Maybe you’re the rare person that never eats out at a restaurant.  Chances are, however, that you do open your wallet each day to purchase some kind of item that you digest.  Because these instances seem trivial, we typically have no idea how quickly spontaneous food and drink purchases add up to be a large component of a monthly budget.  For example, one beverage and one snack bought daily while “on the go” probably costs at least $3.  That’s $60 a month if it’s only on workdays, which translates to $720 a year.  If you have refined tastes, you can probably double that amount.

Let’s start with everyone’s favorite daily purchase: coffee. Coffee breaks are a good excuse to get out of the office, and often serve as a social encounter. Ask yourself, is the cost worth it every day? Or in some cases, three times a day?    For example, like many people with an office job, my boyfriend “needs” a large cup of Joe at the start of the work day to get his blood flowing.  After years of buying a $2 “pretty good” Dunkin Donuts’ coffee on the way to work each day, he decided to switch up his routine, drink better coffee, and save some money.  He orders fancy Kona coffee beans online ($13 a bag at www.mauicoffeeco.com ) where each bag makes about 20-25 large coffees.

He has a hip insulated thermos from Hydroflask (https://www.hydroflask.com/) that costs around $30 and is excellent for both hot and cold drinks.  Each night he grinds the beans, sets his coffee maker to brew when he wakes up.  He enjoys a cup while he’s getting ready in the morning, and then packs the rest for work. With these premium beans, his coffee tastes better and costs less! He still enjoys the odd coffee break out of the office in the afternoon, to get off the desk or chat with colleagues.  However, he is still very far ahead financially and drinks the highest quality only.

In addition to drinking a beverage during the day, most people choose also choose to snack.  Out of the home snacking is prime area to tackle in order to control costs and most likely, your weight. While many offices are jumping on the health trend and stocking machines with fresher snacks, most handy food items are in a machine or a nearby convenience store, marked at full retail price, and have lots of calories.  A great alternative is to stock up on boxes of healthier snacks that you can throw in a bag, your purse or your office and keep at hand throughout the day for the inevitable hunger pain.  I personally like to put 15 salted almonds in a Ziploc in my purse, and when I get that sneaky stomach rumble around 10:30am or 4pm, I munch on these.  Without my purse snack at hand, my walk by a vending machine at work can easily result in a $1 snickers bar and another 240 calories.  Or worse, if I’m at a gas station or the coffee shop and I see a tasty donut or pastry, I’m out even more money and in even more calories.

With both of these methods to avoid an eat-out budget blow out, just a small time investment is needed.  Both of the ideas will pay dividends into your bank account, and will end up saving you time in the aggregate.  Coming soon is the final installment of our “Eating-Out Budget Blowout” series, which discusses ways to be social, eat out, save money and still have a good time.