An Eye-Opening Look at the Price of Lunch

Is your mid-day meal an expensive habit you need to break? If you’re a fan of takeout, delivery, or restaurants, take note: the average American worker spends nearly $2,000 on lunch! That’s more than their travel expenses getting to and from work (about $1,500), according to the staffing and accounting firm Accounting Principals. They conducted a survey of 1,000 working adults last month and found that two thirds of them bought their lunch in 2011, spending an average of $37 per week. American workers also spent plenty of their hard-earned cash on coffee—nearly $20 per week, or $1,000 a year. Not exactly chump change.

“Small —but consistent— expenses add up quickly over time, and it can be difficult for consumers to realize it because they’re only spending a few dollars at a time. But, as our survey shows, those few dollars can quickly turn into a few thousand dollars,” said Jodi Chavez, senior vice president, Accounting Principals. “Additionally, when you look at it over a worker’s lifetime, that number grows exponentially. Consider the average American who works for about 40 years, starting their first job around age 22. By the time they retire at age 62 they would have spent at minimum $120,000 on coffee and lunch, not including inflation.”

This is especially true for young American workers. The survey found that younger professionals (ages 18-34) spend almost twice as much on coffee during the week than those ages 45+ ($24.74 vs. $14.15, respectively). They also shell out more for lunch, spending an average of $44.78 per week on lunch compared to their older colleagues who spend $31.80 per week.

However, it seems American workers of all ages are starting to realize the effect this incremental spending has on their personal bottom line. According to Accounting Principals’ survey, one-third (35 percent) of employees have made it a financial goal to bring lunch instead of buying it in 2012.


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