How I blew £1,000 on lunch in a year

Laura Whitcombe's picture

I’m not very good at getting up early, so I never have time to make myself a sandwich for work – nor am I organised enough to box up leftovers to have for lunch either.

I’ve just realised my laziness has cost me at least £700 in shop-bought lunches over the space of a year.

To work out exactly how financially lazy I’d been, I trawled my bank account statements for the last year and discovered I had visited Pret-a-Manger – not the cheapest sandwich shop in the world but it is directly beneath my office – a whopping 60 times.

The cheapest transaction was £1.20 (I do love their croissants, but I’ve eased off in the past few months, ever since the Aldgate Mansell Street branch decided they should be the colour of coffee, not golden syrup – big mistake).

But the most I’d spent in a single visit was £7.80, which I guess would have been for a salad with bread, a diet coke and a slice of banana cake – I must have been hungry.

On average, I was spending £4.40 a day – much more reasonable, but handing Pret £268.40 over a year does seem a trifle indulgent!

At Sainsbury’s, I clocked up a £136.31 bill over 39 visits, averaging out at £3.49 a trip (so it’s official, the supermarket is cheaper than the sandwich chain. Not much of a journalistic scoop is it?). In Itsu, I averaged £6.20 but my bank records show I only bought lunch there five times in a year.

But my £700 total lunch bill for the year is only half the story. Over the course of the 47 working weeks of the year, the £700 works out at an average spend of just under £15 a week. However, I know this to be untrue.

Seeing the very short list of Itsu transactions on my bank statement  – when I know I’m in there around once a fortnight – made me realise that while £700 is a lot of money, my real annual work lunch spend must actually be much higher.

This is because all the figures I’ve shared so far are based solely on lunches I paid for using my debit card. It completely ignores the ones I buy with cash.

I’ve probably been to Itsu, say, another 25 times over the past year, and I must have paid cash. At my average spend of £6.20, that’s another £155 to add to the running total.

I also tend to pick up lunch from local market stalls once a fortnight – that usually costs £4.50 a time. So that’s probably added in the region of £105 to the total as well. So my £700 lunch bill is actually more more likely to be around £960 – just over £19.50 a week and the best part of £1,000!

But the thing is – and I know it sounds bad – I’m actually slightly impressed with myself. Figures compiled by O2, show that the national average is £4.40 a day for lunch – so I’m spending far less.

O2 also says that, at just two shop-bought lunches a week, the average worker will spend £18,000 on lunch throughout their lifetime. That means if I carry on the way I’ve been going for the past year, I’m on course to spend – wait for it – £45,000.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll whip up a cheese sarnie at home this evening.

Your Comments

Remind me not to trust this woman for any financial advice.  If you want to have a nice little nest-egg then lunches/sandwiches out should be a 'little treat' for something done successfully; not the way to run your life.  Works for me!

It saddens me to see how rude and crass people become when they hide behind the veil of internet anonymity.
@driver67, read the title of the blog piece. It didn't say "This is great! Follow me!" It said "This is the mistake I made, don't do it!" - which, is great advice. - Mike.

For most people it is these kind of smaller daily spends that slip through the net and go unoticed. It soon adds up but doesn't seem like much at the time. And let's be fair, most of us do things like this for speed and convenience. Making a lunch time something the night before and slipping it in the fridge to keep fresh is another option which can help for those who are 'challenged' in the mornings.
This article is a good pointer for all of us really. Look for those regular situations which creep up on us, find an option, and save money.