Money Saving Tip: Microwavable Lunches

Work lunches are probably one of the biggest money suckers out there for professional millennials.  It’s definitely my biggest expense after major necessities (rent, gas, phone, etc.).  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for spending money on delicious food and the occasional fine dining experience.  But work lunches aren’t something we really take the time to enjoy, especially if we’re just scarfing it down while multitasking at our desk.  We tend to grab something that’s quick and easy without giving it much thought.  But at $8-$12 a meal, before you know it, you’ve mindlessly spent $50+ a week just on work lunches!

I’ve tried to remedy this in the past by bringing lunch from home but I was never able to keep it up consistently.  I didn’t always have the time to cook the night before and bringing something simple (like a cold sandwich) wasn’t very appealing.  I realized that after a morning of work, I tend to crave something hot and hearty.

The best solution I’ve found so far is microwavable lunches.  In particular, Lean Cuisines.  They’re quick, easy AND affordable.  My local grocery store sells them for $2.50 on sale.  I don’t eat them every day.  But for those days I’m not craving anything in particular (which is most days), they’re perfect.  And since my work has a freezer, I always keep 2 or 3 of them in stock.

If you’ve been spending more than you’d like on work lunches, why not give this method a shot?  I’ve already convinced a few of my colleagues to follow suit ;).

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“Cups”

My roommate recently got a promotion and a raise (congrats again, roomie!).  And over brunch this past weekend, she asked me for advice on what to do with her new monthly surplus.  The first thing I suggested was that she should put an X amount of dollars into her savings account every paycheck.  Saving money is always the easiest when you first get a raise or any type of windfall because you’re already used to living without that extra cash.

Our conversation eventually turned into talking about the three different “cups” we could put our money in.  I literally used 3 different cups on our table to explain.

The Savings Cup

The first cup is the savings cup, which is your savings account.  This is the first cup you should consider putting any extra money in because everyone needs an emergency fund.  Emergency funds should typically cover 3-6 months worth of expenses.

The Retirement Cup

The next cup is the retirement cup.  This is your 401ks and IRAs.  The reason why this cup is second most important is because of all the tax benefits it offers.  All the dividends you receive from your investments in these cups are going to be tax deferred (aka you don’t pay taxes until later when you take the money out during retirement).  And if you’re using a Roth 401k or Roth IRA, you have the added bonus of not having to pay any taxes when you withdrawal from the account.

The Investment Cup

The third and final cup is the investment cup, which is your personal investment account at Schwab, TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, etc.  You often hear people say they put their “play money” in here.  It’s not because the “account” is inherently more risky (a common misconception).  It’s because people like to try their luck in finding the next “Apple stock” with this account.  But you could technically do the same thing in your 401k and IRA because they’re all just accounts; they hold your money and YOU decide what to invest in.  So why is this the 3rd cup if it’s almost like a retirement account?  It’s because it offers the least amount of tax benefits.  When your investments pay you dividends each year, you have to report it on your tax return, increasing the amount of taxes you’ll have to pay.

Good Personal Finance Reads

Stimulate the Economy Like a Minimalist (The Minimalists) – The Minimalists debunk a popular consumption (or lack thereof) myth.

7 Business Mistakes that Almost Sank Me (Wealth Pilgrim) – Good advice for anyone who is thinking about starting their own business.

Money Saving Tip: Ask Your Internet Provider for a Promotional Rate

Thanks to my roommate wanting to switch us over to a different internet provider (they were offering lower rates), I was prompted to give our current provider a call.  I wanted to see if they’d be willing to match their competitor’s rate since it’s a bit of a hassle to cancel your current service and set-up a new one.  Time off work and waiting around all morning/afternoon for a technician is usually involved.

The result?  Our current provider gave us a promotional rate they had going on, lowering our bill by over $30 a month!  That’s over $360 a year – $120 each of us could’ve saved each year these the last two years.  I wanted to kick myself for not making this call sooner.  Turns out, internet service providers always have a “promotion” going on, especially for new customers.  When my first promotional rate ended, it never occurred to me to ask them to give me another one, which probably what they were hoping for.  I specifically remember calling them when I saw the bill spike asking them why my bill was suddenly so much higher.  They casually said “your 1 year promotional rate is up so now you’re paying the regular rate.”  Of course they didn’t bother telling me that had other promotions I could use so I just quietly paid the increased amount like I thought I was supposed to.  But now I know better.  And I hope anyone reading this will learn from my naivety.

On the off chance that they don’t give you a promotional rate, the worst thing that could happen is that you do end up switching providers.

One final tip: do you research before you make the call.  Find out what rates their competitors are offering so they know you’re not bluffing!