It’s the little things that make the biggest differences over time. When we shell out just a few bucks here and a few bucks there, we don’t really feel guilty about it, because it seems so small at the time. “It’s just a few bucks,” you may say, but how many times can you spend just a “few bucks” before you’ve officially wasted a good amount of money?
Chances are, you’ve been at the point where you are looking at your checking account and asking yourself just where in the world all that money went. Maybe you’ve gone to make a purchase, and until the cashier announced your total, you didn’t realize the big difference all those extra small items you tossed in the cart would make (maybe you even questioned the cashier first, thinking they made a mistake).
A few expensive culprits that have tiptoed their way into our lives under the guise of just a few bucks are listed below. These are unbelievably sneaky expenses, and there’s a good chance they are part of the funneling of money from your finances. There was a time in life when none of these things existed, so we know they’re not necessary for our survival.
We’ve just become so accustomed to them being part of our daily lives that it can be difficult to see them as anything other than just the way things are.
If you can put an end to one or more of these spending habits in your own finances, though, you will be well on your way to developing better spending and saving habits.
Coffee is one of the most well known money-draining luxuries on which Americans allow themselves to splurge. For some reason, even with the knowledge of how ridiculous the cost can be, we still wind up spending hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars every single year on this indulgence.
Brewing coffee at home – even a really nice gourmet brand – is much less expensive than buying it per cup at a coffee shop.
What’s more is that it saves time. You’re not dealing with lines, crowds and parking before work just to get it. As a bonus, you can set your coffee pot’s timer for your usual wakeup time.
The aroma is quite stimulating, and you can get your boost before even getting in the shower. There’s not a coffee shop in town that would be willing to wake you up like that.
Cable Television/ Satellite
So many other entertainment options are available without you having to pay hundreds of dollars a month for channels that you may or may not watch. If your favorite shows are available to watch online the next day, just wait to watch them.
Or you can get a device that allows you to watch shows on demand. The Roku Streaming Media Player and Apple TV devices are two examples of how a one-time expenditure can save money and still give you the convenience of on-demand entertainment.
Even more than that, though, there are plenty of entertainment options going on all the time that can reduce your need to stare at the screen. Check out your city’s listings for street fairs and other events that encourage community interaction.
Even if you were to spend a few bucks at a hot dog stand at one of these events, it would be much more cost effective than the hundreds of dollars every month you spend on television channels alone.
If cutting cable is absolutely not an option at your house, try evaluating the package you have, and ensure that you’re not paying for groups of channels that you don’t watch. Sometimes package deals seem like a good idea until you realize that most of what you’re paying for is absolutely unnecessary.
Bottled water is one of the most wasteful things in every sense of the word. Convenient it is, but such a waste of money, and it is also bad for the environment. Instead of being frustrated with things we can’t control (such as gas prices) while willingly shelling out ridiculous amounts of money on – of all things – water, take control of this cost and get your water at home.
If you are leery of your city’s tap water, filters are quite inexpensive. Not only will they save you hundreds –maybe thousands – every year, it’s much better for the environment.
Here’s a question to ponder: In a society where time is of the essence and people struggle to squeeze in exercise time or family time, how is it that so many people have the time to read magazines?
The answer: Most don’t. If you’re constantly throwing away magazines that you haven’t even read because they are outdated, or if you get them and just let them stack up to the ceiling, why not just cancel them?
If you do happen to be one who gets them and actually reads them, ask yourself if there was anything you got out of it that you didn’t already read online or couldn’t have found even on the magazine’s website.
This is the age of instant information, and if you absolutely must have a certain magazine, check them out and see if they have a digital version that may be less expensive.
Eating Out at Lunch
The paradoxical shape-shifting consequences of eating out at lunch: An expanding waistline and a shrinking bank account. These are definitely not the most sought after goals in America, but it is something that many of us struggle with. The convenience of not having to plan ahead has somehow sucked us into a frenzied, high calorie, high-priced habit.
Taking a few minutes to packing lunch ahead of time can save a good amount of money, and the food is usually better too. Whether its leftovers or a PB&J, you’ll find yourself feeling better physically and financially if you boycott those five extra fast-food trips per week.
Obviously this won’t work if you’re a body builder and you regularly use equipment that won’t fit into the corner of your living room. But, if you’re like the majority of Americans, a gym membership doesn’t do much for you that you can’t experience in the comfort of your own home with some free weights and a little motivation. For cardio, get outside and walk, or try a free cardio dance video online. They’re everywhere.
People have the right to relax in a comfortable temperature in their home, and there is absolutely no need to practically melt when you have the luxury of central air conditioning or a window unit.
What doesn’t make a lot of financial sense here is when the air conditioning keeps your house like a refrigerator rather than a comfortable temperature – or worse – when you’re not home at all and the air conditioning just runs all day keeping your furniture cold.
If you don’t want to come home to a blast of scorching heat, or if you have pets, set your thermostat accordingly, then cool it off to your comfort level when you get home. Even better – if it’s reasonably nice outside, open the windows and let the fresh air in.
Internet On Your phone
We are spoiled. Period. The internet that once required us to be chained to a gigantic machine by the nearest modem is now widely available and fits neatly in our pockets, purses and brief cases by way of mobile devices.
Unless you’re using your phone for work emails (in which case your company probably pays for it), paying for internet on your phone doesn’t make as much sense as it used to. First of all, you probably have Wi-Fi in your home that you can connect your device to instead of using your cellular connection for internet.
We also have free Wi-Fi popping up in public areas like libraries, bookstores and even fast-food places. Free Wi-Fi is far too available for us to continue lining the pockets of our cell phone providers who limit our usage anyway.
Avg. Yearly Expense
|Eating out at Lunch||$1,680|
|Internet on Your Phone||$180|
The numbers in the above chart are conservative estimates, but you can see the difference they can potentially make. Everyone has their own vices – things that seem to call out to their bank account from every corner – whether it’s a daily junk food indulgence or an entertainment splurge.
Once you’re serious about taking hold of your finances, you can definitely make positive changes by taking the small steps outlined above.