How Do You Stretch Your Paycheck? | Jobs In MD

How Do You Stretch Your Paycheck?

By: Margaret Hansen

Need a resolution you can stick to? Bring your own lunch to work. Learn how cost-cutting habits such as this can put more cash in your pocket this year.

In a recent poll, nearly one-third of our users said that they save most often by bringing their lunch to work. So, we applied a calculator. The results are amazing. Let's look at the numbers.

Brown Bag It

According to, if you spend $6.50 on your lunch 20 times per month, you've got a golden opportunity to save thousands. How? By bringing your lunch to work. The calculator assumes that a sack lunch costs $3. Putting the money saved in the bank for a period of four years, assuming a 6% interest rate of return, will net you $4,000. This is great news for post-holiday bank accounts...and waistlines (studies show that packed lunches contain 25-50% fewer calories than purchased ones).

"The main excuse people use for not making their lunches at home is that they don't have time," says Tawra Kellam of "The best way to get around that is to make it easy."

Four Easy Tips

Here are Tawra's tips on making sack lunches an easy habit:

  • On the weekends, pre-package cucumber slices, carrot sticks, chips, fruit sections and cookies into sandwich bags. Put the bags in a basket either in the fridge or on a shelf in the pantry. Just grab and go.
  • Buy divided re-usable containers for about .50 each at the discount store. After dinner, put leftovers into the divided container and just grab and go for a nice, hot, microwavable lunch. Freeze some so that you don't have to eat the same leftover lunches all week.
  • Compare prices. Pre-packaged pudding cups cost the same as making it at home. The pre-packaged fruit does not.
  • To keep sandwiches from becoming soggy, put the mustard, ketchup and mayo on the inside, i.e. layer it: bread, lettuce, mayo, turkey, bread. Or leave it off and use the packets from fast food restaurants.

Home Brew Pays

Brewing one's own coffee came in 2nd: 23% of our group nominated it as the most common way that they save money. A daily gourmet latte or French roast at a local cafe can quickly add up.

Depending on where you shop and what you order, a 12-oz cup of coffee can range from just under one dollar to as much as five bucks. Let's average it at $3. Coffee brewed at home, depending on your beans, runs about 25 cents per cup, according to one coffee calculator. Add it all up over the same four-year period with a 6% interest rate, and you have more than $3,000 in savings from brewing at home.

Bargain Hunting

Tying at 3rd place in the poll, capturing 17% of the votes each, were: shopping with coupons and buying used.

"Don't overdo it when buying clothes," says frugal living expert and author Jill Cooper. "Ten days worth of clothing is plenty for most people."

As a single mother of two, Cooper started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 debt in five years on $1,000 per month income. Her website,, provides tips, articles and coupons to help people live on less. Another tip of hers: avoid buying clothes that require dry cleaning.

Every little bit helps. Happy frugal new year and let the savings begin!

Margaret Hansen has been writing professionally since receiving a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Maine. She has worked for multiple organizations as a weekly newspaper reporter, a weekly newspaper editor, and in a variety of internal/external marketing communications roles. Her freelance career has focused on writing and editing for print, email and web publications in the employment industry, as well as manuscript editing and resume writing.