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Study: Older Workers Spend Less. And You?

lunch bag

I knew it! And now there's another new study that backs me up.

I've always suspected that young people - not just today, but in past generations as well - are less likely than their elders to appreciate the value of a dollar. In fact, I contend that increased frugality is a natural, subconscious part of aging.*

The latest study to support my theory of aging thriftily was released this month by the recruiting and staffing firm Accounting Principals. Among other interesting findings of their Workonomix Survey: On average, U.S. workers spend nearly $3,000 a year on coffee and lunches (those not brought from home) while at work.

It also found that younger workers (18-34) spend almost twice as much on coffee than workers 45 years and older, and about 40 percent more on lunches. Of course the irony is that older workers generally have higher incomes. They could probably afford to spend more than their junior counterparts, yet they appear to be choosing to economize instead.

Regardless of your age, if you're still working it's easy to save a grand or two a year by packing your lunch at home, or even carrying an entire bag of groceries to the office every Monday morning and making your lunches at work. And even if you need to invest in a coffeemaker, microwave, or mini-fridge for your office, when you do the math those appliances generally pay for themselves in a couple of months compared to the price of daily carryout. Check out AARP's lunch savings calculator to see how brown-bagging it can save you money over time.

A savings of $3,000 per year over the course of a 30-year career could easily grow into a nest egg of more than $200,000 by the time you retire, assuming a reasonable rate of return. Unfortunately the power of that idea seems to elude younger generations until it's too late to take full advantage of it. As my grandmother always said, "What a pity."

* Feedback wanted: Do you feel like you're becoming thriftier as you grow older? If so, is it out of necessity or are you doing so voluntarily? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Post them here in the comments section or email me at

Photo courtesy of m.e.c. via Flickr Creative Commons.

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