How Much Do Your Daily Work Habits Actually Cost You?

Work Habits
Cody Berman
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In the financial independence community, people often criticize a bought lunch or a Starbucks coffee. But how much do your work habits actually cost you? In this article, I plan to take a deep dive into the numbers and discover the true cost of the average employee’s daily work habits. Once you understand the relationship between money and time, your whole worldview might just change.

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Money Equals Freedom

I think that converting money into time is one of the most powerful ways to understand financial independence. But how do we actually convert our hard-earned dollars into hours of freedom?

Fortunately, one of my friends in the FI community, Noah from Money Metagame, wrote a post titled “The Value of an Extra $100”. In this post, he breaks down the math and concludes that $100 equals approximately 4.74 hours of freedom for his specific situation.

In short, Noah arrives at this conclusion by taking the $100 and multiplying it by its expected growth rate (6% in this case) and raising that growth to the power of “Years left to FI”. He then takes that output and divides it by his real hourly wage to calculate the “Hours of Freedom” earned! For all of you non-math geeks out there, click the link in the paragraph above to check out his full post where he explains in further detail.

Noah’s analysis inspired me to write this post and calculate just how much the average American daily work habits cost – from a financial and time-related point of view.

The Average American Daily Work Habits

I know that these assumptions will not accurately reflect every single working individual, but for example and simplicity’s sake, we will work with the following assumptions in this analysis.


  • Each individual starts his or her career at age 22.
  • Lunch costs $10 per day, coffee costs $3.
  • Each individual works 8 hours per day, 5 days per week.
  • Any money that would have been spent on lunch or coffee is invested into the market every month.
  • The market returns an average of 6% per year (after inflation).
  • Each individual has $5,000 per year to invest; any money spent on coffee or lunch is deducted from that investment.

Financial Analysis

Financial Assumptions

Okay, so at first glance, we notice that ‘Neither’ invests $5,000, ‘Just Coffee’ invests $4,280, ‘Just Lunch’ invests $2,600, and ‘Lunch + Coffee’ invests $1,880 per year. Let’s fast forward 40 years to age 62 to see how each individual fared.

Graph Analysis

Wow!!! Were you as shocked as I was? At age 62, here’s how each of the four individuals fared:

Neither – $825,238 net worth

Just Coffee – $706,404 net worth

Just Lunch – $429,124 net worth

Lunch + Coffee – $310,290 net worth

So over the course of 40 years, the individual who brought lunch from home and drank coffee from the forsaken work kettle had a net worth $514,949 higher than the individual who bought lunch and a coffee every single workday!

Edit: For all of the comments I received about how “a homemade lunch is just as expensive as a bought lunch”… here’s an awesome list of 46+ meals you can prepare for under $2.

If you thought that was gut-wrenching, you’re really not going to like the next part of this analysis…

Time Analysis

Diving into the finances is great, but if you’ve been reading my blog, you know that money is not our greatest asset, time is. With that being said, let’s dig into the numbers and see just how many days, hours, and years these daily work habits cost these individuals.

The one key assumption here is an hourly wage of $22.81. This information was extracted from 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics Data on the Average American’s hourly earnings.

Hourly Wage Assumption

Now that we have quantified the value of ‘one hour’, we can use this number as a denominator to look back and see how much time these daily work habits cost each individual (we will ignore taxes for the sake of simplicity and future uncertainty).

Freedom Analysis

I don’t know about you, but when I convert dollars into hours, that’s when it really hits home for me. Just look at the freedom money can buy!

The 62-year-old individual looking back on the past 40 years of his or her career would be devastated. Their choice to purchase a daily coffee and lunch cost them $514,949 in dollars lost, 22,576 in hours lost, 2,822 in days lost, and 7.7 years lost.

Imagine all of the things you could do in that span of time! I get excited for a 4-day weekend… but 7.7 years?! The opportunities are endless.

Are You Going to Change Your Work Habits?

Hopefully, reading this article caused you to stop and think about your current work habits. Are you really that much happier each day from your bought lunch and Starbucks coffee? Maybe you are, but at least now you understand the financial and time-related implications of your decisions.

Time is truly our most valuable asset, so anything we can do maximize it is a win in my book. Did this post inspire you to pack a lunch tomorrow, or pass on that coffee you were about to buy. If so, please share in the comments below!

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How Much Do Your Work Habits Actually Cost You

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Note: I am not a financial advisor or fiduciary. All the information presented in this article reflects my opinion. I am not liable for any financial losses incurred related to this content. My content is always written with the readers’ best interests in mind. I believe that my content is helpful and well-researched, but it is not professional financial advice. For more information, read our Privacy Policy.

12 thoughts on “How Much Do Your Daily Work Habits Actually Cost You?

    1. Hey Robbie, thanks for reading. Scary stuff, huh? Good to hear that your office provides decent coffee! Glad you enjoyed the article.

  1. It is amazing how the little expenses can add up especially when you consider the money/time trade off.

    I’ve done similar breakdowns of all my recurring expenses. It is very motivating to see how big a difference cutting cable or riding a bike really does make on your finances if you are going for FI.

    1. It really is. I didn’t even bother to mention transportation or commuting costs in the post (may be included in a future blog post).

      But, every little recurring expense can have a HUGE impact on the amount you can save. Intentionality is key!

  2. Great post! While I enjoy the occasional morning coffee or work lunch, the important thing is to make it a treat and not a regular activity.

    1. Thank you! It’s certainly okay to have the occassional lunch or coffee at work, but at least understand the financial implications of your decisions.

  3. When I worked in Boston, I was spending not only a ton of money on food and rent but I was spending $30 a day just in eating out since I was too busy to make food and I was always dying for a coffee. Things have changed and I moved out of the city, back home with my parents and now I make my own lunch and drinks. Man I forgot about how much I used to spend!

    1. It’s literally crazy, right?? I currently work in Boston and I’m the only one in my office who brings lunch regularly. It wouldn’t surprise me if my coworkers spent $15-20 every day between lunch and one to two coffees. These little decisions can make such a huge impact over the long term!

  4. I do like your article- I think for accuracy you could include the cost of bringing the equivalent coffee and daily lunch from home each week (while obviously still a much better deal than buying out- there is a weekly cost to make/pack your own lunch/extras for leftovers 5x a week, which should be accounted for.

    1. Thanks for the note, EJ. For the sake of simplicity and to not lose people in the weeds with the math, I chose to exclude the cost of groceries and opportunity costs (time spent) on making your own coffee and lunch.

      Instead, I thought it would be easier to leave groceries as a separate line item and have a $5,000 annual investment that only decreases from the purchase of coffee or lunch.

      Thanks for reading!

  5. That’s always been fascinating to me as well. I just struggle with the enjoy your life now versus having money later dilemma. At what point do we spend too much money now that we can’t enjoy our life later? I’m not going to fault someone for having coffee everyday if that’s what makes them happy.

    1. Yeah, it’s certainly a tough question Tim, but that’s up for the individual to decide. I just wanted to make people financially aware of the choices they are making. If they still want to buy lunch and coffee every day, all the power to them!

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