American Workers Have a Pricey Coffee Habit

February 2, 2012 ( - American workers spend a lot of money on daily expenses like coffee and lunch, according to a Workonomix survey by Accounting Principals.

The survey found that 50% of the American workforce spends approximately $1,000 a year on coffee, or a weekly coffee habit of more than $20. In addition, two-thirds (66%) of working Americans buy their lunch instead of packing it, costing them an average of $37 per week — nearly $2,000 a year.  

When asked which work expense they most want to be reimbursed for by their employer, 42% of employees chose commuting costs and only 11% chose lunch expenses. The average American’s commuting cost is $123 a month or approximately $1,500 a year, which is well below the average annual lunch tab of $2,000.  

“Small — but consistent — expenses add up quickly over time, and it can be difficult for consumers to realize it because they’re only spending a few dollars at a time.  But, as our survey shows, those few dollars can quickly turn into a few thousand dollars,” said Jodi Chavez, senior vice president of Accounting Principals. “Additionally, when you look at it over a worker’s lifetime, that number grows exponentially. Consider the average American who works for about 40 years, starting their first job around age 22.  By the time they retire at age 62 they would have spent at minimum $120,000 on coffee and lunch, not including inflation.”    

The survey found that younger professionals (ages 18-34) spend almost twice as much on coffee during the week than those ages 45 and older ($24.74 vs. $14.15, respectively). They also spend an average of $44.78 per week on lunch compared to their older colleagues who spend $31.80 per week.  

It appears that American workers of all ages are beginning to realize the effect this incremental spending has on their personal bottom line. According to Accounting Principals’ survey, one-third (35%) of employees have made it a financial goal to bring lunch instead of buying it in 2012.  

Other survey findings include:  

  • One-quarter (25%) of Americans wish their company would invest in better vending machine snacks, and 22% would like their company to invest in better coffee in the office. 
  • Although better food and drinks would be a plus, employees most want to see their companies invest in better office equipment (46%) and more comfortable office chairs (32%) in 2012. 
  • Corporate discounts do not factor into employees’ purchase decisions. Companies looking to attract new candidates shouldn’t focus on corporate discounts as a selling point. The majority (82%) of employees say corporate discounts matter little or not at all when buying a product or service.