The Minimalist Guide to Eating Lunch

The Minimalist Guide to Eating LunchWhen I visited Texas a few weeks ago, I met with a friend for lunch.

Well, kinda. You see, I ate lunch. He just sat there.

“You’re not eating?,” I asked.

“I ate one-and-a-half sandwiches before I got here,” he replied.

I asked why. He explained that ordering lunch at restaurants is expensive. He stuffed his stomach full of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches immediately before coming to the restaurant, so he wouldn’t be tempted to order food.

I noshed on a chicken-and-cheese burrito while he explained that he had recently quit a well-paying tech job that everyone believed was a “dream job.” Everyone, that is, except him. He hated it.

He now had $15,000 in the bank and was living on his savings while he tried to launch a business with a couple of co-founders. He figured he could stretch that $15,000 to last for four or five months, as long as he lived frugally.

“If I can’t make any money after five months, I’ll need to find a job,” he said. His tone indicated that finding a job was his worst-case scenario.

We lingered at lunch for more than two hours. He sipped a $6 margarita. I paid the tab.

A few days later, he told me that he pays someone to clean his house weekly. He also hires someone to buy his groceries, pre-cook his meals, and store those meals in his fridge for the week ahead.

I was surprised.

“I thought you were trying to save money?” I asked.

“I am,” he replied. “But my time is valuable. If I can buy back a few extra hours in my week for $12 or $15, I will.”

“But you won’t order lunch?”

“That doesn’t buy time.”

Wow, I thought. This guy is focused. Here’s a perfect example of someone who ruthlessly slashes his spending on the things that don’t matter to him – like restaurant meals – so that he can spend lavishly on the things that matter most, like his time.

I told him I write a blog about people like him. I asked him to check out some of my articles and let me know what he thinks.

“I can’t,” he replied. “I’m not reading anything for the next five months. No magazines, no books, no blogs. I have to get this project off the ground.”

“What else are you giving up?,” I asked.

“Sports. Seeing my friends. Live music …” he rattled off a long list of sacrifices.

His path isn’t sustainable. No one can – or should! — deprive their life of simple joys like reading, friends and music.

But he has a tight deadline: five months. He has a mission: build company. And he has an Olympic athlete’s laser-focus. He’s willing to live like no one else.

I get the feeling that he’ll be just fine.


Thanks to N Duran for today’s photo.

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17 Responses to “The Minimalist Guide to Eating Lunch”

  1. krantcents
    18. Jun, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    He has his priorities, even if I do not agree with them. Did his business succeed?

    • AffordAnything.org
      18. Jun, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

      @krantcents — That conversation happened about two weeks ago, so it’s too early to tell!

  2. femmefrugality
    18. Jun, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    DEVOTION! It sounds like these five months are going to be joyless, but it’ll pay off in the end.

    • AffordAnything.org
      18. Jun, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

      @Femmefrugality — Oooh, “devotion” is a great word to describe it! Yep, I think his next 5 months will be rough, but he’ll learn to become mentally tough … and eventually, the external world will reward him for these sacrifices.

  3. Nivene@Cashnet
    18. Jun, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Wow! Good for him, his focus is really admirable. I hope it works out for him!

  4. Nancy @ Personally Find Nancys
    18. Jun, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

    I like this idea in theory… he seems very unlikable (to me at least). Surprising he spent 2 hours at lunch but didn’t have to to read a blog post for 30 seconds?

    • AffordAnything.org
      20. Jun, 2012 at 10:41 am #

      @Nancy — I think he took the time out for lunch just because I was in Texas, as an out-of-town guest. I don’t think he’d do that for a friend that he could see at anytime.

  5. Felicia
    19. Jun, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    Without complete commitment it’s not likely he will accomplish his goals so thumbs up and think I’ll have a PB&J.

  6. Lance@MoneyLife&More
    19. Jun, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    Well at least he is practicing conscious spending. I hope he succeeds and get.to relax.a.bit in 5 months.

  7. Evan
    21. Jun, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    I wonder if you looked at his schedule if he really is using all his time…meaning that hour he isn’t cleaning his house, is he REALLY working? Is he really working 90+ hours a week?

    • AffordAnything.org
      22. Jun, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

      @Evan — That’s a great question, which only he can answer. I’ve often contemplated hiring someone to clean my house, but then I realize that realistically, I could simply spend less time dallying in the mornings, and easily clear out an extra 30 minutes a day …

      • Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter
        27. Jun, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

        I guess it all depends. To me time is money and sometimes there are things worth paying for so you can spend your time which is really valuable on more important matters. Efficiency is one thing but so is quality of life.

  8. Juanita A. Leech
    28. Jun, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    Wow this article inspired me a lot he had to sacrifices .How i wish he succeed to accomplish his goal .thanks for sharing this.

  9. Peter
    06. Jul, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

    Personally, I’m not sold on his claims.

    While I understand that time is valuable, I think he’s just being a lazy entrepreneur without much realism in his plan (unless his other founders are more experienced and knowledgable).

    He’ll pay someone to go grocery shopping and cook his meals (btw, I’d like to find someone to spend “a few hours” for “just $12 or $15″ to run to the store for me and do my cooking!) because he can’t be inconvenienced for those few hours – yet he’ll meet up with a friend from out of town for over 2 hours (plus transit time to/from the restaurant), and order a $6 margarita (did he know you were paying for it ahead of time)?

    To top it off…apparently you talked to him “a few days later”….wow, he must really have a reason for being so focused on building this business with every second counts, but can spend all this time with this out-of-town friend. And then, with a straight face, tell his “friend” that he can’t be bothered to spend a mere 5 minutes looking at her blog because he doesn’t have the time??? Oh, and did he dirty his hands to make his 1 1/2 peanut butter sandwiches he ate before meeting with you, or was that 30 seconds to make the sandwiches a flash of time management weakness on his part?

    A true entrepreneur would bust their butt building the business, and still sacrifice every penny they could – often while they still had their full-time job during the day.

    I realize the blog wasn’t about him, but when I read that someone “hated” their job, and simply quit with $15k in the bank, spend $4k/month on living expenses, and they casually say that “oh, I’ll get a job in 5 months when I run out of money if the business doesn’t work”…I just have to laugh. Perhaps he is the world’s greatest at what he does, and he has to beat the door closed on businesses following him around waiting to hire his talent. But I’m thinking his plan might have been more prudently thought out in terms of cash flow.

    Unless he has a way to fund the growth of his business with the other founders (who hopefully are more forward thinking in terms of financing a company than he is), he’ll find out the hard way that the gov’t and your suppliers (that you have no relationship and no credit established with) want their money from you now, while it can easily take 90 days (with average clients) to get paid, much less the other clients that simply don’t pay, or take longer.

    • Afford Anything
      09. Jul, 2012 at 11:20 am #

      @Peter — I think you make many excellent points. I particularly like your sentence: “A true entrepreneur would bust their butt building the business, and still sacrifice every penny they could – often while they still had their full-time job during the day.” I’ve known many people who have done that (including my dad), and I agree that this is one of the truest and toughest expressions of entrepreneurial zeal.

      My point in telling his story is to illustrate a few points: first, he values his time. In this era of Extreme Couponing, I think it’s important to remember that time is valuable — even if a person doesn’t earn a lot of money yet. Second, he spends money in accordance with his priorities (for the most part).

      That said, I have no idea whether or not he’ll be successful. He may or may not know how to manage cash flow, raise capital, negotiate with suppliers, and handle clients who are past due on their bills. For his sake, I hope that whatever time he frees up by not cooking and cleaning, he dedicates to learning those skills, if he doesn’t have them already.

  10. Sandra
    28. Nov, 2013 at 7:16 am #

    And now, 17 months after, did his business succeed?

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