I’m all for cutting costs, whether it’s with groceries, online shopping, taxes or wherever else I can. I’m not above saving a few dollars here and there because all of that money adds up. Want to see how much you can grow small amounts of money over time?
Let’s take my lunch as an example. Now ever since I was a kid, I loved peanut butter sandwiches. Not PB&J, mind you. I was never a fan of jelly…or fluff for that matter. I apologize to those of you who consider this sacrilegious. Anyway, I constantly ate peanut butter sandwiches for lunch.
I carried that love of peanut butter sandwiches into adulthood and regularly pack one in my lunch at work almost every day. I’ve taken a good deal of ribbing for my coworkers for this…”let me guess, another peanut butter sandwich?”
For me, it’s not a big deal. I don’t mind the repetitious lunch because my breakfasts and dinners have plenty of variety. I love the taste of them. They are quick to make in the morning, which is essential when also trying to get two little kids ready. But one of the most important reasons I love them, which I came to appreciate as an adult, they are ridiculously cheap to make.
Seriously, they’re so cheap! Me being the math nerd I am and always analyzing prices, I calculated the cost of my lunch:
Loaf of bread: $1.80 for 20 slices = $0.18/sandwich
Peanut butter: $4.50 jar (about 30 sandwiches) = $0.15/sandwich
Generic sandwich bag: $1.00 for 100 = $0.01/sandwich
Total cost of a PB sandwich = $0.34
I usually toss in an apple (about $0.35) and fill up a water bottle from the office water cool (about $0.00) and my typical lunch totals roughly 70 cents a day. Not too shabby, right?
So why the $250,000 peanut butter sandwiches?
If you’re buying lunch every day, you’re probably paying around $6 depending on where you eat and what you buy. $6 is probably reasonable considering the prices of fast food and fast casual restaurants. That’s $5.30 more than the peanut butter sandwich/apple/water lunch.
Now let’s say instead of spending that extra $5.30 on lunch, it gets invested instead. That difference totals to about $1,277.30 after accounting for weekends and 20 holiday/vacation days per year. Let’s plug that into a future value of money calculator (I love these things). If we invest that difference every year for 40 years assuming a 7% return, it would total about $255,000. For eating a cheaper lunch!
Now the point of this article isn’t to convince you to eat the same boring lunch every day for 40 years. The point is to show you that even a slight, simple change in your spending habits can have a significant impact down the road. Changing your eating habits for a single meal each day can add a quarter million dollars to your bottom line. Take a look at your expenses and see where you can cut costs. Even a little bit goes a long way over time.