Looking to save up a few bucks? Sure, you could cancel Netflix for a few months and donate plasma for some extra cash, but I've got a better solution: Study your habits. If you have been keeping your spending journal or using a app to track you spending you already know where your areas to save are.
You're probably wasting quite a bit of money, and chances are good that you're not aware of all of your unnecessary spending.
I decided to collect a few of the most common bad habits you may not even think about to see what they really cost. For instance, you probably don't know how much you spend when you are . . .
1. Going Out to Eat
American consumers budget more money for restaurants than grocery stores, which makes sense, according to Eddie Yoon of Harvard Business Review—it's easier than ever to avoid cooking, so many people avoid developing cooking skills.
If you're looking for a reason to change your eating habits, do the math.
Let's say you spend $10 per meal—a pretty paltry sum for a sit-down restaurant, but we'll assume that you also hit up your favorite fast food chain on occasion.
That's $3,650 per year, assuming that you eat out once per day. But I usually have a glass of wine with my meal – which can double the cost.
But replace those meals with home-cooked meals at an average cost of around $3, and you'll save over $2,500 per year and I will save $5,000.
By the way, you can easily cook meals for $2 per serving or less. Just make sure you're using the food you buy and you are not. . .
2. Throwing Food Out Early
Americans waste about 33 million tons of food per year. We're getting worse, too; the average household wastes 50 percent more than a household from the 1970s. If you've got a pretty typical family, you throw away about $2,275 in wasted food every year.
How does that happen? You go to the grocery store, pick out a bunch of fresh produce, then stop by the frozen food aisle and load your cart. At home, you get hungry, so you grab whatever's convenient—and a quick sandwich
is much easier to make than roasted chicken.
To avoid wasting food, simply make a list before you go shopping. Plan out your meals in advance, and if you're not able to use something, freeze it.
Oh, and don't assume that your food has spoiled simply because it's past its expiration date. Many foods are perfectly fine for days or even weeks after the dates on their labels, especially when properly stored.
I am the worst at this – I buy lots of produce thinking I am going fix some health salads. Then work late and pick up take out on the way home. After 3 or 4 days my pretty produce is all soft and wilted – so I throw it out. I am also a stickler for those dates. One day late and it is off to the trash.
With these two suggestions you've already saved about $4,775 and I am up to
$7,275. Let's keep it rolling.
3. Setting Your Thermostat
Everyone loves a nice, warm house, but by redefining your perception of "warm or cool," you might be able to save some serious cash. According to
the Department of Energy, you can save about 3 percent on your heating bill
for each degree (Fahrenheit) you turn down your thermostat during the winter or up in the summer.
Of course, your results will vary depending on the size of your home, the quality of your insulation, and various other factors. Still, by changing your habits, you can save a lot of money while limiting your effect on the environment.
Try turning your thermostat down by about 10 degrees at night—you'll be under the covers, anyway—and check your furnace vents to make sure that they aren't blocked. If you won't be using certain rooms, block them off during the winter.
The average household spent about $2,100 on heating, according to Shrink That Footprint, so if you can turn down the thermostat by just 3 degrees, you'll enjoy about $200 extra per year.
Assuming you're also watching your food consumption, you've saved about
$4,975 and I am at $7,475 so far.
4. Doing The Laundry
When you do your laundry, you probably fill up the detergent cap, right? If so, you're likely wasting detergent (and money).
For starters, if you have a high-efficiency washing machine, you're using less water, and an excessive amount of soap won't make anything cleaner—in fact, you'll likely end up with a buildup, which can make your whites appear grey.
Carefully read the instructions and try adding less detergent to each load.
The one exception: If you've got hard water, you'll likely need the extra soap. Then again, you might not need any brand-name detergents, as white vinegar often works just as well. Simply use about half a cup per average-sized load, and you'll cut detergent out of your budget.
Depending on what you're washing, you can also probably skip the hot water. Cold water can wash most fabrics just as well, and you'll save money on your gas or electric bill. While we're at it, try air-drying your clothes and you'll save significantly more.
If you wash 400 loads per year, you spend about $600. According to financial blog Money Crashers, implementing these changes could bring that down to
$140 per year—a savings of $460.
My bad habits are even worse than that – I buy the expensive Tide “pods” for the washer. They are at least two times the cost of regular detergent so my savings could be $920.
5. Buying Certain Cosmetics
The average American woman spends about $8 per day on cosmetics. Yes, that's a ton of money—but you don't need to sacrifice your #flawless appearance in the name of your budget. Instead, simply change where you shop.
You may find yourself turning up your nose at the idea of getting beauty products at the dollar store, but you would be missing a great opportunity to save yourself some money. Many name-brand companies such as E.L.F and NYX can be found in the shelves of your local dollar store for much less than what you would pay for the exact same products anywhere else.
You would be missing a great opportunity to save yourself some money.
You should also avoid splurging on pseudoscientific products that claim to eliminate wrinkles or "restore a youthful glow." Many of those products don't do much of anything. But I fall for this hype every time. Just watch me in front of the section that tells me I can look younger or erase wrinkles and I will shell out the cash to shave off just a few months. But, alas, this is generally just very expensive hype. My mother had fabulous skin using just Noxzema at 99 cents a jar. The smell of that still reminds me of her.
Talk to your dermatologist and do some research before investing your hard- earned cash in a cosmetic that seems too good to be true.
Depending on how you use makeup, you could save $1,500 per year by cutting your budget in half.
6. Buying (Admittedly Awesome) Clothes
I know, I know: you needed those chic new pants. You're not alone. Americans spend about 11 percent of their discretionary budgets on apparel and footwear, according to a Wells Fargo analyst, but we often overspend for name brands.
That's not to say that quality clothes aren't worth the money; better garments will last longer, when properly cared for. Still, shopping smarter can pay off.
If you're shopping for brand name clothes, always make sure to check out overstock stores. These stores have amazing deals on quality clothing, shoes, and accessories, oftentimes with deals as high as 90 percent off. You can also shop off season for some significant savings.
Another suggestion: read your clothes' tags. Properly washing and drying your clothes will keep colors and fabrics intact. Oh, and if you don't have one already, get a tailor—there's nothing quite as satisfying as buying a cheap suit or dress off the rack and letting an experienced tailor work some magic.
A typical American family spends about $1,800 on apparel, according to
the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Keep an eye on your budget and avoid splurging, and you should be able to cut that to around $1,400 for another $400 in savings. Our running total is now around $5,835.
7. Buying Coffee
Oh my Achilles heel – the beloved Starbucks!
Everyone drops by the local coffee shop on occasion, but going every day can be a huge drain on your bank account. Starbucks, for instance, recently raised some of its prices, and a simple tall latte now costs a whopping $2.95 at some stores.
Of course, the easiest way to save money on coffee would be to stop drinking it all together. You could take up a habit like a morning run or yoga session to get the blood pumping in the morning, but for some the idea of giving up their daily cup of joe is impossible. I am definitely in that group. Fortunately, there are some other options.
Consider taking advantage of free coffee around you, such as at work. If you enjoy blended coffee drinks, purchase some tasty creamer to help liven up a boring cup while helping you spend much less than you would on a daily frap.
Another tip that might seem unusual: When buying coffee, use cash. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research showed that people experience more "financial pain" when paying with cash, as opposed to credit or debit—and that this can actually make purchases seem more rewarding.
In other words, you'll spend less on your coffee, and you'll likely enjoy it more than if you'd pulled out your card.
Using cash at the register can help you get a better idea of just how much you are spending on each cup.
If you buy three lattes per week, you spend bout $460 on coffee each year. Make your coffee at home, and you'll spend $0.18 to $0.50 per cup for an annual total of $28 to $75.
Adding It All Up
Ok –if you take just 6 of these 7 thinks (I left off cosmetics) the final total of our odd list of excess spending is $6,270 for you and I am at a whopping $10,730 (including cosmetics) All this with virtually no pain. This is enough for a modest- but-dependable used car.
The next time you're in a financial crunch, keep that in mind—you've got plenty of money, provided that you're capable of watching (and changing) your spending habits.
Until next week Live Rich!
December 6, 2017
Join me every Wednesday on my podcast “Unlocking the Secret to Living Rich”.
If you have questions or comments you can contact me at my email email@example.com or find me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @cindybbrown777
Who is Cindy B. Brown? Cindy is a CPA, MBA, CFO, and board member of public and private companies, business consultant, entrepreneur coach and a foremost expert in the field of financial
mastery. Cindy’s purpose is to motivate, educate and inspire people to live their richest life. Host of “Unlocking the Secret to Living Rich”.