Smart SpendingSmart Spending

US workers still love their lattes

Money may be tight in some households, but American workers are still spending big on lunch and their daily coffee fix.

By Karen Datko Jan 25, 2012 4:08PM

Here's bad news for those who blog relentlessly about brown-bagging your lunch and brewing your own coffee to save money: A new survey found that 66% of U.S. workers buy lunch regularly -- spending on average $37 a week, and half buy coffee at work, at a cost of more than $20 a week.


The survey (.pdf file) by Accounting Principals indicates that David Bach's "latte factor" -- blogger David Ning defines it as "the idea that many people continually spend on small purchases (like a latte) that add up to a ridiculously large amount over their lifetime" -- is still roundly ignored. That $1,092 average spent on coffee each year would produce $33,818 with a modest 4% return over 20 years, according to Bach's Latte Factor calculator.


It also tells us that people would have room in their budgets to pay off debt -- or bulk up retirement savings -- if they gave up some of these indulgences. (Only 65% in the survey contribute to a 401k at work, and 23% want to increase their contribution this year.) Post continues below.

Other findings from the survey:

  • Among those who buy coffee, men spend on average $25.70 a week. For women, it's $15. Workers ages 18-34 spend $24.74. Those over 45 are more frugal at $14.15.
  • About three-quarters of workers between 18 and 44 routinely don't bring their lunch to work. Also, men once again are the big spenders here -- averaging $46.30 a week. Female workers who buy lunch average $26.50. Older folks are more thrifty. "Both the likelihood of purchasing and amount spent on lunch decrease with age," the survey says.

The survey examined other work-related expenditures. For instance, the cost to commute averages $1,476 a year, much less than lunch. BusinessNewsDaily had this observation:

The research suggests many employees don't necessarily understand how much they are spending on lunch, compared to other daily costs such as commuting to and from work.
When asked which professional expense they'd want to be reimbursed for, 42% of the surveyed employees chose commuting costs and only 11% chose lunch, even though the average employee spends $500 more (per year) eating out then getting to and from the office.

The survey also asked what workers want their employers to spend more money on in the workplace and offered eight choices. Among those results:

  • 46% want updated equipment, like computers.
  • 32% want more comfortable chairs.
  • 25% want better choices in the vending machine.
  • 22% want more spending on coffee.

The survey, conducted in late December, asked how workers would spend year-end bonuses, and 57% said they'd pay off debt. Asked to pick three from a list of possible financial changes they plan to make this year:

  • 43% picked paying off debt.
  • In second place with 35% was brown-bagging lunch (45% for those under 35). Maybe they're paying attention after all.

More on MSN Money:

Jan 25, 2012 6:06PM

Wow, people are spending hundreds of dollars a month on coffee and lunches that they could make themselves for a fraction of the cost.  Well then, these people, esp. the younger ones who are spending the most, had better not EVER complain that they just CAN'T SAVE ANY MONEY.

Jan 25, 2012 7:14PM
Funny... these are the same individuals who gripe about the price of an appliance at the store costing them, say, OMG 500-600 dollars when at least that item lasts them 5-10 years. That breaks down to approx .35 cents per day @ 5 years. Yet they will buy coffee, beer, smokes, whatever @ whatever price because it is a necessity to them. I happen to enjoy all three so I don't have a fit when other things don't seem so darn expensive in comparison.
Jan 25, 2012 9:23PM

I am not a coffee drinker, and I bring my lunch almost every day... but dang i still want a red bull in the morning. I pay for it, and I don't complain about the $3.00 every day. $3.00 a day is a price I will pay to tolerate the morning hours a little easier!


Jan 25, 2012 5:53PM

If a smoker dies of cancer these people who are addicted to caffeen still see the smoker as causing their own death.

Jan 25, 2012 6:29PM
Excellent.  It looks like I'll open that cafe after all.
Jan 25, 2012 9:32PM
Kinda humurous- I did save my $$$'s very faithfully for close to 30 years,had nice diversified portfolio of close to 800,000 stock market took a dump & so did all my hard work,I am sorry but the american dream is lost, the country is over run with crooks, our very own govt. being the biggest crook of all
Jan 29, 2012 6:04PM
I already save more than 50% of my paycheck, and I don't see why I shouldn't have a latte in the morning or buy my lunch when I feel like it. I have saved diligently over my life, but I don't pinch pennies. $3.25 per day for a grande nonfat latte is not going to break my budget or jeopardize my retirement.

Not having to pack my lunch and take it on a commuter bus reduces my stress. If I didn't get up to walk to the latte stand or the on-site cafe, I would have very little opportunity to move around in the course of my workday.

I am older than full Social Security retirement age and I could easily afford to retire today if I chose to, but I like my job. I could also drop dead today. There is a point beyond which frugality becomes miserliness.
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.