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Lunch Money: How Much Do You Spend?

You no longer have to ask, 'Where's the beef?' . / Credit: Hamburger image via Shutterstock

Going out to lunch during the workday is taking a big bite out of employees' wallets, new research shows.

A study by Visa found that the average American is dining out for lunch an average of twice a week and spending close to $1,000 a year. While that pales in comparison to the 1 percent of employees who spend more than $50 per lunch, or close to $5,000 a year, it is significantly more than the 30 percent who don't ever spend money on lunches out.

The research revealed that the less money someone makes, the more they are likely to spend on lunch. Specifically, those surveyed who earned less than $25,000 a year spent more per meal, $11.70, than any other income bracket. In comparison, those earning more than $50,000 per year spent an average of $9.60 per meal, a 22 percent difference.

Nat Sillin, Visa's head of U.S. Financial Education, warns employees against blowing their budget on burgers and fries.

"Eating lunch at a restaurant isn't a bad thing, but it has to fit within your budget," Sillin said. "Going into debt for a tuna sandwich isn't worth it."

He advises clipping coupons, choosing less expensive items on a menu or bringing lunch from home as ways to save hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.

The research shows that it's men doing the bulk of the eating, having outspent women on a weekly basis by 44 percent. In addition to gender, the research found there were a number of regional disparities in spending as well.

Southerners are the top spenders each week, shelling out $20, while Northeasterners ate their lunches out the least, just 1.5 days a week. Westerners mirrored the national average, spending $10 per lunch 1.8 times a week, with those in the Midwest dining out 1.7 times a week and spending just $8.90 per meal.

The research was based on surveys of more than 1,000 U.S. adults.

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.