What Americans spend on lunch

While 30% of workers skip eating out, a few average $50 per meal. You'll be surprised at which income group spends the most on average.

By Jason Notte Sep 26, 2013 8:42AM
Lunch spending survey on www.practicalmoneyskills.com website (© Visa, Inc.)Going out for lunch is either a necessary expense to preserve one's sanity or a fool's errand driven by laziness and insufficient respect for leftovers, depending on just how satisfied you are with your job.

Admittedly, just being able to swipe a card and eat makes it a lot easier, but that also makes those meals add up. A survey of 1,005 U.S. workers conducted by Visa (V) found that 70% of them go out for lunch and spend an average of $936 a year doing so. That doesn't count runs to Starbucks (SBUX) or Dunkin' Donuts (DNKN) for coffee or trips to the vending machine or newsstand. The figure is just straight-up lunch.

U.S. workers go out an average of about twice a week and keep it to $10 per outing, which is a whole lot easier to do when your office isn't surrounded by eateries or food trucks. However, the regional differences in spending have little to do with cuisine and, seemingly, a whole lot more to do with weather and cost.

Lunch spending survey on www.practicalmoneyskills.com website (© Visa, Inc.)Midwesterners are in the middle of the pack, with about 1.7 lunch trips a week, but they spend only $8.90 per meal. Northeasterners head out of the office a relatively scant 1.5 times a week -- but spend more than $11.40 every time they do. Westerners get help from the food trucks when sticking to the national average of $10 per meal for the 1.8 times a week they head out. And Southerners take advantage of their climate by going out twice a week and spending a whopping $20 each time.

That's still less than the 1% of all Americans who spend $50 per lunch, or $5,000 a year. We realize that sometimes a client needs to be impressed or that your lunch place of choice gets upgraded as you climb the company ranks. But the Visa survey indicates that it isn't always the folks in the corner offices spending their hour slicing up a steak at Delmonico's.

Those who said they make less than $25,000 per year spent more per meal, at $11.70, than those in any other income bracket. By contrast, those earning more than $50,000 per year spent an average of $9.60 per meal. That's a 22% swing between the haves and have-nots.

However, the smartest folks in the survey just might be the 30% who don't eat lunch out at all. If you can save almost $1,000 a year by brown-bagging it (or fasting), maybe that sub or kebab can wait.

More on moneyNOW

Sep 26, 2013 5:32PM
Those who don't have money are less likely to know how to save it...period.  They go hand in hand and are both the result of the same personality traits.  The harder you work and the more you have, the more likely you are to know how to be thrifty.
Sep 27, 2013 8:42AM

ramen noodles.

I eat lunch for about $5 a month.

yes it gets old, but I have other things I would rather spend the money on, like paying off my home.

Sep 27, 2013 9:55AM
I borrow bag.  Healthier and much cheaper.  I wonder how many people who overspend are flying to Florida this weekend for 3 days of golf and strippers.
Sep 26, 2013 9:46AM

everyone needs to stop reading aimee picchi.  stop clicking on her links.  i know this isnt one by her but just getting the word out. 


aimee is awful

Sep 26, 2013 10:54AM
People with income under 25K probably get food stamps so the can spend more, because they don't earn it. People over 50K work for there money, know the value of money.
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