Saturday, February 26, 2011


I started something like this years ago, and life intervened. But it seems like this is a point in time when people could benefit from this again.

I want to start with a story that many of my friends have heard before, but I think helps people start thinking in a better frame of mind about the concept of frugality. About 8 or 9 years ago, I was working with a woman who would look at my lunches brought from home, roll her eyes, and state that HER time was too valuable to spend on making homemade lunches. 

Taken literally, this was a silly statement. My lunches were either sandwiches or  leftovers, which took about as long to put in a container and into the fridge as they would have to throw out. I frequently lined up 4 sandwich containers, and made 4 sandwiches at once for the week, a process that usually took less than 5 minutes. Her fastest lunch required taking an elevator down to the first floor, waiting in line for at least 5 minutes, then taking the elevator back to our floor. And at least twice a week, she went out, which took far longer. 

The difference in cost? The leftovers were just that, leftovers that weren't enough to save for a second supper for a family, but I'd estimate on average, the costs of these were about $.50. A sandwich, even with 100% whole wheat bread, cost less. Her cheapest lunch, a sandwich and soda from the first floor, was about $4. Her average lunch was quite a bit more, but we'll use that number and say that her lunches cost $3.50 a day more than mine. By 5 lunches a week, that's $17.50 a week, by 50 weeks a year (allowing for holidays), she spent $875 more for her lunches than I did. I spent less than 10 minutes a week making those lunches, which means my hourly "pay" for this was $105.00 (and I'd have to earn more since that would be after tax dollars). I can assure you, both of us made considerably less than that.

But, was that the point? No. Buying her lunch mattered to her more than saving money or time. She was married, her kids were grown, and she had the money to do so. It was an important symbol of not being poor to her. While to me, my time and money mattered that much. I had a daughter going into college and another in her mid-teens and very minimal child support from my ex. Even though I actually made more than her, having money set aside for emergencies and saving ahead for the time I could go back to college myself were both very important to me. And I'm a practical person; even if I were in considerably better circumstances, I'd still take my lunch to work. Poor or not, I like the idea of making over $100 an hour for making sandwiches.

1 comment:

Ami said...

Anytime you want me to make your sandwiches I will gladly accept HALF that. Seriously.

Look at all the money you'll save!