Don’t Eat Yourself Out of Financial Security

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The worst financial problems stem from trying to live a champagne and caviar lifestyle on a beer and chips budget. Eating is an essential, but eating does not have to be expensive. Food is one area where extravagances are easy to spot.

In the 1920’s food expenses represented nearly one quarter of a family’s disposable income. Because of farming efficiencies, it has dropped to 10.7%.

That change has happened even though more Americans are eating out each day. The percentage of the food budget eaten outside the home has risen sharply in recent years consuming nearly half of today’s family food budget. All that eating out, however, isn’t filling our stomachs. While 47% of the food budget is spent outside the home, it is only buying 28% of a family’s calories. That is surprising given the high fat content of most fast food. Regardless, it is the 53% of the food budget eaten at home that provides 72% of a family’s calories. That means that food prepared outside the home costs 228% as much per calorie as food bought in the grocery store.

If you are having trouble putting 15% of your income into savings you may literally be eating yourself out of a comfortable retirement.

For a family with $48,600 of disposable income, the average annual food budget is 10.7% or $5,200. That means they spend $100 per week on food. Of that $100, $47 is eating out and $53 is spent in the grocery store. Since the calories they purchase outside the home are 228% more expensive, instead of spending $47 to purchase them, they could have bought them at the grocery store for only $20, with a net savings of $27 each week. Saving $27 each week is easy, just save $5.40 by eating at your desk each of five business days. From humble savings comes great wealth.

Saving $5.40 five days a week can be significant over time. Saving $27 each week adds up to saving $1,458 per year. After factoring in inflation in the cost of eating out and investing your savings in the stock market where it will grow and multiply, the difference to your net worth is amazing. Investing $27 each week will produce $100,000 in 20 years and $1,000,000 in 40 years. Brown bag your lunch starting at age 20 and retire as a millionaire at age 60!

Our attitude toward spending money can impoverish our finances. You may feel that you work hard all day and deserve the break at lunch and eating out in the evening. Consider, also, that you deserve to keep more of your hard earned money and look for alternate ways of rewarding yourself. Find a relaxing place to bring a bag lunch or a group of friends you can meet who are also interested in socializing on a budget. Host a potluck or invite a date over to fix dinner together and watch a movie at home.

Eating at home isn’t the only way to save money. For those who want to extend their savings to the grocery store here are a few common sense rules to uncommon cents savings:

Plan your meals when you are hungry, but shop right after you have eaten. Shopping on a full stomach limits the impulse purchases.

Make a shopping list. Limit yourself to buying only two additional items. Make it a family policy that you never buy any impulse items in the check out line or at the end of isles. Buy staples in bulk at super discount stores.

Make the list comprehensive and buy everything you need at the discount grocery store each week. Convenience stores can be twice as expensive.

Weigh the extra cost of packaging and preparations. If you are willing to add your own water, orange juice costs ten cents a glass less.

Always try buying the generic store brand. Save the packaging and the receipt. If you don’t like it as well as the leading advertised brand many stores will refund your money. If the store offers this guarantee you can’t lose trying the cheaper brand. The stores can afford to do this because few smart shoppers will take advantage of it.

Actually compare the prices. Stores have learned that cost conscious shoppers buy the larges size and sometimes mark the smallest and largest sizes higher than the medium size product. To save time, look at the bottom and top shelves. Most stores make the bulk of their profit from eye-level sales.

Great financial wealth can be built by living a beer and chips lifestyle on a champagne and caviar budget!

Photo by Jay Wennington on Unsplash
Follow David John Marotta:

President, CFP®, AIF®, AAMS®

David John Marotta is the Founder and President of Marotta Wealth Management. He played for the State Department chess team at age 11, graduated from Stanford, taught Computer and Information Science, and still loves math and strategy games. In addition to his financial writing, David is a co-author of The Haunting of Bob Cratchit.