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Best Bang For Your Buck: How to Save Money On Your Lunch Hour

Updated on October 31, 2012
A dollar saved every day starts to add up!
A dollar saved every day starts to add up!

Saving money while spending time wisely

I don't know if it's the case where you live, but in the city that I'm from, "doing lunch" is one of the most popular activities to take up anybody's work days. Perhaps it's due in part to the fact that online dating is extremely popular in my area and the "lunch date" provides a great opportunity to meet someone new and get to know them while giving you a definitive ending time to cut bad dates short. Or perhaps it's because we're a busy city with busy people and sometimes the only way to get in all of the face time you need to with those in your networking circle is to make plans to talk shop over work. Whatever the case may be, I seem to find that I'm frequently filling my personal calendar with lunch plans.

Unfortunately, the lunch which is eaten out of the office is often expensive. In order to cut down on the amount of money that I'm spending on my lunches, I've learned a few tricks of the trade. Kept in the back of my mind, these tips always help me to cut down the financial cost of my lunches while still making sure that I can eat out often enough to get new dates and old meetings taken care of on a regular basis.

Is It a Business Lunch?

The first thing to do is ask yourself if your company can foot the bill of your lunch. If you are afforded an expense account, look into the details of it and make sure that you are using corporate funds for every lunch at which you are doing any sort of business that even remotely relates to your company (within the confines of your account, of course). If you can't get it paid for up front, you should still make sure to save your receipts. Work-at-home people can write off some of those lunches if they involved legitimate business transactions. Receipts and notes can get you some of that money back come tax time.

Tips for Saving Money on Social Lunches

If the lunches you're going on are more social, you can still save some money every time you go out. Here are two easy tips:

  • First, you should limit what you order. If the purpose of your lunch is primarily social, you don't need to get a full appetizer, entrée, and dessert as your meal.
  • Research restaurants and go with cheaper places. If it's a casual date, you can get sandwiches or slices instead of sit-down dim sum or otherwise pricey meals.

Choosing less expensive places to eat and keeping what you order to a minimum will greatly reduce what you are spending every time that you get lunch and will still allow you to enjoy your dates or meetings.

Lunch on your Own

If you're grabbing lunch solo, you should consider carry-out and grocery stores at least as often as you consider restaurants. Sure, you may need to work on your laptop as you eat, but getting some fresh fruit from the corner grocery and taking your computer to use the free WiFi in your urban park can save you money that you would've spent getting the expensive coffee and pastry at the shop that sells you WiFi time. It's better for you, too!

You can't always avoid eating your lunch out of the office. And really, why would you want to? With dates to plan, meetings to attend and office co-workers to catch up on gossip with, the lunch hour is actually sometimes the most productive part of a person's day. But you don't have to spend every penny of this year's bonus catching up over coffees at the local lunch spot. Order smart, choose your spots wisely, expense what you can and you should be able to conduct your lunch business with much less cost.

Should you pack your lunch instead?

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