How to Make a Million Dollars While Eating Lunch

In response to my last post, Would You Ditch A Car For $1,000,000?, a reader made the comment: “As a grad student in an urban area, I don’t have a car (nor could I afford one) and I use public transit. … I wish there was a “big ticket” item like that that I could easily cut out of my life, but there just isn’t. Instead I try to cut back on small things and aggressively invest for cashflow.”

While savings do accumulate faster when you cut back on the biggest budget-buster categories (housing, transportation, insurance and taxes), the little things do add up. Take for instance:

My Million Dollar Lunch Recipe

  1. Replace your $9.50 restaurant lunches (sandwich, fries, soft drink, sales tax, tip and mileage) with a nutritious $3.00 lunch brought from home.
  2. Deposit your $143 monthly savings ($6.50 daily, 22 working days a month) into a Roth IRA retirement account.
  3. Invest in equities (stocks, mutual funds) at a 10%* annual long-term average rate of return.
  4. Let your account simmer for 41 years.

Recipe Yield = $1,000,837

Serve: During retirement with whipped cream and a cherry on top.

Total deposits = $70,356
Total interest earned = $930,481
Total taxes paid = $0
Total Saved= $1,000,837

Optional Garnishes:

  • Combine with a 20 minute walk to the park for lunch.

    Yield: 1,277,232 calories— enough to keep off (or lose) 365 pounds! (Calculated for a person weighing 140 pounds walking 4mph for 20 minutes (1.33 miles) 5 days a week for 41 years.)

  • Pack a lunch for your spouse.

    Yield: An additional $1,000,837

  • Add a group of supportive friends for lunch to work on the Baby Steps to Financial Freedom together. Yield: Financial freedom – with friends who will have the resources to enjoy it with you!

Isn’t it amazing how much money you can amass by investing small amounts over long periods of time?

Once you think in terms of investing instead of spending, look for ways to duplicate this process in other ways. Consider the following actions:

  • buy staples in bulk and invest your savings

  • invest your employee bonuses

  • invest unexpected financial gifts and inheritances

  • invest your tax refunds

  • buy a term life insurance policy instead of a whole life one and invest your monthly premium savings

  • buy a used car instead of new and invest the difference in price

  • borrow books, movies and music from your local public library and invest your savings

  • save and invest your pocket change

Imagine this: Starting with $0 and depositing $5,000 annually in a Roth IRA account over 41 years (at a 10%* annual rate of return compounded monthly), you will have $3,081,554.

Total deposits = $210,000
Total interest earned = $2,871,554
Total taxes paid = $0
Total Saved= $3,081,554

Choose affordable and cost-effective options and rather than feel deprived, feel excited that you get to invest the difference in yourself and your future.

~ Bon Appetit!


*The actual rate of return is largely dependent on the type of investments you select. From January 1970 to December 2008, the average annual compounded rate of return for the S&P 500, including reinvestment of dividends, was approximately 9.7% (source:

Total savings are calculated in actual dollars (not inflation-adjusted). A common measure of inflation in the U.S. is the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which has a long-term average of 3.1% annually, from 1925 through 2008.

Would You Ditch A Car For $1,000,000 (One Million Dollars)?

A study found that households with 3 or more cars are the single largest group among American car owners. The national average is 2.28 vehicles per household. Obviously, Americans are very much in love with the automobile.

According to the AAA, the average American spends $9,369, excluding loan payments, to drive ONE medium sedan 15,000 a year. In arriving at this estimate, AAA figures in fuel, routine maintenance, tires, insurance, license and registration, loan finance charges and depreciation costs.

22 years ago, my husband and I sold one of our cars to pay for our wedding and honeymoon. We intended to replace the sold vehicle eventually — after we built up our credit score so we could get a car loan — but as time went by, we discovered that sharing one car between the two of us was no big deal. We learned to carpool, drop one another off, take turns, group errands, walk, bike, take the bus, work from an in-home office, go places together. Surprisingly, 22 years later, we still share just one car.

It would be difficult to figure out exactly how much my husband and I have saved over the past 22 years (with the effects of inflation), but it is easy to calculate how much more we can save if we continue to share one vehicle:

If we continue to share one car instead of owning two for the the next 29 years, invest our compounded annual savings and earn an 8%* annual rate of return, we could save an additional one million dollars**.

Would you be willing to ditch a car for a cool million? Let us know in the comments.

*The actual rate of return is largely dependent on the type of investments you select. From January 1970 to December 2008, the average annual compounded rate of return for the S&P 500, including reinvestment of dividends, was approximately 9.7% (source:

**actual value with annual investments adjusted for inflation @ 3.1%*** annually.

***A common measure of inflation in the U.S. is the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which has a long-term average of 3.1% annually, from 1925 through 2008.

How To Get Rich: The Devil Must Be In The Details

Recently, I wrote the “The World’s Shortest Guide On How To Be Thin and Rich“. Here’s the how-to-be-rich part, in it’s entirety:

  1. Spend less money than you earn (or to put it another way, make more money than you spend)
  2. Invest in your future

That’s it! Truly, this is all it takes to achieve financial freedom.

Since the principles are certainly very short and sweet, the devil must be in the details. So today, let’s take a closer look at the first step. Within step #1 above (spend less money than you earn / make more money than you spend), you have three choices:

a)  Spend less money. Fortunately in today’s economic climate, decadence is passe and frugality is the new cool. Still, I find that most people I talk to through my coach business are deeply in debt because they are living an unsustainable lifestyle. Those with a negative net worth often drive new(er) cars and live in big houses. If you are serious about spending less money, recognize that housing, cars and taxes dominate most budgets. Rather than focusing on the small stuff like your cable bill and Starbucks treats, make dramatic cuts to your big budget busters first. Sell your late-model car and replace it with a less expensive used one. Now take your newly found cash — plus the monthly savings from eliminating or reducing your car payments — and throw it at your debt. If you are debt-free, throw it at your retirement and savings accounts instead. Do the same with your other big ticket items, including your house. Once you’ve tackled the biggies, you can whittle away at the little stuff (cable, Starbucks, etc).

~ OR ~

b)  Make more money. Within this option you have two basic choices: work more, or get paid more for the work you already do. Personally, I prefer to get paid more for the work I’m already doing. Ask for a raise or a promotion; cut out the middleman (your employer) and work for yourself; increase your rates; hire subcontractors and delegate extra work for a share of the profits.

~ OR ~

c)  Do both.

Which option do YOU prefer?

One Year’s Worth of Weekly Cheap Dates

I’ve been happily married to the same man for over two decades. What is our secret to marital bliss? Besides the biggies like communication, respect, kindness, compromise, commitment and shared values, the answer is HAVING FUN! Especially now that we’re parents, we find it helpful — no, necessary — to set time aside for one-on-one time. We schedule weekly date nights.

We’ve found that a lack of planning leads us to overspend on our dates. Without a plan, we find ourselves drifting to an expensive restaurant, then leaving with our wallets $70 lighter. But date nights don’t need to break the budget. To prevent indecision and consequential overspending, I like to keep a list of fun and frugal ideas. Hopefully I’ve come up with a few you can use, too.

Tip: Eliminate babysitter fees by co-oping with family friends: you watch their kids one night a week and in trade, they reciprocate.

1. Always a winner– wine, cheese, and a sunset.
2. Play Frisbee golf.
3. Create an “International Night”. Decorate your home with an international theme, dress up, prepare ethnic foods, listen to appropriate music, and watch a foreign film on DVD.
4. Try letter-boxing or geocaching.
5. Enjoy an art walk, gallery to gallery.
6. Watch a high school play.
7. For a reduced price, attend a matinée movie. Bring your own popcorn.
8. Play a rousing game of Laser-Tag.
9. Spend an evening playing board games by candlelight.
10. Attend a book signing at a local bookstore.
11. Go bargain shopping at a flea market or garage sale.
12. Take a hike.
13. Design a scavenger or treasure hunt. Write clues on pieces of paper and leave them all around the house, neighborhood park, or town. Design each clue to lead to the next. Place a small gift, bubble bath, or picnic basket at the end of the hunt. It’s best if the places and clues are particularly meaningful to both people.
14. Pedal a tandem bike. Culminate the ride with a picnic.
15. Attend a free concert or festival. Check the local newspaper for an upcoming event schedule.
16. Go to a free library event.
17. Go for a moonlight swim. Check with your local Parks & Recreation Department for pool hours, or hit a favorite lake.
18. Check the university schedule (if you live in a college town) for lectures, films and concerts.
19. Attend an independent theater engagement.
20. Try Glow Bowling.
21. Play Miniature golf
22. Visit a 4-H fair or carnival.
23. For group dates, create a thematic dinner club.
24. Participate in a progressive dinner.
25. Join a book club for couples.
26. Hold a private fondue party.
27. Attend a wine tasting. Check with local restaurants and liquor stores for schedule.
28. Take a factory tour.
29. Visit the zoo or museum on a free or lower admission day.
30. Sign up for Tai Chi classes.
31. Scramble at an indoor rock climbing gym.
32. Star gaze. Ponder the mysteries of the universe.
33. Dance the night away with ballroom or salsa dance lessons.
34. Check with the local home improvement store for free do-it-yourself instruction classes.
35. Create a fairy garden.
36. Sculpt a bonsai tree or topiary.
37. Watch an anime movie.
38. View home movies, scrapbooks and photo albums. Reminisce.
39. Craft a new scrapbook page.
40. Make homemade gifts or greeting cards.
41. Go to a drive-in movie. Bring popcorn and beverages.
42. Take a drive through the countryside.
43. Give one another facials or pedicures.
44. Create a time capsule and bury it.
45. Share a book by reading it out loud.
46. Take a stroll through downtown.
47. Go sledding with a thermos of hot apple cider.
48. Bake and decorate cookies, then deliver them to friends.
49. Play around: Visit a quiet playground (without kidlets). Share secrets or interview each other.
50. Fly a kite.
51. Go fishing.
52. Enjoy a classic movie marathon. Serve fresh buttered popcorn and snuggle under a big blanket.

If you’re fortunate enough to share love, make a conscious choice to nurture your relationship. Don’t wait until circumstances change. Make a standing date with your partner today. Have fun!

Please share your favorite cheap date ideas in the comments!

Relevant, recommended books:
10,000 Ways to Say I Love You (Paperback)
Romantic Antics: Creative Ideas for Successful First Dates, Adventurous Saturday Nights, and Playful Long Weekends (Paperback)
RoMANtic’s Guide: Hundreds of Creative Tips For A Lifetime (Paperback)