$4083 Swing in the Budget

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A couple of months ago Wesabe moved from a free office in Berkeley (above my wife’s clothing store) to a much nicer office in San Francisco. We did it because we were busting out of the seams of the free space, and still hiring like crazy. I was especially happy because I hadn’t been able to spend much time working in the tiny Berkeley office with our engineering team. Understandably, they didn’t want to listen to me talk on the phone most of the day, so I usually worked from home.

After the first week at the new office, I started thinking about the fact that I had purchased my lunch every day. I also noticed a surge in my transportation spending:

$6.00 a day for lunch ($1500/year)
$6.30 a day for BART ($1575/year)
$84 a month for a parking pass, since some days I need my car for meetings ($1008/year)

Total: $4083 a year

Wow! That is a big swing in the budget. There isn’t a lot I can do about transportation costs, but I do have control over how much I spend on lunch (we have an espresso machine at work…so fortunately I’m not also dealing with the latte factor). Over the weekend I bought some meal storage containers at Target, and last night packed up leftovers for my wife and I to take to work.
I just created a new group on Wesabe called “Pack a lunch”…you are welcome to join. My goal is to spend an average of $2 a day on a packed lunch – that should save me about $1000 a year. If I can make the lunches tasty enough that my wife will also eat them, I can double our savings.

The thing I’ve noticed about making money stretch is that it involves choices. When our circumstances change…the way we live often changes as well. It was easy enough to adjust my habit of eating a sandwich at home to eating out, but it sure cost a lot more money.

4 Responses to “$4083 Swing in the Budget”

  1. jolly Says:

    Jason, check out Commuter Checks:
    http://www.commutercheck.com/cities/sanFrancisco.aspx

    Good for both employees and employers, and if it encourages people to take public transit more, good for the environment, too!

  2. Frank Bascio Says:

    Let the entrepreneur in you come out.. pack 2 or 3 lunches a day and sell them for a profit to your less organized co-workers..

    If you have the willpower, a neatly stacked assortment of candy bars and cookies at a slight mark up is a big seller an hour before and after lunch. Perhaps a small fridge stocked with energy drinks priced just below what the vending machine in the lobby is selling them for?

    ok, somewhere there is a line to be crossed.

    Good luck!
    Frank

  3. Jason Knight Says:

    Frank,

    As always you start by crossing the line 🙂

    Jolly, great advice…we’ll be talking about at the office since most of us commute.

  4. Jason Says:

    Another thing to consider is whether you get a tax break/insurance rebate for using public transportation in CA. In MA, you can take all of your MBTA passes and turn them in to your auto insurance company for a discount on your car insurance. You can also take the amount of money you spent on public transportation as a deduction on your state taxes.

    I try to force myself to bring lunch by giving myself an allowance: maybe $20 for the week to spend on coffee, lunch, ice cream, gum, etc. Once that money is spent it’s either bring lunch or go hungry. If you don’t find some way to force yourself, it’s very easy to talk yourself in to grabbing lunch with a co-worker, doing something else instead of making a lunch, or whatever. Very much like a workout schedule/habit.

    The other thing that helps is getting your co-workers to bring their lunch and then getting together at lunch time. Peer pressure is a wonderful thing. At my company there are a few different lunch discussion groups where everyone brings their lunch and talks about politics, Harry Potter, etc.

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