Yesterday, at lunch, I was in the office kitchen heating up my lunch (delicious leftovers from the dinner I cooked Sunday night) and a co-worker I rarely run into at lunch wandered in.
“I guess I have to get used to bringing my lunch,” she said. “My husband saw the credit card bill and got mad that I was wasting so much money on food.”
Of course, the first thing that rolled through my head was that perhaps they should be more open about their spending so that they don’t have those issues, but I didn’t say a word. Instead, I commented about my own lunch policy.
“Oh, I bring my lunch most days. I never go out more than once a week and really try to only go out twice a month.”
“Really? You don’t seem like the type to bring your lunch. Why do you do it?”
“Couple of reasons, really. I like to try to eat healthy, and that’s easier to do if I bring my lunch. I also like to go to the gym on my break and don’t have time to do that and go get carry-out. And, of course, as you know, it’s expensive to eat out every day. I just can’t afford to do it.”
“Oh, come on. I know what you make. You can afford it if you want to.”
Wow. So this woman I never talked to was now criticizing my spending? I was a little offended, but let it slide.
“Well, sure, I could, but then I would have to cut other things out of my life that I would like to keep. It would be very easy to drop over $200 a month on eating out at lunch. That’s $200 I can spend elsewhere.” I considered mentioning savings, but didn’t think that would go over well.
“See, you could afford it,” she said.
Clearly, I didn’t get through to her. But hey, it’s not my place to tell you how to spend your money. I just advocate mindful spending. If you want to spend $200 a month on lunch out, so be it. For some people, it’s their vice. They don’t like to go to movies or buy music or clothing. They like to eat out every day. And that’s okay. But you have to prioritize. If you eat out daily, you spend money that you could have used for something else. If the lunches are higher priority, then go for it.
For me, eating out isn’t high priority. So maybe I don’t seem like the type to bring my lunch, but I am. Crazy co-workers aren’t going to convince me to change that.
Megan is a 30-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.