We Spend a Lot on Lunch

Americans spend thousands, often leading to budget problems.

Whether eating lunch at home, school or work, for some Americans lunchtime is alone time – time to relax and recharge for the second half of the day. For others it is a time to run errands or catchup with co-workers. Regardless of how we spend our lunchtime it usually involves food, which also involves money – an average of $53.00 a week or $2,746 per year. And while that may seem like a hefty price tag, there is one percent who report spending more than $50 per lunch on average or more than $9,000 a year.

 

These are the findings of a survey by Visa conducted earlier this year to “call consumers” attention to opportunities to save and budget in discretionary spending.” They surveyed 2,033 American consumers and found:

Americans spend, on average, $20 per week or $1,043 per year at the lunch counter. They ate out about twice a week costing them almost double what they’d spend if they had prepared their own ($11.00 versus $6.30). Homemakers went out for lunch the least, but when they did, they dished out an average of $17.60 per meal.

“At home or ordering food, small choices have a big impact. Paying attention to what you are spending is essential to financial wellbeing,” Nat Sillin, global head of financial literacy at Visa Inc. says. “Most people may not realize that they are spending over $50 a week on lunch.”

Who needs to take heed the most? According to the survey:

  • Men outspent women by 60 percent on a weekly basis and were more likely to eat out
  • Students ate lunch out more often than any other segment and spent the most on average weekly – $27.47
  • Southerners ate out twice per week, spending an average of $1,240 a year. On combined lunches (restaurant t and their own) they outspent the general population by over $200 ($2,953 versus $2,746).
  • Unemployed Americans ate lunch out more than once a week, spending over $15 on average.

These numbers are enough to take a bite out of any budget.

To help consumes “form better spending habits” and to keep track of their daily lunch expenditures, Visa is introducing an app for that. The Lunch Tracker app for iOS is to “help consumers become more aware of their spending so they can take steps to improve their spending habits.”

“Grabbing a bite out may seem like no big deal but in the same vein that pennies add up and can lead to big savings, small and consistent purchases be it on lunch or otherwise do add up and can drain the unprepared budget,” Consolidated Credit’s Education Director April Lewis-Parks says. “While there’s nothing inherently wrong about eating a restaurant cooked meal once in a while, consistent trips can take a big bite out of your wallet and budget.”

Parks adds: “Before accepting every lunch offer, make sure your budget allows it. Otherwise bag your lunch and keep money in your wallet. Trim the fat from your budget – from coffee runs to cutting energy cost at home, to saving on gas.”

For more areas to cut back on and increase savings check out these smart spending tips. And if you need help crafting a budget check out our Budgeting section.

If you’ve bitten off more than you can chew and in debt as a result, give us a call at to see if we can help you. You can also start by taking our free debt analysis online.