Lunch Out vs. The Brown Bag

A friend just stopped by my desk to ask if I would be interested in joining his group of regulars for lunch out once or twice a week. It was a kind gesture from a group of people that I certainly wouldn't mind hanging out with a bit more. He also assured me that they try to do it on the cheap, around $6 or less. Yeah, yeah, yeah. What was funny was the way he started the conversation:

"Hey, I notice that you bring your lunch a lot"

I wasn't sure where that was going to lead, but I smiled and responded affirmatively. He works in a different department, and doesn't realize that 'a lot' means nearly every freakin' day! Now I'm not complaining. We eat well at home, which many times translates into some pretty tasty leftovers. The Mrs. takes great pleasure in keeping us flush with fresh fruits and veggies. Who can argue with the occasional fresh peaches, apples, plums, or grapes?... except to ask for more.

In fact, I've become quite well known in my department for my peanut butter and jelly. Folks aren't sure what to think when they see me eating something else. Making and packing a lunch every morning may seem like a hassle - and it is. That's why I don't do it. I'm not a morning person, and am far more likely to forget my lunch than to pack one. I keep it all at work. Bread, peanut butter, jelly. Napkins and knives come from the cafeteria. A glass of ice water, or if I'm lucky, a Coke to drink. I'll also keep pretzels or chips handy to round out the meal. Supplement that with what I bring from home and I do pretty well.

Now I do eat out occasionally - sometimes more often than budgeted, much to Mrs. NtJS's dismay. We budget $10 per month for me to eat lunch out. Now that could be one really nice lunch at Chotchkie's, or 1 fast food lunch and a couple salads from the cafeteria, or whatever. Some guys from the group I work with have grown accustom to me not joining them for lunch, but I made the decision very early to tell them why. I'd like to, but we just don't budget much for eating out. They've all been quite understanding and usually have trouble justifying the expense themselves. What's best is that they aren't looking down on me or feeling slighted for my saying no. There's just better ways to use our money right now.

So I listened to my friend's offer, and explained that yes, I do bring my lunch quite often. And that I usually eat out only once or twice a month. "I appreciate being invited, but expect to be turned down a lot." He made a comment about how it would be just like going to the bar....

After he left, I thought about his comment of spending about $6 on lunch. What if I did want to do that. What would that cost to do, say..... everyday?

$6 X 5 days/week X 4 weeks/month = $120 per month

We could do that. We aren't poor. With a few key strokes, we could adjust the budget, and I'd be eating high on the hog. Then again, $120 per month will send our baby to college one day. Hrrrmmmm.... eat lunch out, or send the kid to college..... No, it wouldn't have to come out of the college fund, but where would it come from? We would have to make a choice to not do something with that $120 so that I could in turn eat it over the course of a month. What if I did their plan of twice per week. More reasonable, right?

$6 X 2 days/week X 4 weeks/month = $48 per month

Yes, more reasonable, but still, if I'm going to take $50 per month out selfishly, I'm getting satellite TV. It's still a lot of money for ME to use to eat out without my family. Real nice for them, eh? For now, we'll stick with the $10 per month. When I get a raise, I'll lobby for more.

How much do you budget for eating lunch out? Do you feel pressured to join your friends at the expense of your budget?


neimanmarxist said...

my husband eats his lunch out. it's pretty much the biggest bone of contention in our budget, which is otherwise entirely harmoniously drawn up. :) but he just switched from 5 x per week to 2 x per week, so I'm considering it a victory!!!

lunch place food is not very good IMO and it is very expensive. It is much better, if one must eat out, to save that money and eat it in a nice place instead of a lunch cheapie.

Funny about Money said...

My ex, a corporate lawyer, actually used to brown-bag it (young associates don't earn much, believe it or not) until the firm told him he was required to eat out. The senior partners felt it was important for everyone in the firm to be seen at the right restaurants (read "club") over the lunch hour.

Joining the Arizona Club was not cheap, nor was eating there very day.

Marcia said...

Wow, I'm so glad that I am not a lawyer and forced to eat out every day (unless the firm is paying...)

I bring my lunch every day. People have stopped asking me out to lunch. Actually, most of my coworkers started bringing lunch too, and we chat in the lunchroom.

My dh eats out 3-4 times per month. I try to keep it down to 2x a month (at $10 a pop). But sometimes an old friend will invite him out, and he doesn't want to miss out.

It's a bone of contention because if I ate out that often, I'd get fat, so I am a little bit jealous of his metabolism.

retire-at-40 said...

I used to eat out every day. Recently, in my new adventures with saving cash, I've been eating at home (it's only a 15 min walk away). Now I'm eating more healthily AND for about 1/3 the price.

Nothing wrong with that :-)

karla (threadbndr) said...

I budget to eat out once a week and that's usually lunch with a co-worker. But sometimes I blow that. Then it comes out of the grocery money, and THAT hurts.

I'm single, and I don't like to eat alone in a resturant. So lunch with co-workers or friends is a primary social contact. Now when my late husband was alive, we brown bagged it almost exclusivily so we could go out to lunch or dinner TOGETHER.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin