Open Letter: Saving Money by Brown Baggin’ Ain’t Always Easy



Dear Everyone,

It’s me, Melissa. I have a confession: I am lady who lunches. I indulge in quick, convenient take-out lunches during the work week more often than I should. Americans eat out for nearly 1 billion meals every week, and there are weeks when I have made up at least 5 of those meals. It’s a miniscule percentage of the total, but accounts for a hefty part of my personal budget. Something’s gotta give. Four weeks ago I started to devise a plan to pull myself off the take-out track.

What I might bring for lunch if I was a 12-year-old in China.

I had read all the tips intended to ease and induce the transition to brown-bagging. Plan for your lunches at your desk. Buy the right groceries. Pack up the night before. It’s cheaper. It’s greener. Well, it just wasn’t working! I needed to find a method that would actually MOTIVATE me to bring my lunch to work. I had all the resources sitting in my fridge, anyhow.

Maybe I could reward myself for brown-bag lunches with money that I would’ve been spending anyways. If I were really good, I’d stick it in my Mango savings account or perhaps invest it. Or, I could put it towards something fun!

This is what one month of bringing my lunch looks like.

Now I needed to put it to the test, but I wanted to start small. So here’s what I did: Everyday in July that I brought my lunch, I put two dollars into a jar and kept track of my progress. I could have transferred two dollars from my Mango Card to my Mango Savings, but the visual cue of money in a jar on my desk was a really great motivation to not cave in to convenient pick-up lunches. I also kept a list of what I had for lunch with a rough tab to tally up the costs so I had no other choice to be VERY AWARE of where my lunch money was going.

I used notecards to keep track of my lunch spending and saving. I kept the notecards with the money. In the jar. On my desk. At all times. This way, I couldn't forget about my commitment.

The month of July is now over and I was able to save $32 in my jar, but you can see on my notecards that I actually could have saved more if I hadn’t eaten out all the times that I did. Nevertheless, it felt awesome to see the money rise, and sometimes every now and then I would dump out the money, count it out, and pat myself on the back. A little juvenile, I must admit, but it was a wonderful feeling!

Nothing is more motivating than SEEING your money grow.

Does anyone have any other ideas to motivate bringing your lunch? I haven’t committed to this cash jar method and would love to hear any suggestions or tactics you might have! Any ideas to help me stay on the brown baggin’ wagon? Leave a comment; We’d love to hear from you!




Lunch Photo: chidorian

Mango Cards are issues by Inter National Bank, member FDIC, pursuant to a license from MasterCard International Incorporated. Additional services provided by Rêv North America, Inc. The use of this Card is subject to the terms of your Cardholder Agreement. All trademarks, service marks, and registered marks are the properties of their respective owners.

Mango Savings is for customers enrolled in Mango’s recurring Direct Deposit. Subject to identity verification. Before you can open a Mango Savings Account, we must verify your identity in accordance with federal law. We may require you to provide identification documents in addition to the information you provided at enrollment. 


More in Lifestyle