There is no free lunch according to a recent consumer survey by Visa that found Americans spend an average of $53 per person eating lunch every week. That’s nearly $3,000 year. For a working couple that dings the annual budget more than $5,000.
“At home or ordering food, small choices have a big impact. Paying attention to what you are spending is essential to financial wellbeing,” said Nat Sillin, global head of financial literacy at Visa Inc. “Most people may not realize that they are spending over $50 a week on lunch. Visa is excited to offer the new Lunch Tracker app to help consumers form better spending habits.”
The LunchTracker app calculates the monthly and annual amount spent on lunch based off of consumers’ input and seeks to help Americans improve spending habits, according to the study. Visa has made a 30-Day Challenge to app users who want to start saving money, learn cost-cutting tips and share photos of meals with family and friends to show their progress.
Among those surveyed, the most popular spot to eat lunch was at home as 42% of Americans said they typically eat lunch at home.
Full-time employees tended to stick close to the office with 53% eating lunch at work, including 26% at their desks. Respondents who do eat lunch out say they spend an average of $11 per meal and the majority of them went out to lunch two to three times each week, more expensive when compared to $6.30 per meal on average when consumers eat lunch at home.
The survey results also show that men spend 60% more than females and tend to eat out more.
Homemakers reported going out for lunch the least compared to other segments, but splurged more when they did go out. They reported spending an average of $17.60 when they went out for lunch.
Students reported eating out more often than any other segment and spent a weekly average at $27.47. Unemployed respondents said they eat out at least once a week and spend $15 on the meal. The two demographics are likely the least able to afford these more expensive meals.
Retirees said they spend about $13.92 a week eating lunch out, most getting senior discounts.
Regionally the lunch spending also varied in the survey results. Southerners lead the country in the frequency of lunches out and in amount spent. Respondents from the Southern states reported eating out twice per week, spending an average of $1,240 a year eating lunch out and an overall combined (including lunch at home) average of $2,953 on lunch.
Respondents in the Northeast spend an average of $1,001 on restaurant lunch. This group would most likely to make lunch at home, but they came in second overall for combined lunch spending at $2,893 per person per year.
Midwesterners spent $896 on average eating lunch out a total of $2,519 on lunch meals overall for the year. Respondents in Western states spent the least on lunch out at $866 per person per year. When combined with the food prepared at home the group from the West spent the least on lunch at $2,489, according to the survey.
“Grocery store or gastro pub, don’t bust your budget on your midday meal,” said Sillin. “Clipping a coupon or choosing a less expensive item can save you hundreds over the course of a year. Splurging isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it has to fit within your budget. Raiding your savings for a fancy lunch isn’t worth it.”
Officials with Credit Counseling of Arkansas said earlier this year that the hardest part of saving money is sticking to a plan. Joel Doelger, CCOA consultant, said some people need the help of apps or other tactics to fool them into themselves into saving. That said, any method a consumer may use to begin systematically saving money is a positive step toward healthier finances, he said.