Lunch Money

April 7, 2014 — 4,297 Comments



We have talked about helping little ones learn about money (links below). What about helping your upper elementary and junior high age child think about his/her lunch money habits? Whether the money is pre-loaded to your child’s account, or your child packs a lunch every day, or your child takes cash every day, his/her lunch money habits are a great learning opportunity and practice lab for future money management habits. Considering that groceries for your family and fuel for your vehicle are the two largest variable amounts in your household’s budget, helping your child see the cost and value of lunch money has the potential to be extremely
helpful to your child’s success with money as an adult.

For the sake of easy math, let’s say your child’s standard school lunch is $3. Snacks and extras are $0.25 – $1.00 extra. Your child gets to pick a protein, 8 oz of milk and 1 – 3 portions of a grain, veggie and/or fruit. As you do your monthly budget, determining your child’s lunch money needs is a matter of multiplying number of school days times $3 to know how much to load onto his/her account*.

For instance, in the month of April, many of the local school districts have 21 school days. If your child were to purchase a school lunch, then your child would need $63 to cover all school day lunches.

As adults, we know the little daily luxuries add up to big differences in our monthly budgets.

 What if your child liked having one of the fragrant, warm cookies served in addition to the school lunch? An extra $0.25 per day doesn’t seem like much, but it depletes your pre-paid lunch balance two days early.

What if your child didn’t like milk, so instead of picking up the milk included with the meal, he/she picked up a bottled sports drink every day? $1 extra changes the price from $63 to $84 to cover all school day lunches. If your child did not share this daily habit with you, then you get a surprise “low balance” notification on day 14 and your child’s account has to be reloaded FIVE days early.

If your child has access to a microwave at school, he/she is more likely to pack a lunch that you have made. Sandwiches are fine, however most kids enjoy a hot meal in the middle of a intellectually and socially intensive day at school. Depending on your family’s cooking habits, having your child purchase the school lunch is more convenient and easier to budget for.  Large batch cooking is the best way to make your grocery budget stretch farther. See the posts below for more ideas on how to feed your family well on a tight budget.

Have YOU put a pencil to paper to consider how to do lunch well for your child while keeping grocery costs in line?

*Be sure to check if there is an additional fee for loading your child’s lunch money using an online service rather than sending your child with a check or cash to hand over while exiting the lunch line.

Teaching Our Kids About Money

Infant to Kinder

Young Elementary Age:

Slow Cooker Recipes

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4