Work is a major money suck for me. When you think about how much time you spend at work, it's no surprise - eating at least one meal, maybe some snacks or after-work drinks...it definitely all starts to add up. I've gotten better more recently, but I used to go out for lunch at least twice a week, and I'd get a latte almost every single morning. I probably spent at least $30 extra dollars a week, or $120 a month! That's half my car payment on stuff that I could probably do for much cheaper. Here are some things I'm starting to incorporate in my routine to stop bleeding money instead of making it:
*I use snack time as a quick break for me, and nothing feels more luxurious than going for a quick walk or drive (or maybe down some stairs if you are lucky enough to have a cafe on site) to get a coffee. The soothing music, the change of scenary, the wasted $15 every week...oh wait! Bring your coffee from home and pack your shoes to go for a walk instead on your breaks. That will rejuvenate you so much more than sitting in a stuffed chair drinking your latte. It's also better for you and your budget!
*Keep snacks on hand - when you're hungry, it's easy to run and raid the vending machine, and most likely, it would not be something good for you (I'm totally guilty of getting two packages of Reese's Cups - the peanut butter has protein, duh!) and you'll probably pay a premium for them. Try shopping the bulk bins in your grocery store for oatmeal, nuts, or dried fruit. These are great and easy things to keep in your desk that don't require refrigeration, are easy to eat and are healthy!
*Eat popcorn. Popcorn is a great snack that's quick and somewhat portable. If you don't put loads of butter and salt on it, it can also be quite healthy. You can get a box of microwavable popcorn for a couple of bucks, or you can make your own in a lunch sack! Here's a great recipe from Alton Brown at Food Network that would be super cheap and easy to make. You could also find an air popper and put it on your desk if you wanted to make your office mates envious. You can find them reasonably priced ($15-$20 at Target) or scope out Craig's List.
*Pencil in snacking - the more you snack and keep the stomach grumbling at bay, the more likely you will be to eat a normal-sized lunch and avoid dialing your favorite Thai takeout and getting the extra large Phad Thai (not that I've done that before or anything...). I don't know about you but I usually make irrational decisions when I'm famished which could be bad for my budget, waistline, AND my job! No bueno.
*Clearly, you know bringing lunch to work is going to save you a ton over going out every afternoon (by most accounts at least $20/week) Check out our previous post on ways to spice up your lunch box if you're having trouble breaking out of the PBJ rut. Not that there's anything wrong with that....
*Hot pot it up! A hot pot was my go-to tool in my tiny dorm room. For those of you who don't know the joy of a hot pot, it's basically a kettle of sorts. They are electric (some are cordless) and you can heat just about any liquid up even faster than microwaves. It is a great option and makes bringing soup for lunch a little more desirable than just getting a can of Campbell's and nuking it. I like this Rival hot pot at Target - 32 oz, temperature controls, and under $15!
*If you're going out to dinner with your work buddies, try leaving a little early to score a nearby happy hour. Drinks and appetizers will be much cheaper, and if this is a work expense, your boss will be stoked for a smaller tab. To save even more, try checking out Groupon or other coupon sites and keep an eye out for restaurants or bars near your workplace.
How do you keep spending in check when you're working? I'd love to hear ideas of how you all keep your budget in check at work, especially when it comes to brown-bag ideas!