A girl’s got to eat

Lincoln students learn the real cost of buying off-campus lunches


Abby Calhoun sits outside the auditorium with a group of close friends, sharing stories about the latest TV shows and gossip. Charlotte Odusanya is in the choir room, along with other Black Student Union members, listening to a guest speaker, Lou Radja, talk about African Americans. At the nearest Starbucks, Gabby Cosey sips a caramel macchiato and munches a bagel on a bitter cold fall afternoon.


With students rushing out the doors of Lincoln to make it back in time for class, the half-hour period is only one problem of off-campus lunches. Freshmen Calhoun, Odusanya and Cosey all know an important aspect of lunch: saving money for your future.


Lunch at Lincoln is a common topic of complaint because of the 33 minute break, the long lines at local restaurants and the lack of seating in the school. Few students mention overspending for off-campus lunches. The Cardinal Times chose three typical students to observe for one week, all with different solutions to school lunches.


Calhoun, Odusanya and Cosey first estimated how much they thought they spent in a week on school lunches. It ranged from $12.50 to $50. Calhoun, who brings her lunch every day from home, came in on the low end. Odusanya, who rotates with an occasional lunch from home and occasional splurge off-campus at local restaurants, estimated the highest. Estimating at $30, Cosey goes off campus, buying her lunch every day.


A look into the reality of costs of on and off campus lunches:


Abby Calhoun:

Spending not a penny more than her estimated $12.50, Calhoun averages a $2.50 daily. This totals $50  a month, and $450 at the end of the school year. Her typical lunch consists of a small bag of Lay’s Potato Chips, an apple and a plain bagel. “I think my mom does a pretty good job,” she says about budgeting her lunches. She finds the lunch tabs of the other students, “kind of crazy. How do they spend that much on a lunch?”


Charlotte Odusanya:

A total of $30.49 spent by the end of the week, $19.55 below her estimated amount. Odusanya averaged $6.10 daily, which adds up to about $121.96 a month and $1,097.64 by the end of the school year. Twice during this week, she visits the local Jimmy John’s, along with one visit to the popular pizza joint, Bellagio’s. “I honestly thought I spent way more,” she says. Relieved by how much she spends, “There’s no better way to spend it other than clothes and shopping.”


Gabby Cosey:

Spending $31.60 over five days, Cosey averaged $6.32 daily, $1.60 above her estimated amount. If this continued, she would spend about $126.40 a month and $1,137.60 by the end of the school year. This is about two and a half times more than the end of the year value of a student who brings their lunch daily. Four of five days, Cosey bought a drink and pastry from Starbucks, once getting a sandwich from Jimmy John’s. “There’s always ways to better spend your money, nothing is the ‘best’ way to spend your money,” she says. “I think it’s a good thing to know how much you’re spending.”


If Cosey invested about 50 percent of her annual lunch fund, $568.80 into an individual retirement account every year, she would have about $2,904.00 after four years, according to the Dave Ramsey Investing Calculator. In context, if a student invested money from 250 drinks from Starbucks at $5 each, by the end of the fourth year, he or she could have $1,650 in their IRA.


“It’s one thing to buy a pack of bagels from Fred Meyers and make your own cup of coffee at home, compared to stopping at Starbucks and getting a muffin and a latte. It’s just going to be another eight bucks,” says Lincoln business teacher Ron Waugh.


If we save year over year, those dollars will add up to a huge sum.


“From a business standpoint, the concept of compound interest is miraculous,” Waugh says. You’ll find out that there are enormous ways that you can affect how much money you have, and how those choices you make affect your wealth.”    


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