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

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OPEN LETTER FROM A LADY WHO LUNCHES

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!

Cheers!

Melissa

 

Lunch Photo: chidorian

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