Ultimate Frugality 101: Fast Food Value Meals

Ask any kid what they’re favorite subject in school is and 90% of them will say recess or gym.  Ask those very same students what they’re most hated subject is and 99% of them will say mathematics.  You see, mathematics can take a great deal of thinking and when you’re just a kid, the last thing you want to do is have to think.  As an adult, basic mathematical knowledge is crucial when taking care of your finances.  Without it, you can stand to make mistakes that can cost you your financial future.  Below you will NOT find one of those examples however, as I want to show you a basic frugality technique that has saved me tens of dollars over the course of my lifetime.

Even though it’s a health nightmare, everyone eats fast-food every once in a while.  From the not-so-healthy menu of Checkers and Wendy’s to the slightly healthier menu of Pollo Tropical and Boston Market, Americans spend billions of dollars each and every year on this quick convenience.  Even more convenient are the value meals that every fast-food restaurant provides.  Why order a menu item, side item and drink when you can just order a #1?

Working at McDonald’s for more than six years, I had first hand knowledge of how menu items were priced and why there were abnormalities over what should have been consistent pricing.  For example, I recently visited a Burger King and had the following two options.  I could have bough a Whopper for $2.99 or a Double Whopper for $3.99.  So far so good as you would expect the Double Whopper to be more expensive and the $1 extra makes enough sense.  But then I took a look at the value meals for both of these.  Based on their individual price tags, you would expect the Double Whopper combo meal to be $1 more expensive then the Whopper combo meal.  Both meals include the exact same fries and the exact same drink … but the menu suggests something else.


A Double Whopper combo meal is $5.49 while the Whopper combo meal is $4.99. All of a sudden, the bigger sandwich just became 50 cents cheaper (or the smaller sandwich became 50 cents more expensive), so what gives?  It all comes down to business as Burger King knows that it sells 10 times as many whopper value meals as they do Double Whopper value meals.  While you might find the difference in sandwich price to combo meal price to be $1.50 for almost all Burger King sandwiches however for it’s best seller, it’s $2.00.  BK figures it doesn’t have to discount it’s best seller as much because that price is not deterring anyone from buying that value meal.  They’re absolutely right.

How does this apply to you?  Well let’s assume you and a friend each want a sandwich, but can split a fry and a drink. You want a Whopper but you’re friend wants a Double Whopper so you decide it would be smart to order one value meal and one individual sandwich.  Before this article, you might have thought it didn’t matter which sandwich was ordered alone, but now you know better.  Order the Double Whopper Value Meal and the Single Whopper on the side.

Every single fast food chain in America follows this logic so before you decide on what you want to eat, I implore you to take time and study the menu.  Sometimes the right thing to do is combine items, sometimes the right thing to do is to order them separately.  You might not think it, but some combo meals can me more expensive than if you ordered the items separately.  These are businesses looking to make as much money as possible and if that means squeezing an extra buck or two out of you while you don’t notice, so be it.

So if you consider yourself the ultimate saver, you might want to re-think the way you order fast food.  Saving a quarter or two each time you order doesn’t sound like much, but it could add up to the a few extra fast food runs on the house each year.

Topics: Smart Spending

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