallet, and our budget. Even today I struggle with this a bit. When I first graduated college and started working I probably went out to eat 4-5 times a week, and that was just for lunch. Yikes.

It was much easier than planning a meal in advance, cooking something the night before, and lugging it with me through public transportation to the office. When I think about all the money I spent just on lunches out (I don’t even want to think about dinners) it makes me cringe. But little by little I got over it, and now I’m at (in theory) no more than twice a week of eating out in any form, breakfast, lunch or dinner.

If you’re you’re looking to cut expenses, then altering your restaurant budget will have a MASSIVE effect on your bottom line. Earlier this year as I wrote out a budget for a financial goal I’m setting, I began to ask myself, “Is the trade off really worth it?”

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Take a look at what you’ve spend on eating out just for LUNCH during the year, and see how you compare. The average American spends nearly $1,000 just on eating out for lunch in a year. That’s not including breakfasts, dinners, ice cream, and the big one for most people, that daily cup of coffee. As I budgeted for a future goal I asked myself, “Is this $10-15 expense worth the tradeoff of what I could be spending it on?”

I figured out that even if I cut my lunch expenses by half, that was an extra $500 a year I’d be saving. This was extremely feasible and just meant I’d need to spend a bit more time preparing foods the night before from the foods I already had in my house.

$500 over the course of a full year may not sound like a whole lot, but an extra $500 in your hand right now sure sounds nice. $500 is more than enough for a nice weekend vacation and depending where you go, maybe a luxurious one. When I originally jotted down some ideas for this post, I searched on Kayak.com and I found a round trip plane ticket from Los Angeles to New York City for $270. And using hotwire.com to find some last minute hotels, I’m looking right now and even selected a Saturday/weekend rate (more expensive) I can stay in a 3 1/2 star hotel near the Empire State Building for $205.

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That’s a roundtrip flight across the country and a weekend hotel night in one of the most expensive cities in the world, just by cutting my lunch budget to half of what the average American spends. Not even eliminating it. I can still spend $500 a year eating out for lunch… Just cutting it in half.

Ask yourself right now, would you rather have the sandwich, pizza or pasta you’ll forget about in a few hours? Or would you rather be able to travel across the country without spending a single dime more than you would have otherwise? Personally I’d take the travel, and use the extra cash to grab a slice of New York pizza.

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