Prior to retiring from leadership, I worked in a facility that housed 10,000 employees. I had access to a dentist, a physician’s office, an optometrist, a hair salon, a cafeteria, a food court, a fitness center, and a small location where I could get my oil changed! Let’s just say that my employer made it convenient for employees to have pretty much what they needed. Convenience has its advantages, but there is a cost associated with convenience, especially for me in this situation. One of my weaknesses is food and I absolutely LOVE to eat, so I very rarely brought my lunch to work. I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner sometimes during the course of a workday and would spend $15.00/day easily. This doesn’t sound like much when you average $5.00/meal, but when you multiply $15.00 x 5days/week, the total spent in one year equates to $3,900!! When I realized how much money I was spending on food because of convenience, I knew that there was an opportunity for me to save money. I still think about my cost cutting strategy when I share with others the various ways to save money throughout the course of a work week. I tell anyone who will listen to:
1. Take your meals with you-It can be a challenge preparing meals ahead of time, packing lunches in the morning, preparing the children for their day, but the alternative has some disadvantages associated with it. The first disadvantage is from a health perspective. When I used to eat out, I didn’t crave healthy options, I wanted a hearty meal, even if it was 12:15 in the afternoon. I developed poor eating habits and would eat what I wanted, when I wanted, which resulted in weight gain. The second disadvantage is the cost associated with eating out. While some fast food places have value menus, many of them don’t offer a variety when it comes to healthy options. Ultimately, I paid to eat out and paid more if I wanted something healthy.
2. Avoid vending machines-These convenient cages of unhealthy selections will consume your pocket change on any given day. Before you know it, you are spending .75 cents on a bag of Doritos and $1.50 for a Pepsi, with multiple visits throughout the day! I decided to personally boycott the vending machines and bring my snacks with me. I would bring fruit or a granola bar to snack on, which saved money and was a healthier alternative. I just couldn’t bring myself to spend almost $1.00 for a pack of gum when I could pick up 5 packs from a local dollar store instead.
3. Carpool- If you have the ability to car pool, you can save money on gas and perhaps parking by doing so. In addition to the financial savings, you could reduce emissions and possibly save time. Even if carpooling doesn’t work, you may want to try some form of public transportation. I have a friend who catches the bus to work on a daily basis. He would much rather save money on gas, not have to worry about the commute, and he enjoys the down time before and after work. Because parking could easily cost him $20.00/day, he is saving thousands of dollars annually by catching the bus.
4. Purchase frequently used items in bulk. If you have non-perishable items that you use on a regular basis, buying larger quantities will save you money. I save money at Sam’s Club and Bj’s on certain items such as oatmeal and canned goods, but I also use coupons whenever and wherever I can.
I didn’t implement my cost saving behaviors all at once, but I did have a goal in mind. Even if you take advantage of one of these suggestions, you stand to save a substantial amount of money over time. The $3,900 that I was wasting on food could have been used in many different ways. I could have used the money to invest, pay down debt, or I could have made a donation to an organization of my choice. I am so glad that making a few minor changes has allowed me to save a significant amount of money.
More from this contributor:
How to Reinvent Yourself
Do I Really Need A Mentor?
The Employee You Don’t Want to Become