A plan to save money will ultimately break down if you wring all of the joy out of your life in the process. But you can significantly improve your financial future by ruthlessly eliminating things you really don’t need, while holding on to one or two guilty pleasures you truly love....
Tiny ways you waste big money
by Jim Ray
If the daily latte is the thing that makes you happy, go for it.
You’ve probably noticed your local coffee shop loves saving trees so much they no longer provide a receipt for your beverage unless you ask for it.
Not to be cynical, but there could be more to this than the rainforest. Without a receipt to stuff in your wallet or purse, you avoid that jarring reminder of how much you pay for caffeine every week. Other vendors relentlessly urge you to “auto deduct” monthly payments under the guise of saving your valuable time.
What’s at work here is a systematic strategy to get you to spend money without thinking about it. And, truth be told, it’s working grandly. There’s nothing wrong with coffee, or saving paper, or streamlining bill paying, but you should always make it a point to be thinking about your money.
A plan to save money will ultimately break down if you wring all of the joy out of your life in the process. But you can significantly improve your financial future by ruthlessly eliminating things you really don’t need, while holding on to one or two guilty pleasures you truly love.
Here are some ways you may be losing it needlessly:
On the home front
Given the other options now available, does it make sense to pay $100 a month or more for television? Recently the chairman of a major satellite network admitted in a Wall Street Journal interview that not one of his adult kids pay for a TV subscription. They can afford it – their dad is a billionaire. They just don’t see the point in paying for something they can watch for free on their iPads.
Dispense with debt
Here’s a simple exercise that will renew your resolve to eliminate household debt: gather your mortgage, credit card and personal loan statements for the month and tally all the interest you pay. Multiply by 12. Now, after you recover from the shock, make a list of some of the things you would like to do with that money. Pin that list up somewhere prominent, and get inspired to become debt-free.
You tried the store brand of crackers and discovered they tasted like cardboard, only with less flavor. Well, that was years ago. Generics have improved dramatically and are often produced by well-known manufacturers, so often the only difference is the packaging. Consumer Reports magazine regularly tests generics and is reporting that they are now frequently as good as or better than the brand names.
In the workplace
Missing the match
One-third of employees, according to one recent survey, don’t take advantage of their employers 401k plan match. Also, a separate survey found that one-third of Americans reach retirement with no savings. See the pattern here? Be sure you are contributing enough to get the full benefit of your company’s full match…and contribute more if you can. Indulgent dining
American workers spend an average of $2,000 a year eating out for lunch. Are your workday lunch excursions helping or hindering your professional, dietary and financial objectives?
Cut commuting costs
What’s the true cost of driving a car? According to a study from the American Automobile Association (AAA), it’s up to about $9,000 a year. Explore alternatives like public transportation, carpooling, and flexible schedules which may be offered by your employer.
There’s nothing more discouraging than seeing the fruits of your hard work eroded before you even get home, so be intentional and conscientious with your money, especially on the job.
Jim Ray is a writer, consultant and estate gift planner. He works for the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and lives in Nashville, TN.