Splurge on a new lunch bag and save $2000 a year

Looking for ways to save money? One easy way is to pack your lunch. Packed lunches are not just for grade school kids. Packing your lunch can help your waist line and your wallet. Consider that eating lunch out is $8-$12 a day. This doesn’t even account for the gas to get there or the stress of getting something and getting back to work on time. If you eat lunch out 5 days a week you are spending on average $50/week on lunches. Also, let’s be real, it’s easier to get greasy fast food than to look for a healthy option.

Solution; pack your own healthy lunch. Some will argue that eating out with co-workers or friends is critical to networking and relationships. They are right, so eat out one day a week and pick something special you really like. If you pack your lunch 4 days a week you will save on average $40 per week. That’s $2,000 per year. This is not pocket change. Think of what you could do with an extra $2,000 per year.

Last but not least, some will argue that they can’t cook or have no idea what to pack. Check out all the healthy packed lunch ideas at eatingwell.com. You can have great healthy lunches and save money. One last tip, prepare and organize your lunch at night so all you need to do in the morning is load your lunch bag.

To get started, have fun shopping for the following items:

Next, plan a week of lunches and make your grocery list.

You’re ready.  Enjoy lunch and saving money!

 

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The cost of attending weddings

Currently I’m up to four wedding invites this year. I’m extremely happy and excited for my friends taking the next big step, and I figured it would also be a great opportunity to discuss the cost of attending weddings. Recently I moved across the country, which makes weddings difficult and expensive to attend when they are held on the other side of the country. Here are the areas that I will be spending the most on as well as how I plan on budgeting to attend.

1) Flights ($400)

I fully expect this to be the most expensive part of attending weddings. Personally, I’m expecting to spend at least $400 per cross-country trip. While this portion of attending weddings is the most expensive, it also has the highest potential for savings. Finding cheaper flights is a huge victory in planning to attend a wedding. Although, if you’re lucky enough to live close to where the wedding will be held, that cost can be avoided.

2) Hotels ($100 a night)

While this cost is hugely dependent on the area, I would estimate at least $100 a night for a hotel. While this cost can add up quickly, a few options to save on cost are to split the cost of a room with other attendees. Or to stay with nearby friends that you haven’t seen in a while.

3) Clothes ($250)

If you are part of the wedding party there will be the additional cost of either purchasing or renting clothes. For the weddings I’m in, I had to purchase a new suit. This cost me $250 for the suit and tailoring. Based on input from my sister, who is also attending multiple weddings this year, women can expect to spend double this to purchase a dress. For the two other weddings, I can use clothes that I currently have, saving on expenses.

4) Car Rental ($100)

Again, traveling across the country hurts as I will need to have transportation. I’m estimating that a rental car for 2-3 days will cost approximately $100. Other methods I am evaluating to cut down on cost are carpooling with others coming into town, or taking ubers.

5) Gifts ($100)

Attending a wedding comes with the tradition of having a gift to help out the newlyweds start out. I’m estimating that a gift will be anywhere between $50 and $125. Possibly more if you’re really close with those getting married. This is an area where I would recommend not going cheap. However, a good way to save money if you wish to would be giving a gift that has personal meaning to your friend and yourself.

6) Miscellaneous/food/drinks ($100)

I added this cost as a buffer. Expect hidden costs along the way that we forgot to plan. Whether it be getting food at the airport, going to the bar with friends you haven’t seen in a while, or toiletries that you forgot, it’s a good idea to plan for unexpected costs. Anything you don’t spend from this reserve is bonus.

 

Total:

Flights:                  $400 X 4 =$1600

Hotels:                  $200 X 3 =$600 (one wedding in my home town)

Clothes:               $250 X 2 =$500

Car Rental:          $100 X 3 =$300

Gifts:                     $100 X 4 =$400

Misc:                     $100 X 4 =$400

Total                                      $3,800 ($950 per wedding)

 

Based on my current expenses for attending so many weddings my plan is cost avoidance. AKA find the cheapest flights possible, split rooms with friends/stay with family, car pool with other people attending the wedding. Of course, another option is to plan on not attending a wedding.

 

What are your thoughts on attending weddings and how do you try to save for attending? Leave us a comment below.

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Life isn’t a dress rehearsal

While I was at Xerox, I had a boss who liked to say, “Life isn’t a dress rehearsal.”  By this, he meant that you shouldn’t just live to work, but also live along the way.  There would be no going back.  No do-overs.  He worked hard and many long hours, but he also tried to be home and do things with his family and friends as well.  When he retired at 65, I asked him if there were things that he wished he had done, but just hadn’t gotten around to.   I guess he had had a pretty good work life, because there were only a few things he mentioned.  And they were not about work – they were about family and friends and travel.  That was going to be his focus going forward into retirement.

You only get one shot at life.  So make sure you stay focused on what’s important to you, not just what feels urgent at the moment.  That includes your financial life.

At my stage in life, there are 2 things financially that I am focused on.  First, financial security after I stop taking a paycheck, and Second, helping others get closer to their version of financial security.

I am right on track for my own security, and that feels good.  But what feels even better, is taking all the knowledge and experience I have gained and helping others start their own journey.   I take the simplest and most automated path forward.  Essentially, my first step is to help them eliminate high interest debt.  This is mainly done by helping them find a few spending leaks that they won’t miss much, and automating additional payments on their debt to get it paid off fast.  After that, then we focus on building long term wealth.  We can automatically use the extra debt payment that was being made, and now funnel it into something like a Total Stock Market index fund, or target date index fund.  Then find some more.  Lastly, I always focus on automating everything.  Why?  Because our biggest issues with savings tend to be behavioral.  When the laziest approach is to do nothing and that results in good investments being made, life becomes simpler.  When we have to go out of our way to stop or change the investment, we many times won’t.  Just too much effort.  And that turns out to be a good thing.  So turn your busy lifestyle into an asset rather than an excuse.  Automate every investment.

I hope you are well on your own journey and will be able to help others as well.

 

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Bottom Line: You’ve got to save more

Robert Powell wrote an interesting article in USA Today this week, where he summarized some recent research of David Blanchett, Michael Finke and Wade Pfau.

The summary of his summary is… you’ve got to save more.

5% of your salary won’t cut it.  10% won’t cut it.  Even 15% of your salary every year from age 25 to age 65 might not cut it.  The bottom line is that retirement keeps getting more expensive for people.

The reasons boil down to 1)Lower expected real (inflation adjusted) returns now and in the future, and 2)we are living longer.  By the way, they didn’t mention this, but there is also a large probability that you will receive less from Social Security in the future.

We don’t know the future, but we can see that stocks are near their high (price) relative to their earnings.  Since earnings are the engine that drives the long term price of stocks, and stocks usually revert to their long term mean, there is room for growth, but probably not at the same rate that occurred in the past few decades.  And as inflation returns to normal levels, we will likely see that your real returns will be a few percentage points lower than historical norms.  This means that whatever we save will grow more slowly, and that the amount we will be able to take out during retirement will be less as well.

Oh, and by the way, we are living longer, so we will need more money, not less.

And then there is the Social Security issue.  Current proposals in congress look to “solve” the issue for the next 75 years.  But if you read the fine print, what they really mean is that you will get less in retirement.  And the younger you are today, the less you will get in retirement.

What does all this mean?

Well, we need to take care of ourselves.  And we need to be more frugal and intelligent in how we do it.  So increase the amount you are saving, and do it today.  Find a second job to generate investing income and invest all of it.  And take care of yourself, because you might need to work a few extra years.

What’s the upside?  Well, if this doomsday scenario doesn’t come to fruition, you will be in great shape to enjoy a fantastic financial life.  And if it does, you are still okay.

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